For my first real post, not the self-indulgent one from Wednesday, here on Red Shirt Diaries (the name of this blog that’s been around for a while, but I like it, so no reason to change it -- I think I’ve been told Paul Zeise came up with it), I have an either-or to consider.
It has nothing to do with bowl games or James Conner or anything to do with this season at all, and it’s a hypothetical that falls between worst-case and best-case scenarios (I know, right, who wants to traffic in realistic gray areas such as that?)
Many Pitt football followers have been on #zairewatch since Tuesday, when it was reported that Notre Dame quarterback and former Pitt recruiting target Malik Zaire will be an immediately eligible graduate transfer. Not only that, but Pitt was listed as one of four schools immediately in the mix for his services.
Then again, plenty of those same Pitt football followers have been on #wadewatch for long, long time -- that, of course, being Clairton star senior Lamont Wade, the blue-chip cornerback recruit who does whatever he wants against WPIAL competition.
So I ask you this, a simple question that could potentially have a complex answer: If Pitt can only end up with one of those two players next year, Malik Zaire or Lamont Wade, who should be the preferred choice?
I know, I know, the obvious retort here is like that one taco commercial:
Obviously, most any team would want both, and that may well go down for Pitt. But this is my hypothetical, and I say if that can’t happen, who’s the pick?
Personally, I’d lean toward Wade -- for both production and perception. The secondary has undeniably been the weakest part of Pitt’s team this season, and Wade could start at corner from Day 1. And from what I’ve seen of him a few times in person, he could even do some Jordan Whitehead-type stuff on offense, too. And from a perception standpoint, getting Wade would mean beating out Penn State in a high-stakes recruiting battle. That would be a nice look for Pitt, as would getting the top player in the WPIAL in the 2017 class from a Pitt pipeline like Clairton (not to mention you get him for at least three years).
But Zaire, well, he plays what most consider to be the most important position on the field and has already had some fine moments in his college career before being injured early last season (then falling behind/getting Wally Pipp’d by DeShone Kizer). And wouldn’t it be nice to replace Nate Peterman with a guy who could keep this offense great again? Pitt’s dynamic attack under Matt Canada has been the talk of the town lately, and one would assume Zaire an upgrade over potential starting QBs next season Thomas MacVittie (current redshirting freshman) and Bo Schneider (currently redshirting UCF transfer).
The Zaire story has already been a bit of a “saga” as he was initially restricted from leaving Notre Dame for any team the Irish play next season, but now apparently has no restrictions. So surely, there will be plenty of coaches vying for him, but his one-time Pitt connections can’t be ignored. He considered the Panthers strongly when Paul Chryst was in town, and also considered Wisconsin when Canada was offensive coordinator there in 2012.
Wade is set to announce Saturday, Dec. 17th, and many believe it will be Pitt or Penn State.
It’s entirely possible Pitt gets both; it’s entirely possible Pitt gets neither. Just some food for thought. I’ll put a poll up on my Twitter @BrianBatko if anyone wants to vote on this.
Most fascinating of all is that Miami Heat Chicago Bulls star Dwyane Wade has a son named Zaire Wade, who I presume would become a huge Pitt football fan if this all goes down.