There was nobody more excited today than head coach Paul Chryst after all the faxes spit out from his 27 recruits who signed with Pitt during National Letter of Intent Day. All faxes were in by mid-morning except one straggler, from Jeremy Taleni, who is several time zones away in Hawaii.
"Today is an exciting day. As a coach, the greatest thing is adding players to the team. As you go through the list, you see what makes them special," Chryst said. "It's all about finding the right fit. We're excited about the 27 guys who thought Pitt was a great fit for them."
He pointed out some aspects of the recruiting formula that he uses when recruiting student athletes.
"We feel proud of the education we can offer. [Pitt has] a history and a great tradition. I like what we're doing on the football field," Chryst said. "It's our job to let prospects know who Pitt is and if Pitt is the right fit for them."
Depending on the recruiting service or other people's opinions, Pitt's class has anywhere from two-star athletes to five-star athletes, but Chryst does not pay much attention to the stars.
"I don't put a lot of stock [in the star system]. I'm not saying guys that are high stars aren’t deserving of that. They earned it. I don’t mean it's meaningless but you never start your recruiting class by it. I couldn't tell you every one of these are, I could probably guess and come pretty close," Chryst said. "I've been around very highly recruited kids and became all Americans and I've been around kids with no offers and became all Americans."
No matter how many stars the new players have after their name, Chryst feels like the entire group will help.
"We have the whole gambit. Players who were highly recruited and players who services say who aren’t highly recruited. We don’t know how this group will play out. They have four or five years to write that story," Chryst said. "We feel it’s a great group. They will strengthen our team."
Chryst was especially excited when highly-touted recruit Tyler Boyd's fax came in. Boyd, one of three players that hailed from Clairton that gave verbal commitments to Pitt, was supposedly re-considering his commitment.
"We knew what was going on. He had a good relationship with [wide receivers coach] Bobby [Engram]. We wanted him here but you never know until you get the fax," Chryst said. "He earned the right to have that buzz around him. We were excited to have him. He's a special person. He'll help our team."
Chryst feels Boyd has the ability to play several key positions in Pitt's offense in an attempt to get him the ball as much as possible.
"When you watch [Boyd], he's a skill receiver. When we saw him in the wildcat, he was very special. Our job is to get any player involved in the offense," Chryst said. "He's one that what he's showed on tape, and his understanding on football, I think we can put a lot on his plate."
"They're the type of guys who will keep branching out. That’s pretty unique," Chryst said. "There's not a lot of places that kids can play with [teammates] at the same university."
Another recruit that has the opportunity to contribute right away is Belle Vernon's Dorian Johnson, who was rated one of the best high school offensive linemen in the country.
"[Johnson] is going to get an opportunity to play [as a freshman]. He's a special player," Chryst said. "You look at the great run they had here at Pitt and it was with great o-linemen."
After signing only 16 guys last year due to the late arrival of Chryst and the assistants, he felt more confident in assembling this class with a year at Pitt under his belt.
"We were able to do a better job recruiting a full class after we were here for a full year. We want to be as close to 85 [scholarships] as much as we can. We dressed 53 guys at the bowl game. That’s not what you want."
Due to the small number of scholarship players and the ability to bring in such a big class, Chryst was happy that he could bring in a place kicker and a punter in this class. He was also happy about being able to bring in five offensive and five defensive linemen.
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NOTES: James Conner, originally recruited to be a defensive end, will enter fall camp as a running back. Chryst is going to name a defensive coordinator soon. He has talked to some candidates and said he can now spend more time on it since recruiting season for this year is over.
The spring game is slated for Friday night, April 12, at Bethel Park Stadium.