Monday, June 11, 2012

WPIAL talent not to blame for Pitt football's underachievement

The Pitt football program has had it's share of problems over the last few decades and one can make a case that they have all been self-inflicted.  But one so-called problem that really isn't a problem is the talent level in the WPIAL.  Is it down from it's glory days in the 1970's?  Yes.  Is it still good enough for Pitt to be a national top 20 team, or better yet, a top ten team?  Absolutely.  But that doesn't stop the uninformed from continually making this claim.

This article was written to prove that the problem is not the level of WPIAL talent, but rather Pitt's procurement of that talent.  The truth is, when Pitt had one of the most talent-laden programs in the country, and in some years, the most talent-laden program in the country, no schools could out recruit Pitt in their own backyard.  Even Penn State, a national power in their own right, had trouble landing elite WPIAL talent in the Johnny Majors and Jackie Sherrill years.  Think about it.  From the early 70's until the early 80's, just how many great WPIAL players went through Penn State?  I'll tell you.  Penn State had one All-American from the WPIAL in that time, and that was Bruce Clark from New Castle, which is about as far away as one could get at the time and still be in the WPIAL.  In other words, since it was an hour away from the city, it really wasn't an area that could be considered Pittsburgh territory.  

In that same time period, Pitt signed from the WPIAL future All-Americans Tony Dorsett, Bill Fralic, Dan Marino, Jimbo Covert, Julius Dawkins, Tom Brzoza, and Randy Holloway.  And this doesn't even include Hall of Famer Russ Grimm or players like Brian Davis, Curtis Bray, and Sean Gilbert who were generally considered amongst the top five prospects in the country when they signed with Pitt.  In fact, the general consensus at the time (well before the recruiting websites of today) was that Davis and Bray were actually considered the best in their respective classes. 

Outside of the the state, it was even more rare for Pitt to lose a top WPIAL player.  West Virginia never got a kid that Pitt wanted during those years, and very rarely did Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan, or anybody else.  

And therein lies the problem.  The problem is not that there aren't enough excellent players in the WPIAL.  The problem is that 25+ years of incompetence and underachievement has left the program fighting like hell just to get a share of an area that once was their sole domain.  

That's not to suggest that the program has been horrible locally.  On the contrary.  They still recruit the WPIAL better than any other school and that's to be expected.  I'm simply suggesting that they haven't recruited as good locally as they have been in the past and that fact more than any is why they have not been a top 20 program.  

Let's just imagine what the Pitt roster would look like in three years (2014 season) if they got the same level of local commitments that they did in their best years.  Some of these players they have already signed or are on their roster.  I will also combine any top national recruits that they have already signed or are already on the roster.  Here would be a projected lineup in that scenario.

QB-  Chad Voytik (RS So.)- We'll assume that if Pitt was recruiting well, he would redshirt.
RB-  Rushel Shell (Jr.)-  Has the potential to be a star at this time obviously. Isaac Bennett will be a senior.
FB-  David Dunham (Sr.)- Mark Giubilato will be a senior, too, and Jaymar Parrish would be available.
WR-  Robert Foster (Jr.)-  Same as Shell.  Could be an All-American by now.
WR-  Tyler Boyd (Jr.)-  Should be really, really good in his own right.  3rd receiver Demetrious Davis.
TE-  Scott Orndoff (RS Fr.) or J.P. Holtz (RS So.)- We'll say both will redshirt in this scenario. Both could be excellent in Paul Chryst's system. Brendan Carozzoni and Drew Carswell will be seniors, too.
LT-  Dorian Johnson (So.)-  NFL first round talent.
LG- Adam Bisnowaty (RS So.)- Big, mean, and good just like how Chryst likes them. 
C- Patrick Kugler (So.)- Same level as Johnson.
RG- Tom Ricketts (Sr.)- Local player via Penn State.
RT- Matt Rotheram (Sr.)- Giant would be a three year starter. 

Now as any Pitt fan can see, that is some damn offense potentially.  Almost every one is a national recruit.  Even more telling is that eight of the starters are WPIAL products.  Four- Shell, Bisnowaty, Ordnoff, and Ricketts- are already in the fold.  Kugler has already committed to Michigan. But he's just one player and as an interior linemen if there's one player the Panthers could afford to miss on it's him.  That leaves Foster, Boyd, and Johnson.  

Foster, Boyd, and Johnson are Chryst's first war to keep the best in the WPIAL and return the program to excellence.  If they land all three, the future Chryst offense could be both potentially and realistically good enough to put Pitt back squarely on the national scene as an elite team in the near future.  Normally projecting that far in advance in college athletics is foolish, to say the least.  But one of the truths of college football is that if you name the top five offensive minds in college, Chryst is on that list.  He's had extremely prolific offenses at two places- Oregon State and Wisconsin- that were not highly prolific before he got there.  You do it once and people can call it a fluke.  You do it twice and you're ability should no longer be questioned.  It's not a leap of faith to say that with this talent on offense, Pitt's offense could easily be a juggernaut.  Chryst has done it with far less talent and never had this type of talent to work with.  The possibilities are exciting.

If the offense does live up to Chryst's capabilities, the defense would only have to be solid.  It often takes less in college football these days.  Teams now are in the top 5 nationally with defenses that are well into the bottom half of defenses nationally.  But the Panthers, if they can retain and sustain their local dominance, potentially could be much better than solid.  

In 2014, current talented players like Bryan Murphy, T.J. Clemmings, Khaynin Mosley-Smith, Ejuan Price, LaQuentin Smith, Todd Thomas, Eric Williams, Lloyd Carrington, Cullen Christian, Ray Vinopal, Lafayette Pitts, Roderick Ryles, Bam Bradley, and Deaysean Rippy will all still conceivably be on the team.  Shakir Soto has already committed to the 2013 class and Tyrique Jarrett will probably return to the fold.  And of course theoretically there will be at least a few more very good players added to the 2013 class.

And since the point of this article is to show the talent of the WPIAL, let's for the sake of argument add highly talented 2014 prospects in cornerbacks Dravon Henry (Aliquippa) and Harry Randall (Woodland Hills), DTs Jaleel Fields (Aliquippa) and Brock Boxen (Beaver Falls), quarterback Chandler Kincade (Blackhawk), and wide receivers Brandon Mitchell (Fox Chapel) and Ricky Rogers (Keystone Oaks).  And let's not forget a superb linebacking group led by Brenon Thrift (Gateway), Shai McKenzie (Washington), Sage Curry (Beaver Falls), Nate Stone (Greensburg Central Catholic), and Justice Rawlins (Monessen).  

I think by now any reasonable person gets the point.  The 2013 class is loaded with offensive talent.  The cream of the crop is Foster, Johnson, Kugler, Boyd, and Orndoff.  Kugler, a WPIAL player for just two years, is out of the picture since he committed to Michigan.  But the Panthers can still land the other four. The 2014 class is loaded, too, especially on defense where at least nine local players are considered highly talented, including five linebackers, a position where Pitt needs an influx of talent.  

Speaking purely on potential, getting two star receivers, one star tight end, and one star left tackle, all in your own backyard, and all at the same time, is not something most programs can do. Especially a year after landing a star running back, a star guard, and another star tight end the year before. Then next year, Pitt could conceivably add two star cornerbacks, a couple of really good defensive linemen, and a slew of highly talented linebackers to the group.  All on a tank of gas.  

This is the part where some Pitt fans complain that I'm being too optimistic or that I'm being unrealistic. That would be the case if hadn't happened before.  The goldmine for Pitt is right in front of them.  There are still enough highly talented WPIAL players to form the backbone of a powerful Pitt program.  The great Pitt teams of the past would not let this talent go.  And the result was greatness.  Pitt could be great again.  But to do that they will have to win the battle for the WPIAL.

42 comments:

  1. Chris:

    I agree that Pitt needs to recruit well in it's onw backyard, but isn't it hard to hold Chryst accountable for the upheaval at Pitt these past 2-3 years and poor performance for the last 10-30 years creating an opportunity for other schools to land WPIAL kids?

    Furthermore, this is also a different era from the 1970's when, before cable and ESPN, your hometown team was the team you saw on TV and grew up rooting for....today a kid from the WPIAL may have followed Ohio State or Alabama or Clemson his whole life and have no allegiance to Pitt at all...ALso, in an era of unlimited scholarships, didn't Majors just simply offer all of Dorsett's best friends scholarships to lure Dorsett to Pitt?

    All of that being said, I'm still optimistic about Pitt's chances under Coach Chryst. And while we will not land every elite WPIAL recruit, I think the fact is that we have to hope Chryst recruits well enought to compete and put some victories together right away, and that success on the field will lead to more and better recruits wanting to come to Pitt...

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    1. Excuses!!! Bill O'Brien isn't making excuses at Penn State and Scott Drew didn't make excuses for Baylor basketball, and both had bigger hurdles than Pitt. if Pitt wants to be excellent, they need to get the elite talent in their own backyard. No excuses. Just get it done.

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  2. Well, how likely do you think this is? I know your confident about foster and johnson, but i see no reason why chryst couldnt land most of them.

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  3. Have to disagree with you there Chris.
    I believe PG's Mike White, wpial guru.. following it for 30 years or so wrote an article about wpial D1 prospects...
    the numbers are down... I think from 40 to about 20...
    not just pure numbers but also quality... as there is a distinction of BCS D1 and D1 (Mac).

    And I don't think it is realistic these days with Pitt getting ALL or MOST or 8 of top 10 wpial prospects...
    Heck, I'd be happy if they got 5 of 10 top wpial prospects!! After that the quality decreases significantly.

    Also, a typically recruiting class size is about 20... so if you land the top 5... where are the other 15 coming from... or is it dredging from the bottom of the barrel.

    if i find the mike white article about the pure numbers... i'll attach the link.

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    1. Pitt can easily get 15 solid prospects from outside the wpial!

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    2. Here is 1 link to a Mike White blog... but look at his comments of Wanny...

      http://blogs.sites.post-gazette.com/index.php/sports/varsity-blog/24237-about-pitts-recruiting-class-and-other-notes

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    3. Well Chris, I have been saying that in order for Pitt to get back to national prominence, they would have to attract players from Florida and the south like we did in the late 70's and early 80's.

      With this article, you have proved me wrong and I stand corrected.

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    4. I would have to agree with you, ZM. When Pitt was a national power, generally speaking from 76-82, they did not get all of their premiere talent from the WPIAL. The majority of it did come from the WPIAL, but players such as Hugh Green and Rickey Jackson, just to name two, came from from the south and they also landed a lot kids from NJ as well.

      I know a lot of people jump on Joe D about his WPIAL all star team comments, but he is right to a certain extent. The WPIAL does not typically produce the skill position players that are needed in today's game; there are some available now and in the near future, but not enough to keep the program going at an elite level for the forseeable future.

      Mike W.

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    5. The majority did NOT come from the WPIAL. That's my point. It's a myth that Pitt got most of their players form the WPIAL. They would get roughly 1/3 from the WPIAL, and they still get 1/3 from the WPIAL. The problem is, it's not always the right 1/3 now. They are letting some of the bigger names go.

      Let's say that Pitt's class is 20 this year. That would mean they would get roughly 6 from the WPIAL. Now are you telling me that if they got Robert Foster, Dorian Johnson, Patrick Kugler, Tyler Boyd, Chavas Rawlins, and Scott Orndoff then that's not good enough to be at an elite level? I beg to differ.

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    6. Not at all, Chris, I think I didn't make my case correctly. If they can land the six kids you're referring to, that would certainly be good enough to take them to an elite level with that class. However, the depth of talent in the WPIAL is not what it was in the 70's, so even taking a 1/3 from the WPIAL every year may not enable this program to either reach or maintain an elite status.

      My point was that Pitt was able to not only find kids that were major contributors but kids that now have their numbers retired or are in the CFB HOF outside of the WPIAL. It's not just about finding recruits outside of the WPIAL but finding high quality recruits that take your program to an elite level. Like I said in agreeing with Joe D., you can field a WPIAL all star team if you want to, but if you're not pulling in high quality kids from out of state you're going to continue to have what the program produces now.

      Mike W.

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    7. As far as the depth, it doesn't matter. In Pitt's best days the average WPIAL was about 1/3 of the class. So six to eight is all they need on average. It doesn't matter if there are 8 or 50 good WPIAL players, as long as they can fill 1/3 of their class with really good prospects. So if there's only 8 then get those 8. If there's only 6 then get those 6.

      That leads to non-WPIAL recruiting which would constitute 2/3 of the class like it always has. And that also would have to improve, but if the program can keep the 4 and 5 star players locally, they will be better on the field, and if they're better then they can do better outside of the WPIAL. But it all starts in their backyard. If they can land the excellent players locally then they are on their way.

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    8. I do agree with that Chris, and I think Chryst has pisked up on that because he really seems to be trying to develop relationships with the area HS coaches, which gets you in the door being the local D1 program a lot faster.

      Pitt has always done this, just to varying degrees. Harris was tight with the WA coach Palko and Wooody High's Novak and developed a pipeline there, but tended to put off a lot of the other coaches in the WPIAL and lost out on a lot of talent because he had guys like Bradley and Austin working the entire WPIAL.

      Wanny worked the entire WPIAL to his own detriment, because he didn't focus on skill position kids outside of the WPIAL/state enough, especially at QB. Hopefully Chryst can find a balance, at least he seems to be able to identify QB and TE talent.

      Mike W.

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  4. See, Pitt fans have believed this fallacy for so long that they can't see the truth. Here's the truth. Even in Pitt's most talented years in the 70s and early 80s, most of their elite players came from OUTSIDE of the WPIAL. Pitt's classes were NOT made up of all WPIAL players.

    That's why the number of top WPIAL recruits do not matter. All that matters is that Pitt gets the excellent 6-8 of them. That's all they ever did. The depth does not matter. All they have to do is do what they always have- get the handful of elite players locally and then fill the majority of the class from wherever you can get them. Florida, Ohio, New Jersey, Georgia- wherever.

    That's what Pitt ALWAYS did. The fallacy was that Pitt's classes were loaded with nothing but elite WPIAL players but that simply wasn't true.

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    1. You see, chryst recieved some criticism for recruiting so much in states like georgia and california, but i like it. Will pitt get more than 1-2 solid players from there right now? No, but thats right now. In a few years, if chryst wins games, that 1-2 could become 3-5 and with pitt having history in florida, jersey, and ohio, that could make a big difference

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    2. Here is a link you may all enjoy...
      Pitt media guides... all the way back..

      http://digital.library.pitt.edu/d/documentingpitt/athletic.html

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    3. There's nothing wrong with recruiting in CA or GA. There's just no need to recruit so much there, especially when there are more realistic areas that aren't being hit as often.

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    4. I understand that but others have complained saying that pitt has no chance there so why bother.

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    5. The 1979 frosh class... Marino class... 10 of 23 from wpial.

      The 1981 frosh class... Fralic class.... 11 of 30 from wpial.

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    6. Yes.. you are correct.
      but, in 79 and 81... there were a lot more BCS D1 type recruits in the wpial... don't have the numbers.

      The 2013 wpial class... has 7 solid BCS D1 recruits and perhaps you can stretch it to 10... but after that it drops to MAC level or below.
      So, I think it is realistic for Pitt to get say 5 of 10... but don't go dredging the rest of the wpial which is what Wanny did to fill the class.

      However, back in 79 and 81.... Pitt could attract top recruits from outside the wpial... can't say that is true these days...

      those media guides are pretty cool. Russ Grim was 215 as an incoming frosh.. lol

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    7. Like I already said, the depth doesn't matter. What it does it matter if there are 20 or 40 major prospects in the WPIAL? All Pitt has to do is get the 6-8 national recruits in their backyard when they are there.

      As for getting top players outside of the WPIAL, Larry Fitzgerald, LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis, H.B. Blades, Chad Voytik, K'waun Williams, Matt Rotheram, Joe Thomas, Dimitrious Davis, Bam Bradley, Ray Graham, Devin Street, Jarred Holley, Jabaal Sheard, Henry Hynoski, Antonio Bryant, and Clint Session are just some players who might take exception to that.

      Obviously that's not the same level as Hugh Green, Ricky Jackson, Chris Doleman, etc., but if Pitt starts winning big, and with an explosive offense at that, there's no reason why their non-WPIAL recruiting can't take a step up, too. But the key first is to get Johnson, Foster, and Boyd so that they can get the ball rolling in the right direction.

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  5. Excellent article. The only disagreement I have is about the defenses. Alabama won the title the last 2 years because of their defense.

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    1. I didn't mean to suggest that great defenses can't win championships, too. What I meant was that a team can go far with a great offense, even if their defense is mediocre.

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  6. Tony harper, a 6'4" 200 lb hback just committed to pitt. He was offered this past weekend

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    1. slow, slow, slow... MAC level recruit.
      7.62 in 55..
      http://oh.milesplit.com/athletes/1906716-tony-harper

      I'll give you a perspective... 55 hurdles #1 in NJ was 7.19 sec... 55 dash #1 was 6.44
      no way he did 40 in 4.63 per his rivals profile.

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    2. Orndoff can beat him... easily..

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    3. At least 100 girls can beat him in the 55...
      #2 girl in NJ.. 7.07.. (the first is world class)
      his profile says, safety/wide reciever.

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    4. His forty time is 4.65

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    5. That 40 time is BS!!!

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    6. Maybe the stats you found were bs.

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    7. Pk, it doesn't matter. If they can't succeed on the track, they clearly have no hope of suceeding on the gridiron. That tackling, hitting, cutting, thinking, reacting, and general physical contact thing is pretty irrelevant compared to the times you can generate with a pair of track shoes and a stop watch. That's what football is all about.

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  7. Chris, not a big deal, but you keep calling Scott Orndoff "Paul." For a kid you think can be an All-American at Pitt, it's time to get his name right ;) -Gordo

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  8. Chris -

    Do you think Pitt's conference affiliation creates a recrutiing ceiling? You mention us getting out done by the Big 11 schools, while that didn't happen 30 yrs ago, do you think it's due to the conference evolutions?

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    1. Well, it certainly didn't help to be in the Big East, that's for sure.

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    2. very true. thanks Chris.

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  9. Antonio Bryant and Greg Lee all of a sudden run a 4.3's ......not! I prefer to see how they run in pads because they don't play in shorts and tshirts from what I have read.

    I don't mind the commit one bit. We can't be sure he doesn't grow 2 inches and puts on 50 pounds to become a pure tight end. He will be redshirted regardless. He is clearly a very good athlete with catching skills and he can play on both sides of the ball. Who says he doesn't put on 30 pounds and we see him on the dline or at mlb. Put him in strength and conditioning and the 40 time should fall. His forty time in gear is irrelevant. His quickness is a better key. Not many players actually have to run 40 yards anyway. If he is running 40 yards at a time while playing safety, he is seeing the backs of jerseys. Short strong bursts! He is a safety right now but with his size could go a bunch of directions. An intriguing prospect.

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  10. ooops, chris! Great article. This is what I am talking about! All positive, all PITT, all the time.

    Pitt will get it done if we all pull together. Especially with Penn State taking on water. They have better PR than Pitt, but goodness prevails!! Bank on it!

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    1. Imma Man! Im 40!June 12, 2012 at 9:33 PM

      How exactly is Penn State "taking on water"?

      Based on their recruiting so far for 2013 -- I'm shocked at how well they're doing, frankly -- if you didn't know better you'd think that any other school had brewing scandals and they still had their lily-white rep.

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  11. Everyday more and more comes out about the cover ups because of football. They let a known pedofile office on campus. The kids shower in the same stalls. That is disgusting. It won't play out well with fathers, mothers, grandmother's and the like. It is everyday negativity. How does a parent or guardian allow their kid to go to PSU knowing that football wielded all power over sin and corruption?

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  12. Some posters are excessively negative expecting Pitt will never attain greatness again-that there is no local talent left. Some are so positive seeming to think that Paul Chryst is the Second Coming or that he is going to bring us all puppies and rainbows. I like Chris' posts because he has high standards and he is realistic. What I get from this post is that the opportunity is there for Chryst to take advantage of. There is enough good local talent. If he can pull in a reasonable share plus good players from other areas of the country and coach them up then Pitt can be back where it belongs like it was from '76 through '81.

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  13. If you follow tony harpers twitter he posted the official stat sheet from his camp at toledo two weeks ago. his first 40 time was 4.6 seconds. What more do you want?

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