2013 Opponent Recruiting Recap: Pitt Panthers

Pitt Football 2012
September 15, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers director of football operations Bob Junko talks to his team on the sidelines against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The Pittsburgh Panthers won 35-17. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In what will be a huge transition year for the Paul Chryst led squad, the Panthers will join the Atlantic Coast Conference on July 1st.  Pitt joined the Big East in 1982, three years after it was founded, and was one of the charter members when the league expanded to football in 1991. Much like Notre Dame, Syracuse, and eventually Louisville, they have decided that the A.C.C. is a better fit for their athletic programs in regards to monetary compensation, and national exposure.

The University is hoping that the change will help elevate its football program, that has endured an extreme downturn over the last three decades. The Panthers program enjoyed much success under head coaches Johnny Majors and Jackie Sherril in the 70’s and 80’s, as big time players like Dan Marino and Tony Dorsett helped sustain a high level of football excellence. Since the early 80’s though, the program has seen limited success on the gridiron, only securing one invite to a BCS bowl(2004) since its inception in 1998.

Initial Impressions

While many feel that Paul Chryst, a former quarterback and offensive coordinator for Wisconsin, is a good fit for the school, the 2nd year head coach has a long way to go in rebuilding the Panther program. 2012 would see Pittsburgh with a signature win over Virginia Tech, and a tough 3OT loss to Notre Dame in South Bend, but losses to Youngstown State and Connecticut continue to haunt a Panther program which is mired in mediocrity. Chryst did have his team playing better towards the end of the season, but a 38-17 drubbing by Ole Miss in the BBVA Compass bowl, left Panther fans wondering again.

As many Notre Dame fans understand, being patient with a head coach who is trying to rebuild a program, is not the easiest thing to do. As hard as it may be, and as tired as they of hearing it, Panther fans have to allow Chryst to get his  players in there, who fit his scheme and level of expectation. The staff at Pittsburgh did a fine job with their 2013 recruiting efforts, as they nabbed the 35th best class, and landed some key players that should be able to help turn things around sooner rather than later.

Biggest Hits

Dorian Johnson (5* OL) Belle Vernon, PA (6’6 280lb)

By far the biggest recruit of the Panther 2013 class, Johnson was considered one of the top players at his position, both in-state and nationally. A massive man with great flexibility, and a jolting initial blow. The Senior from Belle Vernon High should be a fixture on the Panther line for the next four years.

Other Offers(19 total) Notre Dame, Alabama, Ohio St., Wisconsin

Tyler Boyd (4*WR) Clariton, PA (6’1 168lb)

Another in-state grab for Chryst, Boyd is an athlete that can play wide receiver and running back, and will be utilized as such. He should see the field early as a punt and kick returner, as he possesses deceptively good speed and strong hands.  Boyd can find the open holes in the 2nd level, and is a threat to take it to the house afterwards.

Other Offers(19 total) Notre Dame, Michigan St., Wisconsin, Tennessee

Tra’Von Chapman (4* QB) Kent, OH (6’2 200lb)

A dual-threat QB, with good speed and a better arm. Chapman prefers to be a passer first, but can hurt teams with his legs just as easily. Extremely quick and active in the pocket, Chapman can also be very accurate in leading his receivers.

Other Offers(total) Wisconsin, Arizona, Northwestern, Illinois

Biggest Misses

Robert Foster (4*WR) Signed with Alabama

The Panthers need weapons on offense, and Foster would have been a perfect match with Tyler Boyd catching balls in Heinz Field.

Eddie Vanderdoes (5* DT) Signed with Notre Dame

Did they have a realistic shot at the 5* DT out of CA, probably not, but at least Chryst is attempting to grab kids like this.

Adam Breneman – (4*TE) Signed with Penn State

Another in-state recruit that the Pitt staff would have loved to nab. The Panther program needs difference makers, and the TE out of Camp Hill, PA would have been just that.

Notre Dame and Pitt Recruiting Battles

Notre Dame Pitt
Mike Deeb (LB)
Mike McGlinchey(OL)
James Onwualu(ATH)
Isaac Rochell(DE)
Eddie Vanderdoes(DT)
Malik Zaire(QB)
Dorian Johnson(OL)
Tyler Boyd(WR)

The Panthers are not in a position quite yet where they are realistically trying to attract the same type of athlete that the Irish are going after. Chryst and staff did land 2 of 8 kids Notre Dame and Pitt were both interested in, and both of the kids should help the Panthers immediately

Overall Summary

The Pitt vs. Notre Dame series began in 1909, and Notre Dame currently leads the series 47-20-1, with the Irish winning the last three. The two teams will meet on November 9th in Pittsburgh, but it will be a much different team than the one that pushed the Irish to the edge in 2012. The cupboard isn’t completely bare in Pittsburgh for 2013, as they do return their top two receivers in Shanahan and Street, but lose their top running-back in Ray Graham and starting QB in Tino Sunseri. Sunseri and Graham combined for a total of 4330 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2012, and that folks is tough to replace for any team, and will be one of the biggest challenges the Panthers will face in their 2013 campaign.

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