Pitt football notebook: Paul Chryst not opposed to 'power five' idea

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As the NCAA voted earlier this week to grant the conferences known as the "power five" autonomy to make rules independent of the rest of the NCAA, some coaches have started advocating that teams within these conferences only play one another.

According to an ESPN poll earlier this week, a plurality of power-five coaches -- including Pitt's Paul Chryst -- said they would be in favor of power-five schools -- which also includes Notre Dame -- only playing one another. In the poll, 30 of the 65 coaches voted for playing exclusively power-five opponents, 23 were against it and 12 were undecided.

Chryst expounded on his thoughts Friday, saying he thought it could be a good idea, but only if it were the standard across all five major conferences.

"There's a lot of neat places to play at, going on the road," Chryst said. "Teams coming here, I think that would add to it. If everyone's playing by the same rules, I'm great with it."

Chryst was also quick to point out he has a bit of a unique history playing minor programs. In his first game as Pitt's coach, the Panthers lost, 31-17, to Division I-AA opponent Youngstown State.

In his two years on Pitt's sideline, Chryst is 5-2 against teams from non-power-five leagues (not counting Pitt's Big East games in 2012). The Panthers play three non-power-five teams this season with games against Delaware, Florida International and Akron.

"Whatever the rules are, we'll play with them," Chryst said.

"And that's not to say that I don't respect and appreciate every opponent we play. ... Whatever they come up with, I think there's value to that. But I'm not in charge; I'm not going to be a spokesman for that. My first game, we lost to a I-AA school, so I don't want to come off like that."

Special star for special teams

One question Pitt faces this season is just how to manage the workload for star receiver Tyler Boyd, one of the Panthers' most important players. Boyd is a fixture on the first-team offense, and could also play a role returning kickoffs and punts.

With kick-coverage teams bearing down on him at full speed, there's always a risk of injury on a big hit, but special teams coordinator Chris Haering said the coaches aren't approaching Boyd's involvement with that mindset.

"We look at it just like you would on offense," Haering said. "We're going to block the returns, we've got good guys that are out there blocking the returns, straining their tail off, so our hope is you don't get free runners and guys that are going to get blown up. ... We don't look at it like that, that we're putting him back there and holding our breath. The ball's going to be in his hands and we're going to block it."

Intensity ratchets up

Cornerback Trenton Coles and receiver Dontez Ford got into a small scuffle in a one-on-one drill Saturday at practice before being separated by coaches.

Coles isn't shy about being vocal on the field, and Chryst said he doesn't mind as long as he keeps it under control.

"You've got to love it that he's into it, but you still have to play the game, right?" Chryst said. "Rules and all that are part of it. He knows that, and we're coaching it. I love him going out and competing."

In the swing of things

Pitt had its first two-a-day practice of 2014 Saturday to wrap up the first week of training camp.

"We've certainly got some things to clean up," Chryst said. "Guys are giving good effort. I like all that. Now, we've put in a lot of the installation. We should be knowing what to do now."

The Panthers return to the practice field this morning, and will have another two-a-day with a night session. Their first scrimmage of training camp is scheduled for Tuesday.

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

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