Q&A with the Guru

All right Pitt fans, it's finally here. A weekly Q&A session with our Pitt Insider Guru Bob Lichtenfels. Do you have questions regarding Pitt athletics, high school players or recruiting that need to be answered? This is the place for you.

To kick off our first session, fellow Insider Willemakit poses 25 questions for the Guru.

Q & A with the Guru:

Wille: Prior to becoming The Insiders "Guru", what was your occupation?

Guru: I worked in Quality Control, and owned and operated my own Disc Jockey Business. I had also coached high school football for 10 years.

Wille: Would you consider yourself an authority on high school recruiting?

Guru: I feel that I am as capable as anyone in the business. I enjoy what I do and I put a lot of time into it.

Wille: How did you become an "authority" on high school players?

Guru: Having played and coached, I have a very good understanding of what it takes to make it at the next level. A big part of coaching is scouting and evaluating your opponents. The work I do here is based on the same concept. I talk to coaches and then view and evaluate tape of prospects.

Everyone looks good on a highlight tape. The one thing that gives me an advantage when it comes to prospects in Pennsylvania is the fact that I go to the camps, combines, scrimmages, and practices. During the football season, every Friday night and Saturday afternoon I dedicate to attending high school football games.

Wille: Prior to becoming a recruiting expert you had coached high school football for 10 years. Does this help you build a better rapport with these student athletes?

Guru: Yes, you have to know what you're talking about. If you don't, the kids will see right through you.

Wille: When interviewing a kid, do you ask certain questions? If so, could you elaborate?

Guru: I ask the basics. Who's looking at them. Do they have any offers. Who are they favoring. Their height, weight, etc. Most of the time that you spend is in establishing a comfort level between yourself and the recruit. Once this level of comfort is attained, you then go about it like a regular conversation. The interview for me has to be as natural as possible. I don't want to feel uncomfortable, and surely don't want the kid to feel uneasy.

Wille: When asking personal questions do you sometimes feel as if you're overstepping your bounds?

Guru: No, if a question is of a personal nature, it's off the record. I don't go for shock value. I ask the basics. If the information is volunteered, then fine.

Wille: Knowing that you work for the Insiders, are most kids exited to be speaking with you?

Guru: It definitely helps to have that name behind you. The Insiders Network is relatively new and only beginning to scratch the surface of its potential.

Wille: In your opinion, do most kids give you an accurate assessment of themselves and/or their abilities?

Guru: Most people don't believe so, but for the most part they do. At times I find it hard to believe that so many kids can run 4.4 forty, bench 300 lbs. or squat 500 lbs. When they go to the combines it all comes out. Overall, I'd say most kids are sincere when telling me this info.

Wille: Please describe your ideal interview.

Guru: For anyone doing an interview it always helps when you have a talkative subject. A lot of kids are very shy when it comes to this type of stuff. It all comes back to the comfort thing. I try to make my interviews as comfortable as possible.

Wille: When speaking to the coach of a prospective recruit, are they responsive to you?

Guru: Oh yes. Most coaches will give you an exact evaluation of their prospective recruit. I think our type of work is more accepted by coaches now than it may have been in the past.

Wille: Do you think your past coaching background helps build a solid rapport with these high school coaches?

Guru: Most definitely. The majority of high school coaches believe in a fraternity so to speak. Since I was part of that fraternity they're usually very comfortable talking about things they may not discuss with someone else.

Wille: Could you possibly give us a few quotes from your best and worst interviews?

Guru: One prospect would only give a one-word answer, that was the most difficult though, I must add, I have not had a bad interview.

Wille: Do any kids stand out over others as far as congeniality?

Guru: Honestly, 99.8% of the kids I talk to are very congenial.

Wille: Who was your most interesting subject?

Guru: 2004 Pittsburgh recruit Tyler Tipton, he is a walking quote machine. A true throwback type kid. He was very fun to interview. I did an interview with Arkansas standout RB Cedric Cobbs for the TFY Draft site. To date, that was my biggest interview. Although going into it I had butterflies, he actually made me feel quite comfortable. We spoke for an hour, like we had been friends for years. He is a great young man.

Wille: In your opinion, will the new NCAA guidelines regarding recruiting have any impact on the University of Pittsburgh?

Guru: Guidelines are straight across the board for everyone. They will affect each school the same.

Wille: As it stands today, through your countless interviews, which high school seniors do the Panthers have an inside track on?

Guru: If I give the answer to that then no one would need too read my articles. Ok, I'll give you one. John Brown, from Burrell High School.

Wille: Which players do the Panthers most covet?

Guru: LB Rico McCoy is a big time player from the District of Columbia. Pittsburgh and many other schools would love to have him. LaRod Stephens is a very special athlete. He does so many things that most high school kids can't do. Obviously a whole slew of lineman, that is the team's biggest weakness right now. At this point in time, Jason Kacinko of Penn Trafford seems too be the #1 target.

Wille: Obviously the offensive line needs to be addressed; do the Panthers have a legitimate chance at landing any of the top Pennsylvania linemen?

Guru: There is a definite wealth of Pennsylvania interior lineman who are capable of playing big time college football. Pitt should land their share.

Penn State has been very successful at recruiting lineman. I don't look for them to take very many this year.

The ACC, Big Ten, and the rest of the Big East are all pursuing a lot of these linemen so it will be a fight for Pitt. I'd say that the Panthers have a good chance with many of them.

Wille: What positions other than the offensive line should we expect to see the Panthers address in 2005?

Guru: If I were to guess I'd say we take twenty-two kids this year. As it stands, here's how I see it: Pitt will take 2-QBs, 2-RBs, 2-TEs, 3-WRs, 5-OL, 3-DL, 2-LBs, 3-DBs. If 2004 recruit Darrell Strong turns out to be a legitimate threat at (QB), they only take one QB in 2005.

Wille: In recent years the Panthers seem to be recruiting more "athletes", do we see a trend developing here?

Guru: Athletes can play any position. In recent years Bryan Knight came here as a WR and left as a DE in the NFL. Kris Wilson was an under sized LB. He's leaving as one of the best tight ends in college football. Dan LeCarte came to Pitt as a LB/TE, he turned into a starting guard. All across the country this happens. Two examples are a couple of my favorite linemen from last year - Iowa OT Robert gallery and Miami's Eric Winston - they were recruited as tight ends. Both are now outstanding tackles.

Wille: What philosophical differences do you see between Curt Cignetti and Bryan Deal regarding recruiting practices at Pitt?

Guru: Both have strengths and weaknesses. Cignetti is doing an outstanding job at NC State. Curt seemed to recruit more in Pennsylvania, which is a practice that Pittsburgh hasn't gotten back to this year. I have always said that any strong team needs to fence in its own backyard before worrying about anyone else.

Deal came to Pittsburgh with a solid coaching resume at the high school level in Ohio. Many Pittsburgh fans think that because of this we have spent too much time recruiting in Ohio. I personally don't think this is the case, at least not now.

Pittsburgh has consistently lost alot of talent from Western and Eastern Pa., when they get that back they will be tough to beat.

Wille: If you were the recruiting coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh, what would you do differently?

Guru: I would start recruiting the best in Pennsylvania a lot sooner then we do now. Justin King is one of the top five kids in the country. He had 10 offers before Pitt ever came forward with one. Michigan was at his school seven times to Pitt being there once. This to me, is a travesty.

If you have the attitude that a kid doesn't want to come here, that's the attitude the kid will have. These kids want to feel wanted. At times we have witnessed that no matter how much love you show a kid he's still going to leave. Morelli, Reed, and Johnson are prime examples.

My opinion is that if you have a solid program that is going to compete on a national level, the kids will want to come here. Last year's Miami game is a great example. This game attracted forty of the country's top recruits. If we win that game we are in the BCS and a big time Bowl game.

The program needs to get over the hump.

Wille: What's it going to take for Pitt to be able to compete on a National level for "Big Time" prospects?

Guru: Pitt does compete for the "Big Time" prospects, they've just not been able to close the deal with several of them. The program needs a recruiting closer, bottom line.

Wille: Will this happen in our lifetimes?

Guru: They have the facilities and reputation. With a solid closer to finish the deal, it will happen.

Wille: In closing, I'd like to thank you for your time. I do however have one more question. How do you like working for the Insiders network?

Guru: You're quite welcome. I like working for the Insiders. This is the Network that gave me my start. I am very thankful for this. Also, I get to meet so many great people, the kids, their parents, the coaches, and fans.

All comments will be posted in next week's column. If you have a question or comments send them to willemakit72064@netzero.com . We will attempt to answer all of them. Thank You

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