Thursday, June 28, 2012

Panthers land Ohio offensive lineman

Paul Chryst gets his second offensive lineman commitment as 6'5" 300 pound Ohio lineman Carson Baker verbally committed to the program.  His other reported offers were Toledo, Ohio, and Buffalo.

Big East conference basketball opponents announced

The Panthers will play two games against Cincinnati, DePaul, Marquette, and Villanova.

Home games only against UConn, Notre Dame, Seton Hall, USF, and Syracuse.

Away games only against  Georgetown, Louisville, Providence, Rutgers, and St. John's.

TraVon Chapman picks Pitt

Paul Chryst added to his core of quarterbacks today when 6'1" 195 pound TraVon Chapman of Kent, OH chose the Panthers.  Chapman, who is raw, but athletic and strong armed, was also offered by the likes of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Northwestern, Illinois, and Cincinnati.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Two recruiting notes (And a commitment)

Pitt has offered 6'5" punter/kicker Ryan Winslow of LaSalle College in suburban Philadelphia.  So for the guy who keeps asking about kickers, there you go.

Also, Paul Chryst's nephew, John Strauser, a 6'4 240 pound DE from Champaign, IL, has chosen Purdue over Pitt.

ADDED:  Winslow has committed to the Panthers, making him the ninth commitment for Chryst.

Chryst needs to step up recruiting

First of all, and this is important because I know fans tend to go into histrionics when one of their favorite teams is criticized, let me state for the record that I am not saying Paul Chryst will fail as the Panthers head coach, I'm not saying he won't be a great game coach and a great leader, and I'm not even saying that his recruiting won't be excellent in the future.  But what I am saying is that, in my opinion, the first six months of Chryst's tenure has not been exactly impressive when it comes to recruiting.

Let me first state the problems as I see them, and for those of you who still believe in Chryst, be patient because I will then show that there is still time to change things.

The most obvious problem facing Chryst is his recruiting, or lack thereof, of the top prospects in the WPIAL.  There are six players in the Pittsburgh area who stand out above the rest.  Those six are Robert Foster, Patrick Kugler, Dorian Johnson, Tyler Boyd, Scott Orndoff, and Chavas Rawlins.  Four of those players have committed to a school.  Orndoff chose Pitt, Kugler chose Michigan, Johnson chose Penn State, and Rawlins decided on West Virginia.  Of the two remaining, the Panthers have a chance with Foster, and probably a lesser chance with Boyd.  That means Pitt has already lost three of the six excellent players in the Pittsburgh area, and could conceivably lose five out of six.

We hear that the WPIAL coaches really appreciate Chryst's personality and his style, and I have no doubt that that's true.  But the bottom line is to get players, not accolades.  If Chryst loses five out of the six top players in the WPIAL, then that's a serious problem.  Even Todd Graham, who local coaches apparently disliked heavily, did better than that.

Of course there are people who say that Pitt's recent coaching fiascos have something to do with that, but that's ridiculous.  Dana Holgerson is a public relations nightmare as far as coaches go, and Penn State is in the middle of what could be the biggest sports scandal in this country's history.  And Pitt is losing local players to these two programs.

Then there is how Chryst and his staff attacked recruiting this season.  First he took weeks to fill out his staff while other programs were recruiting with all of their personnel.  Then he filled his staff with some curious choices.

I hate to continue to bash Inoke Breckterfield because he as is not the problem per se.  The problem is the choice to hire him in the first place, and that falls on Chryst.  I've ranted about this before but now that five months have passed since he was hired, it's looking more and more like it was a bad choice.

And why is that?  Breckterfield, who was fired after one season at UCLA, recruited for the Bruins in Bakersfield and Fresno in California, as well as Utah, Hawaii, Montana, and Idaho.  I'm not saying that Breckterfield won't be an excellent defensive line coach, and I'm not saying he may not end up as an excellent recruiter.  But there are many talented assistant coaches out there.  Are you telling me the best that Chryst can come up with is a guy with one year of major college experience before getting fired, and with no recruiting ties to anywhere remotely close to where Pitt will get their players?  Why not an assistant coach from Maryland, New Jersey, Florida, or even eastern PA, places where Pitt needs a presence?

Even having said that, if Chryst really had faith in Breckterfield's ability, why not put him in one of those places and let him develop ties?  Instead Breckterfield is recruiting in California and for some reason, Georgia.  Yes, you heard that right.  Pitt has offered at least fourteen players from Georgia.  And every one of them have major offers from southern powers. Pitt can't land Pittsburgh kids but they're wasting their time offering elite kids from Georgia?

And it doesn't end there, of course.  The staff also doesn't seem very aggressive or organized in recruiting either.  Some of the top players in PA didn't get offers for quite some time.  Linebacker Alex Anzalone, a national recruit from the eastern part of the state didn't get an offer from Pitt until two months into the recruiting season, and he had over 20 offers by then.  Aliquippa defensive back Dravon Henry, one of the state's top prospects for the 2014 class, has offers from West Virginia, Rutgers, Maryland, Michigan State, Cincinnati, and even Kent State, but Pitt hasn't offered him yet.  It's obvious they will but why not already?  Why not show him right away that you want him very much?  Especially when for the 2014 class, the staff has already offered two kids from South Carolina, as well as kids from Virginia, Wisconsin, and Detroit.

Showing even more lack of organization, at least two players who have committed to the Panthers, Scott Orndoff and Zach Challingsworth, had miscommunication problems with the staff.  "Maybe they assume I already have one (scholarship offer), but they haven't formally told me," Orndoff told  Orndoff admitted that he wasn't concerned about it, but it's something you think Pitt would have made clear to a player they were trying to get a commitment from.  Especially when programs like Michigan and Virginia made it abundantly clear to Orndoff at that same moment.

Then it happened again with Challingsworth who committed to Toledo then immediately reversed course when, lo and behold, that school he wanted to go to didn't get around to telling him that they wanted him.  Said Challingsworth to, "They were confused when I committed to Toledo, because they thought I knew they wanted me there."  Well, how could Challingsworth know that they wanted him there when they didn't even offer him?

It even happened a third time that we know of, this time with New Jersey running back Zaire Williams, who told, "I had an offer from Pitt a month ago, but I didn't know.  The running backs coach was there and he told my coach that I already had the offer, but I didn't know about it." Incredible.

Then there's the staff.  Joe Rudolph was brought in to be the ace recruiter but he hasn't drawn a single ace yet.  He couldn't even land Johnson, even though Rudolph was a Belle Vernon alum and Johnson was a lifelong Pitt fan.  Former Mt. Lebanon head coach Chris Haering was brought in for help in the WPIAL but his name is never mentioned by recruits.  Actually, there are only two names that do routinely come up when prospects talk about Pitt, and that's Matt House and Bobby Engram, who apparently are doing most of the recruiting while the rest of the staff seems confused or lackadaisical.  Except for Breckterfield who is no doubt deep in the heart of Georgia somewhere wondering how in the hell he can get a Georgian to come to Pittsburgh.

Lastly, let's about the quarterback and offensive line recruiting.  If there's two positions that you would think Chryst would nail, it would be these.  But so far he has yet to land his future star quarterback.  It looks like TraVon Chapman could be that player, and while he has potential, he mostly has potential because Chryst will be his mentor.  Many of the top programs did not foresee Chapman as a quarterback and were instead recruiting him at different positions.  In fact, Chapman was offered by the likes of Wisconsin, Arizona, Cincinnati, Illinois, and Boston College, as well as a few MAC schools.  With the great quarterback successes that Chryst has had, one would think that a big, strapping future NFL quarterback would want to play for him.

As for offensive linemen, the Panthers had two of the best in the country right in their backyard in Johnson and Kugler, but missed out on both. And promising local center Matt Barone was not even offered by the staff, presumably because he was not the size that Chryst covets. Chryst also had talented Indiana guard Dan Samuelson de-commit and pledge to Nebraska instead.  The program needed at least four linemen to strengthen the offense, but right now they've only got a commitment from one lightly recruited, albeit promising player.  As of now, the Panthers are not heavily involved with any elite linemen.

Like I said, I'm not discounting Chryst's entire regime, though I have little doubt that many Pitt fans will get themselves all worked up over this article, thinking I'm doing just that.  But there is definitely evidence that Chryst has not started out well in recruiting.  The fact that his reputation when he was hired at Pitt was that he wasn't good at recruiting, and didn't like it, shouldn't make one optimistic that things will change anytime soon.

Of Chryst's eight recruits this year, only two, Orndoff and Corey Clement, could be considered topnotch prospects.  Of the other six, all of them are worthy major college prospects, and any of them have the potential to be good college players.  But when you have eight commitments, and six of them are lightly recruited, it's not exactly a jackrabbit start.  Throw in the other problems I've mentioned and it becomes even more troubling.

Now the good news.  Chryst could still salvage this class.  He could still land Chapman, Foster, and Boyd to go with Orndoff and Clement.  That would be an excellent five, though all five would be an offense, at least it's impressive.  And I have no doubt that Chryst will still land some good players, and maybe even some excellent players.  We also know that the man is a true offensive wizard and there is some very good talent still in this program.

Ultimately, I really want Chryst to succeed.  He seems like a great guy and this fan base doesn't deserve anymore underachieving from this program.  And that in the long run is my biggest problem when it comes to Pitt.  I despise underachievement, lack of focus, and ineptitude, and the Pitt football program has given that to us in spades for three decades.  This program has too much damn potential to be this damn mediocre for this damn long.

The Pitt administration claims they want a great football program, and fires any coach that doesn't give them that greatness, but unfortunately their desire ends there.  They have not made it a priority to be a major football power, even though the makings of a major football power are there.  All they do is make excuses and too many fans follow suit.  "We don't have 100,000 people or are in the Big 10 like Penn State."  "Nobody comes to the games."  "We need our own stadium." "The Big East sucks."  "The ACC sucks."  Blah, blah, blah.  Enough of the whining about how Pitt isn't great because, because, because.  For a program to be great, people have to demand it, work at it, and don't stop until it's done.  No great college football power was born a great college football power.  There aren't a lot of great high school players in Nebraska, or Oklahoma, or Boise, but that sure as hell didn't stop them from being powers.  They became powers because their fans demanded it and their administrations listened.

Bottom line, if Pitt wants to be a major football power, then they can be.  That means getting proven head coaches, proven assistants, and having a big recruiting budget.  And if the school decides it doesn't want to be a major player on the national scene, that it will have to do things that they don't feel like doing, then don't do it.  But quit jerking us around.  And enough of firing nine win coaches just to replace them with more nine win coaches.  All that's doing is making the program tread water in an ocean of mediocrity. Good, but not great head coaches, with good, but not great staffs, and good, but not great budgets.  All that gets you is good, but not great teams.

That. more than anything, is why I'm hard on Chryst's early recruiting.  I want him to succeed but to do that his great offensive mind probably won't be enough.  He's going to need players.  He's going to need a staff.  He's going to need a budget.  And if all of that doesn't happen then he could be the next nine win coach to be fired.  And I for one don't want to see that happen at Pitt anytime soon.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Dorian Johnson commits to Penn State

Quite frankly, the Panthers lost one they never should have lost, and it's now time to seriously start questioning Paul Chryst's recruiting in his first year.  More detailed story about how unhappy about all of this I am tomorrow.

Panthers add another local player

Paul Chryst got a verbal commitment today from Clairton cornerback Titus Howard.  Howard is a very good athlete and has good height at 6'2" and 165 pounds.  His other offers were from UConn, Toledo, Youngstown State, Arkansas State, and St. Francis (PA).

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Updated look at Pitt football recruiting- Defense

Defensive line:

There is youthful talent in this unit but depth is a major problem.  Despite not having an impressive offer list, I ranked Aaron Donald extremely high when he came out of Penn Hills.  Happily for all involved, he made me look good by turning himself into an All-American caliber player in his first two seasons.  And the good news is he'll still have eligibility after this season.

The other three probable starters- Bryan Murphy, Khaynin Mosley-Smith, and T.J. Clemmings- are talented, and even better they will have two more years after this season.  If the projected starters produce, the future of the starting front four is very bright.  But depth is lacking.  Tyrone Ezell has yet to reach his potential but he'll also be back for one more year after this season so he still has a chance to produce.  LaQuentin Smith may be better off at linebacker, but was forced to move because of the depth problem.  He may eventually move back if the staff can add quality depth here, but if he doesn't at least he will have two more years after this season. Tackle Terrell Jackson and end Daryl Render are incoming freshmen and end Shakir Soto has committed for 2013.  None of the three appear to be instant contributors.  Giant 325 pound Tyrique Jarrett failed to qualify at Pitt this season but he's expected to return in 2013 after a year of prep school.

Clearly Paul Chryst has to add at least two more in this class and even more in the 2014.  The fact that Chryst is recruiting a few jucos at the position shows you that he understands he needs some help immediately.  California juco Edwin Delva is a tough and quick 6'3" and 295 pounds, and he wants to visit Pitt, but the competition is going to be tough.  The fact that he plans to graduate in December of this year makes him even more important because he should be ready to contribute immediately in the 2013 season.  Brooklyn juco Aaron Hush was at Temple for two years, entering at 210 pounds.  He's now 6'4" and 290 pounds, but has enough speed and athleticism that most schools are looking at him as a strong side end.  He doesn't have a redshirt available so he'll have to contribute immediately but that doesn't look like it would be a problem.

Three in-state linemen that the Panthers have a chance at acquiring are 6'2" 230 pound Erie McDowell end James Conner, 6'3" 265 Philadelphia tackle Justin Moody, and 6'4" 260 pound Eric Joraskie of Mt. Carmel.  Conner has a lot of talent but his eligibility will be a major question mark.  Moody is a player that was overrated by recruiting websites early on but still could be pretty good.  Joraskie, who has already visited, is one of the fastest risers in the state...EDIT (Joraskie just committed to Northwestern).  Ohio defensive end Antoine Miles and Illinois end John Strauser are lesser recruited prospects that the Panthers also have a chance with.  Strauser is Chryst's nephew.  Unfortunately, beyond that the Panthers have offered a slew of Florida and Georgia linemen that they look like they have no chance with at the moment.

Clearly, there is no sure thing star in the bunch of 2013 possibilities, but the best case scenario is that the Panthers can acquire another quality developmental prospect for the future and two jucos who can provide competition and depth immediately.

The good news is that the 2014 class will see at least two highly talented tackles in the WPIAL.  With a name like Brock Boxen, you would have to think he was made to play football in Pittsburgh (or be a character in an action movie), and that may well happen.  The staff has already offered Boxen and the early word is that Pitt may be the team to beat.  He's not the 300 pounds that Rivals lists him at (266 according to his father), but he hasn't even entered his junior season yet so he could easily put on 20 pounds or more before he enters college. That would make him even better because he's already very quick and tenacious.   Aliquippa's Jaleel Fields is a quick 6'2" and 260 pounds right now and he is also expected to be a major Panthers target.  With the Aliquippa pipeline in place he could easily be a Panther also.

Position status:  Incomplete.  Talent and depth is needed and adding Soto and Jarrett, while helpful, isn't enough. The two jucos would be huge for instant help and then one of the two PA players for development purposes would be nice, especially if Chryst can add on Boxen and Fields the following year.


The good news is that there is some young talent here, and no seniors are expected to be heavily in the rotation this season, but the bad news is that there isn't nearly enough talent or depth.

Middle linebacker Dan Mason is practically a miracle in cleats, and theoretically he'll still be playing in 2013, but one has to consider his future as a football player iffy still.  One bad hit could cost any player his career but with Mason is may even take less than that.  That scary thought makes the lack of depth even more perilous.  Shane Gordon has not become a consistent quality player but he'll be back next season, and talented sophomores Todd Thomas, Ejuan Price, and Eric Williams will still have two years after this season.  Nicolas Grigsby is only a redshirt freshman this season so he could have a long and fruitful career.

Entering this season are Devon Porchia and smallish but tough Mike Caprara.  It's highly improbable that either will see the field this season.

But after that, there's not much.  And even those that will be in the rotation have not consistently proven themselves yet.  This unit could add at least four quality linebackers right now, even though an extremely strong 2014 WPIAL linebacker class could add a handful more.

One possible solution for the future is to return LaQuentin Smith to the position and move incoming freshmen Bam Bradley and Deaysean Rippy from safety.  But that may be determined by how well the unit does this year and how well the staff adds to this class.

As for the latter, it's not looking like a top prospect is going to be added at the moment.  Many of Pitt's top targets have already committed elsewhere leaving the new staff in danger of having the same linebacker recruiting problem that inflicted Dave Wannstedt's regime.  To make matters worse, they are often going to Pitt's two biggest recruiting competitors in Penn State and West Virginia.

As of now the Panthers have two lesser recruited prospects as possibilities in PA players Brandon Chatmon and Matt Galambos.

The good news, as I mentioned previously, is that the 2014 class in the WPIAL has some excellent linebacker talent.  The best of the bunch initially is Gateways's Brenon Thrift who could be a national recruit.  He is more into West Virginia than Pitt right now, as is Monessen's Justice Rawlins whose brother Chavas committed to the Mountaineers for 2013.  Expect Pitt to go hard after both, though, especially Thrift who will be in contention for the No. 1 spot in the state in 2014.  Those two already hold Pitt offers as does Washington's Shai McKenzie, a favorite of mine who could be very good.  Sage Curry of Beaver Falls and Nate Stone of Greensburg Central Catholic also look to be major prospects. Stone is fast, muscular, and mean, and he reminds me a lot of Dan Mason when he was at Penn Hills.

Position status:  Incomplete.  This position is going to be interesting over the next two years. Not getting enough elite linebackers hurt Wannstedt a lot and Chryst will have to be careful that he doesn't go down the same path. It may all come down to how well players like Price, Williams, Thomas, and Grigsby develop, as well as landing some of the quality 2014 class.  If not Chryst may be forced to make position changes something that Wannstedt was also forced to do.

Defensive backs:

Finally somewhere where there's depth already for the upcoming season. Two starters form last season- K'waun Williams and Jason Hendricks- will be back after this season. It's no secret that I think that Williams is an all-star caliber cover corner.  Lloyd Carrington, Cullen Christian, and Ray Vinopal will all see a lot of time this season, if not start, and all will have two more years after this season.  Lafayette Pitts and Roderick Ryles are two talented redshirt freshman and Jamahl Pardner, Trenton Coles, and Ryan Lewis will probably redshirt.  Then of course there are the aforementioned Bradley and Rippy who are two of the better prospects of the 2012 class.

But, you can never have enough defensive backs and Jarred Holley and Andrew Taglianetti will be graduating after this season.  For that reason, the staff is correctly looking to add more defensive backs for the 2013 class.

Who those defensive backs will be is in anybody's guess.  Other than the obvious- Clairton's athletic Titus Howard- the Panthers are not favorites for any of the multitude of players that they are looking at, but at the same time they are still not totally discounted from many.  Most of the targeted defensive backs are from Ohio, New Jersey, Georgia, and Florida, and have many offers, so it will take time to see if some of these players will stick around long enough for the Panthers to move up in their eyes.

Some of the more realistic possibilities from the lengthy list could be 5'11" 180 pound Florida corner Blake McClain, 6'3" 205 pound Ohio safety Marcus Ball, and 6'3" 200 pound safety Reggie Green.

Then there is the 2014 class.  Gateway alone has three major college defensive backs. Corners Anthony Davis and Delvon Randall, both 6'0" and 175 pounds, and safety Montae Nicholson, who at 6'1" and 190 pounds could be a national recruit will be major Pitt targets.  Right up there as far as talent is Woodland Hills teammates, 6'0" 185 pound corner Harry Randall and 6'0" 185 pound safety Trevon Mathis, as well as 5'11" 175 pound Aliquippa corner Travon Henry.  It's not often that the WPIAL has six major college defensive backs but that looks to be at least how many the region will have in 2014.

Position status: Incomplete.  The status here will change quickly with just two good additions for 2013 since there is good young talent and 2014 could be a major defensive back class for the program.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Updated look at Pitt football recruiting- Offense


Paul Chryst has his work cut out for him this year having to choose between struggling senior Tino Sunseri, and true freshman Chad Voytik, who will only have three weeks of college practice before the season starts.

Luckily for Chryst the future looks better.  Much travelled transfer Tom Savage will be eligible for the 2013 season and he will have one year of eligibility left.  It's his last chance to live up to his potential, not to mention get drafted into the NFL.  And Savage does have that kind of potential.  At 6'5" and 235 pounds he has great size, and his arm is a cannon.  He was also a Freshman All-American so you know the potential is there.  As a sophomore at Rutgers he hurt his hand which cost him his job.  He then went to Arizona where he sat out the required year, before then transferring to Pitt, which will cost him yet another season this year.  Bottom line, after his promising freshman season he didn't fail as much as he didn't play.  Sensing his last chance, combined with Chryst's expertise, could mean Savage's day may finally come.

Beyond that, Voytik is athletic, and also has a cannon for arm, plus he also has a lighting quick release.  Adding to his attributes, he is also a great leader.  He's exactly the kind of quarterback that Chryst could develop into a highly productive college player.  

But right now that's just two players at the position, and one hasn't even enrolled yet.  Yes, I purposely discounted Trey Anderson and Mark Myers because it's unlikely either will be in the mix again after this season.  

One more quarterback is needed for this class.  Blackhawk's Chandler Kincade has already given a verbal commitment for 2014, and yes I think he will eventually sign with the Panthers, but it will be years before he is in the mix at Pitt, and how good he could be is still undetermined.  

Pitt missed on their top quarterback target, Malik Zaire, who chose Notre Dame, but TraVon Chapman would be an excellent addition to the staff, and is close to Zaire in talent.  He's also very similar to Voytik.  Voytik has a stronger arm and a better release, but Chapman is well above average in both, and Voytik is further along at the same stage as Chapman.  Both are athletic, but Chapman is a quicker, better runner.  As for size, both are listed at 6'1", but both are probably a little shorter.  Chapman is raw, and his size and athleticism have made many top programs look at him at a position other than quarterback.  Voytik, being a year older, will probably be a step ahead of him in 2014, but if the Panthers land Chapman it will give them two talented and young quarterbacks at the position.  

Position status:  Incomplete.  The word out of Pitt is that Chapman will choose the Panthers in two weeks but he hasn't yet.  When he does, this position will be complete because one more talented quarterback is definitely needed.

Running backs:

If Chryst can develop a quarterback and offensive line, two of his specialties, the offense can eventually be great because the running back position is starting to look scary good in the future.  

Sophomore Isaac Bennett has been a pleasant surprise and he's good enough to give the Panthers a very good running game this season, even if Ray Graham is not 100%.  The fact that he will be in the program two years after this season is giant plus for the program.  

If that wasn't enough,  Rushel Shell is entering the program this season and he has the size, speed, and toughness to be a star in a Chryst offense.  It's also no secret that he has two young daughters now, too, and the newfound maturity and desire to have an NFL future could be the extra push he needs to become a great college player.

With those two in the program, it wasn't imperative to land another elite running back, but that's exactly what Chryst did.  The staff courted big time backs like Derrick Green and David Williams, but when the dust settled, they added strong, tough, 5'11" 205 pound New Jersey back Corey Clement.

At fullback, former high school quarterback Mark Giubilato is now a super strong 6'2" and 230 pound sophomore, and he should get most snaps at the position.  For the future, Ohio State transfer David Durham will have two years of eligibility starting in 2013 and at 6'1" and 245 pounds, he will be the perfect battering ram in the new run heavy offense.  Having two quality fullbacks sounds good, especially when both have two years of eligibility after this season, but then Chryst got a commitment from 6'1" 235 pound Gateway fullback Jaymar Parrish, who also has the hands and athleticism to be a factor in the passing game down the road.

Position status:  Complete.  This one is obvious.  The Panthers should have an excellent running game for the foreseeable future, and the position is loaded with a lot of talent and depth.  

Wide receivers:

This is a position that needs an upgrade and so far Chryst has not added what he needs to help his young quarterbacks.  The good news, though, is that there is still a legitimate chance to change that. 

Devin Street, 6'4", will have one more season after this year, and Salath Williams, 6'2", will have two.  They are the only two experienced wideouts on the roster that have any size at all.  Brandon Ifill and Brandon Felder will also have two seasons after this year, and could be sleepers at the position.  Ronald Jones played a lot as a freshman last season and showed talent, but at 5'8" it will be interesting if Chryst can find a way to use him.  Chryst will get practice this season with Cameron Saddler. Incoming freshman Demitrious Davis is only 5'10" but he also has excellent potential. 

Bottom line, this receiving corps needs an influx of talent and depth, and I think three receivers should be added.  One already added is 6'2" 180 pound South Fayette wideout Zach Challingsworth.  He has better speed than he gets credit for and is quite frankly underrated.  It seems to me that he has been infected with "White Receiver Disease" in that because he's white, people can't see his speed and athleticism, and instead look at him as a possession receiver.  He has great hands and is tough as nails, a real football player, but he is more than just a slow possession receiver.  

The two big gems of course, are Central Valley's Robert Foster and Clairtion's Tyler Boyd.  I said form the beginning that Foster will end up at Pitt, and I've seen nothing yet that changes my mind, but of course it's not even close to a sure thing.  He's the kind of talent that would likely start, and star, immediately, exactly what Savage or Voytik would need to help them out.  Boyd is more of a question mark as he's been keeping things close to the vest recently. If I had to guess right now, I'd say Pitt has less than a 50% chance of landing him but things change quickly.  

Beyond them, things get even more iffy.  Bishop McDevitt's Brian Lemelle, and Philadelphia wideout Daryl Worley, are a step down from Foster and Boyd, but both are good prospects that want to visit Pitt in the future.  But the Panthers have not put the full court press on either yet, instead focusing on Foster and Boyd.  

For 2014, the WPIAL has some intriguing prospects led by two potential stars in 6'1" 200 pound Ricky Rogers of Keystone Oaks, and 6'6" Brandon Mitchell of Fox Chapel.  With those two, plus Foster, Boyd, and Challingsworth, it seems pretty obvious that at least temporarily the dearth of elite WPIAL receivers has changed.  

Position status:  Incomplete.  Foster alone would make this group complete but obviously that will be a dogfight.  If they don't land him, Chryst may have trouble changing this status to completed since losing the top three receivers in the WPIAL- Foster, Boyd, and West Virginia commit Chavas Rawlins- would be considered a big failure.

Tight ends:

Chryst and right hand man Joe Rudolph love to use tight ends and to say they have had success utilizing them in the past is an understatement. Luckily for them, and for Pitt fans, he has quickly loaded the position for the Panthers.

Starter Hubie Graham will be gone after this season but Brendan Carozzoni and Drew Carswell both have two years left after this season and both are talented.  That alone is good news.  But then Chryst added talented incoming freshman J.P. Holtz, and 2013 recruits Scott Orndoff and Tony Harper.  I admit that I'm not sure about the Harper pickup yet but Orndoff is the ideal fit for what Chryst likes at the position.  

Position status:  Complete.  A lot of young tight ends and all are the pass receiving type that Chryst excels with.  

Offensive line:

If the Panthers get their desired receivers, the skill positions for the future look very promising.  But none of it will work without a talented offensive line.  It's probably the most important position in Chryst's initial recruiting.  

Cory King and Ryan Schlieper will be back next season, Matt Rotheram and Tom Ricketts will be back for two seasons, and Adam Bisnowaty will be an incoming freshman this season.  But after that, things get a lot more suspect.  Aaron Reese is a 2013 prospect, and he's better than a project, but like most linemen he won't be in the mix for a few years yet.  This is another area where Chryst's and Rudolph's expertise will come in handy and because of that no player at the position can totally be discounted for the future, but an influx of talent and depth is clearly needed.

The obvious big fish here is 6'6" Belle Vernon star Dorian Johnson.  I've always considered him Pitt's to lose and now more than ever I think he'll eventually be a Panther.  That would be the big time left tackle that Chryst needs for the future. 

At least four, if not five, linemen are needed, and if the staff can land Johnson to go with Reese that would be a great start to this offensive line class.  Indiana guard Dan Samuelson, North Allegheny's Patrick Kugler, and big Ohio tackle Kyle Meadows would have made an unreal line class but Samuelson de-committed from the Panthers and chose Nebraska instead, Kugler committed to Michigan without ever looking at the Panthers, and Meadows is looking elsewhere.  

To fill out the class now, Chryst will have to look at other, lesser known linemen, who have the raw potential that he has often refined in the past.  Among that group are 6'7" Philadelphia tackle Jaryd Jones-Smith, 6'6" Virginia product Eric Tetlow, and Rochester NY guard Alexander Officer, who at 6'4" and 300 pounds is smaller than Chryst prefers, believe it or not.  After that, the level drops again with two big, lesser recruited Ohio kids, Xzavier McAllister and Carson Baker.   

Position status:  Incomplete.  

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Panthers land Corey Clement

Paul Chryst landed an elite running back today as Glassboro (NJ) HS committed to the Panthers while attending their camp.  The 5'11" 205 pound Clement also had offers from Penn State, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Florida State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Rutgers, and West Virginia.

Panthers offer local 2014 DT

Got word today from his father today that 6'3" 266 pound Beaver Falls defensive tackle Brock Boxen has been offered by the Panthers for the 2014 class.  The offer happened yesterday when Boxen was attending Pitt's prospect camp.  The 2014 WPIAL class is loaded and Boxen should be one of the better prospects in that class. He joins Washington HS linebacker/running back Shai McKenzie, Gateway HS linebacker Brenon Thrift, Gateway HS defensive back Donate Nicholson, Monessen HS linebacker Justice Rawlins, and Blackhawk HS quarterback Chandler Kincade as having early confirmed offers from the Pittsburgh staff.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Panthers land Challingsworth

In one of the biggest non-surprises of the recruiting season, South Fayette wide receiver Zach Challingworth has committed to the Panthers.  The underrated 6'2" 185 pounder has good size and speed, and he's been very productive at the high school level.  Originally Challingsworth committed to Toledo but he changed his mind after being offered by the Panthers staff this week.  Other offers included Temple, Akron, Buffalo, Ohio, and Kent State.

Travon Chapman down to three

Ohio quarterback TraVon Chapman is down to a final three of Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, and Cincinnati, and will decide on July 1st.

Panthers offer local 2014 defensive back

The 2014 class in PA is looking LOADED, especially at linebacker and defensive back.  One of the best is 6'1" 190 pound Gateway HS safety Dontae Nicholson.  The Panthers offered the rising junior over the weekend while he was attending Pitt's camp.  Gateway has another excellent 2014 cornerback prospect in Anthony Davis, not to mention linebacker Brenon Thrift who could challenge to be the best prospect in the WPIAL next year.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Panthers add yet another H-Back

The Panthers got a commitment today from 6'4" 200 pound Tony Harper of St. John's Jesuit HS in Toledo, OH.  His other offers were Toledo, Ohio, and Akron.  Pitt has recruited him as an H-Back even though he mostly played safety in high school.  The Panthers were impressed with him over the weekend when he was at their camp, and they offered him today.

Obviously with his size and offer list, he is considered a bit of a project. Can't say I'm jumping for joy about another project and another TE-type, but Paul Chryst and Joe Rudolph have had great success with projects, so we'll see how it goes.

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.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Robert Foster's top seven

Alabama, Pittsburgh, Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, Oregon, and USC.  This was via Foster on twitter.