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October 14, 2011

Quick Recruiting Rewind

Filed under: Football,History,Recruiting — Chas @ 11:34 am

The Russel Shell commit is obviously welcome news. The 4- to 5-star Army All-American Running Back is staying home to play college ball.

Depending on the recruiting service you prefer, Pitt how has three or four, 4-star or higher recruits in this class — Shell, Chad Voytik, Demitrious Davis, Corey Jones and Adam Bisnowaty have all been tagged in at least one recruiting site (ESPN,,

With the commit of Shell, Pitt’s recruiting class is rising in the national rankings (Insider subs).

“Aside from a strong power-base and ability to break first contact, Shell has good lateral agility the shiftiness to avoid through the hole which has helped him avoid a lot of punishment throughout his career. He can get outside with above average speed, make yards on his own between the tackles and is just a well-rounded back who the Panthers could lean on to help turn the program back into a Big East contender.”

Pittsburgh now has 18 Class of 2012 commitments and could push for a spot in ESPNU’s top 25 class rankings.

Realistically, though, as important as the big gets are — and they really, really are important — it will be the development of 3-star type recruits and the hidden gems — that will make the difference between mediocrity and contending for conference championships and BCS games. It will be getting those players that fit the system best and operate within it.

As a quick, probably meaningless but sure to be heavily debated thing. I’m going to do a quick and flawed review of the Pitt recruiting classes of 2008-2010. I’m not going to bother with the 2011 class because that was basically a lost year. I’m not going back any further because with the exception of eight players that redshirted, the 2007 class is in the past. Plus, I have to cut this off at some point.

2010 T.J. Clemmings (5-star), Anthony Gonzalez (4-star), Bryan Murphy (4-star), Salath Williams (4-star), Todd Thomas (4-star), Aaron Donald (4-star) T.J. Clemmings (4-star), Bryan Murphy (4-star), Todd Thomas (4-star), Mark Myers (4-star)

ESPN: Anthony Gonzalez (4-star), Todd Thomas (4-star), Aaron Donald (4-star)

Hidden gems: K’Wuan Williams is about the best choice. 2- to 3-star CB. Now a starter in his second year and promising.

Busts: Hard to declare true busts this early. Bryan Murphy is academically ineligible so his future is a question mark. Brandon Sacco transferred/quit and that was not good. A case could be made for Salath Williams being buried at WR. T.J. Clemmings appears to be redshirting (I think) so I’m not putting him on this list.

2009 Ray Graham (4-star), Dan Mason (4-star), Brock DeCicco (4-star), Tyrone Ezell (4-star) Ray Graham (4-star), Jack Lippert (4-star), Dan Mason (4-star)

ESPN: None. A bunch of really high 3-stars but none that reached the 4-star grade (79 points or higher)

Hidden gems: This one is obvious with Dion Lewis. Jason Hendricks also should be noted since both Scout and Rivals had him at 2-star.

Busts: Dear god, if character matters then. Jason “don’t arrest me I play for Pitt” Douglas takes the spot for his hit-and-run. Well, not alone. Fernando “Manny” Diaz getting the taser treatment.

DeCicco transferred because of the coaching change, so I won’t hold that against him. Jack Lippert, if you can name what position he plays these days you are really good. He suffered from being shifted around to both sides of the ball. Or as I like to put it, being Bokor’d.

Dan Mason’s brutal injury does not put him on this list.

Given their rankings, no real busts for potential versus output. But a lot of non-production.  Honestly, the overall class list just depresses me.

2008 Jon Baldwin (5-star), Shayne Hale (5-star), Lucas Nix (5-star), Chris Burns (4-star), Antwuan Reed (4-star), Cam Saddler (4-star), Greg Cross (JUCO 4-star) Jon Baldwin (5-star), Shayne Hale (4-star), Lucas Nix (4-star), Chris Burns (4-star), Antwuan Reed (4-star), Cam Saddler (4-star) and Jared Holley (4-star)

ESPN: Jon Baldwin (4-star), Shayne Hale (4-star), Lucas Nix (4-star), Chris Burns (4-star), Tino Sunseri (4-star) (no really, they graded him at an “80”)

Hidden Gems: Andrew Taglianetti has been a big, big surprise. I’ll give some love to Ryan Turnley who was 2- to 3-star offensive lineman and has made a better transition than expected to be the center. Not a star, but best available.

Busts: Shayne Hale is the headliner, but Chris Burns joins him on this list.

Not willing to put Saddler on this list because his knee injury as a freshman really was devastating. He has never had that quick burst since coming back. Cross was never given a chance.

What to take away from this? As usual, the star rankings are useful but not absolutely prophetic. 4-star or better players may not all be stars, but most have been at least average and have a place on the 2-deep if not starting in their careers.

It also suggests that recruiting under Coach Todd Graham is not too far off from what Dave Wannstedt was doing as far as the rankings with the talent that has been brought in. What is done with them is a different issue.

Gear analysis Chas. Thanks

Comment by steve 10.14.11 @ 11:47 am

Jeez, “great” I’m losing it.

Comment by steve 10.14.11 @ 11:48 am

Nice analysis Chas…It is always fun to look back and see how right the “stars” system was.

I think Shayne Hale should headline the entire category of busts. He still does have some time, but he seems to be buried by a lot of quality players at DE and OLB and can’t crack the 2-deep.

As far as Lippert is concerned I would be more inclined to say he got “Dickersoned” – As in Dorin Dickerson I think he may have had 4 different positions over the course of his time here.

Comment by BCPITT 10.14.11 @ 12:15 pm

You crack me up Chas.

Comment by Reed 10.14.11 @ 12:41 pm

Chas, pretty fair and comprehensive analysis although Wanny’s best class was 06 (I believe). On the other hand, you made no mentionof transfers of which Graham seems to have gotten a few gems. Conversely, Wanny got JUCO Otah and the starting center (forgot his name) for 2 years, plus Hubie Graham who seems like a real get.

To me, the 2 biggest busts have surprisingly been defensive players .. Hale and Cummings, although the light still may go on with both.

Do not remember Tino being a 4-star (not doubting you, understand but it shows you how arbitrary and unreliable these ratings can be.

Comment by wbb 10.14.11 @ 12:45 pm

Great Insight and Analysis. Thanks.

We should all be pretty excited with the announcement today about Shell, however as you showed us, some recruits turn out to be busts. I have been watching the rankings of the Pitt recruits since the Walt Harris days and to be honest I have learned to not pay much attention to the ranikings. I do still follow them though and tend to get excited when the 4 and 5 stars decide to come to Pitt.

A common trend that I have noticed over the years are that a majority of the “busts” have come from our main recruiting area. Perhaps the WPIAL and the state of PA gets a little over ranked.

Walt Harris had nowhere near the level of Rankings that Wanny had when it came to recruits. The “Systems” (and I got bashed for using that word the last time)called for different types of recruits. Graham seems to be pulling Wanny type ranked recruits for a system that may not require it.

Speed and size has a lot to do with ranking these kids. Grahams “System” can be productive with speed and not so much size.. ala Boise State, Oregon, Arkansas, WVU, Oklahoma State… This is in reference to skilled positions.

So lets just get the speed, who cares what they are ranked. Go Pitt!

Comment by Pitt Man 10.14.11 @ 1:00 pm

If only we had Greg Cross…. sorry, I couldn’t resist. One play = One TD = Benched.

Gotta love those transfers!

Comment by PaulyP 10.14.11 @ 1:14 pm

Thanks for the analysis Chas. As you pointed out, it is what you do with the talent that counts. Hopefully we recruit good offensive lineman yearly and a center every other year.

More important than the recruiting is the development of players. I would like to have Todd Graham become known as the football equivalent of Jamie Dixon.

Comment by John In South Carolina 10.14.11 @ 1:19 pm

Now how bout we add some more of those talented big uglies to block for Shell! Next year we say goodbye to Lucas Nix, Jordan Gibbs, Greg Gaskins, and Chris Jacobson to graduation. Obviously Nix hurts the most, but we need some quality depth in those spots to sure up the line so Voytik can remain standing and Shell can run rampant.

Comment by BCPITT 10.14.11 @ 1:21 pm

I believe many of your starters for next year are starting Saturday or last Saturday. Hollins, the other tackle that will be starting in Hollins place(I forget his name) the two guards and Turnley.

Comment by QuipPitt 10.14.11 @ 1:53 pm

#18 team recruiting rankings on scout

Comment by Tony C 10.14.11 @ 1:57 pm

We’re going to be find on the O-Line.
Bisnowaty & Tom Ricketts (who transferred from State Pen) are both studs and will anchor the line for 4 years. Rotheram is starting at Tackle this week and he’s a RS freshmen. Turnley is fine at Center and will get better. And Hollins is a soph.
Cory King & Ryan Schlieper are getting valuable experience and will either start or be very good backups. And we have several other redshirt freshmen on team and a couple coming in.

So I think the O-line will be a big positive on this team next year and the following years.

Comment by EMel 10.14.11 @ 2:38 pm

whoops mistyped guys, ‘We’re going to be fine on the O-Line’.

Although I’m sure most of you are smart enough to have deciphered what I meant to type.

Oh and Lumpy Jacobson might be back next year as well due to Medical Redshirt possibly granting another year of eligibility. Not counting on it though, and frankly we’re going to be fine.

Comment by EMel 10.14.11 @ 2:42 pm

I never put too much emphasis on these recruiting rankings. For every Shayne Hale there’s a Dion Lewis.

What landing guys like Shell and Voytik does is get others in their class to take notice that Pitt may be building something big. Winners want to play with other winners. That’s what landing Dorsett did for Majors I. Let’s hope it does the same for Graham.

Comment by TampaT 10.14.11 @ 3:00 pm

EMel…or should I call you Mel…i’m still confused by the whole Juan/Mel thing…

I agree that we should be fine, don’t count on a 6th year for Lumpy, but when you lose 4 players that touch the 2 deep you know that you need to build that depth back up. I’m not saying run for the hills we are screwed, I’m just trying to make sure we get some quality depth in that pipeline.

Ricketts and Bisnowaty certainly are great talents coming in, but I would love to see a couple more guys in the fold to help build depth. I’m not sure Nix will be as replaceable as you seem to think going forward especially in the ACC.

Comment by BCPITT 10.14.11 @ 3:40 pm

Landing Shell is like getting that new bike for my birthday that I was pretty sure I was getting. No chance he will be a bust since our RBs do fine in spite of the rest of the team. As for the other recruits, maybe we till turn a new leaf and not be disappointed. TG was excited about the higher level of players he inherited here compared to what he left. He forgot about the higher level of competition though.

Comment by OhHowIHateOhioState 10.14.11 @ 3:49 pm

Rushel Shell = Money, Big coup for Coach Graham.

Stars obviously not great predictors of future success, but all the great teams seem to get a lot of them. There will only be one Tony Dorsett, he had sub 4-3 speed when 4-5 was fast. He could change direction without losing speed in the same class as Sayers and Sanders. He won the freakin Heisman at Pitt for gods sakes and a National Championship.

Let’s hope Shell is half as awesome.

Must win tomorrow. HTP

Comment by gc 10.14.11 @ 4:34 pm

Has anyone heard if Penn State has come out and stated, ‘we weren’t really interested in Shell’, yet???

Comment by Dan 10.14.11 @ 4:43 pm

haha, nice Dan.

Does anyone know if Foster is interested in Pitt? I know he has an offer, just curious if anyone has heard anything.

Comment by sweet caroline 10.14.11 @ 7:47 pm

Here is a bit from good article detailing the history of Shell’s decision making…

“Rushel Shell was a freshman at Hopewell High School when Pitt offered him a scholarship. Shell wanted nothing to do with the Panthers at the time, and his mother remembers how her son made jokes about Pitt and its program back then.

But over the years, Pitt grew on Shell. He slowly began to like coach Dave Wannstedt and his staff. After Wannstedt was let go and Todd Graham hired, Shell took another look and began to like Pitt more.”

Read more: link to

Comment by Reed 10.15.11 @ 5:38 am

Wonder if he would have come to Pitt with Freddy Krueger in charge.

Comment by BATR 10.15.11 @ 6:00 am

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