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March 14, 2012


Opening Statement:
“Good afternoon, I appreciate everyone being here. The reason for this is we’re excited to get going with the first day on the field in 2012. It’s not the first day that the players have started working towards the beginning of the season. The players took a week off after the bowl game and they’ve been in the weight room and out on the field running. They’ve had a chance to meet with the coaches, but tomorrow’s the first day we get to start on the field with them. Every year in spring ball you have different objectives. For us, it’s certainly implementing and putting in a new system offensively, defensively and on special teams. It’s a chance for the players to get to know the coaches and the coaches to get to know the players. It’s also a great time, and this doesn’t change no matter what year it is for each player, to get better. That’s what it’s about, is developing players. If you were to look at spring practice the way we’re approaching it is if there are 15 practices, the first third is really teaching and implementing our systems. Also, you’re developing skills and techniques and getting to know players. The second five days are just letting them play and keep growing. It allows us to find out who guys are and what their strengths and weaknesses are that we can help them improve upon. The last five you keep them open to see if we can keep going and what direction we need to be going in. I am looking forward to it and I think this group wants to be good. I’m excited because I believe there’s talent and it will be a chance to get to know each other. Most importantly, we want to start and go forward in our first practice of the 2012 season.”

On the first spring practice as head coach of Pitt:
“It’s the first one and I am looking forward to it but there is a little bit of anxiety of just knowing the players. You want to know everyone’s name, and you do, but you are still working at it. There is no more importance on this first practice because every year it is important and every practice is important. Practice is an opportunity for each player to get better. You don’t want to make more of it, but it is obviously a chance for us to start something, to begin the relationships and begin the season. Spring ball is not about me, it’s about us and I get to be a part of it. Each kid’s got a window and some have a five-year window while others have four to be the best player they can be. I love it because it’s the most time we can spend legally. When you get to be with a player, a football and the football equipment it’s a great time.“

On establishing relationships between the new coaches and players:
“There is a feeling-out period where the players need to know how we run practice and how Coach Hueber will be in running the offensive line. There is probably some anxiety of what to expect and the best way is to explain it, talk to them and show them how the practice will be laid out. We still have to go through it but those are still components of it. We need to try and make it look like football as soon as we can. We need to get guys out of the huddle and running plays and get them to the point where they stop thinking so they go out and play. Once they play then we get a good idea of who they are as players. Team-wise we need to know what this group can do and what their strengths or weaknesses are as players. I think there is natural uncertainty, but the only way to get through it is by doing it with the group.”

On players changing positions for the upcoming 2012 season; whether it was a player’s decision or a coaches’ decision:
“There were guys who came to me and said they wanted to change positions. My approach on that was that I didn’t know enough to say, ‘hey you should stay here.’ My personal opinion is if a guy wants to be somewhere else then he’s not going to do as well at that other spot. To give themselves a chance they have to be all in. Some will prove they made the right move and there will be others who will say, ‘at least I can say I tried it and now there is peace in my mind and now I can go back in.’ There will be some flux there.”

On Brandon Ifill changing positions:
“Brandon asked to move. There is certainly a guy who you say is a good athlete and a good football player. We will give him the opportunity and we will see. The players are honest with me in telling me where they want to be and I will be honest back to them. We will get to the right spot for them I believe.”

On getting to know the players and the team as a whole:
“What I have learned about this group is that they are a lot like the other guys I have been around. Their names are different, their backgrounds are a little bit different, and their stories are a little bit different but what they want are very similar things and that is energizing for me. We are not coming in here and saying we are going to do it our way, but I can’t wait to bring in our guys. I asked to come here and I am fortunate enough to be here. I knew the guys that were on the roster and I’m excited to be with them, and for the senior group there is some urgency in this because we need to make this year the best year it can be. There’s a great group and the numbers and the quality of players and the start of football on the field has already begun. This is the start of maximizing this season and I’m looking forward to being with this group of seniors.”

On current players stepping into a leadership role for this season:
“There are guys who have stepped up. As a coach you help players get there and we will and we will have leaders. I think there are some natural leaders in this group and even in some of the underclassmen. It’s a work in progress but that doesn’t mean that it’s not going to be a positive thing.”

On the players learning a new system:
“I think getting to know the system, us getting to know them, and them improving as players more than anything is important now. We don’t have a game fortunately for a while and it’s about improving individually. Certainly the quarterback is no different than anyone else in learning the system. The players get to go out and play ball again and it’s a great time of year.”

On waiting to make adjustments after spring football:
“We are not going to wait until the end of spring to make some adjustments. We have done this for a while and it’s been different in places but I think it helps because each place is a little bit unique. Our group of coaches has been in a lot of different spots so that part is nice. We are not going to get impatient and scrap it after day one but as we get going we will get more of a feel. You want to make sure you’re maximizing every day. We’re not going to stay in the last five practices and say, ‘our plan was this so we’re going to stay with that plan.’ If it needs to be adjusted then we will adjust it. It will be fun.”

On last years system compared to this season’s plan:
“I didn’t spend a lot of time watching or caring what their scheme was last year. I watched the film and wanted to get a feel for the players. I think there are some guys, especially a couple of the older guys who have been with it so this is more similar to what they were doing a couple of years ago. One of the best pieces of advice I got was when I was coaching in San Diego and talking to a 14-year veteran and asked him about the length of an NFL camp and the value of pre-season. He said: ‘You know, Paul every now and then I still need it. This is my 14th year in the league and I still need to go over my first step and working on pad level.’ My point to that is if the basics are worthwhile to a 14-year veteran then certainly in college you can do that and that’s what we focus on. This is what we’re going to do, we are going to ask our linemen to be run blockers and pass blockers. We’re going to ask them to do it so we’re going to teach them, believe in it and believe we can teach them and believe it fits these guys. We really don’t care what they have to go through to get to that point and that’s what is fun.”

On how much of the playbook will be taught to the players:
“We’re going to teach the basics and see what they can handle. We will push them a little bit further as we all grow and get out of our comfort zones and then we will adjust to it. I don’t even know if when you get into a season if you have your whole playbook yet. It keeps evolving throughout the season.”

On Ray Graham and Todd Thomas:
“Ray and Todd will definitely be out but they get to be with us through everything. Ray is an older guy and he can be really valuable to the younger players. Ray and Todd are still learning the system and there is a lot of learning going on. Some of the other guys will be limited but really Ray and Todd are the only two you know for sure that are not going to do any spring ball on the field. You can still get a lot out of it for players like them. The others will play as they progress.”

On respected linebacker Dan Mason returning:
“I’m anxious, and one thing when going out to high schools that was neat for me is to hear how from the area coaches and what they thought of Dan. It really was a real thing and I don’t really know him. I’ve got the history and I’ve seen him and there’s a guy I think is really important too. I’m looking forward to him going out and practicing. I am anxious to see how it goes and I think he’s anxious to see too. That will be probably an ongoing story this spring. I have a lot of respect and appreciation for understanding his situation and how he’s moving through it. It’s pretty neat and hopefully it ends up being a good thing for Dan which will be good us.”

On the coaches’ feelings of spring football starting:
“I’m looking forward to spring ball and the thing I have been anxious about is getting to know our players. I have sat down and met with them but really getting to know them and being around them gives me more freedom. How it will go I don’t know yet but I’m really looking forward to it. One thing that helps is a feeling of complete trust and real appreciation of the staff that we have here. You don’t feel like you have to micromanage something and we are all on the same page and that part does relieve you so you don’t feel like anything will get slighted. I also feel like I can still help in a lot of different areas.”

On if any jobs are wide open:
“Eleven on offense and 11 of defense. The great thing about sports and in football is that in every game you have to prove yourself and every year you have to prove yourself. We can all make a pretty good bet on some spots and who should start. The great thing is they still have to go out and do it. There is nothing more important than this team and Pitt football and I talked to the group about that. If you’re true to that then your best 11 players shouldn’t sit out. Your best linemen will play, your best skill guys will play and your best defensive backs will play so I think they really are all open.”

On Tino Sunseri in the quarterback position:
“Tino is no different than anyone else. It’s our job and I am looking forward to knowing players. What I have learned about him and what I know about him I like and I want to keep going and I don’t have to share with anyone because it’s a relationship we’re building. I’m glad he’s here and I’m looking forward to working with him and I know Brooks Bollinger and Joe Rudolph are too.”

Paul Chryst Opens Up Spring Football With Press Conference

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