Pitt must reload from Class of '11 defections
If Pitt coach Paul Chryst performs only one task Wednesday during letter of intent day, this should be it:
Plug in the fax machine and make sure it's full of paper.
Pitt's class is loaded — with bodies, at least — and Chryst is counting on 23 pledges from the Class of 2013 to send in their signed letters. Add four players who enrolled last month, and Pitt's 27-man class is the second largest at the university since 1994, when the NCAA capped scholarships at 85.
It's such a bountiful class that Pitt may find itself over the limit by four players at the end of the day.
But the trick is not just to turn them into productive players. The tougher job is keeping them.
At worst, Chryst expects to do better than former coach Todd Graham did with his only Pitt recruiting class.
Nowhere is the previous instability at the highest level of the Pitt football program more evident than this little signing-day fact: Of the 23 players Graham brought to Pitt in 2011, including quarterback Trey Anderson who didn't arrive until August, 11 are no longer with the team.
“That's unusual,” said Tom Lemming, recruiting analyst for CBS Sports Network. “That means these (current coaches) don't really like those (departed) players.”
Yet, there are circumstances that explain the disappearance of nearly half the class after only two seasons. When Graham replaced Dave Wannstedt, he changed the offense from a pro style to a speed-based option, a shift that required a specific type of athlete. When Chryst replaced Graham and brought back the pro style, several recruits no longer fit.
Plus, Graham wasn't hired until Jan. 11, less than a month before signing day.
“It was a hectic deal,” said former quarterbacks coach Todd Dodge, who spent one season at Pitt and is now the coach and athletic director at Marble Falls (Texas) High School. “Coach Wannstedt had a nice covey of commitments, and then by the time we came aboard, understandably, (some) were headed in different directions.”
Graham's roots are in Texas and Oklahoma and for the first time, Pitt was seriously reaching into those states for recruits, such as running backs Isaac Bennett and Corey Davis. Both played key backup roles under Graham, but their playing time diminished last season. Bennett became a good special teams player while Davis transferred to Louisiana-Monroe, where he will play cornerback.
Eight of the 11 transferred, but only cornerback Lloyd Carrington ended up at a BCS school, not coincidentally with Graham at Arizona State, where he will compete for a starting job this season. Defensive back Roderick Ryles (Lindenwood, Mo.) and linebacker Jason Frimpong (Central Oklahoma) are playing at the Division II level.
Graham, who declined to comment for this story, didn't recruit a quarterback by signing day after striking out with California four-star Michael Eubank, who ended up at Arizona State.
“We felt if we didn't get one who was big-time special,” Dodge said, “we would not just reach for one.”
Several months later when quarterback depth was vanishing, Pitt turned to Anderson, but he has played sparingly and will be behind Tom Savage and Chad Voytik next season.
Dodge, who said he never heard from Graham after he left for Arizona State, keeps in touch with Anderson and watches Pitt from afar.
“The great thing for Paul and his staff is that they have been able to go a full year and there is starting to be some stability,” he said.
“I have a special place in my heart for the University of Pittsburgh. My time there was short. I wish it would have lasted longer.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Miami coach Golden shrugs off recent losses as Pitt visits
- Pitt plays best game of the season in rout of Kansas State
- Pitt’s Dixon searching for answers in Maui
- Inching closer to return, Pitt’s Wright could boost defense
- Senior running back Bennett quietly filled role during Pitt career
- Pitt beats Syracuse, snaps 3-game losing streak
- Pitt women set tone early in 85-64 rout of Michigan
- Pitt notebook: Chryst keeps Panthers motivated amid adversity
- For Pitt men’s basketball team, trouble in paradise
- On senior day, Pitt not giving up the fight
- Pitt found opponent it had hoped for in Hawaii