Saturday, December 21, 2013

The WPIAL talent since 2007 is not as bad as many believe


Rob Gronkowski, Arizona- Obviously he's a superstar. Only in WPIAL for one year, but still.

Chris Jacobson, Pittsburgh- Started three seasons.

Toney Clemons, Colorado- Transferred from Michigan and started for two seasons.

Nick Sukay, Penn State- Three year starter. All-Big 10.

Gino Gradkowsi, Delaware- Transferred from WVU and became a two year starter. Currently a starter for the Baltimore Ravens.

Myles Caragein, Pittsburgh- Four year letterman and three year starter.

Chris Drager, Virginia Tech- Lettered every year and started at defensive end as a junior and tight end as a senior.

Don Barclay, West Virginia- Three year starter, two time all-Big East, All-American recognition, and now starts for the Green Bay Packers.

Max Suter, Syracuse- Four year letterman, two year starter, All-Big East. Excellent kick returner.

Derek Moye, Penn State- Three year started and left as the school's third most prolific pass catcher in their history.

Dom DeCicco, Pittsburgh- Four year letterman, three year starter, All-Big East.

Tom Keiser, Stanford- Three year letterman and two year starter that left after junior season to enter NFL draft. Had 19.5 sacks in his three seasons.


Mike Hull, Penn State- 58 tackles as a junior, 73 tackles in last 8 games of senior season after recovering from injury. Included in that was a 13 tackle game and two 10 tackle games.

Miles Dieffenbach, Penn State- Will be a three year starter next season.

Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State- Finished 2nd for Big 10 MVP as a junior and would have been one of the Heisman favorites for senior season if he had not been suspended.

Jonathan Baldwin, Pittsburgh- Averaged roughly 55 catches and 900 yards in his two starting seasons then left early to be first round draft pick.

Lucas Nix, Pittsburgh- Three year starter and current starting OG for the Oakland Raiders.

Andrew Sweat, Ohio State- Two years as a special teams ace then started two years at linebacker. Four year letterman. Second team All-Big 10 as senior.

Tino Sunseri, Pittsburgh- Yes, I went there. He threw for over 2,500 yards three times and has 49 TDs to 23 interceptions in his career.

Kaleb Ramsey, Boston College- Two year starter whose promising career was hurt by injuries. In fact, his injuries were so bad that he was given six years.

Quentin Williams, Northwestern- High school tight end that moved to defensive end where he lettered all four years and started two years.

Tyler Urban, West Virginia- Was a starter as a sophomore but a severe knee injury and Dana Holgerson's offense prevented him from huge numbers.  Ended with 37 career catches.

Antwuan Reed, Pittsburgh- Four year letterman and two year starter. Second team All-Big East as a senior.

Mike Shanahan, Pittsburgh- Four year letterman and three year starter. 159 career catches for over 2,200 yards. Second team All-Big East as a senior.

Mike Farrell, Penn State- Four year letterman. Started as senior and was named Honorable Mention All-Big 10.

Ryan Turnley, Pittsburgh- Four year starter and two year starter. Second team All-Big East as a senior.

Rontez Miles, California (PA)- One of my top prospects this year but grades kept him out of major college football.  Went on to be a small school All-American and is now playing for the NY Jets.

Jermaine Robinson, Toledo- Four year starter and two time All-Mac.


Dorian Bell, Duquesne- Two year letterman at Ohio State before getting tossed. Ended up being a small school All-American.

Corey Brown, Ohio State- Four year letterman and started his senior season at safety.

C.J. Brown, Maryland- Will be the starting quarterback for 2 and a half years after next season, assuming he stays healthy. Threw for over 2,000 yards this year while running for over 500 more yards.

Dan Mason, Pittsburgh- A sure star if it wasn't for a devastating leg injury. Miraculously came back but then off the field issues cost him the rest of his career.

Jordan Hall, Jeannette- Played in all five of his seasons and contributed with running, receiving, and in the return game. Has over 3,000 all purpose yards in his career.

Tyrone Ezell, Pittsburgh- Three year letterman and two year starter.

Pat Eger, West Virginia- Three year starter.

Will Clarke, West Virginia- Three year starter and two time all-conference in Big 12. Potentially high NFL draft pick.

John Wetzel, Boston College- Four year letterman and two year starter at offensive tackle. Helped Andre Williams run for over 2,000 yards this season.


Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh- probably the second best player Pitt ever had and one of the most decorated defensive players in college football history. Enough said.

Ty-Meer Brown, UConn- Three year letterman and two year starter with one more year to go.

Kevin Weatherspoon, Pittsburgh- Two year letterman with one more season of eligibility.

Manasseh Garner, Pittsburgh-  Led Pitt's tight end in catches with 32 catches. Should have an excellent senior season.

Todd Thomas, Pittsburgh-  Hasn't broke out with a big season yet but has had a better than average career thus far. Originally part of the 2009 class.


Delvon Simmons, USC- Two year letterman at Texas Tech before transferring to the Trojans. Has the potential to be a big time star there.

Lafayette Pitts, Pittsburgh- Two year starter with two ore years to go.

Mike Caputo, Wisconsin- Two year letterman and one year starter with two more years to go. Honorable mention All-Big 10 as a sophomore.

Devin Cook, Pittsburgh- Was sometimes a force in reserve as a redshirt freshman, then was injured this season. Remains to be seen how he ends up.

Quinton Jefferson, Maryland- Started as a redshirt sophomore this season so he could be a three year starter.

Tim Cwalina, Maryland- Was expected to letter as a redshirt freshman but a heart condition cost him the rest of his career.

Desimon Green, California (PA)- Originally committed to Pitt, then Texas Tech, but failed to get the grades. Currently the starting tight end as a redshirt freshman and he has the ability to dominate that level.

Ejuan Price, Woodland Hills- Lettered in his only year but injuries cost him his entire second season. Has three years left and has shown flashes.

Nick Kwiatkowski, West Virginia- Lettered as a redshirt freshman this season.

Robert Kugler, Purdue- Two year letterman who started at center this season as a redshirt sophomore.


Rushel Shell, West Virginia- I think we know all about this one. The truth is, he still may be an excellent college player.

Demetrious Cox, Michigan State- Played five games this year as a redshirt freshman but many think he is on the verge of stardom.

Adam Bisnowaty, Pittsburgh- Started as a redshirt freshman. Should have good career.

T.J. Neal, Illinois- Lettered as a redshirt freshman this year and had 38 tackles.

Anthony Nixon, Maryland- Two year letterman already in his first two years and has already started since midway through his freshman year. Very good player.

Perry Hills, Maryland- Started and did well as a true freshman before blowing out his knee. He's been redshirted this season to recover.

Trenton Coles, Pittsburgh- Lettered as a redshirt freshman this year and may be a starter next year as a sophomore.

Reggie Mitchell, Pittsburgh- Has yet to play after redshirting at Wisconsin and sitting out due to transfer, but he was the projected starting safety at Wisconsin and will probably be the same at Pitt.

Dakota Conwell, Arizona- Played in 10 games as a true freshman and had a bright future but multiple concussions ended his career.

J.P. Holtz, Pittsburgh- Has started both years so far.

Jesse James, Penn State- Two year letterman and started this season. Has the NFL salivating.

Ian Park, Northwestern- Started this year as a redshirt freshman.


Dorian Johnson, Pittsburgh- Lettered as a true freshman. Has the potential to be a star.

Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh- Already a star as a true freshman.

Robert Foster, Alabama- Redshirted but many in Alabama expect him to make a major impact as soon as next year.

Patrick Kugler, Michigan- Redshirted this season but is expected to compete for the starting center job as a redshirt freshman next year.

Scott Orndoff, Pittsburgh- Lettered as true freshman. It's no secret that I think he can be a star.

Mack Leftwich, UTEP- Has already started as a true freshman and don't be surprised if he ends up a star there.

Jaymar Parrish, Pittsburgh- Has lettered as a true freshman.

Terrish Webb, Pittsburgh- Has lettered as a true freshman.

Some thoughts:

1. There are some real stars in Donald, Boyd, Pryor, Baldwin, and Gronkowski, as well some very good college players like Barclay, Moye, Keiser, Nix, DeCicco, Shanahan, and Clarke.

2.  If grades, discipline problems, and injuries didn't effect some of the better talent, there would be much less consternation about the WPIAL.  Pryor could have won the Heisman and Bell, Miles, Conwell, and Mason had the potential to be stars.  Green may still be a star but he will do it at California (PA) so nobody will know about it, just like Bell.

3.  Some younger guys have the potential to be stars, or at least very productive. Those include Garner, Simmons, Caputo, Jefferson, Shell, Cox, Bisnowaty, Neal, Nixon, Coles, Mitchell, Holtz, James, Park, Johnson, Foster, Ordnoff, Leftwich, Webb, Price, and both Kuglers.  All have proven already that they will not be flops.

4. The 2010 recruiting cycle was the only one that was loaded with flops. Some of the more well known ones are Cullen Christian (Michigan, Pittsburgh), Ken Wilkins (Michigan), Luke Graham (Penn State), Tom Ricketts (Penn State), Jordan Paskorz (Michigan), Brandon Felder (North Carolina, Pittsburgh), Andrew Carswell (Pittsburgh), Chad Hagan (Ohio State), and Brandon Ifill (Pittsburgh).


  1. While I agree with your breakdown Chris, what I would also say is that outside of a few kids in this breakdown, most ended up being good college players but never went onto anything past that. I've reiterated this many times and you have agreed with me, but those expecting a return to the glory days need to understand that while those teams had a lot of WPIAL talent, they also had an equal or greater amount of talent from outside the state that not only were good college players but went on to be high draft picks in the NFL and were successful at the level as well.

    I'm not condoning this staff's lack of success in signing local kids, far from it, but I'm not going to act like it's end of the world that they haven't landed these kids either. Wannstedt used to be able to keep a lot of the local talent at Pitt, and I think we all saw how that ended up.

    Mike W.

  2. The thing to watch, is if they extend Chryst.
    I hope they don't and wait until the new Chancellor comes on board.
    Next will be, what assistants get fired and who they hire in their place.
    At this point, the season is over and recruiting is over except for the signing the LOI.

  3. Thanks for putting this list together. Very helpful.

  4. You forgot Titus Howard for 2013.

  5. chris buddy morris wont be back as pitts strength coach when he left he told pitts AD smug steve that he was a gutless egotistical so and so.
    so i dont think he will be back any time soon. just a thought.

    1. Maybe PC should walk across the hall and talk with Garrett Giemont the Steelers S&C Coach. I'm sure he can provide him a list of qualified candidates.

    2. Kent,
      There are lots of qualified S&C candidates out there.
      It was well known, Todd Rice was not a good selection. He was fired at NCState due to injuries. Actually, media pushed NCState to make a decision. His methods go against the grain for football S&C. He was more into stretching and aerobic conditioning. Just google him and read his interviews.
      It's no different than House's selection as DC. Everyone knew that was a bad decision as well Breckerfield. Haering was brought in to shore up wpial recruiting and 2 of Top 10 means he is a bad choice also.
      I'm just curious who the next S&C coach will be and the "link" to Chryst as has been all the assistants.

  6. Chris, Great work as always.

    But WADR, I must take polite exception to your comment that Aaron Donald is the second best player in Pitt program history.

    For that to be true, that means he must be better than two of the following three: Tony Dorsett, Dan Marino, and Hugh Green.

    He's great, especially this season. But I can't put him ahead of anybody on that list. And we didn't even list Bill Fralic, Mark May, Larry Fitzgerald, et al.

    So let's agree that AD's in Top 10 for sure, maybe even Top 5. Which is still great. But not top two, not IMO.

    1. That was supposed to read second best defensive player.

    2. Agree with that.
      No way is AD Top 2.
      Keep in mind, the 6 names you listed were NFL 1st round draft picks. AD is not projected (so far) as a 1st round pick. We will see after the combine.
      As someone put it regarding Pitt players on defense. Aaron Donald is great, but Hugh Green was the greatest.

    3. I would agree top-2 defensive player. Though I loved Don Parish and Al Chesley… anyone after that was either injury-prone, took plays off or just didn't get it done until they turned pro.

    4. AD reminds me of Randy Holloway.

    5. I love Aaron and he gave us something to watch in an otherwise disappointing season. He may be top 2, but without combing over Pitt history, there are 3 excellent college defenders that stand out that distinguished themselves at the pro level as well in Ricky Jackson, Chris Doleman and Darelle Revis. Ricky clearly didn't get his full due with the greatness of Hugh Green, but any true Pitt fan recognizes how special he was.

  7. Mike White of PG does an article on D1 scholarships just about every year after LOI day. He has kept track since early 80's. The total number is way down from 80-100/yr to 35-40/yr. Last year was the worst at somewhere in the 20's, I believe.
    He never looked at quality or # of BCS commits but you can assume those trended down also. Also, it seems the number of elite wpial players have trended down with the exception of 2014.
    2014 was suppose to be a big year for wpial D1 level players. This was known since 2012. This was suppose to be the year for Pitt recruiting and it fell on its face.

    When Pitt "ONLY" gets 2 of the Top 10 players in the wpial, Pitt has a problem. There is no way to sugarcoat it. Bashing wpial players for choosing elsewhere is not the answer either.

    1. Well, what year were the scholarship restrictions put on every college and University?

    2. Majors 1st year (and the reason he accepted the job) was to have the chancellor permit 100 scholarships. That was in 1972. I forget the year it was cut back and I believe the NCAA who mandated it. That is when on 85 limit came out which I believe was 1975.

    3. Here ya go. An article on it. 1976 was the year. Pitt had 130 on scholarship! LOL It was because of Pitt (as well as other major schools) that NCAA put in rules.
      However, back in 1977, room board and tuition was around $5500. I would know!.

  8. Does Brandon Lindsey not follow under this headline for any reason?

    1. Brandon Lindsey committed to Pitt in December of 06 but was the class of 2007. His senior year, Aliquippa lost in tge second round to the 6'6 Jr Terrelle Pryor led Jeannette team. Aliquippa was a 1 seed and Jeannette was the 8 seed that year.

    2. You're right. That was a talented class.

  9. you would think if someone was going to be a candidate for the heisman they would at least make their all-conference team first.

    1. He finished a close second to Denard Robinson for Big 10 MVP and by every account was considered a front runner before getting suspended.

  10. I don't understand why my post was deleted?

  11. Chris, if the Penn State coach leaves this year for the NFL - what players in this year's recruiting class would even consider Pitt and we would have a legitimate shot at?

    1. Buc, the answer is close to zero. When sanctions were announced at PSU and every player was allowed to leave and not have to sit out a year, Pitt got zero players.

    2. 21, I am not talking players on the team already just recruits that have not sent their LOI in yet before Feb. I am hoping Apke might switch over. Any other wpial players

  12. Thanks for putting the list together. It's more interesting than some kid sitting at a table playing with hats. Completely agree with Aaron Donald being the second best defensive player in Pitt's modern day history. Aaron's had a great year and was as dominant this year as Hugh was in any given year. Hugh had a lot of great years so that would give him the edge. One thing about the whole Aaron versus Hugh discussion that is sometimes overlooked is that Hugh played on much better teams.

  13. The 2007 and 2008 classes are weak. I don't consider Gronk a WPIAL recruit as he was already a done deal before he transferred in for non football reasons....allegedly.

    I like the body of work you presented Dokish. Like Chryst, too early to tell who pans out and who doesn't. In my opinion, if Pitt landed all of those players in each year, the record probably isn't much better. Jury is till out on 2009 although I agree that Will Clarke will get a shot at the next level. That class is still weak for nfl and average for D1.

    The rest is too soon. Nice list of players. Let's see how things progress.

    1. Weak? There are over a dozen NFL players in those two years. That's not weak.

  14. You are right. Many on practice squad, ir, etc. Good for offensive linemen. Outside of Gronk, whom I don't count as wpial, there aren't any superstars. On first look that is what I responded to. My bad.

    1. Superstars didn't come all the time in the 70s and 80s. It's not like Dorsett, Marino, and Fralic all came out in the same year.

      I'm not saying it's as good as it used to be. But it's not awful either. If it wasn't for grades and injuries it may have been a lot better in the recent past.

  15. Chris, Western PA still puts out quality FB players but not the quantity of quality players as in the past. To what do you attribute the fact that Ohio, which has slightly less population than PA, has consistently produced over twice the amount of D1 prospects over the past several years?

    1. 1. A lot of Ohio players go to the MAC schools in Ohio and Michigan.
      2. Ohio has more D1 schools in their state vs PA. (8 vs 3)
      3. Wpial players/coaches don't know how to market themselves with the exception of a few. Terry Smith when he was at Gateway was the best. Very few wpial coaches do what Terry did. But then again, that is also on the parent/athlete to get informed on the process.

  16. Was Antwuan Reed a WPIAL player? I thought he was from Johnstown.

  17. If a player "letters" what does that really mean? There are two star players that letter? Does that mean they are on the same level as a four star player?

  18. Shouldn't Paul Jones be in the 2009 class?

    1. Brandon Jackson from McKeesport that went to Texas Tech (2011) should be on the list.


  19. No surprise here. WPIAL still decent source of D-1 talent.

    Truth is... the GAMECHANGERS are far and few between, wherever they come from.

    But the long-held belief espoused by some that it's MOSTLY recruiting and not coaching that makes the different in college football... simply isn't true. 50-50 is probably a lot closer to the truth.

    Ohio State is one prime example of where a Head Coach and his staff can make an immediate impact.

    At Pitt, the re-establishment of a Top 25 program that every four years or so makes a run at the Top 10 is possible with the consistent recruitment of a good balance of "decent" talent sprinkled with a few standouts.

    However, it does require coaching... not just from the Head Coach... but from a COMPLETE coaching staff that can also do its share of recruiting.

    Chryst has yet to prove he has put one in place... and the clock is ticking.


  20. You need to add Damion Jones-Moore, RB at Toledo. This season, Damion has 5 TDs scored, not bad for a red shirt freshman that started the season as third string. #rollvikes


  21. Speaking of the Chryst Staff… what’s the story with the replacement of Todd Rice?

    After taking a risk with the promotion of HOUSE… I would think that the SMART move by Chryst at this point would be to play it safe with a totally logical hire for Strength and Conditioning that few if any would question.

    There’s only one name that comes to mind that would fulfill this need.


    1. I heard that Buddy burned the Pitt bridge to the ground which was directed at our favorite AD...


  22. Moody... you're the second person to point that out. Too bad.

    Morris is the one name from the past where it was pretty much universal that he was good at his job..

    Lots of praise from players.


  23. Chris - I think your point is weak. - 4*and 5* players shouldn’t just “letter” or be a two year starters, (unless they have a 4 star player in front of them). You would expect them to have a much larger impact especially at the skilled positions. The best way to analyze this is to measure the player’s contribution against the hype and star rating that was afforded to them. There are many 4 and 5 star players that were solid (3 star) but hardly the fuss it caused when some of them went elsewhere instead of Pitt.

    1. you're being naïve. Many 4 stars in many program have not lived up to the billings. Chris just listed the successful ones .... there were a handful (i.e., Ricketts, and Jones at PSU) that haven't panned out. The same goes for 4 stars from other areas (Bolden at PSU, Savage at Rutgers)

      The point is that there is still much quality in the WPIAL ,,, and Pitt has to do a much better job to keep these guys at home

    2. The point I'm making Anonymous 11:50 AM, is based on the information Chris provided, shows that the angst, the outcry and the meltdowns that some Pitt fans have after a player decides to go elsewhere is not justified. It is better to land as many 4 star players as possible, however it is not a guarantee for success. Half do not pan out. Aaron Donald was a 4 star recruit, but his offers were from Pitt, Rutgers, Akron and Toledo. He turned out all right. Joe Butler says Jaquan Davidson is a better prospect than Monte Nicholsen. Time will tell.

    3. I would take Joe Butler's word on that more than any of these recruiting sites with their stars. He's been doing this since I was in middle school, which is going back to the 70's.

  24. chris have a great x mas you are the best you are better then the trib or post for pitt news.
    keep up the good work dont cut pitt any slack

  25. Merry Christmas to you Chris....and the rest of yinz too.

  26. Street going to have the Ray Graham syndrome and sit out the bowl game to avoid injury prior to draft anyone think?

    1. Yes, no doubt. No sense compromising his future for a meaningless bowl game.

    2. Smart move by Street.

      Hey, I heard UPMC was behind getting Pitt S&C coach fired. Any truth to that. Makes sense as the facility next to Pitt practice facility is UPMC physical therapy also UPMC has personal training within the indoor field that Pitt uses.

  27. I say man up and play. You were able to get a free degree. Go out and do your job and play for your school and teammates. Every Pitt game for the past 30 yrs can be considered meaningless.

  28. 2014 4, 8,(number 11 still out there) Paul C
    2013 2, 6, 12, 13, 18 Paul C
    2012 2, 6, 9(2 and 9 transfer) Todd G and Paul C
    2011 12 Todd G
    2010 12, 14, 17 Wife beater Todd G
    2009 7, 8, 10, 12 Wanny
    2008 2,3, 6, 9, 10, 11 Wanny
    2007 4, 7, 11, 12, 16 Wanny
    2006 5, 7, 12, 13, 17, 18 Wanny
    2005 13,14,15 Harris Wanny
    2004 11, 16, 19 Harris
    2003 16 Harris

    If you add in this year that we pulled the 14th best player from Mich. The 13th from Ill. 2nd from Conn. 4th from NY 5th from DE. Last year we pulled in the 14th from MI. the 13th from WI. and 15th from OH(who we lost). And able to keep the top player from TN the year before that. Graham didn't really recruit well in PA or outside. Wanny did a good job in PA but not really outside. And while Harris was a great coach in my opinion, he couldn't recruit well.

    I think Paul C is doing a decent job with the hand dealt to him.