Football coaches face a difficult task of trying to find the right buttons to push to get the most out of their players. Paul Chryst, smack dab in the middle of trying to rebuild the Pitt Panthers as they enter the ACC this season, was doing his best to motivate junior linebacker Todd Thomas as fall camp opened. His plan, however, backfired and Thomas responded to Chryst’s “motivation” by leaving the program entirely.
Thomas was expected to play a significant role and be a leader on a Pitt defense that finished No. 17 in the nation last season in total defense and returned 11 starters to the mix. The outside linebacker started seven games last season and tallied 59 tackles, 1.5 sacks, five pass deflections, an interception and a blocked punt. Despite all that, Chryst moved Thomas to the second team as fall camp opened.
While Thomas seemed to respond on the practice field, batting down three passes during drills, it turns out his elevated play was fueled simply by his fiery desire to get out of town. Overnight, Thomas informed Chryst that he no longer wanted to be a part of Pitt football and was planning on taking his talents elsewhere.
Despite all the returning talent coming back on the defensive side of the ball, losing Thomas is a blow to the Pitt defense. It adds yet another hole for Chryst to try and patch before the season kicks off in his second year as the head coach. While it could be argued that the team is better off without a temperamental player who can’t handle a simple demotion, the Panthers may argue if they start having depth concerns at linebacker in 2013.
So now Pitt will try and shuffle their lineup to cover for the loss of Thomas and likely keep Chryst from trying to “motivate” any more players. The roster is limited, after all.