Former Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt made his monthly appearance on TribLive Radio on Monday, and he warned Pitt coach Paul Chryst that he has a tough job ahead of him.
Wannstedt also didn’t miss an opportunity take a shot at the Pitt football program, from he was fired after the 2010 season.
“It has taken a hit; we can’t dodge that,” Wannstedt said. “We had it as a nationally recognized program (and it went) to kind of a laughingstock of college football here in the last year. It’s hard to believe that has happened in a year, but it has and it is and that’s reality.”
Still, Wannstedt, who is now the defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills, said Pitt was wise to hire Chryst.
“Everyone I talk to down there — and I talk to a lot of people all the time — everybody is excited about him. He has a great personality. I think that will be a very positive thing. I really do.
“If he can get support from the athletic director (Steve Pederson), I think he has a chance.
“He has a big job. Recruiting will be the key. Players win games and you have to go get players. He understands all that.”
Wannstedt said he knows Chryst, whose brother Jeep was on Wannstedt’s staff for six years when he was head coach of the Chicago Bears.
Wannstedt also praised former Pitt interim coach Keith Patterson for keeping the team together after Todd Graham resigned.
“I have to give him a lot of credit, along with (athletic department officials) Chris La Sala and Bob Junko.”
Finally, Wannstedt talked about former Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who died Sunday after a two-month bout with cancer.
Paterno attempted to recruit Wannstedt when he was a student at Baldwin before Wannstedt chose Pitt. But they remained on good, speaking terms and worked together two years ago to plan annual statewide high school coaches clinics for State College and Pittsburgh.
He also said Paterno had no interest in reviving the Pitt-Penn State rivalry in football, even though Wannstedt telephoned him about it when both were still coaching at their schools.
“He said, `Dave, tell Jeff (former Pitt AD Long), I have no problem with Jeff, but here’s the deal: As long as I’m here, it’s just not going to work out,’ ” Wannstedt said, recalling his conversation with Paterno. “Why and how I really don’t know,” Wannstedt said. “Didn’t ask and really didn’t care.”
PITT RECRUIT OPTS FOR MIAMI (OHIO)
Pitt lost another recruit Monday when St. Xavier (Ohio) center Brandyn Cook committed to Miami (Ohio). Cook had accepted a scholarship offer from former Pitt coach Todd Graham last summer.
Cook, 6-foot-2, 300 pounds, said new Pitt coach Paul Chryst suggested he look elsewhere because of his height.
“He didn’t think I would be able to get a fair shot at Pitt, basically because of my height,” Cook said. “Being a competitor, I wanted to go where I can play and to a place where I am needed and a place where I am wanted.”
Cook said he committed to Graham two days after receiving a scholarship offer and did not entertain further offers.
“I am a man of my word,” Cook said. “I shut it down.”
Pitt has lost three recruits who committed to Graham — Cook, Upper St. Clair linebacker Dakota Conwell (Arizona) and Penn Hills wide receiver Corey Jones (Toledo).
Cook, who plays in the largest classification in Ohio, was a Sports Illustrated All-American Honorable Mention selection last season.