National Letter of Intent Signing Day is one of the most overrated dates on the calender in terms of the amount of hype it receives and what it actually means or what actually happens. Yes, recruiting is the life blood of every program and yes, teams are excited to announce their recruiting classes but ask yourself these questions...
1.) Given the wall-to-wall 24 hour coverage of recruiting by ESPNU, Scout.com, Rivals.com and a host of others - are we ever really surprised by what the classes look like? I mean, Pitt's class is pretty well known and I am sure there will be one or two more commitments by Wednesday, but signing day is somewhat anti-climatic since we already know who is coming and who is not.
2) Every coach talks as if they won a national title when they introduce their class - have we ever heard one stand up and truly be honest by saying "this class is weak, we missed on every kid we wanted and we have a bunch of bodies filling scholarships"
3) The declarations on signing day usually don't mean much - for instance, do we remember last year at signing day Todd Graham rambling on and on about all of the different roles that Lafayette Pitts would play on both sides of the ball and special teams? How did that turn out?
4) We don't know a thing about any of these kids until they put on the pads and start to play.
So with that in mind and trying to keep things in perspective, let's take a quick little preview of Pitt's recruiting class and see what we can make of it. It is tough to grade because, for the second year in a row it was started by one staff and finished by a different staff - that wants to play a completely different style of football.
Now, thanks to my good friend Chris Peak at Pantherlair, here is the actual up-to-the-minute list of commitments. This includes the newest one - Gabe Roberts - a lineman from Wisconsin who committed over the weekend. Roberts fills a need as this team desperately needs depth on the offensive line but he isn't ranked and has no other offers, so obviously he is one of those "wait and see" kind of kids that some coaches seem to find and turn into gems. The one thing I will say is, if you read Chris's story on the kid, he was injured during the summer so when he went to camps it was hard for schools to evaluate him, so perhaps he is truly a diamond in the rough.
Here is the link to the commitment list and now let's see how it matches with Pitt's needs (we will do offense today, defense tomorrow)---
Quarterback: Assuming Tino Sunseri, Mark Myers and Trey Anderson all stick around and are healthy the position is crowded, but as most people who watched the team can attest this is an area which needs improved and in this recruiting class there is a highly rated quarterback - Chad Voytik. So this is an area that has been addressed, though I don't think it can be overlooked that Voytik was recruited to fit into a different system than the one he will play in. That doesn't mean he can't get it done, it just means we will have to see how his skill set translates to the pro-style system.
Offensive Line - Chris Jacobson will almost definitely get a 6th year which helps but the loss of Lucas Nix, Jordan Gibbs and Greg Gaskins means this roster is devoid of tackles, big time. And that is probably the most troubling hole in this recruiting class -there are only two linemen in it and one is Roberts, who may be a good player but he is a reach on paper and he is listed as a guard. Certainly a big-time tackle like Adam Bisnowaty from Fox Chapel helps, but based on what I saw last summer during traning camp from the younger linemen, there is a real need for depth and there seems to be a need for a couple of more scholarships to go to linemen.
Fullback/Tight End - I put these two positions together because they are going to be added again as Chryst's pro-style offense will utilize both of these positions. Sure there were fullbacks and tight ends on the roster last year but we rarely saw either position utilized in that spread offense. Now, we will see more traditional uses from those positions. So I'm assuming that means that Drew Carswell will become a receiver and Hubie Graham will be the primary tight end. I will be interested in finding out what they ultimately do with Anthony Gonzalez but Shaler's J.P. Holtz to me is a great addition and will fit in perfectly as a tight end in this system. I don't see a fullback in the recruiting class and there are a few guys left on the roster, but the fullback position is one that certainly is going to need to be shored up - "Lou Polite, Henry Hynoski, where are you?"
Wide Receiver - The receiving corps is like the quarterback group - they are all back and the position is crowded. But much like the quarterbacks, this group has a lot to prove and frankly an influx of some young talent wouldn't be a bad thing. The key is getting more speed - I don't know that there is a burner in this group. I know Ronald Jones and Darius Patton showed some good things and Devin Street is a big-play, stretch the field kind of guy, but this is a group that needs to perform at a much higher level. Clairton's Trenton Coles is the only receiver in the group - he is raw, but big and fast so perhaps he has a chance - though there are a number of guys listed as athletes who may ultimately turn into receivers as well. I would like to have seen Pitt pick up a top receiver in this class but at this late in the period I'm not sure that is realistic.
Tailback - I saved the best for last. You take a group that has Ray Graham, Isaac Bennett, Corey Davis and Malcolm Crockett all returning and add one of the top rated tailbacks in the nation - Rushel Shell - and it is clear that this position is in great shape, not just for this year, but for year's to come.
All in all, I'm a bit underwhelmed so far by this recruiting class other than in a few areas, but mostly because I think this team needs more offensive linemen and receivers but I just don't see the numbers coming in. Of course, there are still a few days and number of guys who are going to make their decision late, but for this particular class the changes in coaches and philosophies may be too much to overcome to really bring in the kind of class that is needed to begin to rebuild certain areas.