Pitt has found a new recruiting source in New Jersey after not traditionally having much success in that state.
Four of its nine 2011 verbal commitments, including stars Bill Belton, Marquise Wright, and Gary Nova, have come from the state. Nine of its 44 signed players in 2009 and 2010 hailed from the Garden State as well. In the five previous years from 2004-2008, the school landed only four New Jersey players in all -- most notably, Oderick Turner, who was a solid but unspectacular wide receiver for the Panthers.
Secondary coach and Montvale, New Jersey native Jeff Hafley has led the way, recruiting each of those nine 2009 and 2010 New Jersey signees.
What's most surprising is the quality of players the school has gotten from that state. Last year, Dion Lewis stepped in and was one of the top running backs in all of college football as a true freshman. His backup, Ray Graham, was also from New Jersey and proved he could likely start for many D-I programs. This year's recruits have obviously not yet played a down of college football, but several are ranked highly by the major scouting services. Five-star recruit T.J. Clemmings rated as one of the top defensive ends in the country, and four-star recruit, Bryan Murphy, are part of the highlights of this year's class. Both are from New Jersey.
Many have attributed Pitt's recent success in the state to Joe Paterno's apparent declining health. Some point to that as a contributing factor to Penn State potentially losing its foothold in that state. That may be part of it, but Pitt's recent success likely hasn't hurt the cause, either. The team won ten games last season, and 19 over the past two.
The recruiting success hasn't been limited to football, either. Head coach Jamie Dixon and the basketball team have landed three of its twelve recruits from the state in the past three seasons - the most of any state including its own, Pennsylvania. In the five seasons before that, the school had signed only one player from New Jersey, Tyrell Biggs.
The school has a way to go to become a consistent, dominant recruiting force in that area, but is making good strides towards that goal.