The top-line takeaway from Wednesday’s National Signing Day around the WPIAL is that it wasn’t a great year for the once-proud conference.
Just eight players from the district signed scholarship offers with Power Five conferences, the lowest total since the existence of the designation.
But of course, the number of players that singed with Power Five conferences is just part of the story, and the whole picture isn’t quite as clear.
For starters, it seems like there’s still a good amount of talent. According to 247 Sports’ composite rating, there were two WPIAL players (Pine-Richland tackle Andrew Kristofic and North Allegheny cornerback Joey Porter, Jr.) that were consensus four-star talents. That’s the same total as 2018, 2016 and 2015.
There were 14 players that were rated as consensus three-star talents, one more than the 13 that were rated as such in 2018 and 2017. There were 12 local three-star players in 2016 and just 11 in 2015.
The number of total total rated players was slightly down, but most of that difference was made up by fewer two-star players this season.
But how does that explain the low number of Power Five signees?
In order to figure that out, I broke down every local signing since 2015 to figure out how 2019 was different from the trend.
Two big things jumped out. The first, was that way fewer two-star players committed to Group of Five schools this year. The second, was the number of three-star players that committed to Group of Five teams instead of Power Five teams.
Here’s the 2015-18 average, with the 2019 class overlaid, which really highlights how this year’s class was different.
The thing is, that trend in particular — with the three-star players leaning toward Group of Five teams — easily could have been reversed. Penn Hills wide receiver Corey Thomas (Akron) had an Indiana offer. Latrobe center Trent Holler (East Carolina) had offers to Pitt and West Virginia. Imani wide receiver Rahmon Hart, Jr. had an Iowa State offer. Washington safety Daniel Walker (Delaware) had an Louisville offer. Norwin safety Jayvon Thrift had several Power Five offers, but eventually walked on a West Virginia.
If even a few of those players had accepted their Power Five offers, it would have looked like a fairly typical WPIAL class.
Was it an issue of some of the WPIAL’s more talented players eschewing Power Five offers for what they perceived to be better opportunities with Group of Five teams?
Did some schools change their evaluations of players as the class went on and change their mind after initial offers?
Or is there another reason that so many local players in this class chose to go the Group of Five route?
It’s certainly something to continue looking into, so consider this Part One of the story.