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August 14, 2012Pitt started early and went long in Monday's morning practice, the eighth practice of training camp and the first half of the first two-a-day of camp. The players were on the field by 8:15 am and practiced for more than three hours as temperatures climbed throughout the morning.
Of course, long practices aren't anything new in training camp, and under Paul Chryst, they have become the norm. Pitt's first camp scrimmage, which was held on Saturday, totaled more than 180 plays and crossed the three-hour plateau, easily topping any Pitt scrimmage in recent memory.
Chryst and the staff wanted to push the players hard in the first week, and they probably would have liked to keep the scrimmage going for another 20 plays or so. Coaches always feel like the team needs more work, but the Pitt coaches are looking for something else out of the players, too.
"We wanted to see who likes football, and we were going to play football until we saw enough guys enjoying it," Chryst said Monday while discussing the scrimmage.
"Liking football" is at the top of Chryst's list of oft-cited qualities he looks for. When he was recapping the recruiting class on Signing Day in February, he frequently referenced an incoming freshman's love of the game as a positive. And when he was asked during spring camp about players on the current team, he would often point to how important the game is to that individual player.
Just last week, Chryst touched on those themes when discussing redshirt freshman cornerback Lafayette Pitts.
"He works at the game, he studies the game and he's smart and tough. Guys that enjoy the process, that makes for a dependable player."
After Pitts put in a strong performance in Saturday's scrimmage, Chryst reiterated those thoughts.
"I think he enjoys it and that goes a long way."
Those qualities clearly stick out to Chryst and his assistant coaches as being perhaps the most valuable a player can have. It may seem silly to say that Chryst wants players who like the game of football, since it's hard to imagine a player suiting up for training camp if he didn't like the game.
But the current Pitt coaching staff believes that if players really have a love for the game, if the game is truly important to them, then they will work hard and improve and play well. That's what Chryst looks for in football players, and it's what he's hoping to find in his football team.