- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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The speculation began as soon as the vacancies hit.
What would happen to the recruiting classes at Pitt and Rutgers after their head coaches surprisingly bolted? Both schools had amassed quite a bit of four-star talent under Todd Graham and Greg Schiano. It would take a herculean effort to retain everybody in the fold, many pundits said.
Well, consider Paul Chryst and Kyle Flood the Goliaths of the Big East. The two first-year coaches delivered top notch classes on signing day Wednesday, retaining every four-star player who committed under their predecessors while also picking up a few more stellar players along the way.
Rutgers finished in the ESPN Recruiting Nation Top 25, at No. 24 with Flood leading the way. Both the Scarlet Knights and Pitt earned B-minus grades from the ESPN recruiting experts -- the highest grades given out to any Big East team. Stop and consider that first-year coach Rich Rodriguez at Arizona got a C for his class, and Graham got a C-plus for his class at Arizona State.
"There's a group of guys, Pitt was the place for them," Chryst said. "They wanted to be here. They've got a unique bond because of sticking together and going through what they went through. Recruiting is about finding the right fit and they believe that Pitt is the best fit for them. It's exciting. It gives me encouragement that [Pitt] stands on its own."
Just how rare is it for first-year coaches to do well? Aside from Urban Meyer at Ohio State, Flood was the only new coach to have a Top 25 class. And he did it in an incredibly compressed time frame, something that deserves a standing ovation. Schiano left six days before signing day. Flood was named interim head coach and went to work holding his class together. He assured recruits he would be the next head coach at Rutgers, and that gave them a sense of relief.
Flood was hired Monday and formally introduced as Schiano's successor on Tuesday afternoon. Later that night, Rutgers picked up its best commitment of the class -- ESPNU150 defensive end Darius Hamilton, the No. 1 player in the state of New Jersey. Flood lost one committed player to Boston College, but that was minimal when you consider he added one of the best players in the nation.
Rutgers ended up with six four-star players -- double what it got last year.
“It has been a great testament to what I have always believed about recruiting and I think sometimes this gets distorted," Flood said. "If you recruit good people and you deal with them honestly, you can get through any situation. That was what we were able to do with this recruiting class, because at every stage of events from Friday to Monday to Wednesday we were completely open, completely honest and one of the best things that we did was bring (athletic director) Tim Pernetti on the road with us as an assistant coach to show them that.
"We didn’t hide anything. When I said that night that I fully expected to be the head coach at Rutgers they believed me and they stayed with us. When that came true on Monday it just gave more credit to that way of dealing with people. I think if you deal with people like that in recruiting you have a chance to get through anything.”
As for Pitt, Chryst had a much larger time frame with which to work. He was hired in late December, and almost immediately the big-name commitments who gave their word to Graham came out and re-affirmed their pledge to the Panthers. None was bigger than seeing four-star quarterback Chad Voytik and ESPNU150 running back Rushel Shell say they still wanted to go to Pitt.
Chryst did lose several three-star players who had committed under Graham, but he also picked up a huge signature on signing day from four-star linebacker Deaysean Rippy, the No. 12 player in the state of Pennsylvania. That gave Pitt five four-star players in its class. Last year, the Panthers had one.