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Chryst critical of Panthers' effort

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Thursday, March 21, 2013, 11:38 p.m.

His voice rising and patience fading, Pitt coach Paul Chryst interrupted practice three times Thursday to gather players around him to deliver an indictment of their effort and remind them of their responsibility to the program.

“Every one of us is fortunate to be here,” Chryst told reporters after practice. “Fortunate to be part of this team, this program. Fortunate. And you better act like that.”

The remarks were his most pointed since Chryst replaced former coach Todd Graham 15 months ago. He made it clear he will not tolerate the kind of performances that have led Pitt to consecutive 6-7 seasons, and Thursday's effort caused his frustration level to rise in the fifth day of spring drills.

“We were a consistently inconsistent team,” he said of the 2012 season. “And if you don't come out every day with a purpose then you don't get better. You either get better or you get worse, and everyone gets to choose.

“I didn't think we had great energy to start (practice) with, and we are going to play until we have some energy.”

Asked if the players responded positively to his message, he said, “It took a long time.”

Wide receiver Devin Street, who will be a fifth-year senior in the fall, agreed with Chryst's assessment of practice in which players wore only shoulder pads and shorts.

“Guys kind of saw it as a lighter day,” Street said. “We've had three-hour practices, four-hour practices (this spring), so some guys didn't come out with the mental state to come out here and work hard.

“It doesn't matter if we're out here in flip-flops. We've got to come out here every day just willing to work and get that mental aspect ready.”

Street said he doesn't believe players show enough passion or appreciation of their opportunity.

“There's a passion about coming out here and playing, but there's not a passion about doing everything right,” he said. “I feel like guys love football, but we have to be willing to do all the right things because all the right things will lead us to great things.”

Asked what might be holding the team back, Street said, “I think it's going to take some time, but it has to start clicking; it can't take too much time.

“I feel like we have some guys in the boat and some guys not in the boat. We have to have everyone in. That's the only way we can be successful.”

With the senior class just beginning to make its mark after two seasons of change, turmoil and losing, Chryst is hoping team leaders will step forward.

“Leadership is easy to talk about,” he said, “but it comes in a lot of different forms. Those special leaders are guys who cover the different ways you lead. You got guys that want to be it and guys who are working at it.”

Street appears to be one of the players looking to become a leader for his teammates.

“I feel like we've lacked that in previous years, especially since I've been here,” he said. “Just a vocal leader, a guy who's going to step up and be willing to take the blame for other people's mistakes and my mistakes as well. I feel like every great team has a solid leader.”

In the end, though, Street said each player — young and old — must be accountable.

“If we come out here willing to work, we're going to be ready for September,” he said. “If we come out here with a mental aspect of being down and out, it's going to show in September.”

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