Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt believes this trend, early commitments with some schools filling an entire class before camp begins in the summer, has helped level the playing field with mid-major football programs.
"We've never been in that situation, but I know that when you look around the country (to schools) like Notre Dame, Texas, there's probably a dozen schools out there who are done recruiting in June,'' Wannstedt said.
"We're getting closer to that. We're just about done now, but I'm sure that in all states all around the country (early verbals) have given a lot of players an opportunity who normally, maybe, wouldn't have gotten it.''
Pitt also has done pretty well with its final few commitments the past couple seasons. Quarterback Kolby Gray, cornerback Jason Hendricks, defensive end Bernardo Nunez, middle linebackers Dan Mason and Shane Gordon and offensive tackle Ryan Schlieper all committed after the New Year, 2009.
Tight end Mike Cruz, defensive end Shayne Hale, tight end Justin Virbitsky, middle linebacker Joe Trebitz and defensive backs Jarred Holley and Andrew Taglianetti did the same thing in 2008. Tailback LeSean McCoy and defensive end Jabaal Sheard were late commitments in 2007.
Wannstedt believed there were several factors like overall scholarship limits (85 total, 25 per year), changes with the way that high school players can become qualified and junior-college rules, to mention a few that helped Mid-American Conference schools, Utah and Boise State to enhance their rosters.
"When you combine all those things,'' Wannstedt said, "it's really put the MAC schools -- and the better MAC schools like Buffalo -- in a position ... right now, we've got 18 commitments, and we're just about full for next year. But there's still a lot of good football players who we have on our board in there.
"So, all of a sudden, a kid puts on 25 pounds, gets a little faster and matures a little bit, and we don't have a scholarship to offer him. And the MAC schools have really taken advantage of that. I think, when you look week in and week out, the competition-level gap has really closed. And it's not like it was 10 years ago. That's for sure.''
That's why MAC schools have secured some key home games in recent years, and it can be a tough assignment to go there.
Fortunately for the Panthers, they survived the latest trip and can move on to facing Navy Saturday at 6 p.m. at Heinz Field.
Wannstedt's Recruiting Thoughts
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