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Solution for Pitt football is to simply recruit better

| Monday, Sept. 10, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Pitt quarterback Chad Voytik during practice on the South Side Aug. 21, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review

For Pitt and its fans, there can be no greater indignity in the early days of the season than this: Todd Graham 2-0; the school he abandoned 0-2.

Maybe Graham was smarter than we thought when he left for Arizona State, where the talent pool is richer and hopes for immediate gratification higher.

Meanwhile, the Panthers opened the season under new coach Paul Chryst by allowing Youngstown State and Cincinnati to rush for 464 yards and score eight touchdowns. That's bad enough on the surface, but YSU is an FCS school and Cincinnati was picked to finish fourth by the media in the preseason Big East poll.

Among the residue of Pitt's 31-17 and 34-10 defeats is this painful question: Will the situation get worse before it gets better?

The answer goes far beyond Pitt's game Saturday at Heinz Field against No. 15 Virginia Tech.

Pitt must impress recruits with victories, but the problem is the first two games have revealed the roster's serious lack of playmakers.

Entering the season, defensive tackle Aaron Donald looked like a blossoming star, but he has no sacks and only one tackle for a loss. Donald will get better, but he needs help.

The team has no fumble recoveries or interceptions. That's especially distressing because the secondary includes four experienced safeties who have yet to make an impact while Chryst rotates them in and out of the lineup.

On the other side of the ball, Tino Sunseri is rising among the greatest quarterbacks in Pitt history in terms of career starts (28) and yards passing (5,819, sixth all-time).

Yet he struggled in crucial moments against Cincinnati. In two trips inside the red zone, Sunseri completed 1 of 6 passes for 14 yards and an interception.

Fans will call for freshman Chad Voytik, who looked good in the latter half of training camp. But Chryst would be wise to redshirt Voytik and let Sunseri, a senior, carry his team through the tough times.

Pitt can't expect a freshman to reverse its misfortunes when the Panthers let their quarterback be sacked six times (all against Cincinnati) and the defense doesn't look to be of much help. Quarterback is far from Pitt's No. 1 problem.

The best way to save the program is also the slowest: Recruit better players.

Chryst has received 17 verbal commitments from the Class of 2013. The latest is Charlotte, N.C., defensive back Anthony Covington, who made his pledge after the loss to Youngstown State.

Covington, ranked the 23rd-best player in North Carolina by Rivals.com, chose Pitt over four ACC schools. That's the good news. But Pitt's class includes only one four-star prospect, quarterback Tra'von Chapman of Kent, Ohio.

Solution? Get at least one player from among uncommitted WPIAL stars Robert Foster, Tyler Boyd and Dorian Johnson, save the class and show other recruits that Pitt matters.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can reached at jdipaola@tribweb.com or 412-320-7997.

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