Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt is regarded as one of the top recruiters in the nation and he has signed top-rated recruiting classes in the Big East in each of the past three seasons, even though the Panthers have not registered a winning season during that period.
That brings up an interesting question: If Wannstedt can recruit as well as he has without winning, how much better could he be with a successful season?
This past weekend might have given him and his staff a taste of it as they were out recruiting (the Panthers are off this week) on the heels of their 26-21 upset of then No. 10 South Florida.
"I got several e-mails and calls from recruits after the game, and we had a recruiting meeting and [the other coaches on the staff] had the same experience," Wannstedt said yesterday via teleconference. "We had two coaches stay and recruit in Florida after the game and it was very receptive. And then we had guys in New Jersey and we had guys in eastern Pennsylvania last week and everybody was echoing the same sentiments about how positive it is out there, and that's good."
Wannstedt said that the victory has changed the outlook for the season. The Panthers are once again ranked (No. 24 in this week's Associated Press poll), but he's not going to allow the team to think about anything other than their next opponent, Navy.
But that doesn't mean he isn't aware of the buzz that has been generated among prospects and high school coaches in Pitt's prime recruiting areas.
"I think [being ranked] will be a positive recruiting-wise," Wannstedt said. "I mean, we're not saying it; people know, people talk, you read stuff, you hear stuff. I think the worst thing we can do is go out and talk about it. The thing we need to do is go out and play and let the media and everybody else do the talking. We've got to do our part and that's perform on game day."
Unlike last year, the Panthers have survived the early part of their season with few injuries. Linebacker Adam Gunn (neck) is the only starter who has been lost for the season. Pitt did have players banged up in the South Florida game, including receiver Derek Kinder (undisclosed) and quarterback Greg Cross (hand), but neither injury is considered serious.
Wannstedt said linebacker Shane Murray (knee) didn't play much Thursday because the Panthers used mostly their dime packages (six defensive backs) and did not have a lot of formations involving linebackers.
Linebacker Scott McKillop was named the Big East defensive player of the week and tailback LeSean McCoy was the conference's offensive player of the week for their performances against South Florida. McKillop had 12 solo tackles and two sacks and McCoy had 142 yards and two touchdowns against the Bulls.
In addition, McKillop, who was also named the Walter Camp national defensive player of the week on Sunday, was named the Lott Trophy IMPACT player of the week yesterday.
Freshman cornerback Antwuan Reed had his redshirt broken and appeared in the South Florida game on defense and special teams. He became the fourth true freshman to play for the Panthers this season. "We're going to continue to work him in and put him in some positions where he can help us," Wannstedt said of Reed. "He's done a nice job in practice. You don't want to ever waste a year of a player, but if a guy kind of fits into a spot where he might be able to help you, then I think we need to do that. And I think that's the case here.". ... Wannstedt praised the work of offensive tackle Joe Thomas, who had struggled early in the season but has come on strong. "Joe is one of those guys who, every week, has gotten a little better. I think he's a great example of what this team has done the last four weeks.". ... Pitt will practice the next three days and Wannstedt said the practices will be split between skills and fundamentals work and Navy preparation.
Paul Zeise can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1720