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…