I spent the end of last week with the Steelers, then the weekend in Storrs with the Pitt women, then back Sunday to help with the Steelers so I am now catching up on some things from this first real big weekend of recruiting with Pitt's new coaching staff. And there are a lot of little items to try and catch up here so bear with me.
And last night I was at the Pitt men's game trying to catch up with some of the staff and I talked with Tony Gibson and he told me that this is the just the start - that as big as this weekend was, they expect next weekend to be even bigger. He also said things in general are going well but it has been a blur for all of them as they have basically been scrambling to try and put together this recruiting class.
At any rate, Pitt got four commitments this weekend and here is a brief synopsis of the four. I think it is telling that three of them are running backs - seeing as Pitt only has one scholarship running back on its current roster, that isn't a surprise - and the other is a receiver. In other words, four offense players and all four appear to have the one ingredient Todd Graham said he favors more than anything else - speed.
Here they are:
Isaac Bennett (RB, Booker T. Washington high school, Tulsa, Okla.) - Bennett is 5-11, 190 and he had offers from Tulsa (obviously he followed Graham to Pitt) and Louisiana-Monroe. He rushed for 1,372 yards and 14 touchdowns in nine games this past season. He was in for a visit this weekend and committed.
Corey Davis (RB, Gladewater high school, Gladewater, Texas) - Davis is 5-11, 180 and he picked Pitt over offers from Tulsa (another Graham guy) and Wyoming. He rushed for 1,750 yards and 28 touchdowns. Like Bennett, he visited Pitt this weekend and he committed Saturday.
Malcolm Crockett (RB, Friendship Collegiate Academy, Washington D.C.) - Crockett is similar in size to the other two running backs - he is 5-foot-11, 180 -- but judging from his offers, he was much more highly recruited. He is a guy who, like the other two, followed several coaches to Pitt but unlike them, he wasn't headed to Tulsa, he was headed to Michigan. He had a ton of offers but his best ones were from Michigan, Cincinnati, West Virginia, North Carolina State, Georgia Tech and then his absolute best offer of course was from Temple.
Darius Patton (WR, Poland Seminary, Poland, Ohio) - Patton hadn't been offered by Michigan but he likely would have been had the staff not been dismissed. He is a small receiver - 5-10, 170 - but should fit in well with Graham's offensive system as he's quick. He had a lot of offers as well, the best ones from Wisconsin, West Virginia, Indiana, Cincinnati and a bunch of MAC schools.
So in short, two of the four are guys who seem to be legimiately BCS-conference caliber players while the other two may be a little bit of a reach. At this point, however, the staff has to take some chances and take a few reaches because they need to get players and fill some of these scholarships and hope some of them turn out.
*** Two other players who are in this recruiting class technically but have already enrolled are defensive tackle Khaynin Mosley-Smith and offensive tackle Zemel Demhasaj. Mosley-Smith, the former Wooodland Hills star, was at Pitt last summer, started training camp and then was declared academically ineligible and headed to prep school. He finished his requirements and is back on campus and from what we saw of him last year in a limited capacity, he is going to be a real player. It will be interesting to see which side of the ball he plays on, but either way he has some legitimate talent. Demhasaj came from Nassau Community College and thus is obviously a junior college guy. He is big -- 6-foot-7, 320 pounds - but he is considered a bit of a project and unfortunately we've seen far too many examples of "big" or "physically gifted" projects at offensive line blow up in Pitt's face. He had offers from Pitt and Cincinnati and then a host of MAC schools.
** One more player who got away from the Panthers original recruiting class is LaFayette Pitts from Woodland Hills - who decommitted from Pitt and committed to Rutgers -- and that is not a surprise. I know a lot has been made today by some sounding the alarm because he is a WPIAL kid that most people considered a Pitt lock and I know there were some comments from George Novak, his coach, which would seem to indicate that he isn't happy about the new coaching staff but I don't get that impression at all. I think Pitts was comfortable with the old staff, he likes Frank Cignetti a lot and he likes Jeff Hafley a lot and that's why he committed to Pitt in the first place. The fact that he is now headed to Rutgers - where those two coach - says a lot more about his comfort level with them than anything Pitt has done. And he is apparently still going to visit Pitt so it isn't over yet.
I said at the start of this - given how late this staff got hired, how much they've had to scramble around to grab players and how short the time is to signing day there is no reason to panic that they haven't gotten any WPIAL kids yet because I don't expect them to make inroads until next class. Right now, they are focused on trying to sign and land the kids that they have been recruiting at their past stops - because relationships are what matter in recruiting and relationships take some time to build.
** Two Pitt seniors are going to play in all star games:
Offensive tackle Jason Pinkston, like I reported during the week leading up to the BBVA Compass Bowl, will play in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. this weekend. It is a huge week for him, he really needs to have a good showing to solidfy his status as a mid-round pick. I've seen him projected anywhere from the third round to the seventh round and that means scouts have to be sold on some things. He is a good kid with a good head on his shoulders and he has talent so he will get a shot and that is all that any of these guys can ask for.
Also, safety Dom DeCicco will play in the NFLPA College All Star game in San Antonio on Feb. 5th. DeCicco is projected as a late round or priorty free agent guy so this is a huge week and game for him as well. He could certainly play his way into a higher pick, especially since he may get a shot to play some at outside linebacker. He is a guy who most likely will make a roster on the strength of his special teams ability and then will have a chance to play his way onto the defense. His work ethic and attitude will get him a shot and again, that is what these guys ask for.
** A couple more former assistants have landed on their feet as Brian Angelichio is apparently going to join Hafley and Cignetti at Rutgers and Scott Turner is likely headed to the Carolina Panthers as some sort of a quality control assistant. That means basically the only assistant I have yet to hear about landing anywhere is linebackers coach Bernard Clark but from what I understand he may have an opportunity to join Phil Bennett at Baylor. Oh, and of course, in case you haven't heard Dave Wannstedt joined his old pal Chan Gailey in Buffalo and will serve as some sort of assistant head coach and will work with linebackers.
** And in case you missed the memo, here is the Pitt coaching staff put together by Todd Graham so far (still need to hire a coach and it will be a safeties coach). My only comments is that this staff is sort of like Noah's Ark because there are two of everything - two assistant/associate head coaches, two offensive coordinators, two defensive coordinators, two recruiting coordinators, tw osecondary coaches.....
Paul Randolph: Executive Associate Head Coach, Co-Defensive Coordinator, Defensive Line. Randolph has been with Graham at Tulsa and he followed him there from Rice. He is an extremely intelligent guy, very passionate and seems to be very well respected.
Calvin Magee:Assistant Head Coach, Co-Offensive Coordinator, Running Backs. Magee was on Rich Rodriguez's staffs at both Michigan and West Virginia and is considered one of the best offensive minds in the country. No doubt a home run hire for Graham.
Mike Norvell: Co-Offensive Coordinator, Wide Receivers, Director of Recruiting. Another one of Graham's assistants at Tulsa and the thing I've gathered about him is that he is an extremely persistent and competent recruiter in the mold of Hafley. He got Tulsa into the doors of recruits the Golden Hurricane had no chance of getting into in the past.
Keith Patterson: Defensive Coordinator, Linebackers. Another one off of Graham's staff at Tulsa and Graham's college roommate. He has a lot of energy, I'll give him that from talking with him but his defenses at Tulsa didn't exactly inspire much confidence in his ability to coach. It will be interesting to see how well Pitt's defense plays.
Tony Dews: Tight Ends. Dews is another coach from Rodriguez's staff at Michigan and West Virginia who worked with Graham at West Virginia. Dews was the wide receivers coach for the Wolverines and is considered a fairly good recruiter as well.
Todd Dodge: Quarterbacks. Dodge is the lone coach on this staff who didn't work at either Tulsa or Michigan with Graham. He was most recently the head coach at North Texas and while he was clearly in over his head as a Division I head coach, he was a legendary high school coach prior to that and apparently has a lot of ties all over the state. He is also supposedly an excellent mentor of quarterbacks.
Tony Gibson: Cornerbacks, Recruiting Coordinator. Gibson came from the staff at Michigan and West Virginia and he is considered one of the best recruiters in the country. He has done a lot of recruiting in Western Pennsylvania and has a lot of ties here so he is the one guy on the staff who should be able to get Pitt back into schools quickly. He will coach corners, there is still going to be one more coach hired and he will be a safeties coach.
Spencer Leftwich: Offensive Line. He came with Graham from Tulsa and I have yet to meet him so I don't know much about him other than, he'll teach a lot of the zone blocking techniques that this offense needs. It should be interesting to see how the offensive line transitions to this new style of play.
Shawn Griswold: Director of Strength and Conditioning. Griswold replaces Buddy Morris and for good reason as he comes from Tulsa with Graham and will install a new strength and conditioning program, predicated more on speed and quickness and a little less on power and strength. In talking to some of the players, they like the new approach but they miss Morris for obvious reasons. Again, this is a hire specific to the new style of football that is going to be played at Pitt and I'm going to be real interested in watching spring football to see how this all comes together.
*** Ok, that should about get us caught up now and I'll try to make sure I stay ahead of things, though I am going to be covering the men's basketball team as well as the women's team for the next week or two while Ray Fittipaldo heads to the Super Bowl.
Speaking of the men's team, after last night's game - won by Notre Dame, obviously -- I couldn't remember the last time I walked out of the Petersen Center after watching the Panthers lose. So I went to the media guide and I figured it out (I wasn't at last year's Georgetown game or a couple of the other more recent losses) but the last time I walked out of the Petersen Events Center after a Pitt loss was Feb. 12, 2007 - Louisville 66, Pitt 53.