Thursday, January 22, 2015

Panthers land a top LB

The new Panthers staff has had three good additions on defense thus far, one for each unit. The latest is 6'2" 195 pound linebacker Anthony McKee of Marion-Franklin HS in Columbus, OH. Obviously McKee is small for a linebacker so he will need to add a lot of weight in college, but he's also very fast with great range. His other offers included Oklahoma, Michigan State, Arkansas, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Panthers add two on defense

The commitments are starting to pour in for the new Panthers staff today. First, Coatesville (PA) HS safety Jay Stocker gave Pat Narduzzi his commitment. The 6'2" 185 pound Stocker needs to add size, but he has excellent range and he can really hit. He is a perfect fit in Narduzzi's defense which values coverage ability and toughness in his safeties. Stocker chose Pitt over, among others, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Georgia Tech, Duke, Maryland, Virginia, Boston College, Illinois, Indiana, Purdue, and Cincinnati.

Not long after Stocker's commitment, Narduzzi followed up by adding Shawn Curtis of Ronald Reagan Doral HS in Miami, FL. The 6'3" 250 pound Curtis will most likely play defensive end. His other offers include Wisconsin, Duke, Mississippi State, Illinois, and UCF.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Who the new Pitt staff is looking out

This is obviously a very fluid list, but here is who the new Pitt staff is showing interest in for this class and beyond so far.

Quarterback: With Alex Hornibrook de-committed, the Panthers are in pursuit of at least one quarterback. I suspect that offensive coordinator Jim Chaney will go all out for a big time quarterback  in '16, but for now he's trying to add depth with somebody that also has a chance to develop into a possible starter down the road. The Quad A state player of the year Ben DiNucci is the player that many have wondered about for months. He's 6'3" so he's big enough, he has amazing accuracy and touch, and he's been unbelievably productive against some of the best talent in high school. Offensive coordinate Jim Chaney worked him out yesterday and then offered him. Even though he is committed to Penn he will visit the Panthers soon. Other than DiNucci, no other quarterbacks have been made public yet but it's safe to say that Chaney is looking at others.

Running Back: The unit is pretty loaded right now so it's not surprising that the staff hasn't been looking at anybody- at least that we know of. In the '16 class, I suspect the staff will try for a big timer. Those kinds of running backs want to start right away and Pitt could sell them on taking over for James Conner, who presumably will go to the NFL after next year. Of course Chris James and Darrin Hall are still on the roster but they won't be returning starters so a new running back can be convinced that he can start right away.

As for '16, one of the first players that Narduzzi followed on Twitter was Woodland Hills star Miles Sanders, but Sanders seems to be obsessed with Penn State, who he committed to many months ago. But the Nittany Lions are loading up on elite running backs, so you never know if he may want to look around. His high school teammate, Jo-El Shaw, was offered by the previous staff, and I'm guessing that he will be offered by the new staff, too. He's already built like an NFL player and could be a very good addition. Aliquippa's Kaezon Pugh is a big time talent and I personally always thought that he would end up at Pitt. With the new staff I am even more confident of it. He could also project as a linebacker  so it will be interesting to see which way he goes.

Wide Receiver: Adonis Jennings recently transferred and outside of Tyler Boyd, who will probably go the the NFL after next season, there are a lot of question marks. The Panthers recently offered 6'3" 215 pound Tavin Richardson of South Carolina, and are interested in 6'1" 175 pound Dallas native Kedarian Jones. Neither are speed demons but Richardson has great size and Jones catches everything in sight, many of them in an acrobatic fashion. Today the Panthers offered Florida Atlantic commit Jawuan Harris, who at 5'10" and 185 pounds is a slot receiver.

In 2016 the staff will need to add a big time wide receivers class, and that may include Clairton big receiver Aaron Matthews. I'd be very surprised of the Panthers don't eventually land him. CJ Riley of Florida is another 6'4" receiver that the Panthers will target.

Tight End: As long as Nate Bowers stays with his Pitt commitment the unit will be good for the foreseeable future, but expect the staff to try to add another big timer in '16 even if Bowers sticks. If he doesn't stick then it will obviously be much more important. Look for Woodland Hills TE Stephen Puhl to be a big target in '16.

Offensive Line: This is a pretty loaded unit for the staff at the moment, so much so that the new staff turned their back on former recruit Rob Dowdy, who has major offers. New offensive line coach John Peterson started following local prospect Tyler Hudanick, even though he recently committed to Central Florida. Hudanick is a mauler who I've also liked so we will see if Pitt tries a late steal with him.

In 2016, local Brandon Ford should be a target and in 2017 Josh Lugg of North Allegheny and Robert Hainsey of Gateway will be huge targets. Narduzzi already follows Lugg and Hainsey on twitter.

Defensive Line: Showing that the new staff gets it, this is one of the more suspect units on the team and they are hitting it hard in recruiting. Philadelphia defensive end Shareef Miller is the big prize this year and the Panthers have to battle Penn State, Arizona State, and Florida to get him. He visited under the previous staff, and he loved Pitt, but he tends to love everywhere he goes so it's hard to tell exactly where Pitt stands. He also said great things about the new staff and has met new defensive line coach Tom Sims, who he really likes, and today he is scheduled to meet Narduzzi.

Purdue commit Eddy Wilson was recruited to the Boilermakers by new Pitt WR coach Kevin Sherman so a switch to the Panthers may be in the cards. At 6'4" and 265 pounds, the tackle is very quick and aggressive. So is Florida native Brian Bembry, who new defensive coordinator Josh Conklin was recruiting at FIU. He has not committed to anybody and will visit Pittsburgh soon.

The staff will also check out big Aliquippa defensive tackle Arrington Gipson, who at 6'3" and 300 pounds certainly has the size. Florida native Shawn Curtis has good size at 6'3" and 250 pounds, and he recently visited the Panthers. He was recruited previously by both the past Pitt staff and Conklin and Hardy at FIU. He is being recruited as an end.

In 2016, the Panthers will be all over two elite national recruits in 6'4" 240 pound Khalid Kareem, and 6'1" 250 pound Malik Barrow. Kareem is from Michigan and he recently visited Pittsburgh. The Pitt staff wants him very much. The same goes with the Florida native, Barrow. Expect the staff to go all out on both.

Inside the state, 6'4" 250 pound Philadelphia end Karamo Dioubate will be a national recruit and while the new staff hasn't been connected to him yet, consider it a sure thing that they will go after him hard.

At tackle, 6'3" 280 pound Ohio native Jake Saunders already holds a new offer from the Pitt staff and his aggressiveness falls in line with what Narduzzi is clearly looking for.

Linebacker: This is another unit that needs an influx of top talent, and luckily for the Panthers I see new LB coach Rob Harley as a potential ace recruiter. The unit can get better in a real hurry if they can land 6'2" 200 pound Ohio native Anthony McKee, and 6'2" 205 pound New Jersey native Salem Brightwell. Both will be hard gets because the competition is tough, and both may beed a year to get bigger and stronger, but both also have a lot of potential because they can fly. Another offer just today went out to 6'2" 205 pound Florida linebacker Adrienne Talan who originally committed to Oregon State, but opened up his recruitment again after Mike Riley went to Nebraska.

In 2016, expect Harley to try for the best linebackers he can get. Kentucky commit Roland Walder is somebody that Pitt may try to flip. Ohio linebacker Griffin Grady is only 6'2" and 200 pounds but he's a tough football player. The previous staff offered him but the new staff appears to be interested, too.

Defensive Backs: The new staff is adding to this unit a lot since the new defense will require a special kind of cornerback. One of the better ones the new staff has gotten involved with is 6'1" 185 pound Florida cornerback Kenyatta Anderson. He has the size, speed, and tenacity to fit in very well in Narduzzi's defense. Another Florida corner, Trenard Davis, also has good athleticism and 6'0" 190 pound size.

At safety, PA stars Jay Stocker and Johnny Petrishen have been involved with Pitt all year, and the new staff has continued to put the full court press on both. If the Panthers can land both, that would be huge for the position. Syracuse commit Marquise Blair is somebody that the staff appears to be trying to flip.

Two locals, cornerback Damar Hamlin, and safety Khaleke Hudson, will be major Panther targets in 2016, and of course in 2017 there is cornerback Lamont Wade and safety Paris Ford. With Conklin coaching safeties, former longtime NFL cornerback Renaldo Hill coaching the corners, and Narduzzi a defensive backs master, this unit has the potential to be amazing if they simply keep the locals at home.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Pitt coaching staff (Updated 1-20)

I will update this as more names come out.

Jim Chaney, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks- Pat Narduzzi pulled off a coup by stealing the offensive mind behind the Arkansas Razorbacks. The 53-year old Missouri native was first an offensive coordinator at Purdue under Joe Tiller from 1997-2005. He and Tiller developed one of the first widely used spread offenses at a major college program. After a three years with the St. Luis Rams he became the offensive coordinator for the University of Tennessee. He was hired by Lane Kiffin but stayed on under Derek Dooley after Kiffin left for USC. There he helped Tyler Bray break school records. It was here that Chaney incorporated an offense that was more of a Pro Style, but also was very explosive. After four years at Tennessee, Chaney moved on to Arkansas where he was for the last two years. There it was believed that his style clashed with head coach Bret Bielema who wanted his offense more run heavy. Chaney wanted to blend a high powered passing attack with an excellent running game. Chaney is also an excellent recruiter, especially of quarterbacks.

Andre Powell, Running Backs/Special Teams- As of now, all we know is that he has been hired as the special teams coach, but he's also been a successful running back coach for many years, almost all of them in the ACC. He's coming from Maryland, but before that he did stints at Clemson, North Carolina, and Virginia so he's been in the ACC every year since 1997, except for last season with Maryland. As a running back coach he's coached CJ Spiller, Thomas Jones, and Tiki Barber, so that's pretty impressive. As a special teams coach he led Maryland to a No. 6 special teams ranking nationally this past year. He also recruited Maryland's top return man, as well as star cornerback, Will Likely, who came from recruiting hotbed Belle Glade, FL. To get Likely Powell had to beat out Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Miami, LSU, USC, and Oregon to name just a few. In the last nine years he has landed six 4-star recruits. Besides Likely, that also includes former Clemson star WR DeAndre Hopkins. As a player at Indiana he was the fullback for legendary running back Anthony Thompson. He's 48-years old.

John Peterson, Offensive Line- Came from Akron where he was the offensive line coach and assistant head coach under Terry Bowden. Petersen is in his mid-40s and graduated from Ohio State. It's there where he was the tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator for Jim Tressel from 2004-2011. That, plus the fact that he's an Ohio native should help the Panthers land some quality Ohio kids from time to time. Prior to his one season at Akron, Peterson spent two years coaching the offensive line at UAB.

Kevin Sherman, Wide Receivers- The 46-year old Virginia native comes from Purdue where he coached the last two years. Prior to that, he was at Virginia Tech for seven years. The combination of experience and Virginia recruiting ties appears to make it a good fit.

Tim Salem, Tight Ends- Another longtime veteran, the Minnesota native is most known for being the quarterbacks coach at Ohio State under John Cooper, as well as the offensive coordinator at Central Florida. Most recently he spent two years at Illinois where he coached the running backs and special teams. While he's coached quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers in his career, he's also coached tight ends during his last three years at Central Florida. He's not known as being a productive recruiter, but when somebody with this pedigree is your tight end coach, then you have a really good staff.

Josh Conklin, Defensive Coordinator, Safeties- The 35-year old Wyoming native is considered one of the best young minds in college football. He actually sought Narduzzi out when he became the defensive coordinator at Florida International because he wanted to emulate Narduzzi's style. Now he has the chance to learn from the master. Last season at Florida International he led the Golden Panthers to a No. 35 total defense ranking after being No. 94 the previous year. His aggressive style also helped FIU to be No. 4 in the country in takeaways. Many big time programs wanted him this year but when you have one of, if not the best, defensive mind in college football as the head coach, the top guys want to learn from him. A big time coup for Pitt.

Tom Sims, Defensive Line- The former Panthers defensive tackle returns home after spending the last four years at Youngstown State as the defensive line coach as well as the assistant head coach. before that he coached at Kansas, Illinois, and Minnesota. He's very gregarious and charismatic, which should help him on the recruiting trail. He also played seven years in the NFL, which also helps.

Rob Harley, Linebackers- The former Ohio State safety has only been a major college assistant for one year, and that was this past season at Florida International. Prior to that he was a graduate assistant for two years under Mark Dantonio at Michigan State. He's pretty young, around 32 or so, but like Conklin he's already considered one of the better young assistants in the country. Also, like Conklin, you'd expect that he picked up some south Florida recruiting connections in his short stay.

Renaldo Hill, Cornerbacks- The 36-year old Detroit native played cornerback at Michigan State before Narduzzi was there, but after being taken in the 7th round of the NFL draft he played 10 years in the league, and started most of the games he played (114 of 141). He has only been a coach for two years, both at Wyoming, but his youth, Michigan connections, and vast pro experience makes him an ideal choice.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Thoughts for 2015

This past weekend was horrible for Pittsburgh sports fans, but the truth is, things are looking up at Pitt. Anybody that follows me knows that I am not a homer. I have criticized Jamie Dixon for his recruiting and have said that he needs to break through to the Final Four before he's considered a great coach. And I've trashed the Pitt football program for many years because they've underachieved.

I consider myself a realist, so these following comments are how I see things realistically. I am not writing them to be positive. When I see other Pitt writers continually act like cheerleaders it makes me a little nauseous. No, these thoughts are positive because that's how I feel about Pitt football and (with a more weary eye) Pitt basketball.

Pitt Football

1.  Mark Nordenberg was a great guy who did wonders for the university as a whole. Unfortunately, he was blinded by his allegiance to former athletic director Steve Pederson for some strange reason. His sweetheart deal to Pederson has been discussed so let's move on to the fact that new chancellor Patrick Gallagher seems to know what he's doing.

Gallagher fired Pederson almost immediately, eating his large contract to boot. It showed awareness, smarts, and aggressiveness. At least with a small sample size he seems like exactly the kind of leader that Pitt athletics has needed for decades.

2.  With Pederson gone, the university will now have a new athletic director. Even though we don't know who it is yet, with Gallagher leading the way I am optimistic that it will be an improvement over the divisive Pederson.

3.  From sources I have heard that the budget has increased to "a very competitive level". That does not mean that Pitt is on par with the football factories, but I'm told that it's enough to compete with pretty much everybody outside of the top 10-15 programs. Even better I'm told that boosters are very encouraged by what's happening and are not against going higher should the program take off. Which is usually the case. The football factories get a lot of money from boosters because they win a lot, which makes people happy, and then they want to pay money to keep that feeling going.

4.  There's a new sheriff in town and his name is Pat Narduzzi. Of course the suicidally depressed faction of Pitt fandom will say they've seen this before, but to be blunt, those people are clueless. No, this guy hasn't been a head coach yet, and there's also some trepidation because of that, but if there's anybody that was born to be a head coach it's this guy.

Narduzzi's dad was a college head coach, he's been the right hand man for one of the best head coaches in the country for the past eleven years, and he's practically had head coaching duties for half  of the Michigan State team for many years. Some coordinators work under the head coach. Narduzzi was left on his own. The result was that he was probably the best defensive coordinator in the country.

Narduzzi does not appear to be Paul Hackett, Foge Fazio, or Paul Chryst, three men who became head coaches basically because they were excellent coordinators and it was the next logical step. Narduzzi is excellent in the X's and Os, but he also has the gravitas that the great head coaches do. Players not only want to play for him, but they will do anything to please him. They love him, they respect him, and they believe in him.

I keep hearing about the "losing culture" for Pitt football, and that's ridiculous. First of all, in the last fifteen years the program has had only five losing seasons so there's hardly a losing culture. Yes, there's been embarrassing events that the program has undergone in the past, but they've still won more than they've lost.

It's the fans and the media that talk about ridiculous things like a Pitt curse, but take it from somebody that's interviewed high school prospects for twelve years, these kids don't think like that. They are much more resilient, and much more positive, than cynical and bitter adults. They think that wherever they are they are going to win big. And for Pitt, I can guarantee you that as soon as they talked to Narduzzi, they though they were going to win big at Pitt. They don't harp on lost leads or fleeing coaches. Unlike the rest of us they have short memories. I even talked to recruits that were considering Penn State literally a month after the rape scandal and they didn't even think about it. If they didn't think about something like that, then Pitt's problems are minuscule by comparison.

5.  There's every reason to believe that Narduzzi will have an excellent staff to support him. He wouldn't take the job until he had the budget to compete at a high level, and he went on record saying that he has that. The money is there and Narduzzi is very highly respected in the coaching community. People are lining up to work with him. This is obviously very different than Paul Chryst's staff. One of his biggest weaknesses was his terrible staff hirings.

6.  Narduzzi, an excellent staff, and the area, means the recruiting should be the best it's been in a long time. Dave Wannstedt had recruiting classes in the 25-30 range. I see no reason why Narduzzi doesn't at least do that well, and quite possibly better. It's actually easier to recruit to Pitt than Michigan State because of the geography. His reputation alone should enable him to recruit his share of elite defensive recruits.

7.  Pitt's youth is beneficial in many ways. In just a general sense, Pitt had the youngest team in the country this year and common sense should tell you that most of the players will get better every year. In a more narrow sense, the defensive players won't have to unlearn a lot. Narduzzi and his staff can form them the way he wants, and if he can't do it, then nobody can.

8.  The defense could get good in a hurry. I know I will lose many people here because the bowl game is still in their mind but the Pitt defense is usually at least pretty solid, if not good. They weren't good this year but they weren't as awful as many think either. I would call them average for the most part but that's a step or two up from terrible at least.

While the transitional period with a new coach sometimes makes a unit go backwards, I think it would be pretty shocking if that happened with Narduzzi on defense. And make no mistake about it, there is some talent on that side of the ball.

Narduzzi likes his cornerbacks to be athletic and press at the line of scrimmage. Jordan Whitehead seems like an ideal fit, and Titus Howard, Avonte Maddox, Phillipie Motley, and early entrant Malik Henderson looks like players that Narduzzi can really make something out of. And safeties Reggie Mitchell, Terrish Webb, and Patrick Amara have the coverage skills at safety that Narduzzi requires also. And we have to assume that Jay Stocker and/or Johnny Petrishen could sign and be in that safety mix, too.

On the defensive line, one of the weakest parts of the entire team was the pass rush, or lack thereof. But imagine the potential of Rori Blair and Luke Maclean with Narduzzi's coaching. Would anybody be surprised if Blair had 10 sacks next year? He had 5 as a true freshman as a reserve. Both starting tackles are back, and Justin Moody, Jeremiah Taleni, and Connor Dintino are intriguing young talents behind them.

At linebacker, both Todd Thomas and Anthony Gonzalez are gone, but that's probably a good thing. Not that they weren't solid players, but now Narduzzi can concentrate on the faster, younger players in the unit. Kevin Givens, if he sticks at linebacker, has the potential to be a future star. Bam Bradley and Nicolas Grigsby move very well so Narduzzi has something to work with, and youngsters Jamal Davis, James Folston, and Quintin Wirginis should excel under Narduzzi.

8.  The offense is already very good and, barring injury, should be good again next year. There's always a worry that the players on offense will have a hard transition to a new staff. But superstars James Conner and Tyler Boyd are two players whose talents seem pretty foolproof.  Chad Voytik should only get better, the offensive line, despite losing TJ Clemmings and Matt Rotheram, looks like it's going to be a strength for the foreseeable future, and all of the tight ends are back. Maybe they'll even get thrown to now, too. Throw in the fact that Chris James has star quality, and Adonis Jennings and incoming freshman Quadree Henderson should really help to complement Boyd.

Pitt Basketball

1. I find it very disheartening that so many people are ready to throw Jamie Dixon under the bus so quickly even though he's known around the country as one of the best basketball coaches in the country. Does he have to do better in the NCAA tournament? Yes. Does he need to land more elite prospects? Yes. But he's also been extremely productive in his career.

I've constantly been hearing that the program is done under Dixon. Let's get this straight. If you end up in the top 10 for a few years, and then don't, that doesn't mean that your program is done. It means it's hard to be in the top 10 every year.

Let's not forget that just four years ago Pitt was ranked No. 1 in the country and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. In the two years prior to this season, they finished fourth in the Big East and fifth in the ACC. Not only is that not disastrous, it's something that all but a small percentage of teams of teams would kill for.

This year's team is weak for three reasons- they are young, they don't have a legit center, and Durand Johnson was suspended. The latter may be the biggest hindrance to a good season, and that was not Dixon's fault. The other two was his fault, because he did not manage the roster correctly, but that happens to a lot of teams. In the last decade Syracuse, beginning just two years after they won the national championship, lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament twice in a row, then went to the NIT twice in a row. The point being, sometimes through fault of your own, and sometimes through no fault of your own, your roster gets out of whack. It doesn't mean you are going to be out of whack in the future. The good thing about basketball is that your roster can good very quickly.

2.  This current team is young. Very young. I think a lot of people forget about that. The top nine teams on the team are Cameron Wright, James Robinson, Michael Young, Jamel Artis, Josh Newkirk, Chris Jones, Sheldon Jeter, Ryan Luther, and Cam Johnson. Only Wright is a senior, and only Robinson is a junior. That means seven of the top nine players are sophomores or freshmen.

3.  The young players are improving. Last year Young averaged 6.0 ppg and 4.1 rpg. This year he's averaging 13.6 ppg and 8.0 rpg.  That's pretty good for a sophomore that's forced to play as an undersized talent. Artis averaged 4.9 ppg and 2.9 rpg last year. This year he's averaging 9.5 ppg and 5.1 rpg. Last year Jones averaged 2.4 ppg and this year he's averaging 8.9 ppg.  That's three sophomores that made big strides this year. It doesn't take much of an imagination to think that over the next two years they will continue to improve.

4. Help is on the way. Not only is Durand Johnson expected back, which alone is huge, but Cam Johnson and Luther should be much bigger factors. Incoming freshman Damon Wilson should help at point guard and giant junior college center Rozelle Nix merely has to be competent to  make the team significantly better. A player of his size will prevent teams from continually driving into the lane and will also let Young move to power forward. And I expect to see at least one more player in this class.

5.  Recruiting has lacked the elite player for the past few classes, but that doesn't mean things will continue that way. Admittedly they better or Dixon will find it more difficult to get back into that top 10 range, but as of now he has top 25 prospect Mustapha Heron on the way in the 2016 class. He's also had top 5 center Cheick Diallo visit three times and top 25 big man Alonzo Spellman visit twice. Both have Pitt on their final list. These are some of the big names but the Panthers are involved in many more quality players. We'll see if Dixon, Brandin Knight, and Marlon Williamson can land any of them and if Heron sticks with his commitment. If they can then the Panthers will combine them with their soon to be veterans and the roster will get better very quickly.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Pat Narduzzi expected to be next Pitt football coach

Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi is expected to be named the next Pitt football coach, probably in the next few days. The 48-year old Youngstown, OH native is considered one of, if not the best, defensive coordinators in the country. 

He has been the defensive coordinator under Mark Dantonio since 2003 at Cincinnati. He was the coordinator there for three years, after a one year stint as the defensive coordinator for Miami, OH.  In 2007, Narduzzi followed Dantonio to Michigan State where he has been the coordinator until now.

Narduzzi's defenses have been in the top 10 nationally for the past four years. They are his creation so this is not the case of former defensive coordinator Dantonio calling the shots. Complete creation and implementation has come from Narduzzi.

The defensive style calls for aggressive play, especially from the cornerbacks who are in the face of the receivers at the snap. His defenses make a lot of big plays and are often among the national leaders in turnovers.

As for his staff, Narduzzi will probably try to bring DB coach Harlon Barnett and LB and Special Teams coach Mike Tressel. But Barnett is a Michigan State alum who could very possibly stay to take over for Narduzzi. That may leave Tressel to get a promotion to defensive coordinator for Pitt.  Tressel, who is the nephew of Jim Tressel, has been a coach at Michigan State for eight years. He is the Spartans' main recruiter for Pitt target Anthony McKee. 

For offensive coordinator, QB coach and recruiting coordinator Brad Salem may be an option. It's been rumored that Vanderbilt is interested in hiring to be their offensive coordinator. He has mentored  probable future first round draft pick Connor Cook, and when he was the running backs coach prior, he mentored Le'Veon Bell.

Back to Narduzzi, he seems like a perfect fit. He is from the same part of the country, he's a tough no nonsense guy, and he loves coaching football. From what I hear he really wanted this job and he considers it a destination job. 

There's always a concern of a learning curve since he's never been a head coach before, but his defenses should be spectacular eventually, and much improved immediately. He will also keep the pro style balanced offense that Pitt has been built for. If he finds an excellent offensive coordinator, then I think Pitt could be excellent in the near future. 

Narduzzi will also get a budget that's better than Pitt has ever had. New ACC money and a new chancellor is a good start for that, but also Narduzzi would not take this job unless he got a high budget for his staff.

Bottom line, I had him on my list and if I knew Pitt was this open to coordinators then he would have been near the top of my list. Part of me is still a little frustrated that Pitt has to hire coordinators instead of hiring away Power 5 head coaches like others do. And while I don't know any names I have no doubt that some big names were interested. But Pitt clearly fell in love with Narduzzi. And that's easy to do, to be honest. If Pitt built a head coach in a lab he might be Narduzzi. A better fit would be hard to find. I think he has a much higher ceiling than Paul Chryst and he's a much better fit. Because he was never a head coach I wouldn't consider him a home run hire, but he is definitely a big swing that could be a home run.

Friday, December 19, 2014

An Early Look at the loaded 2016 and 2017 classes in PA

1.  Michal Menet, Exeter Township HS (Reading) OT- At 6'5" and 270 pounds he already has nice size and his frame can add a lot more weight in future years. Tenacious and moves like a cat. Has the makings of an elite offensive lineman. It's rare for an offensive lineman to be so far along in his development this early but before his junior season started he was loaded with major offers. His current top five, all whom have offered, are Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan State, Florida State, and Duke. Other offers include Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Virginia, Michigan, Miami, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Rutgers.

2.  Kaezon Pugh, Aliquippa HS (Aliquippa) LB/RB- The next great Quip and that's saying something because they have supplied some of those most talented players to ever come out of the state. And Pugh is right up there with them. Already a solid 6'1" and 210 pounds to go with his very good speed and athleticism. I always thought he'd end up at linebacker but he may be just as good if not better at running back. Runs angry. Could be a big star. Offers include Pittsburgh, Nebraska, Michigan State, Auburn, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Miami, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Arizona, Missouri, and many more.

3. Miles Sanders, Woodland Hills HS (Pittsburgh) RB- Looks much more slight than his listed 5'11" 195 pounds, but he's a game breaker with excellent speed, quickness, and vision. As a bonus he also has great hands and could always end up at wide receiver if he gets beat out at running back. Committed early to PENN STATE or he'd have a lot more offers. Still got offers from Pittsburgh, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, and Virginia Tech.

4.  Naseir Upshur, Imhotep Institute Charter HS (Philadelphia) TE/DE- A little small for tight end currently at 6'3" and 230 pounds, but he's a very good athlete who is just flat out vicious at the line of scrimmage. As a blocker he locks on the defender and destroys him until he's 10 yards downfield. More than a blocker, though, thanks to his speed, athleticism, and hands. Projects just as well as a defensive end. Major offers include Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, Virginia Tech, Arizona State, Arizona, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Mississippi State, Florida, Nebraska, and Florida State.

5.  Karamo Dioubate, William Penn Charter HS (Philadelphia) DE/DT- A beastly lineman that came out of nowhere this season thanks to his athletic 6'3" 265 pound size and big time explosion and quickness. Right now he could play end, but if he keeps getting bigger, which is a real possibility, he will move inside. Either way, he's beastly. Offers include Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Ohio State, Michigan State, Florida, Miami, Virginia, Boston College, Rutgers, and Temple.

6.  Damar Hamlin, Central Catholic HS (Pittsburgh) CB- Great cornerback height at 6'1" and when he fills out his 175 pound frame his size would be even more of a plus. Very good speed and quickness. Should be one of the best cornerback prospects in the country. Offers from Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Maryland, and Duke.

7.  Brandon McIlwain, Council Rock North HS (Newtown) QB- Of all of the top prospects on this list he's probably the one that could go either way the most. At 6'0" 205 he doesn't have ideal size, and he's still raw as a passer, but on the other hand, he has a very strong arm and excellent speed and running ability for a quarterback. A lot will depend on the system he's in as he clearly isn't a pro style quarterback, but if he's allowed to run a lot then he could be very good good at the next level. Major offers include Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Ohio State, South Carolina, Auburn, Florida, Virginia Tech, Duke, Clemson, North Carolina, Miami, Arizona, and Tennessee.

8.  Connor McGovern, Lake-Lehman HS (Lehman) C/G- The best thing you can say about him is that major colleges are still finding him even though he's outside of Wilkes-Barre. It's not exactly a recruiting hotbed and to be honest I never heard of the high school before. Big at 6'5" and 290 pounds. Plays center, which is his preferred position, and he explodes onto his defender with quickness and tenacity. Offers include Pittsburgh, Penn State, Michigan State, Miami, North Carolina, Boston College, Duke, Georgia Tech, and Maryland.

9. Cary Angeline, Downingtown East HS (Exton) TE- At 6'7" and 230 pounds his size is obviously one of his biggest assets. He's basically just a wide receiver now but he'll be a tight end in college. Needs to fill out obviously, and he will will need to learn to block from the tight end position, but with his very good speed, size, and length he is destined to be a pass catching tight end at the college level. Has early offers from Penn State, West Virginia, Ohio State, Miami, Michigan State, Duke, Boston College, Iowa, North Carolina, Northwestern, Rutgers, and Virginia Tech, among others.

10. Aaron Matthews, Clairton HS (Clairton) WR- To say this kid is a tall drink of water is an understatement. Already 6'5" and may not have stopped growing yet. At just 175 pounds his thin frame makes him look eight feet tall. The best part about his length is that he knows how to use it by using his frame to shield defenders and jumping to meet the ball. When he does that he's virtually unstoppable. Good, but not great speed, but with the skills he has he could be a force in college. Has early offers from Pittsburgh and West Virginia, among others.

11.  Khaleke Hudson, McKeesport Area HS (McKeesport) LB/S/RB- Not huge at 5'11" and 200 pounds but he's rock solid. In my opinion, he's best suited at safety but he could project as a smaller linebacker or a running back, too. Good athlete that hits like a ton of bricks. Offers so far include Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Michigan State, Virginia Tech, Cincinnati, and Boston College.

 12. Anthony Long, Bishop McDevitt HS (Harrisburg) DT- Strong 6'3" 290 pound interior lineman with a good burst and athleticism for a man his size. Has a lot of potential. Early offers have come from Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Boston College, Maryland, Georgia Tech, Temple, and Purdue.

13. Kobay White, Bishop McDevitt HS (Harrisburg) WR- In college football these days schools want either really big receivers or small receivers with ungodly quickness. But every year there's a good receiver in PA that falls between those two. This year that's the 6'0" 180 pound White who has good speed, quickness, and hands. Among his offers are Pittsburgh, Michigan State, Virginia, Rutgers, Maryland, Georgia Tech, and Boston College.

14. Andrew Pryts, Hickory HS (Hermitage) S- The John Lynch of high school football, the 6'2" 195 pound Pryts can really lay the wood. Just a vicious hitter. Also has good range and hands. Early offers are from Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Virginia, and Northwestern.

15. Aidan Howard, Gateway Area HS (Monroeville) WR- Tall, very athletic wide out at 6'5" and 165 pounds. Way too light now but once he fills out he could be a big time player. Very good speed, too. So far only UMass has offered but there will be more.


These players just finished their sophomore seasons so this is just a preliminary list. There are more out there from this class that will be very highly recruited, and some of these players may not develop as expected. But for now these are some of the class that are already getting some college attention. I have separated the first two players because they are already in an elite category and it's going to be hard for anybody to pass them up as the two best players in the class. It's too early to rate the rest this early so they are listed in alphabetical order.

D'Andre Swift, St. Joseph's Prep HS (Philadelphia) RB- He was already considered one of the top two players in the state for the '17 class even before the state championship game, but that showed that he could be one of the best in the country for the class. At 5'9" 195 pounds he's solid, but he also has great speed, quickness, and vision. Could be a superstar. Already has offers from Pittsburgh, Penn State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Rutgers, Iowa, Syracuse, and Temple.

Lamont Wade, Clairton Area HS (Clairton) CB- The eastern side of the state has Swift but the western side has Wade. A rock solid 5'10" and 185 pounds already, he possesses excellent speed, athleticism, and quickness. Had an amazing year as a running back this season and could be an elite running back or wide receiver in college just as easily, but it appears that cornerback is where most will want him. Already has offers from the likes of Pittsburgh, Penn State, and West Virginia.

David Adams, Central Catholic HS (Pittsburgh) LB- Took over for injured college prospect Ron George this season after an injury ended George's season, and he didn't miss a beat. Already 6'2" and 215 pounds, he is a tough, old school linebacker that just knows how to play football. No offers yet.

Damion Barber, Harrisburg HS (Harrisburg) DE- Highly athletic and quick pass rusher and he's already 6'4" and 220 pounds. Once he fills out he's going to be even more of a terror. Will definitely be among the top players in the class. Has early offers from Rutgers and Temple.

Paris Ford, Seton-LaSalle HS (Pittsburgh) S- An Ed Reed-type of safety who has the length, speed, quickness, and range to be a big time safety in college. At 6'2" and 175 pounds he has a great start on size and he already uses it with his hard hitting style. Also a very good basketball player. No offers yet but they will be coming.

Robert Hainsey, Gateway Area HS (Monroeville) OT- Already 6'4" and 270 pounds so he should be big enough by the time he enters college. Very good feet which is what gets you offers as a lineman. And he already has offers from Penn State, West Virginia, Michigan State, and Temple.

Josh Lugg, North Allegheny HS (Wexford) OT- Has a chance to be the the top lineman in the state thanks to his 6'6" frame and great feet. Just 260 pounds now but he will fill out over the next two years. Pittsburgh is his only offer now but there will be plenty more.

Dewayne Murray, Stell Valley HS (Munhall) RB- At 5'10" 180 pounds he has the speed, quickness, athleticism, vision, and toughness to be a big time running back in college. He also has great hands and is an exceptional punt returner. Barring injury, he's on pace to be the top rusher in WPIAL history. Old Dominion is his lone offer this early but many more will come soon.

CJ Thorpe, Central Catholic HS (Pittsburgh) OT- Just a sophomore this year but he's already 6'5" and 300 pounds. He uses his size well by aggressively knocking the hell out of anybody that gets in his way. West Virginia is his first major offer.

Darius Wise, Beaver HS (Beaver) CB- Big time athlete with excellent speed and quickness. Also another kid who could get basketball offers. Could get a lot of offers at cornerback. Already has a BYU offer for some reason.