Experts like Pitt football class despite few skill players
Six weeks ago, Pitt fans waited while Central Valley wide receiver Robert Foster played out the drama that ended with him commiting to Alabama.
Last Friday, many of them spent the better part of an hour while running back Jojo Kemp of Deland, Fla., sat behind four baseball caps and finally picked up the one marked “Kentucky.”
Now, two days before fax machines start rolling around the U.S. on letter-of-intent day, Pitt fans wonder this about the 2014 season and beyond:
• Who will be coach Paul Chryst's playmakers in the passing game?
• Who will be that solid, complementary backup for running back Rushel Shell?
Believe it or not, many national recruiting experts believe Chryst has done a good job putting together the Class of 2013 — even if it lacks an abundance of star power and skill-position players.
Of the 27 players who have pledged to sign with Pitt on Wednesday, 24 are rated three- and two-star prospects by Rivals.com. Only seven project to play quarterback (one), running back (one) and wide receiver (five). And four-star Clairton wide receiver Tyler Boyd, who has been flirting with West Virginia and Tennessee since committing to Pitt, could decide to sign elsewhere.
Nonetheless, the class has garnered respect.
“Pitt is in the top 25, for sure,” CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said.
“Pitt has a lot of kids who are good players, who, if they develop, they will be even better,” said Brian Dohn, a Scout.com recruiting analyst. “A class that has 27 kids in it fills a lot more holes and gives you more of an opportunity to miss (an increase margin for error) than a class with 19 kids.”
As a matter of fact, Scout.com ranks Pitt's overall class 16th in the nation — ahead of every school in its new conference, the ACC.
“Some of it is quantity,” Dohn said of the Scout ranking. “But there are some quality kids.”
If all 27 players sign, Chryst will record the second-largest class at the school since the NCAA capped scholarships at 85 in 1994. The record is 29, set in 1998.
Although Pitt is losing three of its top four pass catchers from last season and top returner Devin Street has only one year remaining, wide receiver wasn't the priority this year.
Chryst has tried to rebuild his lines on both sides of the ball.
“They have some skill players,” Dohn said, “but the bigger thing was trying to rebuild the offensive line and get back to running the ball. When I think of Pitt, I think of running the ball, throw to the fullback, throw to the tight ends and you are throwing to big receivers downfield.
“Conceptually, that's what they want to do. In order to do that, you have to build from the line of scrimmage out.”
Pitt has a total of 16 players — 59 percent of the class — who project as defensive linemen, offensive linemen and tight ends. Included are three Pennsylvania three-stars who eventually could become as productive as anyone in this class: Seton-La Salle tight end Scott Orndoff, defensive end Justin Moody of Philadelphia and Gateway tight end/fullback Jaymar Parrish. Rivals.com ranks them as the 12th-, 20th- and 25th-best players in the state, respectively.
Lemming called Orndoff “one of the top tight ends in the country.”
Moody, 6-foot-3, 264 pounds, had 12 1⁄2 sacks last season at George Washington High School.
“Once, he gets another 10-15 pounds on him, he's going to be a really good player,” Lemming said.
“Jaymar, I love him,” Dohn said, “but he's a fullback, so he's not going to be rated too high.”