Pitt football got commitments from a couple of really good prospects so far in Todd Graham's first full recruiting year, and after a slow start, it's still possible that an excellent class could be achieved with a great finish.
Chad Voytik is one of the top ten quarterback prospects in the country, and a perfect fit for the offense. Adam Bisnowaty is an excellent, and much needed, addition to the offensive line. After that there are some good prospects who could prove to be really good in their Pitt careers. The Davis twins, Chris and Demitrious, and Penn Hills' Corey Jones, are great fits for the offense at receiver, and LBs Dakota Conwell and Devon Porchia, DE Daryl Render, NT Tyrique Jarrett, and cornerbacks Marchez Coates and Marzett Jeter, have potential to be future starters, but clearly there is still work to be done on the recruiting front.
Scout.com currently has the class ranked No. 26 thus far and that seems rather optimistic. Rivals.com, which has the Panthers ranked No. 40 currently, seems more realistic. Of course, it only matters how these players perform on the field, but it is good for the buzz of a program, especially a new one, to have a highly ranked recruiting class. It gives prospects, their parents, and their coaches, the belief that the current coaching regime has things under control and is moving in the right direction.
Graham and has staff has been hurt by having little contacts in their main recruiting areas- Pennsylvania, and to a lesser degree, Ohio and Florida. Half of Graham's staff, including the head coach himself, came from Tulsa and consequently recruited mostly in Texas and Louisiana. Other members of the staff came from Michigan and was recruiting mostly in the central part of the country. The results were that Pitt were forced to convince prospects from Texas and Louisiana to come to play for Pitt in the Big East. That's really not going to work.
But Pitt should be over the worst of the transition. The impressive win over USF was huge, and continued success is essential. The quality of prospects needs to improve, starting now. There are still a handful of prospects that could add to Pitt's talent immensely. There are also a few others from the 2013 class that are equally important. Let's take a look at the current realistic targets, in the order that I think they are most important.
1. Rushel Shell- This is rather obvious, but, along with Voytik, this would be the biggest additions this season. I don't care if WPIAL running backs haven't done well in college for a long time, Shell is the real deal. He's strong, fast, and durable. Paired with Ray Graham, or taking over for him, however you look at it, it would be a huge addition to the program, especially since his commitment would send a message around the country that Pitt is a program to be reckon with. A top ten QB and a top five RB in the same class? That would be a huge step forward for the future.
2. Robert Foster (2013)- This is not a position in which Pitt should be hurting. The receiving corps looks like it's going to be loaded with young, quick, talented players. But Foster is exceptional. The Central Valley standout will be a national recruit next year and could be one of the top five or ten receiving prospects in the country. It's unknown how good he will ever be, but he has the natural talent of a future All-American and a first round draft pick. Needless to say, that's the type of talent you need in your program. Plus, he's a local that Pitt has been recruiting since his sophomore year. They can't afford to let him go. His addition would mean that Pitt has a top national recruit at QB, RB, and WR.
3. Patrick Kugler (2013)- The North Allegheny offensive lineman is only a junior but he's already 6'6" and 270 pounds. He will also be one of the best offensive line prospects in the country next year and already has offers from the likes of Pitt, Penn State, Tennessee, Stanford, West Virginia, Michigan State, Virginia Tech, Miami, and Florida State. And his recruitment is just in the beginning stage. He's also the son of Steelers OL coach Sean Kugler. He loves what Pitt has to offer, feels very comfortable with the coaches and the program, and plays a position where there is a desperate need for an influx of talent. Landing him would be huge for the staff.
4. Deaysean Rippy- The tradition when mentioning Rippy is to say he is overrated. It was started by Mike White of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and it was taken over by Pitt fans who began to think he was not coming to Pitt. But the truth is, the Sto-Rox linebacker has offers from programs like Alabama, Auburn, Nebraska, USC, Michigan, Florida, and Ohio State. Even great programs make mistakes, but when that many great programs offer a player, then the chances are he will be pretty good. He hasn't shown Pitt much love in the past, mostly because he wanted to leave home to play. In fact, he was on his way to play for Florida until they told him that they filled up their linebacker quota already. Now he has no idea where he's going to go, but Shell is one of his best friends, Pitt has been recruiting him for two years, he could see time as a freshman as the "Spur" in Pitt's defense, and he has visited Pitt multiple times, the last time with his entire family. Pitt is desperate for linebacking talent and Rippy would be a great addition. If they can't land him with all of the aforementioned factors that they are better off without him because that would mean he really didn't want to go to Pitt.
5. Tavon Rooks- Pitt rarely gets a junior college player that can make an immediate impact, but that's exactly what Rooks could be. At 6'6" and 270 pounds, the Baltimore native has the frame to add 30 pounds easily, but he also has the length and quickness that could help him to start on the offensive line immediately for the Panthers. He wants to graduate from Navarro JC in Texas in December meaning he could be at Pitt for spring practice, giving him much needed extra time to compete for a starting spot.
6. Ryan Watson- The talented Maryland native could project at guard on offense or tackle on defense. He is a quality player with offers from such big time programs as Penn State, Michigan, Georgia Tech, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Stanford. Pitt is currently in his final four, along with Penn State, Purdue, and Michigan State. One obvious advantage is that Pitt needs to add talent on both lines, but just is important is for the Panthers to get a foothold into the very fertile Maryland recruiting region, especially at Watson's school, Our Lady of Good Counsel, which despite the name is a football factory.
7. Brandon Chatmon (2013)- The Panthers need athleticism and they need talented linebackers. This junior supplies both. Pitt is his first offer but there will be many more. The staff has to put an all out blitz now for Chatmon so that they can stay in the lead for him, and so far he loves Pitt. An added bonus is that he is from the Philadelphia area, a place where they really have to get some excellent players.
8. Demetrious Cox- The Jeannette safety is a big time athlete who could really help the Panthers defense with his great athleticism and speed. The fact that he is a highly coveted local recruit with offers from top programs like Penn State, Ohio State, Texas A&M, and Wisconsin makes him somebody that is a must get.
9. Bam Bradley- A hard hitting athletic safety who could grow into a linebacker. Either way, he is a highly talented player at a need position. His brother, Nicholas Grigsby, is a linebacker that signed with the Panthers last year. That's an in that Pitt will hopefully benefit from. He also comes from Trotwood-Madison HS in Ohio, a school loaded annually with talent. Ohio State has offered and it would be a great steal for the Panthers. But they also have to get past Stanford, Tennessee, Michigan, and Penn State who have also offered.
Two other excellent 2013 in-state prospects that would will be national recruits that Pitt has a shot at, but are not as important for various reasons. Make no mistake about it, these are huge talents that Pitt will love, but they would be seen more as an extra gift:
David Williams- Big time running back from Philadelphia and a teammate of Chatmon. Should be a national recruit and already has seven offers, including Pitt and Notre Dame. Likes Pitt and has a great relationship with the staff. He could be a real star but assuming Shell is a Panther, it will make it both harder to land him and less critical to land him. If Shell surprises and goes elsewhere, Williams jumps up near the top of the list.
Adam Breneman- Okay, this is a long shot, at best, as the tight end from eastern PA is only a junior and already has offers from the likes of Alabama, Notre Dame, Michigan, and Florida State. Penn State hasn't offered yet, but they will, and the competition will even get more difficult. Breneman wants to visit Pitt and will actually be visiting Rutgers this weekend to watch the Scarlet Knights play the Panthers. A great showing sure wouldn't hurt the visitors. The only reason why I consider him a bonus instead of a must get is because of the position he plays. A great tight end really isn't essential to a great program. A good one will do.