Not that there's a new man in charge, it's time to see what he and his staff can do on the recruiting trail. With Penn State in a state of flux, Ohio State with limited scholarships, and Michigan and Notre Dame not recruiting in PA like they have in the past, Pitt could have a banner year in the state. It helps that new coach Paul Chryst will be in his first full recruiting year which usually is a big year for a new coach because he's both riding the wave of good buzz and he can convince prospects that they will have a place on his team. There will be more prospects uncovered starting in the Spring because there are always kids who end the season at 6'1" and 230 pounds, then come back in May at 6'4" and 260 pounds, but here is a starter on who the top prospects in the state will be in 2013.
Top 3 in alphabetical order
Adam Breneman, Cedar Cliff HS (Camp Hill) TE- Mostly a pass rushing threat right now, almost like an extra wide receiver. At 6'5" and 220 pounds, he could stay that way but he also has the frame to add a lot more weight and be a more conventional tight end. No matter how you look at it, he's a matchup nightmare for defenses and is the new breed of tight end in the same vein as NFL stars like Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. In Todd Graham's offense, Breneman was not a good fit. With Chryst, Pitt could suddenly be a major player since Chryst's offenses use receiving tight ends heavily. At one point, Penn State was the odds on favorite but that has obviously changed. I can see him ending up at a program that really showcases the tight end like Pitt, Notre Dame or Stanford, but he has also great offers like Alabama, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Virginia, and Florida State. And that list will only get bigger.
Robert Foster, Central Valley HS (Monaca) WR- Electrifying wide receiver and return man who should be the No. 1 prospect in the state and one of the top wide receivers in the country. He's 6'2" 175, plus has track speed, good hands, and can run like hell after the catch. His track coach even thinks that with the right training he could run as fast as 10.4 in the 100, which is essentially world class speed. He's not at that level yet, but he's fast and is only going to get faster. Elite programs like Ohio State, Oregon, Florida, and Florida State have already offered and that list will get much, much longer. He has not really looked into recruiting yet, but he's the cousin of Pitt redshirt freshman linebacker Todd Thomas, he's friends with Pitt recruits Rushel Shell and Chandler Kincade, and his favorite player ever is Larry Fitzgerald. Put it all together and I would be very, very surprised if he ended up anywhere other than Pitt.
Patrick Kugler, North Allegheny HS (Wexford) OG- If Foster is not the consensus No. 1 player in the state next year than it will be Kugler. He's already closing in on twenty offers including Miami, Michigan State, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Iowa, Tennessee, and Stanford. At 6'4" and 270 pounds he will probably need a redshirt year, as most freshman offensive linemen do, but then he could be a star. He moved from Buffalo prior to this season as his dad became the new OL coach for the Steelers. So while he doesn't have deep ties to the area, he also isn't about to go back to Buffalo to play in college. One bad part of Graham leaving is that Spencer Leftwich is no longer the Pitt offensive line coach and his son, Spencer, just happened to be North Allegheny's star quarterback and best friend of Kugler. But with a pro style offense and a Chryst's reputation for tough, excellent offensive linemen, you have to think Pitt is one of the teams to beat.
Definitely somewhere in top 10 in alphabetical order
Tyler Boyd, Clairton HS (Clairton) WR/S- What an amazing year the 6'1" 165 pound Boyd had. Clairton was in a class by themselves in Class A and Boyd was a man amongst boys in the smallest division. His level of competition may hurt him when it comes to offers but that will only help the Panthers. He is dazzling with the ball in his hands, but some think he could make an even better safety. So far Pitt is his only offer but even with low level of competition, you have to think he will get double digit offers if he doesn't commit early. The Panthers do well with Clairton players- Manny Williams and Kevin Weatherspoon are already on the team and Trenton Cole has already committed for the current class. Also in the current class is Allderdice nose tackle Tyrique Jarrett, who is Boyd's stepbrother. Sounds like a lot going for the Panthers and with Chryst knowing he has to hit western PA especially hard in his first season, I would be surprised if he went anywhere other than Pitt at this point.
Justin Moody, George Washington HS (Philadelphia) DE- An aggressive, relentless, strong, and quick pass rusher, and those are the kinds of players that are at a premium. Especially when they are already 6'3" and 265 pounds. So far Rutgers is his only offer but there will be more. His former teammate and close friend, Sharrif Floyd, was the No. 1 prospect in the state two years ago and now he's at Florida, so if Florida offers they will be a major player. It's too early to see how Pitt will fare with him but he would be ideal as a pass rushing end in a 4-3, and that's the defense the Panthers will probably run.
David Williams, West Philadelphia Catholic HS (Philadelphia) RB- Solidly built at 6'0" 198, and has blazing speed. Runs mostly between the tackles. Doesn't have a lot of wiggle but he hasn't needed it. Has eight offers currently, including from Pitt and Notre Dame. Camped at Pitt over the summer and liked his experience with the coaches, but how there's a new sheriff in town. Rushel Shell looks like the potential Chryst superstar back of the future, but running backs have to be salivating to play in Chryst's offense. For that reason, Pitt could be a major player.
Other High-Major Prospects
Nick Arcidiacono, Archbishop Wood Catholic HS (Warminster) DE- No offers yet but the 6'4" 230 pound end is tough and is improving his quickness. Has two brothers already playing major college, at Penn State and Rutgers, and he will also get major offers.
T.J. Armstrong, Clarion Area HS (Clarion) LB- Not to be confused with Clairton, but the 6'3" 205 pounder is good enough to star for the Class A juggernaut, too. He starred as a freshman than missed his sophomore year with an injury. He came back this year and played great. He's a big Pitt fan so if he gets an offer, he'll probably commit.
Forrest Barnes, Seneca Valley HS (Harmony) WR/RB/CB- Now this is an interesting player. One of the best relatively unknown players in WPIAL even though he dominated this season. He's not big at 5'11" and 170 pounds, be he can flat out fly and is a great runner with the ball in his hands either as a running back or after the catch. He could also end up at cornerback at the next level, but I'd love to see this kid with the ball in his hands for Pitt. I would be very surprised if Pitt didn't offer.
Matt Barone, Montour HS (McKees Rocks) DE- A very intriguing kid and impressive kid. With teammate Tyler Haddock (who is also on this list), he has spent over a year going to combines and camps to get noticed. At one point last year he was 6'1" and 230 pounds. Now he's 6'3" and 270 pounds. He's a pretty good athlete, he's strong, and he plays like his life depends on it. Could be a nice fit at DT for the Panthers if he can get even bigger but if not, he can be a strong side defensive end. One of my personal favorites.
Jordan Brown, Seneca Valley HS (Harmony) QB- At 6'2" and 170 pounds, he needs to get bigger, but he can run, thrown, and he was the most productive quarterback in the WPIAL this year. His father played at Michigan State and his brother, C.J., is the current starting quarterback at Maryland. His brother really never gave Pitt much of a chance and Jordan says he wants to play in the south so I don't even know if the Panthers will be interested.
Zach Challingsworth, South Fayette HS (McDonald) WR- Good 6'2" 180 pound size and he catches everything thrown to him. Also a pretty good athlete. Should get some D-1 offers.
Brandon Chatmon, Cardinal O'Hara HS (Springfield) LB- At 6'1" and 220 pounds, he isn't the biggest, but he is highly athletic and fast. Surprisingly Pitt is his only offer so far and he's already been to visit a few times. He liked the city and the school so even when his offer list expands, the Panthers have a good chance. His best friend is star RB David Williams (already listed above), and they both say they want to go to the same school together. Players say this often and it usually doesn't come to fruition but it would be a major coup if the Panthers could do it with this pair.
Hodari Christian, McKeesport Area HS (McKeesport) LB- The Panthers have had horrible luck with McKeesport prospects over the years, but the 6'1" 210 pound Christian is somebody that's worth fighting for.
Roman Clay, Lancaster Catholic HS (Lancaster) RB- A quick and tough stocky back at 5'10" and 205 pounds. Some published reports have him with early offers from Nebraska and Rutgers already. He camped at Pitt this past summer. A very good back who would be an ideal fit for Chryst's run heavy offense.
DeShawn Coleman, Hickory HS (Hermitage) RB- My absolute favorite player to watch in the state. If you think Robert Foster has moves, wait until you get a load of this kid. He sometimes looks like he's in the Matrix. But, seriously, this 5'11" 170 athlete is all kinds of fast and quick. He also had well over 2,000 yards rushing this season and it was his first season playing varsity football. Because he's raw and he's not playing in a hotbed for recruiting, he may go unnoticed by some schools, but hopefully Pitt finds him and offers him because he would be fun to watch.
Karvonn "Mud Puppy" Coles, Clairton Area HS (Clairton) RB- Mud Puppy not only has the greatest nickname ever, he's also a big time talent who was lost this past season when he blew his knee out over the summer. The result is that Tyler Boyd was moved to running back. But assuming he's healthy, look for the younger brother of Pitt recruit Trenton Coles to see a lot of carries. He was always considered a future star for the Bears and now he may finally get his chance. At 5'10" and 190 pounds, he's not big, but he is talented.
Brendan Edwards, Imani Christian Academy, (Pittsburgh) CB- The transfer from Perry Traditional Academy is only 5'9" and 170 pounds, but he has high major speed and athleticism. Should be one of the highest recruited corners in the state.
Will Fuller, Roman Catholic HS (Philadelphia) WR- Very slight 6'0" 160 pound build but he's quick, athletic, and highly productive. Has a Rutgers offer and visited Pitt unofficially for the Syracuse game. The Panthers will probably stay interested, but they will be involved with a lot of WRs over the next year.
Tyler Haddock, Montour HS (McKees Rocks) DT- The 6'0" 280 pound lineman may look stocky but don't be surprised by his girth. Haddock has good feet and is quick as a cat. If he were 6'4" he would be an elite prospect but the same thing was said about Aaron Donald. I'm not saying Haddock will end up anywhere near as good as Donald, but there are definite similarities.
Titus Howard, Clairton HS (Clairton) WR/S- Needs to add weight to his 6'3" 170 pound frame but he has great length and if you saw his dunking exhibitions on the basketball court you will see that he can really sky, too.
R.J. Hughes, Gateway HS (Monroeville) OG- The next in the line of Gateway prospects, at 6'4" and 275 pounds, he projects as a guard.
Zayd Issah, Central Dauphin HS (Harrisburg) LB- One of the best players in the state this season was the do everything Issah. At 6'3" and 210 pounds, he ran the ball for a lot of yards, he caught the ball for a lot of yards, and he played defense like a demon. Would make a very exciting middle linebacker prospect for the Panthers due to his toughness and straight line speed. While the Panthers haven't offered yet, I would be surprised if the new staff didn't go after him hard.
Dorian Johnson, Belle Vernon Area HS (Belle Vernon) OT- The 6'6" 270 pounder already has great length. He also has a West Virginia offer. I'd be surprised if Pitt didn't offer, too.
Brian Lemelle, Bishop McDevitt HS (Harrisburg) WR- You can't have a list of top prospects without a Bishop McDevitt kid- or five. Lemelle has had a great season for the powerhouse program and should get a good bit of major offers. At 5'11" and 170 pounds, he isn't big, but I'm guessing he will get a Pitt offer soon.
Demetrius Louis, Ringgold HS (Monongahela) CB- It's been awhile since the Mon Valley was pumping out elite prospects, but Louis is a legit speedster who has a confirmed 38" vertical. At 5'11" and 180 pounds he also has the size.
Mike McGlinchey, William Penn Charter School (Philadelphia) OT- Wisconsin's offensive line was known for their size so how about 6'8" and 280 pounds? Virginia, Boston College, Rutgers, and Duke have already offered and I would be surprised if Pitt didn't also.
Andrew Nelson, Hershey HS (Hershey) OT- If he proves to be the 6'5" and 265 pounds that he's listed at then he could be quite the sleeper because he moves extremely well for his size. In fact, he is also the team's long snapper and sometimes is actually the first player down the field. He also has a great frame to add more weight and plays hard all the time.
Madison O'Connor, Pottsgrove HS (Pottstown) OT- Once again, Chryst likes the big linemen and this one is 6'6" and 325 pounds.
Jaymar Parrish, Gateway HS (Monroeville) TE/LB- At 6'2" and 225 pounds, he's not a conventional tight end even though he causes some matchup problems, and he can really block despite his lack of ideal tight end size. With his great toughness and range, though, he could make an ideal MLB candidate. Expect him to get good offers, and I would be surprised if Pitt wasn't one of them.
Dubois Ross, Pius X (Bangor) WR/CB- He plays in a small classification but he's talented and he projects just as well on either side of the ball. At 6'0" and 160 pounds he needs to add more size, but he has long arms, he's quick, and he has very good speed. He was rated the top receiver at Pitt's camp this past summer. For a kid who's coming from a school that has an enrollment of about 70 kids, he is quite the find.
Shakir Soto, GAR Memorial HS (Wilkes-Barre) DE- At 6'3" and 230 pounds, he's a bit of a sleeper who Pitt will no doubt watch very closely.
Ed Stockett, McKeesport Area HS (McKeesport) QB- What's this, a pro style quarterback prospect from the team known for their Wishbone offense? The 6'4" 210 pounder was too talented to waste in such an offense so they changed it all around for him. Now he will get major offers next season. The Tigers offense is based on West Virginia's offense and the Mountaineers are already interested.
Damion Terry, Cathedral Prep School (Erie) QB- Athletic and mobile signal caller with good size at 6'4" and 210 pounds. Could be somebody worth taking a flyer on.
Terrish Webb, Clairton Area HS (Clairton) WR- Yes, this really is the fourth possible D-1 prospect from this Class A juggernaut. At 6'0" 175 pounds, he's another fast game breaker.
Khalid Weems, Upper Dublin HS (Ft. Washington) CB- Slick cover corner and return man who has impressed in camps all last summer. He even won the MVP at one of them when he ran a 4.5 40. You can never have enough athletic cornerbacks so Pitt will definitely be interested.
Elijah Wilkinson, Downingtown West HS (Downingtown) OG- At 6'4" and 305 pounds, he is big enough and with his team operating out of the Wing-T, he sure knows how to run block.
Delton Williams, Cathedral Prep (Erie) S- Great frame already at 6'2" and 200 pounds. He was the only junior to be named All-State this year on defense in Class AAA.
Devin Wilson, Montour HS (McKees Rocks) WR- Unlike Graham's offense, Chryst utilizes big receivers and at 6'3" and 180 pounds, Wilson has good height. He is also fast and athletic.