It’s called “Silly Season” for a reason.
And I’ve seen and heard quite a bit in my time from last-minute commitments to recruits changing their minds between rivals to a recruit’s mother leaving the kid’s high school with his signed letter of intent so he couldn’t send it. (Yes, that really happened.)
But college football recruiting in our backyard has become a lot more interesting. Blue-chip recruits in Pittsburgh are making their commitment announcements on local TV instead of ESPNU or at a nationally-televised all-star game.
The two in-state Power Five schools have legitimately turned the perennially-fertile patch of prospects into a hostile battleground again. And the hostility is escalating up from the fans to the coaching staffs.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This isn’t the golden age of recruiting for Pitt, Penn State or even West Virginia.
This isn’t top quarterback prospect Anthony Morelli de-committing from Pitt to choose Penn State.
This isn’t Pitt’s outstanding run of mining eventual NFL talent like Antonio Bryant, Gerald Hayes, Larry Fitzgerald, Darrelle Revis, LeSean McCoy et al in the previous decade.
This isn’t West Virginia landing a City League legend in Major Harris in the 80s, who eventually brought the Mountaineers to the brink of a national championship with a separated shoulder.
But it’s a step forward.
It’s hard to say in which direction the needle is moving between east and west on which team is dominating the state so far. Penn State got the top player in the state and the nation’s no. 1 running back in Miles Sanders of Woodland Hills, while Pitt has countered with four-star Central Catholic defensive back Damar Hamlin.
Clairton’s Aaron Matthews is the latest in the commonwealth’s recruiting saga to switch sides, going from Penn State to Pitt. (It’s like the old saying goes: there’s no honor among thieves and college football coaches, right?)
Pitt has reeled in more of western Pennsylvania’s finest, yet Penn State’s class is ranked higher nationally.
West Virginia has gone the Branch Rickey route, bringing in a broad swath of recruits (including three junior college commitments in the last three days and nine early signings) and expecting the cream to eventually rise to the top.
These are all intriguing developments, but there’s only one thing missing: which program will bring in the next top-flight quarterback? That seems to be the one constant noticeably lacking across the board, and in modern college football the programs that reach the upper crust never lack for an elite quarterback.
Three different programs are taking three different approaches to re-load talent. Who will get to the top first? We’ll climb the first rung on the ladder on September 10 at Heinz Field, and it’s still a long way to climb.
But you gotta admit, it’s a step forward.