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Gorman: Can Clairton stars end Class A stigma?

| Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Tyler Boyd was the first WPIAL Class A player selected to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, where the Clairton star made a verbal commitment to Pitt.

A decade ago, it would have been a big deal for the Panthers to put so much stock in the recruitment of a small-school star.

That the number of those who succeeded in major-college football is exceeded by those who flamed out gave small-school stars a stigma.

For every Derek Bochna who made it out of Mapletown to become a four-year starter at Penn State, there was another WPIAL Class A standout whose stay at Division I was short-lived.

It didn't help that Mike Vernillo, who broke the WPIAL career rushing record at Fort Cherry in 1999, lasted only one season at West Virginia.

Never mind that Vernillo transferred to Slippery Rock amid a coaching change that involved the Mountaineers switching offensive schemes.

It didn't help that Duquesne's Elijah Fields, the Trib's 2005 player of the year and one of the WPIAL's most talented players in the past decade, never found a fit in Pitt's defense and had off-field issues that led to his departure from the program.

It didn't help that Clairton's Desimon Green, the Trib's 2010 player of the year, backed out of his commitment to Pitt to sign with Texas Tech but didn't qualify for freshman eligibility. After attending prep school, he signed with California (Pa.).

There are, however, success stories such as Sto-Rox quarterback Adam DiMichele. After setting the WPIAL career passing record, he signed with Penn State but played junior-college baseball. DiMichele ultimately passed for 5,024 yards and 40 touchdowns in three seasons at Temple.

Which brings us to Boyd and teammates Titus Howard and Terrish Webb. They led Clairton to a state-record 63 consecutive victories and four WPIAL and PIAA titles.

I've seen them play enough times to have no doubt their talent can translate to the Division I level.

Their success, though, will depend on their determination and drive, their willingness to compete in practice, work on their weaknesses and stay out of trouble.

Most of all, it might depend on their patience.

Where Pitt hopes Boyd can make an early impact, stardom may not come as quickly in college for the trio as it did at Clairton, if at all.

The kids known as the Killer T's should know this: WPIAL Class A is counting on them.

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