Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The future is bright for Pitt football

While there will be some very good players moving on after this season, it has become apparent that the program is loaded with an inordinate amount of intriguing players who are underclassmen.  The following players are no older than sophomores with some choice recruits added for good measure.  As you can see, the Panthers have the potential for some very good things in the near future.

RB- Isaac Bennett, Fr.-  Two weeks ago after the Tulsa native saw his first action I wrote that I liked how hard Bennett ran.  He had 6 carries for 26 yards in that game.  He followed that up with 13 carries for 69 yards against Louisville.  He may or may not be a future No. 1 back, but at the very least he's proven in just two games that he should be a four year contributor.  Not bad for a supposed "two star" recruit whose only other offers were Tulsa and Louisiana-Monroe.

OL- Adam Bisnowaty, Recruit-  Elite prospect with offers from the likes of Penn State, Michigan, and Florida.  Could see time as a true freshman, but even if he doesn't he has the ability to have an excellent career.

TE- Brendan Carozzoni, RS Fr.-  He's played in 8 games, but has just 4 catches.  But don't be fooled.  I've been impressed with Carozzoni's smooth running ability and good hands.  He should be a good one.  

CB- Lloyd Carrington, Fr.- Another true freshman, and another one from outside of Pitt's usual recruiting area.  The Dallas native has played sparingly in six games, but look for him to be a serious contender to replace departing senior Antwuan Reed at corner.  He didn't play football until his senior year of high school, yet still got offers from the likes of Baylor and Oklahoma State.  Could prove to be an excellent player.

TE- Drew Carswell, RS Fr.-  The Panthers have four good tight ends returning, with three of them being underclassmen.  Even though he's moved to WR currently, tight end is where he should find himself again in the future.  Carswell has played the last 9 games this season and has 9 catches on the year.  He's also a good special teams player.

CB- Cullen Christian, So.-  The former Penn Hills star was one of the best cornerback prospects in the country when he came out of high school and he played in 10 games as a true freshman at Michigan.  He has three years remaining after the transfer and his talent makes him a serious contender for major playing time next season and beyond.

DT- T.J. Clemmings, So.-  A huge recruit two years ago who hasn't done anything yet.  He redshirted this year but has the ability to make an impact next year.

LB- Dakota Conwell, Recruit-  The Upper St. Clair star has had a great senior season and has proven that he was one of the biggest sleepers in the country.  Has a very bright future.

C- Brandyn Cook, Recruit-  A true center that wasn't highly recruited but the fact that the Panthers knew that they badly needed a center and made him their first priority at the position is all you need to know about how they feel he fits into their system.

WR- Chris and Demitrious Davis, Recruits-  Twin brothers from Ohio are highly coveted, fast, and explosive.  Both are perfect for Graham's system and both could have big futures for the Panthers.

RB- Corey Davis, Fr.-  The speedy Texan has only 3 carries this year but he has also been the main kick returner.  He's been supplanted by Bennett but he has the ability to be in the running back mix for all four seasons.

DT- Aaron Donald, So.-  I got some criticism for rating the Penn Hills lineman the No. 5 prospect in the state two years ago but he's already become a star with 33 tackles, 9 sacks, 10 hurries, and 3 pass break ups on the season.  Should get All-American recognition next season.

DL-  Tyrone Ezell, So.-  So far he's been a disappointment but could be a starter next season with four senior linemen moving on.  Big and strong, but he has to learn how to use it.

TE- Anthony Gonzalez, RS Fr.-  Yet another young quality tight end with 9 catches in 7 games.  He has to keep out of trouble off the field, but if he does, he could be really good.

LB- Shane Gordon, So.-  He began the season as a starter but got demoted early.  He still has played in 9 games and has 21 tackles.  He has good talent but he has to regain what he had in preseason.

LB- Nicholas Grigsby, Fr.-  The speedy Ohio linebacker has been redshirted this year mostly because he needs to gain some size, but he has the speed and athleticism to have a bright future.

S- Jason Hendricks, So.-  Started the first seven games at free safety before a season ending injury.  Had 36 tackles, 3 breakups, and an interception.  Must be more consistent to regain the starting job because the talent level and depth will be much better next season, but he did show flashes this season that proved he can be a major contributor in his last two years.

OL- Juantez Hollins, So.-  He's played in 9 games this season, and has started, but he has had more downs than ups.  He still has a lot of athletic ability, though, so he could still develop into something in the next two years.

S- Brandon Ifill, RS Fr.-  Has played sparingly as a backup in all ten games this season, but is one of many of the young, talented defensive backs that could be very good down the road.

NT- Tyrique Jarrett, Recruit-  Another local defensive linemen who was under recruited.  He's a beast and is surprisingly nimble and quick for 320 pounds.  A major sleeper.

WR- Corey Jones, Recruit-  Penn Hills star is the fast, quick receiver that Graham covets in his new system.

WR- Ronald Jones, Fr.-  The speedy little true freshman has played in all ten games this year and has taken over a starter after Cameron Saddler was lost for the season.  A jack-of-all-trades with 9 rushes, 10 catches, 13 punt returns, and 2 touchdown passes on two attempts.  He is exactly the type of player that flourishes in Graham's system but he better bring it because the talent level at the position is going to get much better.

OG- Cory King, So.-  The redshirt sophomore played in 9 games this season, starting in most of them.  He could be a starter for the next two years and should only get better.

ILB- Dan Mason, So.-  At one time Mason was talked about like he would be a future All-American.  That was until he screwed his leg up beyond belief last season.  If he returns even close to where he was physically, and that's a big if, he would be the biggest addition to the team next season.

DL- Khaynin Mosely-Smith, Fr.-  The former Woodland Hills star has played sparingly in all ten games this season, but next year look for him to be a starter.  He has a lot of talent.

OLB- Bryan Murphy, So.-  The elite recruit from New Jersey missed this season because of grades but if he comes back he has star potential, and should be the favorite to land the rush linebacker starting spot.

OT- Adam Pankey, Recruit-  Big Ohio kid who will add much needed talent and depth at the position.

WR- Darius Patton, Fr.- Another fast little receiver with good potential.  Has played sparingly in seven games.

S- Lafayette Pitts, Fr.-  Another good, young Woodland Hills player.  He's being redshirted this season, but has excellent potential and could be a major factor next season.

LB- Juan Price, Fr.-  Thanks to Woodland Hills again for this potential star.  Started off strong this season but then got lost in the mix.  Still has 23 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 3 sacks in ten games. Unlimited potential and should be a major factor for the next three seasons.

LB-  Darryl Render, Recruit-  Technically he is a linebacker, but in reality he will be at rush end for the Panthers.  He's an under recruited gem who had a big time senior year at one of the biggest football powers in Ohio.

OT- Tom Ricketts, RS Fr.-  The former elite recruit transferred from Penn State and had to sit out this season.  Could start next next season.

OL- Matt Rotheram, RS Fr.-  The giant 6'6" 350 pounder played the first eight games this year and started one before getting lost for the season due to injury.  Has played well enough to think he could be a contributor down the road.

S- Roderick Ryles, Fr.-  The former Arkansas commit has big time talent but he used this season to redshirt.  Just one of many talented defensive backs that will be in the mix in the future.

OG- Ryan Schlieper, So.-  You would think an OL that is worst in the country in sacks allowed wouldn't have so many young, promising linemen, but Schlieper is another young lineman with good potential.

RB-  Rushel Shell, Recruit-  He's only the all-time leading rusher in PA history.  Strong and fast with great vision.  Oh, and he can catch like an elite receiver, too.  Has the potential to be a star and should play a lot right away, especially if Ray Graham has not recovered from his injured knee.

LB- LaQuentin Smith, Fr.-  The true freshman from Florida has played in only four games this season but he was highly coveted coming out of high school and he has a bright future.

WR- Devin Street, So.-  I got on Street a lot this season, and rightfully so, but he has come on strong with 19 catches in the last three games with two 100 yard games in that span.  If he stays focused he could put up big numbers in his last two seasons.

LB- Todd Thomas, RS Fr.-  Great athlete who has star potential.  Has played in 9 games this year and has 42 tackles, a sack, 3 tackles for loss, 4 hurries, and an interception.  Just wait until he knows what he's doing.

S- Ray Vinopal, So-  Michigan transfer played 13 games and started 6 for the Wolverines as a true freshman.  Heady player who should see a lot of action next season.  Pitt secondary coach Tony Gibson was also his coach at Michigan and he loves him as a player.

QB-  Chad Voytik, Recruit-  Not to put too much pressure on him, but the success of Todd Graham's reign will mostly live or die depending on whether or not Voytik can be a star.  Luckily for Graham, Voytik has the arm, legs, brains, and leadership ability to do just that.  Should start as a sophomore and could be a three year starter after backing up Tino Sunseri for a year.

CB- K'wuan Williams, So.-  I've been a fan of his play all season and he's already proven to be an All-Conference player with 53 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 5 breakups, an interception, and two forced fumbles.  If he continues to improve at this rate he could be an All-American candidate in the future.

Other recruit possibilites:

OT- Tavon Rooks, junior college-   The battle for this highly ranked tackle is between Pitt and West Virginia.  If the Panthers land him he cold conceivably start next season.

DT- Ryan Watson-  Maryland native is currently down to Pitt and Michigan State.  Big time talent who is good enough to see time as a true freshman next season.

DT- Darrian Dyson-  The Louisiana native is 6'3" and 300 pounds, exactly the size and talent the Panthers need on a soon to be depleted line.

OT- Jerrald Hawkins-  The 6'7" Louisiana native oozes potential and that's why he originally committed to Texas A&M, and now is committed to LSU.  The Panthers are trying to get him to change his mind once again and just may steal him.

LB- Deaysean Rippy-  The Sto-Rox star has tons of big offers but he hasn't pulled the trigger yet.  If the Panthers land him he could be an excellent addition to the linebacker corps.

S- Demetrious Cox-  The Jeannette star is a big time athlete who the Panthers really covet.  Possible big time player in his college career.

S-  Bam Bradley-  Hard hitter from Ohio who is the brother of Nicholas Grigsby.  Highly coveted recruit with a really bright future.

WR- Eugene Lewis-   Currently a Penn State commit but things are obviously up in the air there.  The Panthers are one of a handful of schools waiting to see if he changes his mind.  If the Panthers could steal him he has elite ability and could see a lot of time immediately.

LB-  Nyeem Wartman-  Another Penn State commit who may be looking elsewhere.  If he does, the Panthers are ready to put their hat in the ring again.

TE- J.P. Holtz-  A third PA recruit that committed to Penn State that may start looking around again.  A good football player who can play TE, LB, or DE.


  1. No TJ Clemmings on the list? I thought he was supposed to be a killer coming out of high school. I know he hasn't played this year, and I believe he is redshirting, but any idea on where he currently stands in the future plans. Same goes for Tyrone Ezell, who I believe has played sparingly this year.

  2. Just an oversight. I had them on the list but forgot them. They're on there now.

  3. Chris -
    What are Pitt's chances for landing these guys?

  4. I've only listed the prospects that they have a real shot at.

  5. Chris-

    Could you compare Voytik to Palko? They seem similar with Voytik having a bigger arm.

  6. Doke,

    You touched on it with Lewis and Wartman (possible recruits of PSU who could switch to Pitt), but in addition to the list of people above, the real real to be MEDIUM TERM bullish, Pitt, is the - at least temporary - weakening of the Penn State recruiting franchise.

    For the next several years, Pitt will be the NUMBER ONE COLLEGE DESTINATION IN PENNSYLVANIA for the first time in thirty years.

    This will be a massive change for the program and it is a reason that Pitt's chances of winning a NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP before 2020 have gone from 0% to something more like 10%. More importantly than one great season, "Top Ten" finishes could become the norm shortly.

    Then the question will be, once Pitt starts winning again due to having maybe as many as 3x more "elite" recruits, will Penn State ever get it top status back again?

    This is a very, very sad situation for Penn State, but it is reality that this is very good news for Pitt Football recruiting and therefore its future.

    Do you agree?

  7. Personally, I think it will be difficult to recruit to Penn State for at least a few years. And I don't see that magic big name coach coming in there right now like others seem to think will arrive soon. And I'm not sure it will ever be the same there. But it will be strong again. Football is too important for that school so they will have short memories. I can definitely see Pitt recruiting better in the short term because of Penn State's problems. Not the way I would have preferred it, though.

    As for Voytik and Palko, Voytik has a quicker release, a better arm, and can make more throws. Other than that, they are very similar. They are both good athletes, smart, and great leaders. If Voytik can be as good as Palko, it will bode well for Todd Graham, and I think he will be at least that good.

  8. Chris,

    Based on your opening sentence, do you believe that in addition to Seniors graduating, there will be a number of either Juniors (4 year players) not asked back or underclassman transferring?


  9. I'm merely showing that there are a lot of intriguing players who could make Pitt good for two, three, four years down the road, at least. And while it was not my intention to say some juniors may leave on their own, or not on their own, that is usually the case.

  10. A couple of thoughts on the list you posted. One is that I hope that Dan Mason makes it back to 100% as much as anyone. Given the extent of his injury it is highly unlikely. If he can get back to being able to get any playing time, it would be considered a victory. If I was in his circle of influence I would highly recommend he concentrate on getting his degree first and foremost.

    Second, you stated that you see Voytik backing up Sunseri next year and then hopefully starting the next three years. Would it not be wiser to redshirt Voytik next year and then let him compete for the starting position as a redshirt freshman? The only advantage of not redshirting him would be that he could get some game experience next year. There will be at least two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster next year, Sunseri and Trey Anderson, to guide the team next year.

    I do have two questions based on the quarterback situation for next year. You did not list Trey Anderson on your list. Am I correct in assuming that you see no potential in him? I would assume one year in a weight program along with the rest for his wrist injury over the winter would improve his potential at least as the long term backup. The second question is regarding Ronald Jones. Does he have the arm strength and accuracy to be considered a potential emergency backup qb to again allow Voytik to redshirt? I assume that Myers is gone after this year as he does not seem to fit this system at all.

  11. I honestly don't see the benefit of redshirting Voytik. Getting actual game snaps will help immensely the following season. Plus, I think he can actually help next season. Anderson, I don't think we'll see much anymore, but you never know. As for Jones, he's only 5'8" and he's not a good enough passer to do anything other than a few trick plays.

  12. Chris:

    Your insistence on making fact-based arguments is one reason I've put Panthers Prey on my Chrome Bookmark Bar. Thanks for the good posts.

  13. When you covered Shell's games in person at Hopewell, what were your impressions of his toughness?