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December 4, 2013

James on Pitt visit: 'It was great'

Two weeks after making his commitment, Niles (Ill.) Notre Dame running back Chris James took an official visit to Pitt and the newly-minted four-star prospect couldn't have felt better coming out of the weekend.

"It was great; I think I made a great decision," James told Panther-Lair.com. "I can't wait to get out there and get started.

"It was just a great visit. I met some guys on the team and they all told me how they all like playing hard for Coach (Paul) Chryst. They didn't B.S. me or anything; they told me how it is and that they love it out there. They said coaches will take care of you.

"I could really tell that the coaches are doing an amazing job. I was so glad to get out there."

James' visit started Friday with a trip to Heinz Field for Pitt's regular-season finale against Miami. The Panthers lost that game 41-31, but James wasn't dismayed by the performance.

"That's just football for you," he said. "There are going to be mistakes, and the teams that make fewer mistakes will win. But they battled back and only lost by 10 points. They're still coming together, but they're definitely building a program."

That building process will rely heavily on young players as Chryst and his staff reload the roster. James saw that in action on Friday, with freshman receiver Tyler Boyd catching nine passes and freshmen James Conner, Jaymar Parrish and Rachid Ibrahim all figuring into the offensive game plan quite heavily.

"Seeing that gives you the feeling that you can make an immediate impact," James said. "That was a big thing that played into me making my decision: there's a great opportunity there.

"All through my visit, the coaches were all talking to me about coming in and making an immediate impact. They said they want a home-run hitter like me and they want me to get ready so when I get there I can contribute. I just have to keep working my tail off and be ready."

But James' impression of the freshmen and the foundation that Chryst is building went beyond the on-field contributions. He spent a lot of time with Ibrahim and Parrish on his visit, including a unique excursion on Saturday night.

"We went to Coach Chryst's house," James said. "He had some of the players on the team over for dinner; I guess they do that a lot and it was awesome. It felt like one huge family. Rachid and Jaymar and a few other players were there, and Tom Savage stopped by, too; that was really cool because he's the star.

"That was great, because they brought me in and involved me and talked to me the entire night. I felt like I was part of it.

"The players are awesome. They just want to win and they're really positive. Even after the game, they all came together and said, 'We're going to get it going one day; we just have to keep working for that.' The sky's the limit for those guys; they just have to keep working hard."

In addition to current players, James also met several recruits, including Pitt's other running back commit, Qadree Ollison.

"I talked to him a little bit; he said hello and introduced me to some of the other commits and recruits," James said of Ollison. "It was great meeting him and it will be fun playing with him. It's going to have to happen as a team with this class and the program. Coach always says, 'Brick by brick; that's how the team is built,' and we're all going to have to do it."

James' visit naturally included a full day of meetings on Saturday - "It was a lot of food and a lot of talking to academic advisors," he joked - and tours of campus. He was joined on his Sunday flight home by offensive coordinator/running backs coach Joe Rudolph, who flew to Illinois and met with James' grandmother for an in-home visit.

"That was great," James said. "My grandma had never met any of the Pitt coaches, so for her to meet the coach is the offensive coordinator and running backs coach was really great. That really worked out well. It was set up perfectly."

James rushed for 3,832 yards and 51 touchdowns the last two seasons, and he was upgraded to a four-star prospect this week.




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