Posted: 6:25 p.m. Friday, Dec. 20, 2013
Earlier this week it was Montae Nicholson. Today, Shai McKenzie.
For the second time in the last few days, a local high school star spurned the Panthers to head out of state. Things started off well this week with the news that Alex Bookser was headed here, but that enthusiasm was pretty short lived.
McKenzie, as we know, as been on Pitt's radar for some time now. The Panthers survived his early cuts, and then got into his top five. Things, though, started to awry when McKenzie declared Virginia Tech was his favorite back in August. He recently visited Pitt, but that wasn't enough to sway his decision.
Look, I'm not going to sugarcoat this. Losing local stars in a fertile recruiting ground isn't ideal and if the question is if Pitt needs to get better at landing some of these kids, the answer is a resounding 'yes.' Still, as I recently suggested in the comments section of another post, head coach Paul Chryst hasn't completely struck out locally, landing some highly touted kids like Dorian Johnson, Adam Bisnowaty, Tyler Boyd, Michael Grimm, and the aforementioned Bookser. And as I wrote earlier, to expect Pitt to get every major recruit when the Panthers have fielded three straight 6-6 seasons is wholly unrealistic. It'd be one thing if they didn't have other major offers, but in the case of some, they can pretty much write their own ticket as to where they want to go.
The other thing to remember in all of this is that the running back situation isn't all that bad right now. Pitt returns all three of their primary backs from last season and while they had their ups and downs, Chryst also landed two quality backs, including Qadree Ollison and four-star recruit Chris James. As I wrote last week, playing time is already going to be tough to come by and more competition should equate to guys playing as hard as they possibly can to earn time.
Still, I get the disappointment - particularly over a kid that Pitt has chased so much the past couple of years. It's fair to question the recruiting efforts of the staff and losing so many key local players is frustrating. But the way to start landing more of them is to win more games on the field to convince them the program has a bright future.
And that's Chryst's job.