National Signing Day 2011: Todd Graham, Pitt Work Around Cool West PA Relations

Dave DeBlasioCorrespondent IJanuary 26, 2011

The initial effect of Dave Wannstedt's ungraceful exit from Pitt football is the chill in relations between WPIAL recruits and the Pitt program.

To new coach Todd Graham's credit, he is not wasting time cultivating local ties. He will have the entire year to do that.

His staff has pursued recruits from all over. The latest four recruits hail from Texas, Washington, D.C., Oklahoma and Ohio.

The running back position became a critical need when Dion Lewis decided to opt for the NFL. Graham responded by landing three hot prospects to play alongside Ray Graham.

Malcolm Crockett from D.C. is the most highly recruited of the three. He is 5'11" and weighs 180 pounds. His interest in Pitt resulted from Michigan's interest in him.

Graham's staff includes Rich Rodriguez's assistants, who were let go when Rodriguez was fired.

Crockett had aroused interest from Michigan, West Virginia, Georgia Tech and North Carolina State.

The fact that new assistant coaches Calvin McGee, Tony Dews and Tony Gibson were employed by Rodriguez at Michigan didn't hurt.

Isaac Bennett from Booker T. Washington in Tulsa visited Pitt this past weekend and committed. He is 5'11" and weighs 190 pounds.

Corey Davis is another running back who visited Pitt this past weekend along with Bennett and committed. He scored 28 touchdowns. He is 5'11" and weighs 180 pounds.

Darius Patton is a small, quick receiver who considered offers from Big Ten and Big East schools before committing to Pitt.

Local recruit Lafayette Pitts has been in the news a lot since Wannstedt's termination. After sticking with Pitt for six weeks, he finally committed to Rutgers. Former Pitt coaches Jeff Hafley and Frank Cignetti, who are now on Greg Schiano's staff at Rutgers, were too much for Pitts to resist.

Entering the recruiting wars in January has been a difficult obstacle for Graham and his staff to overcome.

Pitt's haul will be small with limited contributions on the defensive side. Graham heard good news from Florida when safety Roderick Ryles, 6'1" and 185 pounds, put Pitt in his top four choices.

Ryles had a good visit with the Panthers' staff last weekend. He is also considering West Virginia, Washington State and Central Florida.

Pitt now has 10 recruits. Two have signed letters of intent, and eight are committed but not yet signed.

The two who have signed are Zenel Demhasaj and Khaynin Mosley-Smith.

Pitt is anxious to sign Isaac Bennett, Jeremiah Bryson, Sam Collura, Malcolm Crockett, Corey Davis, Justin Olack, Darius Patton and Artie Rowell.   

Graham's ongoing challenge will be to continue prospecting talent from Oklahoma and Texas while wooing Western PA and New Jersey high school coaches and recruits.

He'll have a good chance of being successful in PA but little chance of keeping the New Jersey pipeline going.