ShareThis Page

Pitt signs all 23 targeted recruits on National Signing Day

Jerry DiPaola
| Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, 8:51 a.m.
Bethel Park's Mike Grimm blocks defenders during a drill in practice.
Bethel Park's Mike Grimm blocks defenders during a drill in practice.
PItt coach Paul Chryst speaks to the media during a news conference on signing day Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, on the South Side.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
PItt coach Paul Chryst speaks to the media during a news conference on signing day Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, on the South Side.

Finally, the Pitt football team belongs to Paul Chryst.

The Panthers coach won't accept it, of course, humbly deferring ownership to his players. Yet, when Chryst received letters of intent from 23 recruits Wednesday, the roster included all but 16 players who have joined the team since he was hired in December 2011. A total of 50 (almost 60 percent) will be those he signed in the past 12 months.

Chryst's 2014 class, his third at Pitt, includes players from 10 states who man 10 positions. When they arrive this summer — Upper St. Clair defensive end Rori Blair is the only one to enroll early — they will meet a group of veterans who know the demands that come with playing for a Chryst team.

Offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph, a close confidante who is entering his seventh consecutive season, sees a subtle change in how players approach their tasks. Incoming freshmen will bear the same expectations.

“I like the groups we have,” Rudolph said of the older players. “Adding to that not only adds to the competition there but also starts creating a little bit of tradition of how you practice.

“You can't afford to have that down day because the guy right behind you is pushing you hard. You truly got it right when the older guys are teaching the younger guys from the minute they walk in the door.

“We're getting there. We're getting there pretty quickly.”

The class is not highly ranked — 44th by, 42nd by and unranked by ESPN — but it has the potential for depth. Pitt added two or more players at eight positions but not the most important: quarterback.

“Program-wise, we are under it right now,” Chryst said of his quarterback depth chart that includes sophomore-to-be Chad Voytik, senior-to-be Trey Anderson and incoming freshman Adam Bertke. He said there are no plans to add a fourth.

“Our ideal formula is you take one a year, and you have five in the program,” he said. “This year, we have two and are excited about Adam. It's good for the spring (drills). Chad and Trey are going to get a lot of work.”

Chryst didn't mention Wade Freebeck, who verbally committed in June and decommitted less than 24 hours before signing day. A university spokesman said Chryst would answer questions only about players who signed with Pitt, in accordance with NCAA restrictions.

The lack of many quality recruits — only offensive linemen Alex Bookser and Mike Grimm, running back Chris James and wide receiver Adonis Jennings earned four-star ratings — is no sure indicator of the future, Chryst said.

“Aaron Donald had an unbelievable year,” Chryst said of the former defensive tackle who won four national honors last season. “(Four) years ago, what was the story? Was he the lead?”

Donald was a three-star recruit who ranked fifth in Pitt's 2010 class.

“I've been around five-star guys who were All-Americans,” Chryst said. “I've been around five-star guys who didn't play a down.

“Right in between is the truth, and that's a pretty broad deal. The story is not written yet.”

Several class members have their own story to tell:

• Bertke, a three-sport star at tiny Marion Local (Ohio), was a three-year starter for a three-time state champion that won 41 of 45 games. “Once he focuses on one sport,” Chryst said, “he has a chance to really grow.”

• Defensive tackle Connor Dintino earned All-American status last year at the Prep Wrestling Nationals. Coaches believe his knowledge of leverage will serve him well on an almost 300-pound body.

• Linebacker James Folston Jr., whose father played eight years in the NFL and whose brother Tarean is a Notre Dame running back, weighed 170 pounds a year ago. Chryst said he recently checked in at 221.

• Jennings might be the closest to contributing as a freshman. “He has a chance to make an impact sooner than later,” Chryst said.

• Tight end Brian O'Neill plays basketball at Salesianum School (Wilmington, Del.), and Chryst recently attended a game. “He had 18 boards, 15 points and three solid fouls,” he said, with a smile.

Four years from now, Chryst hopes to still be smiling at O'Neill and his classmates.

Note: Wide receivers coach Bobby Engram is one of three candidates for the same position with the Baltimore Ravens, the Baltimore Sun reported, citing an anonymous source.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using 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.