Among the roughly 70 programs in the 5.5 major conferences only a handful of programs have just two recruits: Nebraska, Colorado and West Virginia. At one solitary recruit: Oregon State, UCLA, Indiana and Pitt.
Yes, Pitt is in the mix for many key players. In their top-3, -4, -5, -8. So far that hasn’t done much good. Pitt struck out twice over the weekend with two important targets. They weren’t 5-star elite talent, but they were good players in areas of need from Pennsylvania. They were players that it had at least appeared Pitt had placed something of a priority on securing their commitments.
Is there reason to panic? Absolutely not. There’s an entire summer. There are the camps. Most of Pitt’s biggest targets have not made a choice. Not to mention, unlike last year, Pitt can’t give out 25+ scholarships. There are only 18 seniors on this roster. This is not going to be a particularly high volume class.
But is there reasons to be concerned? Oh, hell yes.
Justin laid out some of the concerns last week. But over the weekend Pitt missed out on two linebackers. Chase Winovich from Thomas Jefferson. A local kid decided to go to Michigan. Then there was Zaire Franklin from the Philly area. Both of them were high 3-star recruits with the potential to finish their high school careers as 4-stars.
In both cases Pitt finished in the top-3, but not the final choice.
“What I liked is that I got a sense from the Syracuse coaches that they needed me instead of just wanting me,” Franklin said. “They made it clear how important I was to them.”
Franklin visited Syracuse from Thursday to Saturday morning.
“I woke up Sunday and knew this is what I wanted to do,” he said. “Everything just felt right about it.”
The 16-year-old, who lives near Broad and Ogontz in West Oak Lane, said Temple and Pittsburgh were the runners-up. He called off possible visits to Connecticut and Arizona, which contacted him Wednesday.
Winovich, rated a three-star prospect by rivals.com, had 21 scholarship offers, but recently trimmed his list to Michigan, Ohio State and Pitt. He said he telephoned Pitt offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph and Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickel with the news.
“Those were two of the toughest conversations I’ve ever had,” he said. “Rudolph is one of the greatest coaches, most trustworthy coaches I have met through this process. He said he was disappointed in my decision, but he appreciated the call.”
Winovich called Fickel “one of the greatest linebacker coaches in the United States.”
“It was an honor to be recruited by schools such as Stanford, Ohio State and Pitt,” he said. “It’s never an easy process, but I had to do what was best for me.”
In reading these kids comments, I couldn’t help but think back to what may be the best piece written on Chryst and how he views recruiting.
“To me, getting guys to buy in means you’re trying to sell something, and we’re not trying to sell anything,” Chryst said. “We’re in a process of creating a culture and we’re here to help players be the best players they can be and to represent this University with the best football team it can (be) and do it the right way. But I never felt like we had to sell anything or get them to buy in.”
For Chryst, the key to affecting real change in the players is not through convincing them or persuading them; it comes from a personal choice made by the players. The players have to decide for themselves, Chryst believes, if they are truly going to commit to an ideal.
… It’s not a “soft sell” or a passive approach; rather, Chryst believes a coach should provide express his interest in a recruit, provide information about the school, and let the prospect make his own decision. Only then, in Chryst’s opinion, is a recruit truly committed to a school when he makes a decision.“I think your job as a recruiter is to identify and then inform,” Chryst told Panther-Lair.com. “They should pick the best place for them, and I’ve never thought that coaches should tell someone what’s best for them. Our job is to inform, paint an accurate picture of who we are, how do you fit in; I think there’s that. But I think it truly is, you have to inform them of who you are and what you are, and they need to know who you are and what you’re about, and I think they then pick.
“I don’t want to say that’s the purest way, but I think it’s done right when people are picking it because it’s the best fit for them. Our job is to let them know everything, who and what is Pitt.”
The piece includes some interesting quotes from some recruits back in December.
Among the recruits were Cincinnati (Oh.) La Salle cornerback Jaleel Hytchye and Deland (Fla.) running back Jojo Kemp; each is at the top of Pitt’s recruiting board at his position, and each heard the same points from Chryst on the visit.
“He said he’s really confident in Pitt and the coaching staff, but you have to do what’s right for you,” Hytchye said. “So he said if I have to take more visits, then go ahead and do what’s right for me. But he wants me to come to Pitt.”
“He wants me to make the best decision for me,” Kemp said. “He wants me to visit the other schools so that when I pick them, I do it because I want to do it, not because they forced me.”
Whether that approach is effective with Hytchye and Kemp remains to be seen.
It wasn’t, as both chose Kentucky and the new coach there, Mark Stoops.
And when I read the comments by these kids after they verbal elsewhere, Chryst’s words about wanting them to have the information and make the decision for themselves almost feel like they are thrown back at him (and Pitt).
It’s a noble ideal. Very respectable. Clearly it makes an impression on these kids to think long and hard about wanting to play for him. Playing for Pitt. Franklin knew Pitt wanted him, but Syracuse made him feel needed. Winovich said he chose Michigan because it was best for him.
Chryst has a luxury most other recently hired coaches don’t. Time. For all the talk of coaches not getting enough time anymore. The money, the demands, etcetera. He came into a Pitt situation where the coaching situation had become so unstable that there is no choice but to give him five years. Barring an absolute Paul Hackett/Johnny Majors II performance on the field, he’s got that time simply to make sure the program isn’t undergoing another round of churn so soon.
He has has the time to really do it the way he thinks it should be done. Pitt is his own laboratory experiment.