I know the Pitt fans are highly depressed right now, but let's look at the reality. First the football program because that one really only lost one player. Granted, Rushel Shell could have been a highly productive player for the program but it was far from the sure thing that people are acting like it is. Shell was somewhat productive as a freshman, but he was also injury prone, got suspended just as his career started, and didn't take instruction. I think the chances were just as good that he would have flamed out at Pitt.
On a larger note, this is one player out of 85 scholarship players. And at a position that is not the end of the world if you lose somebody. In the NFL, running backs rarely get picked in the first round anymore because they are considered interchangeable. And the fans agree with that. But for some reason when it happens to Pitt people go into hysterics.
Look, I'm not naive. Shell could have run for 1,200 yards this season. I don't deny that. But in the last eleven years that Paul Chryst has run an offense, he had at least one running back gain 1,000 yards, including one year when he had two run for over 1,000. There were eight different running backs in that span, and only one, Steven Jackson, was a first round pick. And it's not just at Wisconsin either. At Oregon State, Ken Simonton ran for over 1,000 yards under Chryst, and he was 5'7" and went undrafted. Other nondescript players include Brian Calhoun, James White, and P.J. Hill, the latter a 2-star player that run for over 1,000 yards three times under Chryst. Bottom line, running backs under Chryst almost always run for a lot of yards, whether it be Shell, Isaac Bennett, Malcolm Crockett, or James Conner. Maybe none of the three will run for over 1,200 yards (though it's far from impossible, as history suggests), but together they can still get the job done in a Chryst offense.
As for the rest of the program, I expected Pitt to be around .500 again this year, with or without Shell, but if the 2014 recruiting class comes through, and that is very possible at this point, then the program's future actually looks very bright. A possible offense that could include Chad Voytik or Travon Chapman at quarterback, Shai McKenzie at running back, Tyler Boyd at wide receiver, and Dorian Johnson, Adam Bisnowaty, Gabe Roberts, Mike Grimm, Alex Bookser, Jared Jones-Smith, J.P. Holtz, and Scott Orndoff is potentially excellent. And the Panthers either have those players already or have a legit shot at the rest.
This isn't pie in the sky dreaming. It's all very possible. Now, if Pitt strikes out big time with these local stars, then it's going to be a problem. But that's not the case. If these players do join the program, people will forget about Shell very quickly.
As for basketball, the loss of Steven Adams, or any other of the players Jamie Dixon has lost, would not be devastating. The problem is, all of them combined has the Panthers in a bind. But the best thing about basketball is that the rosters are small, and any team can get good in a hurry.
I'm going to dismiss the rumors of any more players leaving because right now that's all it is. For some reason there are some Pitt fans who love to be miserable so they will start, or repeat, any bad rumor that will make them feel better. If any more leave then I will address that then, but for now it's all b.s.
Now, look at where Dixon can go for this season and beyond. One potentially very big answer, in more ways than one, is 6'11" Nigerian juco center Joseph Uchebo. A former top 100 player, and North Carolina State signee, Uchebo was also pursued by many other big problems, including John Calipari at Kentucky. Unfortunately for him, he was not from the country and he got bad advice about what he needed to be eligible. If not for that, he would have had many major offers since he his considered a possible NBA player.
Uchebo was forced to go to Chipola JC in Florida, where Pitt often looks for players, and was a great success as a freshman with 12.3 ppg and 12.3 rpg while earning all-conference honors in one of the best junior college conferences in the country. A knee injury, however, cost him the rest of his time at Chipola. If he's now healthy, which he should be, he would be quite a nice get for Dixon. One college coach who saw him play told me, "He's very talented. Definitely worth the risk". He will visit Pitt in a few weeks.
Then there are players like Jon Severe and Jamel Artis, two players who would help the Panthers. The competition for Severe is getting tougher and tougher, but the Panthers are a major player. If Artis gets the grades, he's guaranteed to be a Panther.
But these aren't the only three players that will be available. There are always others who at this time of year that become available. Sometimes it's because of a coaching change, sometimes a kid simply wants to change his commitment, or sometimes it's a kid who transfers, a fifth year senior with instant eligibility, or a prospect that gets reclassified. Granted, there won't be a ton of highly talented players that meet any of those requirements, but any that do will have to consider Pitt to be a major option thanks to the ability to see time immediately.
Then let's not forget that Dixon has never had a losing record. Like him or not, the man wins games- period. Even if the worse case scenario happens, and Dixon has a losing record this season, it won't be for long. He's simply too good of a coach.
Many fans love to be depressed for some reason, and a lot of the media are feeding off that hysteria, but the truth is, neither Pitt's football program or basketball program are going to be awful. Dixon is too good and Chryst is too good. Even a slight dip this year will be remedied quickly in the coming years.