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Pitt football notebook: Chryst downplays Wisconsin 'buzz'

| Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, 7:02 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt football coach Paul Chryst on the sideline against Rutgers during a November 2012 game at Heinz Field.

The Wisconsin job remains vacant. Questions toward Pitt coach Paul Chryst remain alive.

Speaking publicly to local reporters for the first time since his name was linked to the head coaching position at Wisconsin, Chryst was reluctant to talk about the opening after practice Friday.

“I went through all that (last week),” he said.

Yet, he agreed, “it's fair to ask.”

When asked if Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez had contacted him, Chryst, who played and coached at the school and is a Madison, Wis., native, indicated there was more speculation than substance to the story.

“I think there's a lot more buzz surrounding (the Wisconsin job) than there was with myself and with guys that we know,” he said.

He said he was not bothered by the need to issue a statement last week, reasserting his commitment to Pitt.

“I feel fortunate to be here and I like what we're doing,” he said. “I love doing it with the guys we are doing it with, so that's a pretty good feeling.”

He appeared embarrassed last Saturday when he received a loud ovation at a basketball game at Petersen Events Center.

“That was a little cheesy,” he said, laughing. “I haven't earned it. You appreciate it. Don't get me wrong.”

Although many Wisconsin fans believe Chryst is the best man for the job, Alvarez vowed last week at a news conference not to hire him, based on his respect for friends at Pitt and the fact that he recommended Chryst for the job last year.

After making those remarks, Alvarez repeated them in even stronger terms in a story that appeared Tuesday in the Wisconsin State Journal.

“I am dead serious. I wouldn't do that,” he said. “I leaned on some friends pretty hard, and they've been very supportive of him. What I said, I mean. That wasn't smoke I was blowing. You can tell your guys to rest easy. Paul's not going to come here.”

Pitt redshirt sophomore T.J. Clemmings said he believes Chryst will stay, but he can't be sure.

“I don't know what the man is going to do. I hope he's around. I can't do the whole coaching thing again,” said Clemmings, who has had three head coaches in three years on campus.

Bowl practice

Chryst is taking advantage of extra practice time in advance of the BBVA Compass Bowl on Jan. 5 to rest some veterans and take a longer look at underclassmen.

“We've got a group of guys, the seniors, they have played a long season,” Chryst said. “We asked a lot of them. Those guys need to get healthy as much as anything.”

The team will resume practice next week before Chryst sends the players home for the holidays. They will return after Christmas and leave Jan. 1 for Birmingham, Ala.

Position switch

Clemmings, who started six games at defensive end this season, has been working at offensive right tackle in practice.

Clemmings hurt his back at midseason and was replaced at end by Shayne Hale. Chryst asked him to consider the switch, and he agreed.

In Clemmings' mind, it's not just a bowl-game experiment.

“I'm going to stick with it,” he said. “I'm liking it so far.”

Clemmings, 6-foot-6, 285 pounds, said he needs to reach about 300 to play tackle.

Early departures?

Chryst said “a few of the juniors” have sent in paperwork to the NFL to gauge where they might be drafted next year.

“Just trying to get information,” he said.

Chryst refused to identify the players, but juniors Aaron Donald and Devin Street have said they intend to return next season.

No controversy?

With Tom Savage, Chad Voytik and Tra'von Chapman set to compete for the quarterback job next year, Chryst said there won't be a controversy.

“The only time there is a controversy is when no one (seizes) it,” he said. “There is quarterback competition. There is multiple guys having an opportunity and it plays out.”

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