Chryst likes Pitt's energy as spring drills start
New Pitt football coach Paul Chryst, right, works with Tino Sunseri on the first day of spring practice Thursday.
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Pitt football coach Paul Chryst was happy with the Panthers start to spring drills Thursday, not because the team performed well during a two-hour practice, but because he was finally on the field with his players.
Chryst his been anxious to see the Panthers on the field so he can begin the process of evaluating talent in preparation for the 2012 season.
Thursday, it was clear the emphasis at practice was on teaching and installing the offense and defense. There were a number of times when coaches pulled players aside to explain what they needed to do.
"It was fun getting out here and working on football," Chryst said. "I appreciate the guys and there was a lot of good energy. You could tell the guys had been working and we had a few plays that looked like football. It's a starting point and you're also glad you don't have a game. I thought it was a good first day and a good start.
"Really, what I told the guys is that there's enough to start with that we need to clean up and we just need to move forward from it. On the first day there should be energy and there was. Maybe some of it was nervous energy, but it was day one of 15 and I don't think we wasted the day."
Chryst said the Panthers worked extremely hard in their first practice but it was also clearly ragged.
The quarterbacks, aside from one 70-yard pass at the end of the scrimmage, struggled to connect with receivers. The receivers struggled to catch the ball and there were missed assignments.
But that's to be expected the first day, especially the first day with a new coaching staff. But unlike last year's first day of spring drills -- when it was a comedy of errors as players struggled to handle the pace and scheme change to former coach Todd Graham's high octane offense -- this transition was relatively smooth.
A big reason for that was most of the players on the roster were recruited to play in a pro-style offense. That is what Chryst is using, so there is at least some familiarity.
"It was typical of a lot of first days," Chryst said. "It's kind of like my golf game where you have one good shot and you think you're a golfer, but there's enough things that you have to keep moving on. It looks like there was an understanding of what they're supposed to be doing. The quarterbacks are no different from anyone else.
"This is a general statement but there are enough good things to say let's build on that, but a lot of little things that we have to clean up."
Quarterback Tino Sunseri said: "The good thing about being in a system once is being able to relate back to what you did and be able to use the footwork and mechanics. Obviously there are tweaks that you have to be able to make because there are different plays and different ways of being able to recognize things."
Quarterbacks coach Brooks Bollinger said the quarterbacks always have a lot on their plates. He doesn't expect anything other than the group to continue to improve as the spring progresses.
"Not only is it the first day of spring but also it's the first day of spring in a brand new offense for each and every one of these guys," Bollinger said. "Each one is a learning thing and the important thing is not that we missed a thing here and there but the important thing is that it doesn't happen again ... we learn from it.
"They did a great job today and they came out here and did exactly what I asked of them. The biggest thing is that they're willing to learn and be coachable and communicate about what they saw and what we need to do better."
NOTES--Sophomore receiver Darius Patton has left the team for personal reasons. Chryst left the door open for his return. "He's working through some things," Chryst said. ... Pitt has only two players sidelined with injuries -- tailback Ray Graham (knee) and linebacker Todd Thomas (knee) -- but has several others, such as receiver Mike Shanahan, who are limited. But Chryst was happy that all of the injured players participated in whatever capacity they could. "Everyone wants to learn and I noticed with Ray Graham a couple times that he was really trying to be involved with practice. That's what you want with everyone in and trying to do all that they can to get better. It was also good to see Jarred Holley moving around a little bit and Mike Shanahan jumping in to help," Chryst said.
First Published March 16, 2012 12:00 am