Pitt notebook: Chryst relies on freshmen

Jerry DiPaola
| Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, 10:39 p.m.

Coach Paul Chryst is intent on turning over Pitt's roster with his hand-picked players, and it showed in the opener Monday night against Florida State.

Before the end of the first quarter, Chryst used 11 freshmen from the Class of 2013, the first recruited exclusively by his coaching staff.

The busiest was running back James Conner, who gained 28 yards on his first five carries after missing a week of practice at the end of training camp with a shoulder injury.

Wide receiver Tyler Boyd touched the ball three times in the first half, but he had no receptions. He gained 18 and 20 yards on sweeps during Pitt's two scoring drives.

Boyd also returned a kickoff 35 yards.

The others: Kicker Chris Blewitt (one extra point and two field goals), tight end Jaymar Parrish, who had an impressive block on Boyd's second carry, linebacker Matt Galambos, defensive end Shakir Soto, defensive tackle Tyrique Jarrett, defensive backs Titus Howard and Terrish Webb, tight end Scott Orndoff and running back Rachid Ibrahim.

Boyd, Howard and Webb won four consecutive PIAA championships at Clairton High School.

Hugh in the house

Among the visitors, celebrities and recruits on the Pitt sideline before the game was Panthers' three-time All-American defensive end Hugh Green. He didn't have time to chat with reporters because he said he was scheduled to speak to the Pitt team before kickoff.

Pitt invited several prospects and their families to the game. Gateway's four-star defensive back Montae Nicholson joined six of his teammates, including wide receiver Ricky Rogers, who has committed to West Virginia.

There also were several from Clairton High School. Aliquippa's Dravon Henry was in attendance, along with Elijah Zeise of North Allegheny, who has committed to Pitt, quarterback Adam Bertke of Maria Stein, Ohio, and Pitt commit Rori Blair of Upper St. Clair.

Fitz's big night

Pitt retired the No. 1 jersey of All-Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald at halftime. Fitzgerald, who totaled 161 receptions for 2,677 yards and a school-record 34 touchdowns in only two seasons at Pitt, is the ninth player to have his jersey retired at Pitt, including Dan Marino (32), Tony Dorsett (33), Marshall Goldberg (42), Joe Schmidt (65), Mark May (73), Bill Fralic (79), Mike Ditka (89) and Green (99).

Taking in Fitzgerald's honor was his former coach, Walt Harris, who was on the field for the ceremony.

Move over, Lee

Florida State junior running back Devonta Freeman gained 52 yards and moved past former Seminoles player and current ESPN college football analyst Lee Corso into 25th-place (1,291 yards) on the school's all-time rushing list. Corso finished his career with 1,267 yards.

One-way Street

Senior Devin Street was a big part of the passing game early. Quarterback Tom Savage's first completion at Pitt was a 31-yard strike to Street between two Florida State defenders on the third play of the game.

Street was targeted again in the Panthers' opening drive on a 16-yard slant, setting up the first score of the game. Savage targeted Street on seven of his 15 passing attempts in the first half.

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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