Pitt coach Chryst holds players to high standards on, off field

Jerry DiPaola
| Tuesday, May 14, 2013, 8:06 p.m.

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. — When Pitt players are arrested, break team rules or get frustrated enough to leave school, coach Paul Chryst's emotions boil over into anger, disappointment and confusion.

Some of those feelings are directed at the student-athletes. Some of it he fires back upon himself and his coaching staff.

Chryst took a break from the ACC spring meetings Tuesday to answer questions about some recent indiscretions by his players that required police intervention. Those events happened roughly in the same time frame this spring when five members of Pitt's 2012 recruiting class — finalized by Chryst but initiated by his predecessor, Todd Graham — decided to transfer.

To all, his message is clear.

“If we are going to get better, we have to hold each other, hold ourselves to a higher standard,” he said. “I feel real strongly about that.”

But he also asks questions of himself.

“How are (coaches) getting the message to them?” he said. “Are you getting it out? We need to keep doing a better job of it. Everybody has to take ownership in it. The ones (who stay out of trouble and remain in the program) are getting it.”

But not everyone is getting it. Chryst dismissed tight end Drew Carswell and safety Eric Wiliams last month five days after they were charged with possession of drug paraphernalia in Oakland. Defensive tackle K.K. Mosley-Smith also was charged, but he remains on the team because of different circumstances that Chryst refused to describe. Asked if Mosley-Smith will return to the team, Chryst said, “I couldn't tell you right now where it's all going to play out.”

Meanwhile, freshman quarterback Tra Chapman has been suspended after he was charged with assault and unlawful restraint in Kent, Ohio. All four players face court hearings May 28.

It's been clear for the past 2 12 years that Pitt football needed a cleansing, no matter how it developed or who it hurt. Pitt lost many players recently, but not everyone who left would have been welcomed back or given serious playing time.

Chryst recruited 27 freshmen this year — Pitt's second-largest class since 1994 — knowing he would be over the NCAA-mandated 85 scholarship limit. The transfers of sophomores-to-be Rushel Shell, Terrell Jackson, Deaysean Rippy, Demitrious Davis and Chris Davis will help bring Pitt into compliance. Only Shell, who had fallen into disfavor with some members of the coaching staff, had a realistic chance of impacting the team this season.

In the past six months, 14 players have either been suspended from the team for one game or charged with crimes. Seven are gone. Two (Ray Graham and Shayne Hale) exhausted their eligibility, two (Shell and Chris Davis) will transfer and three (Carswell, Williams and Steve Williams) were dismissed.

“The actions have to be dealt with accordingly,” Chryst said. “But (the players) are not necessarily all bad guys. (Situations) are always unfortunate but necessary.”

Chryst said he is sending the message to recruits.

“We are telling guys we are recruiting and who we recruited last year, this is what we believe in this room,” he said.

But holdovers from previous coaching regimes didn't have the opportunity to play for the man who recruited them.

“They didn't have a chance to read the disclaimer,” Chryst said.

Asked if he is imposing stricter standards than Graham or Dave Wannstedt, Chryst said, “I don't know that.”

But his way is what players need to follow, he said.

“Time will tell if our method or philosophy is the way, but we do believe in it,” he said.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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