Recruit Report: Pitt has no reason to panic

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Some Pitt football fans were in a lather recently after four top WPIAL players made their college choices the past two weeks, and only one of them chose Pitt, despite the Panthers being a finalist for all four.

But history shows top WPIAL players deciding not to stay in their backyard isn't unusual at all and, in the long run, how much does it hurt Pitt?

The only one of the four in the past two weeks to choose Pitt was Mt. Lebanon offensive lineman Alex Bookser. Gateway defensive back Montae Nicholson (Michigan State), Washington running back Shai McKenzie (Virginia Tech) and Aliquippa running back Dravon Henry (West Virginia) all conducted news conferences to announce their choices.

But it's a myth that Pitt used to get all of the top Western Pennsylvania players. It didn't happen last year, or five years ago, or the past few decades. And during those years, Pitt still got other top players from the WPIAL and had some good recruiting classes. Plus, a number of the players who didn't choose Pitt never achieved much at other schools.

A look at some past WPIAL classes shows how it's not that unusual for top players to turn away from Pitt. Take last year, which was not a good year for Division I talent in the WPIAL. North Allegheny's Rob Kugler went to Michigan and Central Valley's Robert Foster to Alabama.

In 2012, Jeannette's Demetrious Cox (Michigan State), Central Catholic's Anthony Nixon (Maryland), Upper St. Clair's Dakota Conwell (Arizona) and Mt. Lebanon's Arthur Goldberg (Wisconsin) were a few of the players who turned down Pitt.

In 2008, Jeannette's Terrelle Pryor and Trinity's Andrew Sweat were two top players who had scholarship offers from Pitt and chose Ohio State. Pitt still had a recruiting class ranked 28th in the country by Rivals.com.

The class of 1989 had at least 17 players go to other major colleges, and a number were recruited by Pitt. But Pitt still landed USA Today defensive player of the year Sean Gilbert of Aliquippa and some other top recruits.

Landing Henry, McKenzie or Nicholson would have been a boost to Pitt's recruiting class. Thomas Jefferson's Chase Winovich (Michigan) and New Castle's Malik Hooker (Ohio State) also were losses. But Pitt already has a four-star running back recruit in Chris James (Ill.) and landed two four-star offensive linemen from the WPIAL in Bookser and Bethel Park's Mike Grimm.

Missing out on some WPIAL players might not be the end of the world and it certainly helps to land the majority of the best. But the key for Pitt might be more of what the Panthers do with the players they do land.


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