Chandler Kincade spent a considerable amount of time the past few months deciding which college he will attend after he graduates from Blackhawk High School next spring.
Kincade, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound quarterback with five Division I offers, really liked Akron's future, and equally enjoyed what he was hearing from the team's offensive coordinator, A.J. Milwee.
"He said they were looking for a quarterback in [the Class of] 2014 to be the face of the program. He thinks I can be exactly that," Kincade said. "That's a big thing for a coach to tell you, and I'm willing to work as hard as I can to be that."
Kincade took a big step when he verbally committed to Akron in mid-June. Kincade chose the Zips over offers from Pitt, Temple, Rutgers and Bowling Green.
Originally, Kincade was set to go to Pitt. He committed to the Panthers as a sophomore when Todd Graham was the head coach. But when Graham left for Arizona State, Paul Chryst and the new coaching staff shifted their attention to other quarterbacks from the 2014 class.
The line of communication between Kincade and the staff loosened, making Kincade want to explore other options.
"My comfort level with the coaches wasn't there," Kincade said. "Some other schools contacted me, and I was getting comfortable with their staffs. I just hadn't felt as comfortable with [Pitt's] coaches to make a commitment."
Rivals ranks Kincade the No. 16 pro-style quarterback in the nation. Another WPIAL quarterback, Florida State-bound J.J. Cosentino of Central Catholic, is ranked No. 13.
Kincade made his first high school start the second game of his freshman season. In that game, Kincade threw for the winning touchdown in a 20-19 overtime win at Moon Area. Kincade has been the starter ever since.
As a junior, he completed 154 of 245 passes for 2,220 yards and 16 touchdowns. He was a Post-Gazette West Fabulous 22 selection.
Akron likes to put the ball in the air, which was another selling point for Kincade. The Zips averaged 48 pass attempts per game last season.
"I really like the offense they're running," Kincade said. "It's a throw-first mentality."
By picking Akron, Kincade committed to what is a huge rebuilding plan. Akron has gone 1-11 each of the past three seasons, winning only one Mid-American Conference game during that time. The Zips have not had a winning season or advanced to a bowl game since 2005.
Akron made a significant move prior to last season, however, when it hired former Auburn coach Terry Bowden. The school has also put a lot of money into improving its football facilities. Among the upgrades was the construction of the $61 million InfoCision Stadium, which opened in 2009.
"I just think the whole school in general has made a great commitment to the football program," Kincade said. "They've updated the facilities. The indoor facilities are some of the tops in the country. You have that, as well as Coach Bowden and a good coaching staff."
Bowden and his assistants have already made a mark recruiting-wise in Western Pennsylvania. Three WPIAL players from the Class of 2013 committed to Akron, including former Gateway quarterback Thomas Woodson. The others are Greensburg Central Catholic's Zach Guiser and Brentwood's Michael Kish.
Kincade is working hard in trying to bring a few other WPIAL players with him. Among the fellow seniors Kincade said he has already been recruiting are Aliquippa's Jaleel Fields and Terry Swanson, and South Fayette's Justin Watson. Kincade also plans on reaching out to Beaver Falls' Brock Boxen, Elijah Cottrill and Sage Curry.
Kincade said the Akron coaches have told him that the process for the program to return to respectability includes a "lose big, lose small, win small, win big" approach. He hopes he sees the final step of that progression early on in his college career.
"Last year they lost small," said Kincade, alluding to the fact that seven of Akron's losses were by two touchdowns or less. "The next step is win small. Hopefully when I get there, we're winning big."