I’ve been waiting to write something on PITT football until there was actually something to write about. There still isn’t anything really but it’s time to get back into the pigskin mode as we’ve less than a week until the bowl game. PITT vs Ole Miss – a match up made in heaven, maybe.
I’m not a big fan of bowl games like some people are. I understand that it is a reward for having a non-losing season… which sounds like crap when you think about it. Let’s be honest, 80% of the bowl mean nothing at all, and those are the ones PITT has found itself in for the last 30 years. So it really isn’t a reward but a chance to extend the season by one game for TV money and to get the school’s fans and players one more weekend.
Not to begrudge the players any perks they can get. These kids work extremely hard from April through January and deserve being pampered on what is actually a working vacation.
So usually I don’t get too excited about these bowl games. My emphasis has always been on the regular season’s quality of play and won/loss record. That may sound hypocritical because those two things lead directly to a bowl but IMO the meat of the football season are those 13 games, especially the conference ones.
However this season I find myself more nervous than usual going into the week before PITT’s bowl game. Why? Because I think for the first time in a long time the results of this game will have a stronger impact on the program than bowls have had in the past.
But specifically it is about recruiting and the impact of how a program is perceived has on recruiting.
Our program has gone 7-5, 6-6 and 6-6 in the last three regular seasons when the games really count. That track record is tough to overcome when you are trying to convince these highly sought after players local high school stars that they will play winning football during their time here.
Chris Dokish listed who he believed were the Top WPIAL recruits PITT needed to land at positions of need. There were: WR Robert Foster (5*), OL Patrick Kugler (4*), DB Tyler Boyd (4*), OL Dorian Johnson (4*), WR Devin Wilson (3*), DT Ty Haddock (3*), DB Demetrius Louis (3*), DB Brendan Coniker (3*), DT Tyrique Jarrett (3*).
So far this recruiting year the “big” recruits have chosen elsewhere as their first choice.
OL Pat Kugler to UM; OL Dorian Johnson to PSU, we got him on the rebound; WR Robert Foster to Alabama. We had a blue chip RB verbal in Corey Clements and lost him. There is a trend there and it isn’t good for PITT.
That is a pretty decent wish list and out of those nine players listed one was a lock for PITT since last season (Jarrett who went Prep in 2012); one we got after the PSU sanctions were levied (Johnson) and we have long shot at one other in Tyler Boyd. I’m not saying WR Tyler Boyd will absolutely go elsewhere, just that at this point I’m not optimistic that he’ll sign with us.
We can debate this next point but PITT has been trending downhill since the end of the 2009 season. It has been both on the field of play, off the field of play and with administrative issues. We don’t have to rehash the details of the embarrassing mistakes and coaching changes since then, we know all the details, but it certainly has hurt PITT’s reputation both locally and nationally and in recruiting reputation is the bedrock.
Getting to a bowl in his first year was the only real positive accomplishment Paul Chryst has had and that isn’t unusual for a 1st year head coach to achieve at all. I don’t consider a close loss as a positive unless your team really sucks.
We have a 50/50 chance of ending up with another losing record at 6-7 and that, combined with our past three year history, lends a bunch of skepticism toward this program. You have to say that his game day coaching is suspect at this point also.
So there aren’t a whole lot of bargaining points PITT has in hand at this point to draw blue chip recruits into the fold. These star kids have some decent reasons to pick others schools… PITT is in a tough recruiting area with three major programs close by for one. I think it is just too soon for some of these really highly rated recruits to look at Chryst and PITT and think the program is sure to be successful under his guidance.
I believe that the University of Pittsburgh has a ton of positives to offer student/athletes but they are outside the football realm. Then again I’m not in the position of choosing between three or four schools to be a fan of as the recruits are in their position of choosing a school to play football for.
Personally, I feel that Chryst will turn things around and have a good run at PITT. He could get a jump start with a win in Birmingham to end the season on a winning note and with a winning record. After all, we have a 50/50 chance of doing that also. That is tangible evidence that things are being turned around within the program.
Then if we get off to a strong start in the ACC and win 8-10 games I could see 2014 being an uptick in recruiting for us. There are some great WPIAL 2014 recruits and we need to get our share. But this recruiting season… not so much.
On another Note: There has been tons of talk about our QB situation next season, specifically Tom Savage winning the starting role. I’ve read numerous poster/commenter references to how well Russell Wilson did at Wisconsin in that single 2011 season with Chryst as his OC and then comparing the two player’s situations as Savage will have only one year at PITT also.
IMO these are completely different situations. Wilson already had a great career at QB at NC State, way better than what Savage did at RU in his two seasons there. Wilson had 8545 yards (42 less than Dan Marino total) with 77 TDs /26 INTs in his three years at NCST. That is a great career in itself and a fantastic basis for success at Wisconsin.
Savage didn’t have that type of quality play in his two years. He didn’t stink out the joint but IMO it is not comparable at all to Wilson’s situation going over to Wisky. Savage is a career 52% completion rate passer and that is disturbing. He’s been out of football for two years and had a poor last season of play as a sophomore. So let’s not get ahead of ourselves before we see how he does in the camps.
BTW – Savage’s 2009 ypc rate was 14.8 which is astronomical and was tops in the NCAA that year.
Final note: Sunseri needs 192 passing yards in the bowl game to pass Dan Marino and become the 2nd best passing QB, behind Van Pelt, in PITT’s history. Hell, let’s just say that Sunseri’s the second best all around QB, behind Van Pelt, ever.
(That will get tongues wagging.)