Pitt officially announced the hire of Ross Kolodziej as the new head strength and conditioning coach today. Kolodziej served as an assistant for the Panthers last year under Todd Rice, who was let go shortly before the bowl game.
"Our goal is to reassert the Pitt program among the very best in college football," Kolodziej said in a press release. "I'm honored to be given this responsibility by Coach Chryst. We have a sense of urgency to build upon the momentum from our bowl victory. That starts in the weight room this winter.
"It is our responsibility to maximize our players' abilities and opportunities at Pitt. They may think they know what work is, but we're going to put them in the furnace this offseason. The great thing is our kids have told me they want to work and be pushed. It's that kind of desire that produces results on and off the field."
Kolodziej played defensive tackle at Wisconsin from 1997-2000 (so he didn't overlap with Paul Chryst) and was also a shot-putter for the Badgers' track and field team. He then played seven seasons in the NFL and two in the UFL before becoming an intern and graduate assistant for Wisconsin.
"The 2014 season starts on Thursday when we begin our offseason training program and I'm excited that Ross will be leading this very important area," Chryst said. "This is a well-earned opportunity for him and I know he is going to make a significant impact. Our players are equally enthusiastic about getting back to work. We're looking forward to a highly productive offseason."
As I mentioned in the early post about Rice, strength and conditioning coaches are very important in college football these days because of the sheer amount of time they spend around the players. While most of the coaching staff is limited in the offseason time they can be around the team, strength coaches are not. It's critical that a head coach and his strength coach are on the same page, especially during the offseason.
In a lot of ways, this hire is a carbon copy of Chryst's choice of defensive coordinator last offseason. Once again, he went with a guy who he trusts and knows but may not have a ton of experience at the position. And, like the Matt House hire last offseason, the only really fair approach is to wait and see. This is "Chryst's guy" for better or worse, and whether Kolodziej ultimately succeeds or fails will inevitably be tied back to Chryst.