Should high-level high school football players stay nearer to their hometown when it comes to college football or are they better off pursuing the best possible option, no matter where it lies?
That is an age-old debate in recruiting circles, particularly in Pittsburgh, where talented players from Western Pa. helped build championship caliber teams at Pitt in the 1970s and early 1980s but have not had the same level of impact since then.
This depatable topic has received more ammunition lately with former Aliquippa safety Kwantel Raines leaving West Virginia and with Monday’s news that former Pine-Richland quarterback Phil Jurkovec is transferring from Notre Dame.
It’s easy to play arm-chair quarterback and voice an opinion on whether that player made the right or wrong choice, particularly with the benefit of hindsight. Only that player and his family really know what the main factors were that went into his decision at the time, and right or wrong, it’s their decision to make.
However, with so many players around the country deciding to transfer, we’re going to go back over the last 10 recruiting classes and list some highly rated WPIAL stars with multiple Power Five offers that chose not to stay home and show you where they went and how it worked out.
CLASS OF 2009
Dorian Bell, 5-Star OLB, Gateway, committed to Ohio State.
Corey Brown, 5-Star CB, Gateway, committed to Ohio State.
Jordan Hall, 4-Star RB, Jeannette, committed to Ohio State.
EJ Banks, 3-Star Athlete, Montour, committed to Notre Dame.
CLASS OF 2010
Paul Jones, 4-Star QB, Sto-Rox, committed to Penn State.
Tom Ricketts, 4-Star OT, North Allegheny, committed to Penn State.
Miles Dieffenbach, 4-Star OL, Fox Chapel, committed to Penn State.
Ken Wilkins, 4-Star DE, Trinity, committed to Michigan.
Jordan Paskorz, 4-Star DE, Hampton, committed to Michigan.
Mike Hull, 4-Star LB, Canon McMillan, committed to Penn State
Cullen Christian, 4-Star CB, Penn Hills, committed to Michigan.
CLASS OF 2011
Delvon Simmons, 4-Star DT, McKeesport, committed to Texas Tech
Desimon Green, 3-Star DE, Clairton, committed to Texas Tech
Branden Jackson, 3-Star DE, McKeesport, committed to Texas Tech
Ejuan Price, 3-Star LB, Woodland Hills, committed to Ohio State
Dondi Kirby, 4-Star S, Gateway, Committed to Illinois
Mike Caputo, 3-Star S, West Allegheny, Committed to Wisconsin
CLASS OF 2012
Demetrious Cox, 4-Star S, Jeannette, Committed to Michigan State
CLASS OF 2013
Chavas Rawlins, 3-Star QB, Monessen, Committed to West Virginia
Robert Foster, 4-Star WR, Central Valley, Committed to Alabama
Patrick Kugler, 4-Star OG, North Allegheny, Committed to Michigan
CLASS OF 2014
Shai McKenzie, 4-Star RB, Washington, Committed to Virginia Tech
Montae Nicholson, 4-Star S, Gateway, Committed to Michigan State
Dravon Askew-Henry, 4-Star S, Aliquippa, Committed to West Virginia
Malik Hooker, 3-Star S, New Castle, Committed to Ohio State
Chase Winovich, 4-Star OLB, Thomas Jefferson, Committed to Michigan
CLASS OF 2015
Sterling Jenkins, 3-Star OT, Baldwin, Committed to Penn State
John Petrishen, 3-Star S, Central Catholic, Committed to Penn State
CLASS OF 2016
Miles Sanders, 4-Star RB, Woodland Hills, Committed to Penn State
Khaleke Hudson, 3-Star S, McKeesport, Committed to Michigan
CLASS OF 2017
Josh Lugg, 4-Star OT, North Allegheny, Committed to Notre Dame
C.J. Thorpe, 4-Star OG, Central Catholic, Committed to Penn State
Donovan Jeter, 4-Star DT, Beaver Falls, Committed to Michigan
Kenny Robinson, 3-Star DB, Imani Christian, Committed to West Virginia
Lamont Wade, 5-Star DB, Clairton, Committed to Penn State
Kurt Hinish, 3-Star DT, Central Catholic, Committed to Notre Dame
David Adams, 4-Star LB, Central Catholic, Commited to Notre Dame
CLASS OF 2018
Phil Jurkovec, 4-Star QB, Pine-Richland, Committed to Notre Dame
Kwantel Raines, 4-Star S, Aliquippa, Committed to West Virginia
CLASS OF 2019
Andrew Kristofic, 4-Star OT, Pine-Richland, Committed to Notre Dame
Joey Porter, 4-Star CB, North Allegheny, Committed to Penn State
M.J. Devonshire, 4-Star CB, Aliquippa, Committed to Kentucky
SUMMARY: Leaving home and going to major programs ended up working well for guys like Hull, Nicholson, Hooker, Winovich, Sanders and Hudson. They played for big-time collegiate programs and went on to careers in the NFL.
Others got at least most of what they were looking for, with Foster winning two national championships at Alabama and moving on to an NFL career despite never being a star player in college.
The same can’t be said for all. Bell, Jones, Ricketts, Price, McKenzie, Jenkins, Petrishen, Raines and Jurkovec all transferred, with several coming back to Pittsburgh.
The only thing that’s definitely true is that there really isn’t a right or wrong answer to this much discussed topic. Cases can be made either way and what really matters are the individual priorities of each player. Do they want a shot at national championship? Maximize their NFL potential? Become a star in their hometown? In the end, success looks different for different people.