Friday, June 26, 2015

Panthers up to 8 commitments

It's been a busy week for the Panthers as new Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi added three more players. The first of the three was 5'11" 200 pound running back Chawntez Moss of Bedford (OH) HS. Moss has good size, speed, and hands, and he is known to be a very versatile back that can do a bit of everything, including returning kicks. His biggest offers, outside of Pitt, were Iowa, Indiana, and Cincinnati.

Yesterday, WR/CB Maurice Ffrench verbally committed.  Ffrench, from New Brunswick (NJ) HS, is a real sleeper at 6'0" and 180 pounds. He has very good speed and received some raves for his athleticism and hands at the Rivals camp

Today, the Panthers added the big time receiving talent that they need to lessen the blow of Tyler Boyd's impending departure by getting a commitment from 6'4" 190 pound wide receiver Ruben Flowers.  Flowers, from Lima (OH) HS, obviously has the size, but he also received raves this summer from national observers for his athleticism, good speed, and great hands. His other offers included Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, and Cincinnati.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Another piece added to the defense

Linebacker coach Rob Harley likes to quote from the movie "Glengarry Glen Ross" when he says "always be closing", and the best recruiter on the staff closed well by landing 6'4" 220 pound linebacker Chase Pine tonight.  Pine, from Lafayette HS in Williamsburg, VA is somebody I've raved about on Twitter for months, due to his great height, speed, and athleticism. He's also a big hitter that can cover and play the run. Other offers for Pine included West Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, NC State, Virginia Tech, and Virginia.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Panthers get a fourth commitment

It's been awhile but Pat Narduzzi got his fourth verbal commitment today as 6'1" 160 pound free safety Bricen Garner pledged to the Panthers. Garner, from Pittsburgh Central Catholic HS, picked up his offer after performing at one of the Panthers camps. Garner has decent speed, but his length and athleticism are his major attributes. He is one of the most accomplished long jump and triple jump performers in Pennsylvania. Other offers include Cincinnati, UConn, Temple, and a bunch of mid-major programs.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Where Pitt stands with top WPIAL prospects

These things are fluid but this is how I see where the recruitment of the top WPIAL stars in the '16 and '17 stands now. 

Pitt is probable leader:

Aaron Mathews, WR- I have no idea why he is not getting more offers, but then again Tyler Boyd didn't get the offers he deserved either. The word with Mathews is that he's not a blazer but as he showed against top competition at camps this summer, nobody can seem to stop him. 

Bricen Garner, S- Pitt is his best offer right now and from what I can tell, the Panthers are a big leader at the moment. But the staff are looking at a lot of talented defensive backs so he better not wait too long.

Kaezon Pugh, LB/RB- I know there was a lot of talk early that West Virginia was his favorite but if you follow me you know I didn't agree with that. As is often the case, an inferior choice comes on strong early, but eventually a top prospect usually makes the most obvious choice.  Pugh is close with Dravon Henry at WVU, but he knows even more people at Pitt. 

Josh Lugg, OT (2017)- He already has excellent offers, and will get many more, but the Panthers appear to be the obvious leader. 


Pitt is among the leaders:

Miles Sanders, RB- I would never predict an elite prospect to switch from the current Penn State staff to anywhere else because that staff is very strong in recruiting. But Sanders is wavering much more than he leads on and Pitt is among those he's looking at. If there is a mass commitment from WPIAL stars, and Pitt has a quality season, the odds will go up.

Therran Coleman, CB- For a City League kid he's not the sure thing you'd expect. Wisconsin could be a major player. This is another player that may be swayed if other WPIAL players commit to the Panthers but if he sees Jordan Whitehead and Damar Hamlin on the Panthers roster he may feel he'd be better off elsewhere.

Damar Hamlin, CB-  When many had him pencilled in for Penn State and then Ohio State, I was saying that Pitt is a major player. Now it's apparent that the Panthers are indeed among the favorites, and possibly even the favorite. In fact, if I was told that Hamlin was committing today I would go ahead and guess Pitt. But the Panthers will have to keep the heat on, and do well on the field.

Khaleke Hudson, S/RB- This is another player where people wrote off Pitt, but the Panthers are in the thick of it, especially if Hamlin commits. It would be a huge coup to get not only a McKeesport player, but the best one in many years. 

Rashad Wheeler, DT- Yet another one that was written off, this time to Penn State. He's always liked Pitt, and he liked them even more after camping with them recently. It will definitely be a Pitt/Penn State battle and it's probably 50/50 right now.

CJ Thorpe, OT (2017)- A Penn State legacy so they may be the favorite, but the Panthers made an impression on him. It would be a real coup if they could steal him. As of now it's possible.

Donovan Jeter, DT (2017)- Another probable Pitt/PSU battle, though things would be even more interesting if Ohio State offers. The brother of Sheldon Jeter, and he likes Pitt and the staff a lot.

David Adams, LB (2017)- Was high on Penn State early but the Panthers have made up a lot of ground. Has stated that he definitely wants to play with Paris Ford, so that's good news for Pitt perhaps. If the Panthers land teammates Hamlin and Wheeler then the chances are even better.

Paris Ford, S (2017)- I've always had him going to Pitt in my mind, and if I had to pick today that would be the choice. He's one of the lynchpins to get a mass WPIAL commitment, and I feel that's good news for Pitt.

Lamont Wade, CB (2017)- This one is very interesting. By the time he could commit to Pitt, the cornerback position for the Panthers could be loaded but then again the same could be said for Ohio State and Penn State, who I would say is the other main options. He likes Pitt a lot but he's enjoying the attention of big time programs so this could go either way.

Pitt is a long shot:

Robert Hainsey, OT (2017)- An elite player that seems to be very pro-Penn State, and doesn't talk about Pitt.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A look at Pitt's football recruiting- Defense

Defensive Line

Roster:  It's on defense where the Panthers should get better in a very dramatic way. Pat Narduzzi and his defensive staff can really recruit, and players will love to play for Narduzzi and his charismatic defensive staff. But also, there's a lot to upgrade.

The defensive ends at the moment are suspect in both high end talent and depth. This is the last year for Ejuan Blair and Shakir Soto will have just one year after this. True sophomore Rori Blair has a chance to be very good as does incoming juco player Allen Edwards. But after that there's a big drop off.  Bottom line, this group needs a major overhaul.

At defensive tackle, the situation is just as dire since Darryl Render and Khaynin Mosley-Smith will be moving on after this season, and Tyrique Jarrett will be gone after next season.

2016:  Narduzzi added a big piece of the puzzle already by adding Tennessee transfer Dewayne Hendrix.  He's a former big time recruit that will have three years to play. He has the potential to be a star. But I expect two more at this position. The good news is, there are a lot of good choices.

Philadelphia end Karamo Dioubate is a clone of Hendrix and he is expected to visit Pitt next month. But the competition is brutal. Zach Gilbert, son of former Pitt star Sean, lives in North Carolina, but the staff is trying to get him to follow in the footsteps of his father. He's excellent. A couple of undersized sleepers from Philadelphia, Shaka Toney and Andre Mintze, are in the mix, and both could be good once they get bigger. In all, there's about 16 offers still remaining from around the country.

Like at end, quick playing time will help in landing quality tackles. A local, Rashad Wheeler, is a Pitt/PSU battle, and it would be a big win if the Panthers can land him. New Jersey's Michael Dwumfour showed well at Pitt camp, and now the Panthers are a major player in getting his commitment.  Harrisburg's Anthony Long tried to commit to the Panthers once so he could end up doing it again. About ten others are offered from around the country, many from Florida, including stud Aaron Thompson, who has Pitt among his top group.

2017:  Harrisburg's Damion Barber and Virginian Tyjuan Garbutt already have offers, and both should be major targets. Garbutt picked his first offer up at Pitt camp last week but he is expected to have many more. A must get is Donovan Jeter of Beaver Falls. He is the brother of Pitt basketball player Sheldon Jeter.  He will probably end up at defensive tackle.


Linebackers

Roster:  Nicholas Grigsby graduates after this season and Bam Bradley, Mike Caprara, and Matt Galambos will be gone after next season, but the underclassmen are a good start to improving the position.

Quintin Wirginis is just a sophomore, and James Folson and Jamal Davis are redshirt freshmen. They all have good potential. Incoming freshmen Anthony McKee and Salem Brightwell have an even higher upside. Five good young players is a nice start, but you can't have a great defense without great linebackers so more high quality additions are needed.

2016:  There's no WPIAL prospects at this position, or in Pennsylvania really, so this linebacker class is more of an unknown. There's nearly 20 offers out there to uncommitted players and with recruiting ace Rob Harley the linebacker coach, I wouldn't worry about them adding a couple of really good additions. One real gem would be Cameron Brown of Maryland. The 6'6" Brown has Pitt in his top 10 and he loves Narduzzi.

2017:  The staff already has seven offers out for this class which shows just how much they want to land top linebackers in this year. One local, David Adams of Central Catholic, will be a major target.


Defensive Backs

Roster:  This is may be the most interesting unit on the team because Narduzzi is known for great secondaries, there's already good young talent on the roster, and there's a chance to get amazing talent here in the next few years.

Lafayette Pitts is the only senior and there is plenty of good young talent.  Reggie Mitchell and Terrish Webb will be around for two more years and Avonte Maddox, Pat Amara, Dennis Briggs, and Phillipie Motley all have talent. If that's not good enough, incoming freshmen Malik Henderson and Dane Jackson are good, Jay Stocker is potentially excellent, and Jordan Whitehead has star potential. The future is bright even without a potential great DB class or two coming.

2016:  Tony Butler is already in the fold, at least for now. He's a perfect fit for Narduzzi's defense.  There's been a worry that he could flip, and while he would be a great addition, there's potentially so much talent in the unit that it may prove to not be devestating in the long run if he did flip. As any Panthers fan knows, WPIAL stars Damar Hamlin and Khaleke Hudson are the big time possibilities. Hamlin can project at corner or safety, while Hudson is a safety.  Other locals, cornerback Therran Coleman and safety Bricen Garner, are just two of many that are interested in the Panthers. Bottom line, when Narduzzi is your coach, defensive backs are interested.

2017:  The Panthers may already have an embarrassment of riches by this time, but it could get even better. Two locals, cornerback Lamont Wade, and safety Paris Ford, are as about as elite as prospects come, and the Panthers will be heavily involved with both.  Connor Hayward, son of Ironed, is also a top safety that has an offer.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A look at Pitt's football recruiting- Offense

Quarterback

Roster: Chad Voytik will start this year and next year, and Tennessee graduate transfer Nathan Peterman should be a solid backup for those two years. That quality experience gives the younger group of Panthers quarterbacks time to develop under offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. One of those is incoming freshman Ben DiNucci, whose future development should be very interesting.

2016:  Chaney didn't take long to strengthen the position. After nabbing the late sleeper, DiNucci, he followed it up not long after by adding talented Thomas MacVittie, who has the size, arm, and brains to be a big time player down the line. And don't worry about him flipping. His father contacts me from time to time and the family absolutely loves Pitt. There's no reason to think they'll be any other quarterbacks in this class.

2017:  Proving once again that he knows what he's doing, Chaney already has three offers out, and they're all big timers.  He went out of state for all three- David Mills (Georgia), Sean Clifford (Ohio), and Jake Allen (Florida). Mills doesn't hold a Georgia offer yet, and the Bulldogs landed the top QB in the country in the '16 class, so he may end up leaving the state. He's got double digit major offers, but Pitt in the mix. Clifford likes Missouri, Pitt, and Louisville the most right now but he will get more major offers. Allen is one of the hottest quarterback prospects in the country right now and the Panthers recently offered. He has also shown a lot of early interest.

It's probable that at least one quarterback will be added in this class. Ideally, it would be great if it were one of these three. But MacVittie, Clifford, and Allen were discovered by Chaney before they took off and he no doubt has his eye on other gems.


Running Back

Roster:  It's virtually guaranteed that James Conner will move on after this season, but the cupboard won't be bare. Chris James looked good in spurts as a true freshman, and Qadree Ollison is getting a lot of buzz after a redshirt freshman season. But neither are a sure thing star yet so more talent is needed.  Darrin Hall was the lone running back added, and while he's considered a 4-star RB he's coming off a knee injury. He adds to a potentially very good group, but there's still room for more.

2016:  With Conner probably moving on, elite backs will be looking at Pitt as a place they could play right away. The obvious top option is Penn State commit Miles Sanders. The biggest problem in landing Sanders obviously, is that he's currently committed to someplace else. Flipping an elite player from Penn State is not easy, but it's definitely possible that it could happen, especially if most of the other elite WPIAL prospects chose the Panthers. Flipping him would be huge in many ways.

Sanders isn't the only option, though. Two other WPIAL stars could also project at running back, though ideally they'd play defense. McKeesport's Khaleke Hudson is an elite safety prospect, but he could also be an elite running back. He really impressed me at the position during national camps this year. He could be in the group of WPIAL players that commits to Pitt en masse, but if he does he may want to do it as a defensive back so that he can play with more of his friends.

Aliquippa's Kaezon Pugh has the looks of an excellent college linebacker, but like Hudson he also has the potential to be a big time college running back. The grand slam scenario is that the Panthers land Sanders for running back, Pugh for linebacker, and Hudson for safety, and while that will take some doing it's not completely out of the question.

A possible local backup plan is the teammate of Sanders at Woodland Hills, Jo-El Shaw, who is a solid 230 pounds but may lack some explosion. He could also project as a linebacker. But otherwise, if the staff strikes out with Sanders, and lose or move to defense Sanders and/or Pugh, then they'll have to find a running back somewhere else. But as previously stated, with Conner moving on, there's a good chance that a really good running back will want to replace him. This could be a case where somebody explodes this season and the Panthers jump on him.

2017:  De'Andre Swift is the top player in the state for '17, and will be at or near the top for best backs in the nation. I doubt Pitt will be a major player. Outside of him, it's too early to see who the major targets will be for this class.


Wide Receivers

Roster:  With Tyler Boyd moving on, there appears to be a dearth of high end talent.  Dontez Ford will be a senior next season and Zach Challingsworth, and Elijah Zeise have talent, but with Jester Weah and Jaquan Davidson struggling the depth and high end talent is in question.

The high end talent problem may or may not have been helped with his class, but at least the depth has definitely improved.  Local Tre Tipton is a talented sleeper, but he will probably redshirt because of his lack of size. Quadree Henderson is small, but has lightning speed. Outside of Boyd, he has the most raw talent of the group, and it will be interesting to see how the staff utilizes his skill set. Sophomore juco Rafael Araujo-Lopes and Gentry Ivery are athletic but to say they are sleepers is an understatement.

All four of these players have potential but it's unknown just how much they will produce. Because of that the staff needs to add a No. 1 receiver with a big ceiling to take over for Boyd.

2016:  The local option is tall, athletic Aaron Mathews, who appears to be highly under recruited. I've always ranked him highly but I think I may have also underrated him after seeing him in national summer camps, where he looked dominating at times. I like Pitt's chances with him, and I think that would be a major addition.

I'm assuming that the staff will take two or three receivers, and if they land Mathews, who else they get will be anybody's guess. The Panthers have about 20 offers out at the position, including from places such as Florida, Ohio, New Jersey, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, Illinois, and Maryland. Bottom line, I think they will probably land three really good receivers from this group but it's still too early to know who that will be.

2017:  In-state talent Mark Webb will probably be a major target but Penn State will be tough to beat since he's on the other side of the state. Little speedster Kahlee Hammler holds an offer but he's from Michigan and already has Michigan and Michigan State offers so it doesn't look good for him either. But there will be many more offers on the horizon.


Tight Ends

Roster:  At the moment, the position is strong with J.P. Holt coming back for one more season and Scott Orndoff coming back for two more. Behind them, Devon Edwards, Tony Harper, and Brian O'Neill will be around for at least three years.

2016:  None were taken last year, which isn't surprising considering what was already on the roster, but now that means you can expect two to be added in this class. In fact, tight ends coach Tim Salem, who has been offering tight ends all over the place, has told recruits that he wants to take two. A couple of New England prospects that are very underrated are Jay Rose (Connecticut) and Sean McKeon (Massachusetts).

2017:  Another New England prospect, Alex Marshall, had a Pitt offer already for the '16 class but he recently moved to the '17 class. At 6'7" he's very athletic, and he will be a major target. Pat Narduzzi has been interested in him since he was at Michigan State.


Offensive Linemen:

Roster:  All but one of the linemen are returning next year so there's plenty of time to develop talent. High end talent like Jaryd Jones-Smith, Alex Bookser, Michael Grimm, Dorian Johnson, Alex Officer, and Alex Paulina will be back for multiple seasons. The position is strong.

2016:  Big Brandon Ford of Upper St. Clair is already in the fold and this was a good start. Elite Philadelphia guard/center Johncarlo Valentin is a massive bulldozer that camped at Pitt, and is very interested. If they are the only two that the staff lands then it was a big success.

2017:  This is the year that the Panthers can make a killing. There are four potential elite linemen in the WPIAL alone in Josh Lugg (North Allegheny), CJ Thorpe (Central Catholic), Robery Hainsey (Gateway), and Gabe Houy (Upper St. Clair).  It's early but I feel good about Lugg and Houy.  Houy is a teammate of Brandon Ford. He's under the radar now but I think he will get much more noticed soon.  Thorpe's dad played at Penn State, but Pitt is still a major player in his recruitment.  He came to Pitt's camp and liked it a lot.  Hainsey, on the other hand, doesn't seem to be highly interested in Pitt.  Outside of PA, Noah DeHond (New Jersey), has seen his recruitment take off, including an Alabama offer, but he is interested in Pitt enough to come to their camp.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Narduzzi adds a big time transfer

The Pat Narduzzi era continues to shine bright with the news that Tennessee transfer Dewayne Hendrix will transfer to Pitt.  The 6'4" 257 pound defensive end was an elite recruit that lettered as a freshman at Tennessee.  Coming out of high school Hendrix's offers, besides Tennessee, included Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan State, Florida, Kansas State, Missouri, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Nebraska, and USC. He will have to sit out this year, but then will have three years to play three years. Needless to say, he is the early favorite to start at either defensive end or defensive tackle in the 2016 season. He is currently listed as 6'4" and 275 pounds and he's a native of O'Fallon, IL.