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Gorman: WPIAL Class of '14 has plenty of talent

| Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

For those dwelling on what a down year it was for recruiting in Western Pennsylvania in the Class of 2013, we have good news.

It wasn't as bad as it seems. And the next class is loaded.

There is much lamenting that only 19 WPIAL football players signed with Division I schools this year — possibly the lowest total ever — in a year that Pennsylvania produced 67.

Recruiting is cyclical, so the dips and increases in Division I signees are to be expected. MaxPreps.com reports Pennsylvania produced 93 D-I players in '12, 60 in '11 and 75 in '10.

But four WPIAL players were top-150 talents, and all but five signees went to BCS-affiliated conferences. If anything, it was a down year for Mid-American prospects.

“The cream of the crop of the 2013 class was very good with (Robert) Foster, (Tyler) Boyd, (Dorian) Johnson and (Patrick) Kugler. After that, it dipped down a little bit,” ESPN.com recruiting analyst Jared Shanker said. “This class is going to be equal in terms of the top guys separating themselves and being in the top 150 or 300, but there's going to be a bit more depth in this class, as well.”

In the Class of 2014, five players already have established themselves as elite prospects: Aliquippa running back-safety Dravon Henry, Washington tailback Shai McKenzie, Gateway receiver-safety Montae Nicholson and mammoth offensive tackles Alex Bookser of Mt. Lebanon and Mike Grimm of Bethel Park.

Henry should rank among the nation's top prospects.

“One of the best players I saw was Dravon, just based on pure athleticism,” Shanker said. “Whether he ends up at running back or defensive back, to me it looks like he's a star in the making. If I'm picking someone, I'm picking him at this point, but Montae is a great defensive back, and Shai is everything you want in a running back.”

At least 18 WPIAL juniors have scholarship offers, including Gateway receiver Ricky Rogers, a West Virginia recruit. There are another dozen D-I prospects, and it's only February.

“That's the trend. It's not just juniors anymore that are getting offered early. It's everybody, regardless of class,” Shanker said. “If they feel you project, they're not going to wait around to offer. The longer they wait, the more it could hurt them in the long run. To some kids, they might take that as disrespect if you offer them late.”

And some might take it as disrespect to suggest a decline in WPIAL talent.

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