Pitt's five-star player signs with no fanfare
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There were no ESPN satellite trucks in the Belle Vernon High School parking lot.
One newspaper reporter was there to chronicle the day, and only two photographers showed up — Dorian Johnson's Aunt Erica and a guy from Leopard Tales, the student newspaper.
Johnson signed his Pitt letter of intent Wednesday morning in a small conference room with no fanfare, not even a microphone.
“I wasn't really feeling all that,” said Johnson, while sharing the moment with teammate and fellow bookend tackle Collin Woss, who signed with Mercyhurst.
Yet, Johnson may turn out to be the jewel of Pitt's 2013 class, given coach Paul Chryst's infatuation with big, physical offensive linemen who value hard work.
Johnson made history as the first 5-star offensive lineman to sign with Pitt since Rivals.com started its rankings system in 2002, but he won't arrive with an air of superiority.
“I definitely think I have something to prove,” Johnson said. “Those kids at Pitt are going to be a lot better than high school competition. I'm going to have to listen to what the coaches have to say and improve as I go along.”
Procuring Johnson, quarterback Tra'Von Chapman and Clairton wide receiver Tyler Boyd helped vault Chryst's first exclusive recruiting class to 22nd in Scout.com's national rankings, 33rd in Rivals.com. ESPN.com did not list Pitt among its top 40.
In the Big East, Pitt's class is No. 1, but it is sixth among 14 schools in its new home, the ACC, according to Rivals.
Chryst won't predict success for his 27-man class, most of whom will be redshirted this season and won't make an impact until 2014.
But he realized he desperately needed depth on both lines, and this group makes strides toward that goal.
“We ended up dressing 53 guys for the bowl game,” he said. “That's not what you want. This group will strengthen our team.”
Chryst called Johnson “a special player,” and said he will have an opportunity to earn a starting job. But coaches want to see Johnson eventually gain 30 pounds from his current weight that he listed at 280.
“(Adam) Bisnowaty said when he was there last summer, they had him eating every two hours,” Johnson said of the rising redshirt freshman from Fox Chapel. “We'll see how that works out.”
Johnson said he realizes expectations are placed upon him as the highest-rated recruit in the class.
“It's kind of cool,” he said. “We are (Chryst's) first recruiting class. Maybe we can, I don't know, set an example for other recruits in the future.”
Notes: Chryst plans to accelerate his search for a defensive coordinator to replace Dave Huxtable, who left for North Carolina State two months ago. “We have talked to guys. We have to get going on the defensive coordinator thing, so we can have one for spring ball.” ... Spring drills begin March 5, and the Blue-Gold scrimmage will be 7 p.m. April 12 at Bethel Park High School.
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.
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