The class of 2014 in Southwestern Pennsylvania football didn't produce as many Division I-A recruits as originally thought, but this class is most certainly a big step up from last year.
Wednesday was the first day that high school seniors could sign a letter of intent with a college. The WPIAL had 32 seniors sign with Division I-A programs. No player from the City League was reported to have signed with a I-A school.
Before the season started, there was speculation that as many as three dozen or more district athletes would be Division I-A signees. The total didn't reach that high, but consider that only 18 players signed with Division I-A colleges last year, possibly the lowest total ever for the league.
Having 32 Division I-A recruits is more the norm for Southwestern Pennsylvania in recent years. It doesn't come close to the 1960s and '70s, but that was a totally different time for WPIAL football. There were more teams and many more players in the WPIAL.
Two years ago, 33 players from the district signed with Division I-A colleges. There were only 21 in 2011 and 28 in 2010.
"I think the thing I always hear about Western Pennsylvania and why it doesn't turn out as many prospects as years ago is because the population has changed so much," said Brian Dohn, national/northeast recruiting analyst for scout.com. "I hear that from the high school and college coaches. But I think what you need to do is look at a good chunk of time and then say this is the new trend. ... The area still produces good players."
But Western Pennsylvania seemed to be much better than Eastern Pennsylvania this year, at least in terms of top-level talent. Rivals.com rated nine Pennsylvania players as "four stars." Only two were from the eastern side of the state -- Bethlehem Liberty receiver K.J. Williams (Syracuse recruit) and Philadelphia Imhotep offensive lineman Aaron Ruff (Temple).
The seven WPIAL players who were rated four stars were Gateway WR/DB Montae Nicholson (Michigan State), Washington running back Shai McKenzie (Virginia Tech), Aliquippa defensive back Dravon Henry (West Virginia), Mt. Lebanon lineman Alex Bookser (Pitt), Thomas Jefferson linebacker Chase Winovich (Michigan), Bethel Park offensive lineman Mike Grimm (Pitt) and Central Catholic quarterback J.J. Cosentino (Florida State).
Next year's district class appears to be about average. Two WPIAL players are ranked in the top 250 in the country by Rivals. Baldwin offensive lineman Sterling Jenkins is ranked No. 28 and Central Valley defensive back Jordan Whitehead No. 206.