Pitt

“Mr. High School Sports” – How ‘Bout Dat’ Pitt Recruiting Class?

By Matt Popchock
Tom Nola with Clairton/Pitt recruits

From left to right: Clairton seniors and Pitt football recruits Titus Howard, Tyler Boyd, and Terrish Webb, and Clairton head coach Tom Nola. (Photo Credit: CBS Pittsburgh)

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CLAIRTON (93-7 THE FAN) — It was senior athlete Tyler Boyd who originally got “Bout Dat,” part of a lyric by rapper Gucci Mane, trending on Twitter as the slogan of Clairton High School’s historic football team. If he has his way again, he’ll get “#ACCChamps” trending as well.

Boyd, along with present and future teammates Terrish Webb and Titus Howard, signed their letters of intent to play at Pitt Wednesday morning, officially joining an unprecedented 27-man recruiting class, and ending what Boyd, one of the top skill players in the state, once deemed a period of confusion.

“I’ve been real depressed about it. I didn’t know where I was going since probably about last week,” said Boyd before removing WVU and Tennessee lanyards, and donning the familiar Pitt hat from his verbal commitment at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Jan. 5. “I’m going to stay with my brothers. I think that’s the best thing for me anyway.”

For as long as Tom Nola’s “Killer T’s” wore orange and black, you’d be hard pressed to find the kind of unity that was on display at Neil C. Brown Stadium anywhere else. All three made the postseason all-star teams of both major newspapers as seniors, and the Bears won five consecutive WPIAL titles, four straight PIAA titles, and a state record 63 games in a row–and counting–with them leading one of the greatest high school football dynasties in western PA history.

“I’ve grown up with these guys since first grade. These are the only guys I’ve been playing with since then, and I just think I’m more comfortable staying with them, and dominating at the next level with them,” Boyd added.

“It’s a special day for me, for the whole city of Clairton, and for our team, because they’ve represented our team so well,” said Nola, who affirmed he will return in 2013 to try and prolong that nation-best winning streak. “I’m so glad these seniors stuck together…the whole school looks up to, really, our whole senior class. You guys are going to find out how good all three of them are. In the next couple years, Pitt is going to have three superstars.”

There’s nothing dynastic about these Panthers, who are coming off back-to-back 6-7 seasons, to say nothing of two underwhelming BBVA Compass Bowl losses. Needless to say, however, Boyd knows a winner when he sees one, and, as part of a class that includes four other players from the WPIAL and City League, he believes the “Bout Dat” Bears can make them beast-of-the-east material soon.

“It’s their come-up season. They’ve got a great class coming in, and, with us, we feel we can make it stronger. We can help build something they haven’t been able to build for a long time,” he said.

Webb, an all-state selection, and Howard, the Pennsylvania Football News Class A Defensive Player of the Year, could bolster a secondary that, masked by that eyesore against Ole Miss, actually played well down the stretch in 2012. Fellow WPIAL product Lafayette Pitts (Woodland Hills ’12), after just one year under Chryst’s watch, started regularly and showed he might evolve into one of the top shutdown corners in the ACC, so there is precedent for underclassmen to excel in the Pitt’s growing defense.

They’ll join former Clairton star Trenton Coles, also inked by Chryst last year as a defensive back, and depending upon how smoothly the ACL rehabilitation of young cornerback Jahmahl Pardner goes, it should be interesting to see how closely that trio is scrutinized leading up to the regular season.

Boyd gets his wish, entering the program as a wide receiver, and will compete with, among others, redshirt junior and former Clairton teammate Kevin Weatherspoon for playing time in camp.

Meanwhile, offensively, tight end J.P. Holtz and tailback Rushel Shell were able to make an immediate impact on the team, further enticing Boyd, the consensus district player of the year, whose 117 career touchdowns broke Shell’s WPIAL record.

“All the great players from the WPIAL are starting to help Pitt, and make them stronger, and everybody’s realizing what we’re trying to do,” Boyd said. “So I think, with Shell there, and with us coming, we want to attract the best players from the next class, and try to grow [the program].”

Although, as college prospects, Webb and Howard spent plenty of time standing in Boyd’s voluminous shadow, both made significant contributions to Clairton’s epic run throughout their senior seasons, and made the most of their early experience in the stadium they’ll call home for the next four years.

With the addition of these “Bout Dat” Bears, Pitt solidifies its neighborhood recruiting base, and it gains three proven winners. Specifically, in Boyd, Chryst now has another player in the mold of Shell and/or one-that-got-away Robert Foster–a player around whom, like Shell, he can build an offense.

Based on preliminary discussions with the MaxPreps First-Team “Small School” All-American, look for the Panthers to revolutionize that offense, with Boyd, a centerpiece, doing much of what he did under Nola’s guidance.

So if you missed the opportunity to see him electrify Heinz Field with a 70-plus-yard TD out of the wildcat formation en route to that fifth WPIAL title, don’t lose heart; your next chance may come sooner than you think.

“We just can’t stop playing there, for some reason, I guess,” Boyd said at the conference table with a grin. “We’ve loved playing there and winning, and that’s what I know we’re going to do.”

(Follow me on Twitter @mpopchock.)

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