Pitt's Street getting handle of new offense, coach Paul Chryst

Jerry DiPaola
| Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012, 11:24 p.m.

The football flew out of the quarterback's hands Thursday morning and bounced off the grass, out of bounds, and Devin Street knew why.

“I cut (the route) short,” said Street, Pitt's junior wide receiver. “That was on me.”

Street told the story after practice without frustration, something that might not have been possible last year. His ears might have been ringing from criticism that often came his way from the Todd Graham coaching staff.

This season, Street continues to work on his shortcomings, but messages from wide receivers coach and 14-year NFL pass catcher Bobby Engram hit the target with better regularity.

“They know how to go about it the right way,” said Street, who has turned his potentially game-breaking speed into just four touchdowns the past two seasons. “They are teachers first. Of course, they will get on me, too, but they will bring out the best in me.

“They are definitely more laid-back, more understanding.”

The past eight months have been a turbulent time in the life of the 21-year-old Street, who felt betrayed by Graham after the coach told him he was staying at Pitt a week before he resigned.

Coach Paul Chryst's presence in Graham's former office has been a comforting sight.

“I can go to Chryst and talk to him about everything,” Street said. “He has a great mind. He's a genius out there.

“He talks to us about being responsible, doing the little things right and just being a complete man.”

Graham gave the same speech, but the difference is that Chryst does it only when necessary. Graham tried to shove off-the-field wisdom at players who were having problems with matters on the field.

Finally, in the second half of last season, Street started to understand the concepts of Graham's offense and caught 33 passes for 471 yards in the final six games. Pitt needed him, with running back Ray Graham out with a knee injury.

“I went to the coaches and I told them Ray is our big playmaker and I told them I wanted to be that go-to guy,” he said.

Pitt will need Street to become that player this season, along with senior wide receivers Mike Shanahan and Cam Saddler. Young pass catchers such as redshirt junior Ed Tinker, redshirt sophomore Brendon Felder and sophomore Ronald Jones also will be in the mix before coaches settle on a rotation at the end of camp.

Street said the new offense under Chryst allows him to diversify his role, line up in the slot or split to the sideline, with several different routes in his playbook.

“Last year, I ran 10-15 routes,” he said, “but this year I can run anywhere.”

His standing as a redshirt junior all but demands more productivity.

“It's crunch time,” he said “It's time to turn it up.”

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jdipaola@tribweb.com or 412-320-7997.

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