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Players, coaches laud changes in makeup of Pitt roster under Chryst

| Thursday, April 10, 2014, 10:07 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt head coach Paul Chryst during practice Tuesday, April 8, 2014 on Pittsburgh's South Side.

Pitt coach Paul Chryst and his staff have pulled weeds and planted seeds, and as Chryst approaches the end of his third spring, the program is taking the shape he envisioned 28 months ago.

Offensive line coach Jim Hueber and defensive coordinator Matt House have been with Chryst from the outset, and they said there is a clear change in the makeup of the roster.

“When we came here, there was a reason we got hired,” Hueber said Thursday after the 12th of 15 scheduled spring practices. “It wasn't because this was Utopia, and I think we fought through that. We had kids who didn't want to buy into our way. You look around now. There is not much (complaining) and moaning. We don't have the problems we had before.”

After three seasons of mediocrity in the wake of the Dave Wannstedt firing and Todd Graham's abrupt departure, Chryst has built the roster in the image he prefers — linemen who are tall and wide, big receivers, a quarterback making the right choices and a run-based offense.

Of the 83 scholarship players, 66 joined the team after Chryst was hired, and 62 are sophomores or younger counting the freshman class that will arrive this summer. It also is a young team, with 29 of the 70 players at practice Thursday participating in spring drills for the first time.

Chryst lost or ran off more than half of Graham's 2011 recruiting class (12 of 21 players), making room for his type of players — “smart, tough, dependable,” House said.

“The one thing (Chryst) is constantly preaching is (acquiring) guys who love football. When he says that, he means love to play, but love the physical end of it. His philosophy plays through in recruiting, plays through in how we practice.

“When we first got here, I don't know how physical we were. Right now, I do think we are starting to develop a physical mentality. There is an appreciation by the kids for it. There is a level of respect for the teammate across from them.”

Rising junior quarterback Trey Anderson, who joined the team in the summer of 2011, said he has discussed the change with Chryst.

“It's a completely different atmosphere,” he said. “I feel like the team chemistry is not even comparable to when I first came in — in a good way. Everyone gets along. We fight and work hard together. I feel like that wasn't the case when I first got in here. When you are trusting the guy next to you, it makes a difference on the field.”

Sophomore wide receiver Tyler Boyd said he believes players are easy to coach.

“Everything we are supposed to do, we do,” he said. “We don't give no lip.”

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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