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Aug 26, 2013

Paul Chryst Press Conference

Florida State Game Preview

August 26, 2013


Opening statement:

“It’s certainly good to feel that game week is here. I know the players are excited. As a staff we’re certainly excited for the game but also for the week of preparation. I thought we had a good camp overall, but now it’s time to transition and start talking about an opponent. Our players have a lot of respect for Florida State. We’re all excited for this week to begin.”

On the confidence in the defense coming out of training camp:

“I think that we’ve found some depth. We certainly have a lot of players on defense that we feel good about. In spring ball, the summer and fall camp, some of those good players have gotten better. We’ve had the emergence of some other guys that we have to find roles for. We’d like to play a number of different guys. We want to make their quarterback uncomfortable — that’s the goal. I’m sure it’s no different with Florida State wanting to make Tom [Savage] uncomfortable. The key to all football is to stop the run. If you can do a good job of stopping the run, then it’s easier to get pressure on the quarterback.” 

On the importance of defensive tackle Aaron Donald:

“I don’t know if I can put a value on having Aaron back. He’s very important to us. Obviously he’s a good player, but he’s also one of our leaders. Aaron and every senior should play the best football of their career. We count the defensive line as one of the strengths of our program, and Florida State certainly has a great offensive line. In most football games, whoever controls the line of scrimmage is the team that has the advantage. Aaron is one of our leaders and one of our better players. If we’re going to be successful, he needs to play well.”

On the status of running back Isaac Bennett:

 “He did some stuff yesterday in practice. He obviously missed quite a bit of time, so it’s too early to tell if he’ll be ready. But he was able to go through some things yesterday. We’ll see how he comes back today.”

On coping with Florida State’s speed:

“I think that is a big challenge. You really can’t simulate size and speed. We’ve got some guys that I think can run pretty well. The speed of the game is one thing that catches some people the first time playing. Ask a freshman in camp, and they’ll say the speed of the game is faster. When you’re playing an opponent with a lot of speed at different positions like Florida State, the best thing you can do is go with your best players and then adjust. There’s a lot of adjusting in first games.”

On Artie Rowell starting at center:

“I thought it was a great competition. I think Artie has earned the opportunity to start. I think Gabe [Roberts] did a lot of good things and is continuing to improve, but right now we felt that Artie gave us the best chance to succeed. In bowl preparation last year, Artie stuck out. He had a great winter conditioning, did some good things in the spring and continued to carry that into the summer and fall camp. He’s earned it, and that’s a good thing.”

On receiver Brandon Ifill’s knee:

“He’s getting better. Earlier we made the determination that he wasn’t quite ready. His injury happened late in the fall, so it’s been awhile. He’s truly a wonderful person. He cares about this team as much as anyone. It was hard on him initially. Everyone in fall camp was going, and he wanted to be a part of it. For a lot of guys that get injured, it’s frustrating. He’s getting better, but we had to take a step back in the fall camp and make sure we weren’t doing more harm than good. He’s feeling better, so hopefully he keeps progressing.”

On the health status of running back James Conner:

“He practiced some yesterday, so we’ll see where he’s at during practice today.”

On the significance of winning the line-of-scrimmage battle:

“That will certainly play a big role. Line play in general will be significant. That’s the starting point. We want to run the ball and protect the quarterback. We’ll see how our defensive line matches up against their offensive line. That will be an important part of the game.”

On whether all season openers are viewed the same by coaches:

“I don’t think all season openers are created equal. There are so many different factors. Who are you as a team? Who is your opponent? There are some key factors that are relevant in all openers because it is the first time you’re playing: taking care of the football, takeaways, penalties and the kicking game. Those things are common storylines in all games. But this is certainly a unique one. We acknowledge and talk about the things that are relevant, but good football wins games. We need to work on the things and focus on things that we can control. We talk about the relevant things about Florida State, and we have a tremendous amount of respect for who they are as a team, what they did last year and what they’ve got back this year. I think you need a consistent approach for the way you prepare. Our kids have spent a lot of time getting ready for this season. We approach each game with gratitude.”

On the depth at tight end:

“I do feel like we certainly have some depth right now at that position. We certainly hope it helps Tom [Savage]. Time will tell as the season progresses.”

On the new “targeting” rules and hits above the shoulders:

“We have tried to address it and bring it up. Even when we scrimmage, we’ve had officials come in and talk. That’s something that I hope isn’t an issue, but it will come up, especially early until the players get a feel for it. I think everyone understands why the rule is in place. You try to teach them in drills all of the ways to keep their head up and make good decisions. I like to think we’re very well prepared for it. Everyone admits there are going to be some tough calls. It happens so fast. When in doubt, they’re going to call it. There’s not one coach or player that’s not for player safety. Everyone has a clear understanding of it, but it’s new for players and officials. Everyone wants to get it right, and we’ll do the best we can.”

On freshman receiver Tyler Boyd:

“I give Tyler a lot of credit for the way he’s come in from day one and has had a great approach. He sees himself on a big stage, and he’s going to get that. I’ve also learned never to be surprised by Tyler. I’m anxious to see him and a lot of the guys who this will be their first time playing, but I think he’ll rise up.”

On having athletic linebackers and their role on the defense:

“I think one of the neat things about defense is it’s team defense. Those three [Bam Bradley, Todd Thomas and Anthony Gonzalez] certainly have a big role. They have to do their job and when we have a chance to tackle, we have to tackle well. I’m sure I’m not the only coach in the country saying that, but they need to do their job. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking offense, defense or special teams, everyone has a job to do and hopefully do it to the best of their ability.”

On the rotation at linebacker:

"Right now those three [Bam Bradley, Shane Gordon and Anthony Gonzalez] are going to get the majority of the reps. There’s also some other guys we feel good about and once we get a feel for how Florida State is attacking us, we can see. But I certainly feel good about those three getting the majority of the reps this week for preparation.”

On linebacker Bam Bradley’s emergence:

“I thought he had a really good start to camp. Then he had the family issue where he missed a couple days, and it took him a couple days to get back into it. With Bam, when he truly gets comfortable, he can really go. When he was unsure about his responsibility, he was different than when he knew it and could turn it loose a little bit more. Bam is still young, he’s a [redshirt] freshman, but he started camp well and then progressed that way through camp.”

On how big games like this benefit the program:

“We might have had more of that when it was first announced (in February) or in conversation. Right now this week, it’s been more focused. I do believe games like this are why guys want to come to Pittsburgh. When guys think of college football, they think of games like these. All of that is great, and we’re appreciative of the people who made this happen. Joining the ACC in this fashion is pretty impressive.”

On using starting defensive backs as kick returners and whether other players will be used in returner roles:

“We’ll see on that one. It depends on the flow of the game. We really like Lafayette [Pitts] and thought he did some good things back there for us last year. We think Jason [Hendricks] is a good returner for us, and we like K’Waun [Williams] catching punts for us. We do have other guys we can use. We know every time a guy is out there, there’s a risk for injury, but I don’t have any concerns.”

On freshman kicker Chris Blewitt:

“Right now, I think Chris will be ready to go. If not, we’ll just put out another freshman kicker.” (laughs) 

On quarterback Tom Savage being ready to make his Pitt debut after just practicing for the past year:

 “Every rep that Tom got was valuable in understanding the schematic part of it and how one guy runs this route or getting used to the receivers. I think it was certainly a work in progress, but I feel really good about the way he’s progressed. Part of it is we know him better. We know his strengths and can play to those. Tommy hasn’t played in a while, but I love his preparation and approach and hope he certainly grows throughout the year.”

On how he makes his offensive system fit the personnel on the team:

“The coach’s job is to help players play. I love the game of football because they’re the only ones between the lines — it’s their game. Coaching is preparing them and putting them in situations that they can have success or have a better chance at having success. Our job is to adjust to the strengths of our players and keep developing guys and forcing them out of their comfort zones so they can grow. In the end, our job is to play to the strengths of our players and to do the best we can within the system, which does have to be flexible to play to their strengths.”

On making sure the team isn’t overly emotional on game day:

“I think that’s a fair question, but I don’t anticipate that. You try and get a read on your guys and I know them one year better than last year, but we have some good veterans. This isn’t the first big game that our guys have played in. Some of the younger guys have to learn it, but I think our guys will be fine.”


Meet the Press: Paul Chryst previews the Florida State game

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