PITTSBURGH PA - JANUARY 11: The new University of Pittsburgh head football coach Todd Graham speaks to the media during a press conference at the University of Pittsburgh Panthers South Side training facility on January 11 2011 in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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With Pitt's recruiting class signed, it's time to take a look back at the job done by new head coach Todd Graham.
Graham, if you don't recall, didn't have a whole lot in the cupboard when he came to Pitt. There were a total of six recruits still committed to the program and the future for this year's class wasn't particularly bright. I had essentially written off 2011 as a rebuilding year and was unsure how many recruits Pitt could still land this late in the game.
But Graham had a plan.
He started by hiring some talented recruiters around him. Picking up assistant coaches Calvin Magee, Tony Gibson, and Tony Dews from Rich Rodriguez' staff at Michigan was a great start and securing Paul Randolph from Alabama (who was previously a top 25 recruiter according to Rivals) was another great move. Graham and his staff were on the go essentially from the minute he was hired.
Once Graham's staff was put together, he made another wise move. Supporters of Penn State defensive coordiantor Tom Bradley often pointed out Bradley's excellent relationships with high school coaches as a reason Pitt should have hired him. Graham was viewed as an outsider who wasn't very familiar with the territory, despite previously coaching at West Virginia. So when he began reaching out to local high school coaches the same day he was hired, he did the right thing.
Then there was the type of players Pitt was able to get. With roughly 15 open spots left in its class and only a few weeks away from National Signing Day, it was unrealistic to expect Pitt to land a significant amount of elite talent. Most big-name players were already committed at that point and to get recruits who already had their plans solidified wasn't likely. Still, Graham was able to land some quality talent late in the game.
Perhaps leading the way was four-star DB Lafayette Pitts out of Woodland Hills. Despite the fact that he decommitted from Pitt and was planning to head to Rutgers, Graham worked hard and brought him back in the fold. Graham also secured a signing from four-star Nicholas Grigsby, the 16th rated OLB in the nation and several other highly-touted players such as RB Malcolm Crockett, LB LaQuentin Smith, DB Lloyd Carrington, WR Darius Patton, and DB Roderick Ryles chose Pitt over quality programs including Michigan, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Oklahoma State, Utah, Tennessee, Michigan State, and West Virginia.
Sure, it wasn't all roses for Graham. Other than Pitts, he was unable to land the other big recruits he was chasing, including Delvon Simmons, Desimon Green, Michael Eubank, Branden Jackson, and Ejuan Price. Pitt's class would have been boosted significantly with the addition of even one or two of those players, but Graham couldn't close the deal. But considering the little amount of time he had, Graham was already behind through no fault of his own.
So how did Graham do? His class ranks around 50th in the nation by Scout (a jump of about 30 spots since he came to Pitt), and I'd give him a B or B+. He wasn't able to land many big-time players, but under the circumstances, Pitt fans should be excited to see what he can do in 2012.