New linebacker coach Chris Haering is making the transition from long-time high school head football coach at Mt. Lebanon. In the last two seasons, Haering has become familiar with Woodland Hills. In 2010, Woodland Hills eliminated his Blue Devils from postseason play, ending their season. In 2011, Mt. Lebanon turned the tide, eliminating Woodland Hills, and marking the final high school game of Mike Caprara's career.
There's no hard feelings from Caprara's side. In fact, it was that familiarity that led Haering to Caprara and vice-versa. It wasn't too long after Haering jumped on board with Paul Chryst's staff that he offered Caprara. It took even less time for Caprara to accept that offer.
"My junior and senior years, we scrimmaged (Mt. Lebanon) and we always saw each other in the playoffs," Caprara said. "The old coaching staff, Coach Wannstedt and those guys, liked me a lot. Then Coach Graham came in and wrote me off. Once Coach Haering got the job, he knew me right away. He wanted me, so he invited me on an official visit."
That official visit was this past weekend. Caprara still wasn't sure if he was getting an offer at this point. The recruits had dinner at Heinz Field Saturday night with the new coaching staff. In what sounds lilke one swift move, Caprara was offered on the spot, and committed almost immediately.
"Nothing was official, but that Coach Haering and Coach Chryst told me they were offering me," Caprara said. "I felt comfortable committing. How can you turn down that opportunity? It was pretty cool. It was right at Heinz Field. It was perfect timing. You couldn't have asked for anything better."
Caprara racked up 103 tackles this past season at Woodland Hills, where he was a three-year starter at linebacker. He played on the same defense with current Panthers Ejuan Price, Lafayette Pitts and Khaynin Mosley-Smith. Price and Mosley-Smith saw extensive time as true freshmen this past season.
Even though Haering will be his position coach, Caprara says he is not sure if he'll start off his Pitt career playing inside linebacker or outside linebacker. One part of his official weekend Caprara found interesting, was the fact that he and the new coaching staff were still learning their way around things whether it be learning their way around campus, or meeting fellow assistants—including assistants Eddie Faulkner and Matt House—who were added to the staff Friday.
"Coach Huxtable is a really good guy, I'm comfortable with the whole staff," Caprara said. "They all came from different places. A lot of (the players) are all fired up about it. I already had a one-on-one with the defensive coordinator. I can already start breaking down (the defense) and spend my own time sitting in on meetings.
"I'm just comfortable with the atmosphere, everything going on the tours, seeing the whole campus, the Cathedral, it was a good time. The coaches, they even made it better. It was like having desert. Then there's the good education you're going to get too."
As a senior, Caprara was an all-conference selection, a member of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Fabulous 22 and was recently selected to the Big 33 game in Hershey in June. Caprara finished with 103 tackles, four fumble recoveries and an interception.