Pitt's football recruiting class won't wow anyone. For one of the first times in memory, the Panthers' class is ranked in the bottom half of the Big East Conference.
But the guys who make a living rating players and recruiting classes say not to judge new coach Todd Graham on this class. They say he should get a free pass on recruiting this year because of how late he was hired and because of all the uncertainty in the Pitt program.
"There is no question he gets a free pass," said Allen Wallace, publisher of Super Prep magazine and national scouting editor for Scout.com. "There was just too much publicity surrounding the Pitt situation for him to really put together any kind of class that would satisfy the expectations of the program on an immediate basis. I can't think of a program ever that lost more kids because of a coaching change. Every time I checked they would lose someone.
"They did a good job of picking Lafayette Pitts at the end, but otherwise the class is filled with 2- and 3-star guys. I don't think it would be even a top 50 class."
Pitt signed 18 players Tuesday. With two others already enrolled at classes this semester, the Panthers' class is 20 players.
"With three head coaches in one month, it's not going to be a real good situation," said Tom Lemming, longtime national recruiting analyst who now works for CBS College Sports. "It was a weak year in the WPIAL, too. I wouldn't say it's a bad class. But they were on their way to having a good year and then they lost a lot of players. They went from being No. 1 in the conference, to probably near the bottom.
"But I think Todd Graham showed some excellent poise and I think it could set things up for a good 2012 class."
Mike Farrell of Rivals.com said, "The circumstances he entered into, he has to have a free pass this year. You can't ask anybody to do better than he did with the situation. We have him fifth in the Big East.
"I think he finished ahead of three other schools in the Big East. Considering what he had left when he arrived, and the kids he lost, he did as good of a job as you can expect."
About Penn State
Penn State didn't have many scholarships to give this year, and signed only 14 players. The Nittany Lions had only a few recruits by the middle of football season. Then they came on with a rush.
This class is nowhere as good as last year, when most scouting services ranked Penn State's class in the top 10.
"I think Penn State looks strongest in the areas of receiver, and the offensive and defensive lines," Super Prep's Wallace said. "But they signed seven Super Prep All-Americans. They're really strong in the trenches with this class, but I don't have them bringing in a quarterback or running back. But still, I have Penn State in the bottom half of the Big Ten."
Lemming said, "Penn State got off to an unbelievably slow start. They finished strong, though. The two defensive ends from the Philadelphia area - Shawn Oakman and Deion Barnes - are fantastic players."
By the way, North Allegheny running back Alex Papson (pictured) signed with Gannon. Papson rushed for more than 2,000 yards this season.
Here is the list of WPIAL players who signed with Division I colleges. Only 21 players from the WPIAL class of 2011 are headed to Division I schools. By comparison, I looked this up today. Twenty and 25 years ago, 40 or more players from the WPIAL signed with Division I schools.
PITT – Devin Cook, Beaver Falls (LB, 6-4, 230); Jevonte Pitts, Woodland Hills (DB, 5-10, 180); Lafayette Pitts, Woodland Hills (DB, 5-11, 180).
WEST VIRGINIA – Nick Kwiatkoski, Bethel Park (DB, 6-2, 195).
AKRON – Bre Ford, Bethel Park (RB-DB, 5-11, 205); James Price, Woodland Hills (DL, 6-2, 285).
EASTERN MICHIGAN – Kevin Johnson, McKeesport (WR).
ILLINOIS – Dondi Kirby, Gateway (DB, 6-3, 200).
MARYLAND – Quinton Jefferson, Woodland Hills (DE, 6-4, 230).
MICHIGAN STATE – Paul Lang, Mt. Lebanon (TE, 6-5, 237).
NAVY – Bernie Sarra, Greensburg Central Catholic (OL, 6-2, 310).
NORTH CAROLINA – Delvon Simmons, McKeesport (DL, 6-5, 255).
OHIO – Justin Haser, North Allegheny (OL-DL, 6-5, 245).
OHIO STATE – Ejuan Price, Woodland Hills (LB, 6-0, 235).
PURDUE – Rob Kugler, North Allegheny (TE-DE, 6-3, 245); Armstead Williams, Gateway (LB, 6-3, 215).
TEXAS TECH – Desimon Green, Clairton (LB-DE, 6-5, 223); Branden Jackson, McKeesport (LB-DE, 6-5, 230).
VIRGINIA – Tim Cwalina, Mt. Lebanon (OL, 6-7, 290).
WESTERN MICHIGAN – Dustin Pringle, Blackhawk (OL, 6-5, 270).
WISCONSIN – Mike Caputo, West Allegheny (DB, 6-2, 220).