Coaching uncertainty affects recruiting for Pitt, Penn State, West Virginia
College Football Videos
So far this hasn't been a particularly impressive recruiting year for Pitt, Penn State and West Virginia.
All three programs have been challenged to stockpile blue-chip recruits during today's national signing day, in part, because of uncertainty or changes among the coaching staffs.
But Tom Lemming, a recruiting analyst for CBS College Sports, said Penn State and Pitt recovered nicely from potentially disastrous situations. West Virginia may have to wait a year before coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen makes his mark in recruiting, he said.
Pitt coach Todd Graham had just 2 1⁄2 weeks to clean up the mess caused by the resignation of Dave Wannstedt and the subsequent hiring and firing of Mike Haywood, who was dismissed on New Year's Day after being arrested for domestic violence.
"After going to three coaches, recruiting was difficult," said Tony Gibson, Pitt's recruiting coordinator and assistant coach. "It's one of the hardest things we've had to do as a staff."
Admittedly, Graham scrambled to get back into the recruiting game after a month in which the Panthers' recruits observed, with some angst, a rather bizarre coaching search that began with Wannstedt's departure.
In the past week, Graham narrowed the gap on his Big East rivals by securing 18 verbal commitments. The former Tulsa coach has rallied Pitt, partly by daring to explore more fertile — if not unfamiliar — recruiting turf.
A persuasive and confident Graham tapped into the rich recruiting pool of Texas and Oklahoma while at Tulsa. As Pitt's recruiting class dwindled to nine, Graham lured to Pitt a handful of Tulsa commits: running back Isaac Bennett of Tulsa, defensive back Lloyd Carrington of Dallas and athlete Jason Frimpong of Irving, Texas.
"It is not a typically good Pitt class," Lemming said. "They were lucky to keep their heads above water. It was impossible for (Graham) to have a great year, but he did OK under the circumstances."
In Morgantown, Bill Stewart has spent much of the recruiting season trying to convince recruits that the program is stable despite his upcoming lame-duck season. He'll be replaced at season's end by Holgorsen, a former Oklahoma State offensive coordinator.
"I have never seen a situation like that," Lemming said. "It has to be uncomfortable for both guys. I don't think the recruits are accepting the situation. It may take (West Virginia) another year to have a real good year."
At University Park, Penn State coach Joe Paterno, 84, readies for his 46th season amid questions about his longevity with a program he's nurtured through nine U.S. presidents.
Paterno spends little time on the recruiting trail, but the coaching staff recovered from a slow start to have what Lemming said could be the second-best in the Big Ten.
During a recruiting season when Big Ten programs — including defending co-champions Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin — continue to make inroads nationally, Penn State has only five four-star recruits.
Still, the Nittany Lions seem to be in a better place than Pitt and West Virginia. The Panthers and Mountaineers have a combined five four-star recruits, including Pitt's verbals from defensive tackle Khaynin Mosley-Smith of Woodland Hills and Milford (N.Y.) Academy, and linebacker Nicholas Grigsby of Trotwood-Madison (Ohio) High School.
"Pitt is a program you could count on over the past seven years to make the top 25, but they got rid of a coach who was a good recruiter and brought in a guy that lasted a cup of coffee (in Tulsa)," said Scott Kennedy, director of recruiting for Scout.com "It's been a disappointing year for the Panthers, but they've probably done as good a job as expected of salvaging that class. West Virginia has had enough sustained success that they shouldn't be pushing to stay in the top 50."
The apparent recruiting shortcomings of Pitt and West Virginia are examples of the perceived slide of the Big East. The conference, along with the Big Ten, failed to secure any of the 26 five-star recruits on the rivals.com list.
In contrast, four SEC programs — including reigning national champion Auburn, Alabama, LSU and Georgia — have a combined seven five-star recruits.
Despite the disappointing rankings, Pitt's Gibson isn't discouraged.
"It's not like we're taking over a program that hasn't won," he said. "We had to get more tailbacks because with Dion (Lewis) going out (NFL Draft), we had only one scholarship running back (Ray Graham). What we have to do is look for the guys who best fit us and not pay attention to the rankings."Additional Information:
Here is the placement of the local Big East and Big Ten members, according to the recruiting website Rivals.com :
• Penn State: 36th nationally, fifth in the Big Ten (excluding Nebraska, which joins the conference this year)
• West Virginia: 44th nationally, third in the Big East
? Pitt: sixth in the Big East, unranked nationally
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.