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June 25, 2014

Isn’t it great that when all else fails we revert right back to discussing the apparently seminal topic of what wins college football games.  Of course it is the recruiting season, and recruiting season means star gazing, so let’s have at it.

Back in the spring of 2012 I did a three piece series on here about how recruiting stars equated to peer production – that is how many stars did leading college producers have and what the 1st and 2nd string All-Conference (BE and ACC) players had when they entered their respective college programs.  Just for fun, and especially if you are bored, here they are in sequence… remember to read the comments also as there was some spirited discussions back then too.   They are a bit lengthy but you guys can handle it.

So here they are:   Hitch Your Wagon to a Star,   Hitch Your Wagon II and Hitch Your Star III – ACC .  I don’t have the time or inclination to do all that research again to update to the 2013 results but I have a feeling the findings might not be that much different now and probably aren’t year to year.  Why?  Because unless you are running a huge, heavily financed football program such as the perennial Top Ten finishers do then your recruiting is going to look much like those posted results we see from two years ago.

To me there are two requirements as important as recruiting to building a winning football program. First and foremost you have to have a Head Coach and his chosen staff who get the best possible production out of the players on his roster, regardless of the players’ star factor.

Second, it is imperative that the HC recruits to his vision and plans for the program. This is a basic element in all areas of competitive work; sports, industry and academic staffs.  There is a comment on another post today where the commenter said that he would hire the high character guy vs. the big ego ‘star’ because he had a business to run smoothly (to paraphrase).

Which bring us back to PITT football.  I differ from some other PITT fans in that I think that running a clean and varied football program which endeavors to elevate the whole of the student-athlete experience is paramount at PITT.  Others care way more about results on the field only.  I personally think we can achieve success in both areas given a solid leadership cadre in the program, which I think we now have.

Setting aside predictions of future wins and losses, if we look back at what Paul Chryst did in 2013 when he saw the need to play a majority of underclassmen in starting spots and in the two deep and then coached us to the most successful season we have had in three years, I think we have to agree that Chryst is showing us his ability to get the maximum production out of his FR and SO players.  Throw in journeyman  QB Tom Savage in that group also as he was a first year PITTster.

Look at the recruits HCPC pulled in during his first full recruiting cycle… a few 4-star guys in Johnson and Boyd (with Chapman once removed)  but that’s it.  However, if you look at the playing time and production he got from his 1st FR class it is impressive as hell.

We have:  Boyd who is already at superstar level play, Parrish banging at FB, Winslow and Blewitt as kickers, Orndoff and Ibrahim on offense and Soto, Howard, Webb, and Coles on defense.  That is just our true FR who saw valuable playing time.

Then we have, and this may be the greatest gift PITT has received in years,  the four offensive line players who redshirted as freshmen and who will enter active duty in 2014: guards Carson Baker and Aaron Reese, tackle Jaryd Jones-Smith and center Alex Officer.  Combine them with the established  SO Johnson, SO Gabe Roberts who played in three games before injured and SO John Guy who the staff loves at OT.

All this may not make much of an impact to the average PITT fan but to understand how truly young we were in 2013 and still won seven games is pretty impressive in my book.  Again, the best record we have had in three years and done on the backs of guys who weren’t on the team in 2012.  I think that is some pretty solid coaching there and meets both the criteria I listed above for a successful football program.  In fact that is a damned solid nucleus on both sides of the ball to go forward with.

Let’s be honest here.  For all my blather (pun intended) about how well two and three star players have done on the field for us and other teams we all know that we’d much rather every kid we recruit be highly regarded star players in high school.  For PITT to have a roster full of four and five star players?  I’ll take it!  However, we probably won’t see that here, at least as much as we’d like to.  With that, take a look at all the five and four star players PITT has recruited since 2002. (Get a hankie ready when you see some of those five and four star kids on these lists who never panned out at all, played way below expectations or left the program.)

There are some great high rated players there for sure and certainly most of them contributed to whatever success PITT had over the last 11 years.  But then also take a real close look at some  two and three stars kids we recruited:  Revis, Scott McKillop, Stevens-Howling, Kinder, Mick Williams, Berry, Romeus, Sheard, Dion Lewis, Gruder, Holley, Shanahan and Chappel just to name a few.  Stars in college and some now stars in the NFL if that floats your boat.

Hell, this isn’t going to settle any arguments and really just reiterates what we PITT fans, on either side of the debate, have been saying for years.  The real question is if Paul Chryst is building a successful football program with the players he does recruit.  If you aren’t a total cynic then I think you have to say yes, at least so far, he is.

In my opinion though, some of these three and two star recruits Chryst has been pulling in are going to be names we PITT fans talk about as being real stars for our program… along with winning football years. But that’s just me, especially when I look at his ’14 recruiting class which I think is very good.

Note: I had an interesting conversation at a training camp practice last August with someone very familiar with PC and this coaching staff.  He told me, after being asked straight out, that HCPC absolutely does not care about the star ranking system at all and has indeed wanted, and gotten, lower rated players when they fit his plans – both at UW as the OC and now as HC at PITT, even when the higher rated players had wanted to commit to the program. Take that for what its worth…





Reed, I wil be a Pitt fan whether the program is run as a ‘win at any cost’ OR it is run as put it ‘a clean and varied football program which endeavors to elevate the whole of the student-athlete experience is paramount.’ I just think the expectations of the admin should be made clear.

This program has a history of waffling. Stringent requirements for admitting athletes led to 4 staright 1-win season in late 60s, then Johhny Majors came and recruited 85 his first season. And through the following decades, it seemed that winning was de-emphasized for a while, again followed by a push for better on-the-field results.

I believe we are in a good place right now both in FB and BB, and I hope PC is able to win on average 7-10 games a year while maintaining integrity. But if he starts winning 6-7 games a year or less, will the priorities change again?

Comment by wbb 06.25.14 @ 2:55 pm

Man – you comment even before I’m done editing the article.

I don’t think we’ll ever have a Bowman type as Chancellor again so I doubt we’ll see that drastic of a slide in success as you mention.

I think that Chryst just puts more of an emphasis on the “Work-Life” aspect (to borrow a phrase) than do some other HCs we have had.

We all want wins, I know that. I just think that if you as HC have a choice between a kid who fits all the specific criteria you require in your program then why not take him over a possibly more talented kid who doesn’t?

Of course if Rushel Shell breaks out in stardom over in Morgantown this year then this blog will disintegrate over this debate…

Comment by Reed 06.25.14 @ 3:03 pm

WBB – one more note. I wholeheartedly agree regarding the expectations of the administration. How we ended up with Graham after the public denouncement at how the program was being run in 2010 is beyond me.

Football playing wise I didn’t think Todd Graham was a bad choice at first. I’d still like to see his offense with Voytik in it.

However, when we started seeing the lower quality level recruits he was accepting and then having the “Great Disappearing Act” Graham pulled I don’t think SP can get on that soapbox ever again.

Comment by Reed 06.25.14 @ 3:10 pm

Reed! You’re Back! (well, writing that is)

Comment by Benzene 06.25.14 @ 3:33 pm

Nice to see you back Reed. WBB, posted the red shirt diaries that says we are likely to get Tony Pilato from Hempfield, 6’7″ 300 lbs. He obviously dominates in his highlight film, but looks a little slow of foot. He would make 6 of the top ten in WPA.

If by some miracle we get Whitehead, that would be 7 of 10. Whitehead ought to consider what Boyd and Jennings could teach him in practice.

Comment by gc 06.25.14 @ 3:40 pm

“The world is divided into two kinds of people, those who have friends and those who are lonely like poor Tuco. ”

Poor Tuco (Eli Wallach) died today. 🙁

Lived a long life, he was 98

Comment by Emel 06.25.14 @ 3:50 pm

To wit: Conner a 2 star

Comment by steve1 06.25.14 @ 4:14 pm

Sticking with my prediction.

Odds steadily improving that Chryst will get a MAJOR BOWL WIN before Dixon gets a team to the FINAL FOUR.

Comment by PittofDreams 06.25.14 @ 4:55 pm

Emel, I’m with you, Eli had a fine and long career, but face it … No matter if you’re the Good (Eastwood), the Bad (Van Cleef) or the Ugly (Wallach), you’re part movie legend

Comment by wbb 06.25.14 @ 5:54 pm

My prediction…Pitt football wins a major bowl AND Pitt basketball gets to the final four in the same year. In this scenario, PoD would still be correct in his crystal gazing…

Comment by Gordo 06.25.14 @ 7:14 pm

I loved Eli Wallach.

Comment by Reed 06.25.14 @ 7:32 pm

Grain of Salt Alert! — I know it’s just the summer league but Cam Johnson is lighting it up again — 5 3-pointers in 1st half and S Jeter has something like 15+ rebounds

Sorry Reed .. I know Pitt is a football school

Comment by wbb 06.25.14 @ 8:39 pm

wbb, thanks for the report on the summer league. Please keep them coming!

Regarding when Pitt will get to the Final Four — we should have a very good team when this year’s sophomore class — Newkirk, Young, Artis, and Jeter — are seniors and Cam Johnson is a junior or a redshirt sophomore.

Comment by Howard 06.25.14 @ 10:19 pm


If that prediction comes true I am positive I will be struck by lighting shortly after that said Final Four, and I will be ok with that. Since we are dreaming can the the Bucs win the World Series that year too?

More and more I am starting to think Paul Chryst knows exactly what he is doing and from day one has had a plan for this program. Personally I think that is neat, ya know? The two requirements that Reed pointed out to build a successful program seem to be exactly what we are seeing here.

I have posted a few times and will say it again, this year is huge. The schedule is manageable and you got several kids who gained invaluable experience last year as underclassmen. Unfortunately, we are essentially starting over at QB again, but if Voytik can get some protection from what should be an improved O line, this can be a very exciting offense. I still have reservations about the D and Matt House leading that unit, but I am very excited about this season and the future of this program moving forward.

That said, the administration chose not to extend Chryst and another 6-6 season or God forbid worse, forget everything I just said…

Comment by Pap76 06.25.14 @ 10:20 pm

Look at Duke last year. The good news?? They won 10 games. The bad news? They finally ran into an elite program in the ACC Champ and got demolished.

This is the best Pitt can hope for.

Comment by Tallahassee Panther 06.26.14 @ 6:15 am

Voytik is a keeper. He showed his true colors in the Pizza Bowl. He is a competitor who will become a leader on this team soon enough.
House? Not sure yet. We’ve invested the time last season watching him getting his house (pun intended) in order. Key will be how he brings along the “committee” that will replace the middle vacated by journeyman Ezell and AD.

My gut feeling this season, Voytik proves he is a winner both with his feet and his arm. With the experienced group of WRs and TEs that Pitt has ready for this season, it sets the stage for Chad’s passing stats to blossom. With offensive success, our defensive struggles will be acceptable early on. We better have the D in order by midseason however or else an early 5-1 or 4-2 record disintegrates very quickly into another mediocre year 7-5 or 6-6.

Comment by Dr. Tom 06.26.14 @ 6:16 am

I’ll hold judgement on Voytik until I see him taking the QB1 snaps in camp. I think he has the tools needed.. his arm strength on the mid-routes hasn’t impressed me that much. Personally I don’t think one half of a game is really indicative of what we’ll see him do against ACC defenses… and especially against Iowa who had a Top20 passing defense last season.

I think he’ll have a bit of a rough go of it until 4-5 games in. Writing another article to address positions of need.

Comment by Reed 06.26.14 @ 7:10 am

a couple of notes on Voytik

– FWIW, he is rated a 4-star on at leadt one of the rating services
– Reed, on arm strength, you may have been comparing him to Savage who possibly had the stronest arm in the NCAA last year
– I do agree he may have a rough time of it early

– he will be the most athletic QB we had since Palko, and you don’t know how much I look forward to that. Hopefully, he’ll have that sense that Tyler had shown for making plays when the pocket breaks down or when the receivers are covered .. a real playmaker.

Comment by wbb 06.26.14 @ 7:49 am

No – I’m comparing him more to Sunseri and Stull… at least that is what I’ve seen so far from him in the practices I’ve watched since he joined the program. Honestly, I think both those two other QBs were fine with mid-length plays and had quicker passes than most PITT fans gave them credit for. I think PITT fans look at Palko and his abilities (and winning games in exciting ways) so both Stull and Sunseri’s images took a hit because of that. Throw in strong armed Savage as a bookend and it is reiterated.

I’ll agree that we’ll see more plays with Voytik’s feet being involved and strangely enough he throws better rolling out than he does in pocket IMO. Maybe because he’s constantly thinking about running the ball when he’d dropped back. (more on that in next article).

If the QB position clicks and we see some youngsters step up in the interior DL we could have an exciting year.

Comment by Reed 06.26.14 @ 8:28 am

“when you have to shoot, shoot, don’t talk”

link to

Comment by Dan 06.26.14 @ 9:42 am

One thing that Voytik does give us is another player on offense that the defense must account for. That alone will slow down the pass rush and open some things up for a WR or TE. If they don’t cover Voytik and try to bull rush all day, he will take off. And as we saw in the bowl game, he can do some damage running the ball.

Comment by HbgFrank 06.26.14 @ 9:53 am

We did a very poor job of picking up blitzes last year, as more often than not, RB’s got run over trying to pass block or just missed their guy.

With Connor & Ibrahim being true freshmen that was perhaps predictable. Was surprised Bennett wasn’t better at that.

Overall the whole pass blocking scheme was terrible and not much changed from game to game, other than if the opponent was good at pass rushing or not.

That almost more than anything was alarming to me.

Comment by Emel 06.26.14 @ 12:04 pm

Emel – I’d like to see more of a two back set in passing situations with Parrish as protection blocker and Ibrahim back also and he could swing out as a safety valve.

Ibrahim did a very good time catching passes last season, 9 for 88 yds, even though he was rotating with Conner in the backfield.

As to the OL we have seen three straight years where are QBs 1) didn’t have great pocket presence and 2) didn’t have that smooth escapability that I think we’ll see with Voytik. If it was a called rollout those QBs did OK but on the fly not so much.

Not to set the blame for our piss poor sacks allowed over the last three years on QBs alone – there is enough blame to go around – but it may be better this season. Just a little concerned about CV’s penchant for taking off too early… that ticks off an OL also.

Comment by Reed 06.26.14 @ 2:55 pm

Hope you’re right Reed.

Think they like to go to 3 wideouts in passing downs, so henceforth the 1 back set. If Jennings is as good as I think he might be, you’d want him out there with Boyd & Garner.

Good to see you back posting articles !

Comment by Emel 06.26.14 @ 3:23 pm

Thanks Emel. Working on a series now to kill the time until August camp and to get us all back into the PITTdom Experience.

I look at the roster and I like it. Big shoes to fill in some places but attrition happens every year to every team. That’s how new stars are born.

Comment by Reed 06.26.14 @ 4:28 pm

ESPN preview of Pitt secondary

link to

Comment by wbb 06.27.14 @ 9:07 am

Nice to not have to worry about these types of articles: link to

Comment by Atlanta Panther 06.28.14 @ 4:56 pm

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