Pitt football notebook: Home is where House is for bowl game

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DETROIT -- For most of the Pitt players and staff, their trip this week to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl meant spending Christmas away from their families.

For defensive coordinator Matt House, though, it was more of a homecoming.

House is a native of Harrison, Mich., about two hours northwest of Detroit. He said last week that he had already received plenty of ticket requests for the bowl game today.

"Obviously, for me personally, I'm really excited to go back to Michigan," he said. "I've got a lot of family in the Detroit area and I've got a lot of family in that state."

His Michigan ties also have paid off in recruiting. Two of Pitt's 2014 verbal commitments -- defensive back Avonte Maddox and offensive lineman Connor Hayes -- come from the state, and House served as the primary recruiter for both.

Per NCAA rules, House is not allowed to comment on specific recruits, but he said he enjoys getting back to Michigan when he can.

"When you go back to your home state, you know a lot of people, so that opens doors for you," House said. "You know a lot of the high school coaches. You know who to trust, who not to trust. And even the ones that you may not have known, you might know somebody that knows them."

Not looking too far ahead

Pitt coach Paul Chryst said he didn't anticipate any immediate position switches coming out of the bowl practices.

The staff uses many of the early practices as a time for experimenting with players at different positions. Last year, then-defensive end T.J. Clemmings moved to right tackle in bowl preparation, and he started every game there this season.

Chryst didn't rule out any future moves, but said nothing is imminent.

"You'll kind of see where the recruiting class ends up," he said. "So maybe that's something we do in February, before spring ball. Right now it's been fun just focusing on the game and the task at hand."

Makeshift holiday

The Pitt players might not have had a traditional Christmas Day, but they said they enjoyed their time in Detroit.

The Panthers practiced at Ford Field in the morning, then had some free time in the afternoon. Some players' families made the trip, while others spent the holiday with their teammates.

"It's different, but I wouldn't want to spend it with any other guys," quarterback Tom Savage said. "It's my second family."

Defensive tackle Aaron Donald said there wasn't anything specific he missed from home, other than perhaps his mom's cooking.

"I just like to eat [her food], usually, but I can't do that since I'm not at home," he said.

Remember me?

The bowl week gave Chryst a chance to reconnect with former Michigan State coach George Perles, who is the CEO emeritus for the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.

Perles tried to recruit Chryst to become a Spartan, but Chryst stayed home and played for Wisconsin.

"I'm sure he didn't lose a lot of sleep over me going to Wisconsin or anything," Chryst joked.

Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG.

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