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March 24, 2012Pitt will have Michigan transfers Cullen Christian and Ray Vinopal on the active roster this season. On Saturday, Christian and Vinopal talked about the decision to transfer, the first year at Pitt, and Tony Gibson's departure.
What follows is the transcript of Saturday's interview with Christian and Vinopal. Click here to listen to the interview.
CULLEN CHRISTIAN: We both were looking for something different. WE weren't really happy to be at Michigan, so we wanted a change. This happened to be where our old coach came, so we both had a connection to get here and we both made that move happen.
You're talking about Tony Gibson?
CHRISTIAN: Yes sir. So when he got here, it was good. We love it.
You guys were playing a little bit up at Michigan, weren't you?
RAY VINOPAL:: Yes.
in the regular rotation?
What was the unhappiness?
VINOPAL:: I just wanted to get closer to home. Whenever there is a mix-up in the coaching staff, it breeds a little uncertainty into the program. I mean, I was in a good position when I left but I felt like this was closer to home and the coach that recruited me was coming here and I thought it'd be a good decision.
Then [Gibson] left. Not that it wasn't unexpected, but how did you guys react when you heard that?
VINOPAL:: Well, we came here for Coach Gibson, but we also came here for Pitt. It's a great university, and when he left, we're still at Pitt. This is where we play. We go to school here. We're happy here. So we're not just going to keep jumping around with Coach, and we're happy in our situation.
Was it a shock when he left?
VINOPAL:: Yeah, a little bit, but we understand. It's his job and that's how he makes his living, and we understand business decisions.
You guys knew he could leave and go with Rich (Rodriguez)
CHRISTIAN: We heard some buzz and we knew it could happen. But it's part of coaching. We just have to live life. We have to stay here, work hard, and we have to do our thing with Pitt. WE can't be worrying about if coaches are going to keep leaving or whatever, because when it comes down to it, we just have the team. That's what it comes down to: the team.
Both of you guys stepped right in with the first unit (this spring). How has it been so far with the new staff?
CHRISTIAN: It's been good. We love the new staff. They work hard and they want to push us to our highest potential, so we love them, really. They have us working hard in the film room and on the field, we have Coach House, he's a former NFL coach; everything worked out for us.
House doesn't hide his feelings, does he?
CHRISTIAN: Heh. No, he's pretty hard on us.
Do you like playing for a coach like that?
VINOPAL: The whole coaching staff, they know their stuff and they really inspire us because they put in a lot of hours and they're really enthusiastic and passionate about what they do, and it transfers over to the team. We've noticed a lot more people coming in more often on their own and getting extra work and wanting to be here, and that's what you need to build a program.
What was the last year like? You guys go from being on the field at Michigan to last year when you're on the scout team because you had to sit out. Was it a little tough at times?
CHRISTIAN: At first we both had the attitude that we were going to take that year and use it as a "build" year; we were going to get better and we were going to learn. But once it gets to the middle of the season, you start slowing up, getting tired; you want it to get to the season (when you can play). But when it all came down to it, we just worked hard and learned a lot, and we just want to get to the season.
You guys have played in college football; do you think you gave the offense a pretty good look last year on the scout team?
VINOPAL: Absolutely. We use to give them some headaches last year, and we took pride in that. We were just out there to fine-tune our skills, and I think definitely having to walk out that tunnel in a jumpsuit instead of having your chinstrap buckled on makes you a little more hungry and makes you not take things for granted. We would have given anything to be buckled up with our teammates, but now we have that opportunity.
Is practice getting more physical as days progress?
CHRISTIAN: Practice is getting physical because when we threw the pads on, the competition is going up. Everybody is working for a spot, everybody wants to prove what they can do, and everything is hapenign like that. Everybody's out there competing, and when you compete, it gets more physical.
Did you two want to come as a package deal or did it just work out that way?
VINOPAL: We had been talking. I had made my decision a little bit earlier than him just due to wanting to be closer to my family. I knew Cullen was thinking about it, so I was in his ear a little bit. It ended up being great; we came here together and we've been together for two years of our college football careers and going on our third, so it's a good situation.
What's it like playing in front of 110,000 people?
VINOPAL: The first time you run out there, you freeze up a little bit. But pretty soon it goes back to being football. You just let it disappear.
Did Pitt recruit you guys at all?
CHRISTIAN: Yeah, I had a scholarship to Pitt. They were in my top three. I was thinking about coming to Pitt, but I wanted to get away from home. When I left Michigan, I came back and it feels good. It feels like I should have made that decision in the first place.
Did Pitt offer you, Ray?
VINOPAL: They did not. They really recruited me I visited here a few times and I did like it, but it just didn't come down to them being one of my final choices.
Is it a little funny that they didn't offer you, and now here you are?
VINOPAL: It is. It is. What's even more ironic is, the coaching that's here from Wisconsin, they recruited me really hard in the first place. So Wisconsin was always in my mind when I chose Michigan. Coach Rudolph recruited me to Wisconsin, so it's nice to be back with a staff that you know wants you and works hard.