Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Where the Panthers stand in recruiting, position by position (Offense)

As we enter May, things are about to heat up in football recruiting.  In the next few months, there will be a lot more verbal commitments nationally, and presumably at Pitt also.  Especially since the Panthers will hold their prospects camp in a little more than five weeks.  This is especially important now as Pitt's main talent evaluator, offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph, is a huge believer in making evaluations at these camps.

Quarterback:  Obviously this is a position of dire need and until the Panthers land more talent and depth at this position, the program is limited.  It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Chad Voytik but it's not good to have just one option, and like any freshman he's not a sure thing.  Tino Sunseri will be gone after this year (hold your cheers), and while Mark Myers will have two more years after this season, he is still a major question mark.  That's why it's imperative that the Panthers add talent and numbers at the position.  In fact, it's probably best to take two quarterbacks in this class, one elite prospect and one development prospect, though it may be hard to convince a kid to sit behind two better prospects.

The Panthers were potentially dealt a big blow (depending on who they end up with) when Malik Zaire chose Notre Dame, and right now the only top tier QB that the staff has offered is 6'2" 200 pound Tra'von Chapman (Roosevelt HS, Kent, OH).  Chapman is raw, but he has a strong arm, throws a great deep ball, and has good mobility and athleticism.  Between him and Voytik the Panthers should find a very good quarterback.  If it's one thing we know when it comes to Paul Chryst, if you give him a quarterback with good skills he can make him extremely productive.  Even though Chapman doesn't have a lot of big time offers at this time, it will still be a battle to get him.  As of now, Cincinnati and Northwestern are the biggest competitors.

It would be great to get Monessen's Chavas Rawlins to go with Chapman because he's too raw to be a factor immediately at quarterback (and may eventually end up at receiver), but he is sounding more and more like he would like to get away from home.  For now, I think Pitt fans can write him off.  Some recruiting websites list Florida quarterback Asiantii Woulard with a Pitt offer but that was made by the previous staff and the current staff has not shown any interest.

That pretty much leaves Chapman or bust right now so it's pretty obvious that Chryst has work to do at the position.  The prospect camp in June could be interesting and special note should be taken to see which quarterbacks show up since it will be a golden opportunity for Chryst and Rudolph to see up close if any of them have the potential they are looking for.  However, the bottom line is that with Chryst's reputation and Pitt's desperate need at the position, Chryst really has to come through with at least one excellent prospect or it will be looked at as an early failure in his tenure.

Running back:  Ray Graham will be gone after this season, but Isaac Bennett continues to surprise and Rushel Shell is on the horizon.  But Chryst loves a power running game so the running back corps must always be loaded.  For that reason, there's room to add another quality running back, or even two.

Philadelphia's David Williams is a big time player but for whatever reason the new staff wasn't very interested.  But even without Williams, the Panthers can make a major statement by landing 5'11" 200 pound Corey Clement (Glassboro (NJ) HS).  Clement is very good and could challenge Shell as the future feature back. He really likes Pitt but the competition is fierce.  His other offers include Penn State, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Florida State.

Augustus Edwards (Tottenville HS (Staten Island, NY) is not in the same class as Clement but he's still pretty good.  At 6'1" and 210 pounds he's big, with a frame to get even bigger, and he has good speed. Pitt is only starting to get more involved with him now, but they have offered along with the likes of Rutgers, Syracuse, UConn, Vanderbilt, Purdue, and Indiana.

Zaire Williams (Timber Creek Regional HS (Erial, NJ) is more of a scatback at 5'11" 190, but it doesn't help that he had a Pitt offer for a month before he even knew he had it.  His other offers include Iowa, UConn, Temple, and West Virginia.  Small JoJo Kemp (Deland (FL) HS) is just 5'9" 185 but he appears to be headed to South Florida.

Wide receiver:  This is one position that will be in a big state of flux over the next two years.  Mike Shanahan and Cameron Saddler will be moving on after the season, and many of the other receivers on the roster are smallish and were brought in during the previous two regimes.  Devin Street will be on the team for two more years but after him there are questions.  There are some promising underclassmen like Brandon Felder and Demitrious Davis, but more depth and talent is clearly needed.

The staff have offered quite a few receivers already in this class, but most are either headed elsewhere or aren't seriously considering the Panthers.  Luckily for Chryst, however, there are two excellent ones that he has a legit shot at.

Central Valley's Robert Foster has superstar potential and getting him is essential, not only for his talent, but for the message it sends to the WPIAL and beyond.  I still feel that the Panthers have a good shot to land him.  Clairton's Tyler Boyd is an excellent talent in his own right and the Panthers are hanging tough with him.  At one point, the Panthers were a long shot but he has become very close with wide receivers coach Bobby Engram, and now they are right in the thick of it.

Brian Lemelle of Bishop McDevitt HS in Harrisburg is not at the same level as Foster and Boyd, but he's the only other wide receiver offered thus far that the Panthers appear to have a legit shot at.  He holds offers from Penn State, Virginia, Iowa, and Rutgers also.

Bottom line, if the Panthers whiff on Foster and Boyd there could be a big drop off.

Tight end:  The staff lost out on elite PA tight end Adam Breneman (Penn State) and is not seriously in the running for elite North Carolina tight end Josh McNeil.  Chryst and company also were looking to land Ohio tight end Greg Hart, but the Panthers aren't currently in his top two.  Sounds bleak, huh?  Not so fast.

Hubie Graham is in his last season, but promising redshirt sophomores Brendan Carozzoni and Drew Carswell should only get better, and Anthony Gonzalez may end up back at the position again.  If that's not good enough, true freshman J.D. Holtz has a bright future.  Then of course there is Seton-LaSalle's Scott Orndoff, a personal favorite of mine who has verbally committed for 2013.  He's big, fast, and athletic.

Bottom line, Chryst and Rudolph loves pass catching tight ends, and they turn them into stars.  And now they have plenty of talented options to do just that.

Offensive line:  Contrary to popular belief, losing Bob Bostad hurt a lot, but all is not lost.  Jim Hueber is a quality coach and he, Chryst, and Rudolph together should still make the line a powerful unit in the near future.

Some promising linemen will be around for a few more years yet.  Juniors Cory King (6'5" 325) and Ryan Schlieper (6'5" 305) have the size that Chryst likes, and they should only get better under the great tutelage they are about to receive.  Sophomores Tom Ricketts (6'6" 285) and Matt Rotheram (6'6" 350) are in the same boat, with Rotheram particularly appealing because of his enormous size.  Incoming freshman Adam Bisnotawy (6'6" 280) only needs to add weight to be very good and fellow freshman Gabe Roberts (6'4" 290) is a sleeper that Chryst and Bostad picked out personally.

That's at least six young linemen for the new staff to work on, but many more are needed, and I can see the staff taking five this year.  Two are already in the fold with 6'5" 290 pound guard Dan Samuelson and 6'6" 280 pound tackle Aaron Reese.  Both are the types of sleepers that Chryst and Hueber have succeeded with in the past.  Both however are a few years away so it would be better if the other two or three linemen added to the class are ready quicker.

The most obvious great addition would be 6'6" 280 pound tackle Dorian Johnson, a local kid from Belle Vernon.  He is the type of kid that Chryst and Hueber could turn into a star left tackle, and he's good enough to be starting in his second year at the latest.  This is exactly the type of kid that Pitt has no business losing if they want to improve their football program.

After Johnson, Maryland guard Na'ty Rodgers is the biggest fish.  He's only 275 pounds now but at 6'4" he has the frame to add the weight that Chryst wants.  He recently visited Pitt while in town for a 7-on-7 tournament, and it went well, but the competition of USC, Florida, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and South Carolina, among others, is going to be very difficult to overcome.

New Jersey's Dorian Miller would be an excellent pickup at center even though at 6'2" and 290 pounds, he's smaller than Chryst usually likes.  However, right now his top two are Tennessee and Rutgers.

Ohio tackle Kyle Meadows could develop nicely under Chryst and Hueber but the 6'6" 270 pounder is currently favoring Florida State.  Cincinnati guard Alex Gall is big at 6'5" and 295 pounds, and has offers that include Miami, Florida State, and Louisville.  He has yet to visit Pitt.  Marquis Wallace, 6'5" 300, was once a West Virginia signee but didn't have the grades.  He's now at Lackawanna JC in PA. His other offers include South Florida, Kansas, Houston, and East Carolina, but as of now the Panthers have a good chance. He only has two years to play two years, however, so he can't redshirt.

After that there are some intriguing projects offered, including 6'7" 290 pound tackle Jaryd Jones-Smith from Philadelphia, 6'6" 295 pound Eric Tetlow from Virginia, and 6'6" 320 pound Xzavier McAllister.


  1. Have seen Zaire Williams play. Good back, hard runner... does not seem to have top-end speed.

    Regarding the Quarterback situation... what makes you such a big fan of Chad Voytik?

    His best performance among national talent was in shorts at the Elite 11.

    When it came time to put the pads on dring the nationally televised game on ESPN and at the Army All-American Bowl... he looked outclassed by others playing QB.

    Granted he has a strong arm... and looks to be pretty athletic. But his passing profiency was suspect in both games.

    Some supporters like to blame the receivers and the team he had in Tennessee. However, I don't think you can question the talent he had around himself at the Army Bowl.

    That said... I am hoping I'm wrong and he turns out to be a star.

    Continuing with the subject of Pitt QB... you don't sound exactly like a Mark Myers guy?

    However, based on his "better than Tino" performance at the Blue Gold Scrimmage... there is question as to whether Chryst is going to simply hand the reins back to Sunseri come September.

    Seems to me that Myers ability to the ball relatively accurately especially when it comes to the deep ball... would be enough of a threat to help Chryst and Rudolph get their run game going.

    The floor is yours.

    1. To be honest, all-star games like that are the worst for evaluations. That's why in the NFL, the coaches are there all week for the practices then leave before the game is even played. If you remember that game, every play was a jailbreak and Voytik was running for his life. To be honest, I was more impressed after his performance in that game because he didn't have much if a chance and he was still improvising and making plays with both his arm and his feet.

      At the end of the day, Voytik has an A grade in three very important quarterback skills- leadership, arm strength, and quick release. Chryst has produced excellent college quarterbacks with less.

    2. Oh, and as for Myers, I would be very surprised if he started this year and he's going to have improve next year if he wants to start even then. He's a big kid with a strong arm but he's never shown that he has the intangibles and can master the nuances to be a major college quarterback.

    3. Yea I don't know what the poster was talking about. Voytik's line in the AA game was letting guys through left and right. He was running for his life every play. He made some great plays on the run.

  2. Thanks Chris, great read and great info. I cut & pasted to keep as a reference as things unfold.

    Anon, playing QB takes a lot more than just the ability to throw the deep ball. We saw Myers do one thing very well in a practice session. No one on the staff or has seen Myers practice doubts his ability to throw the deep pass.

    The problem is there have been many practice sessions where he didn't play well at all. This staff, and any staff I believe, wants consistency in a starting QB and if a player doesn't show that in practice then they have just about zero confidence that he'll do it just because he's named a starter.

    IMO there isn't much of a question at this point about who is going to be the starter. Halfway through spring practices Sunseri was awarded all the 1st string snaps. This decision was made after Myers got a very good and fair share of reps to show what he had. Then, Anderson started being given 2nd string snaps and Myers was at the QB3 position.

    When asked why this happened Chryst said "Anderson's snaps had to come for somewhere so they came from Mark". Reading further into that we see that staff had Sunseri firmly set at QB1 and that they didn't want to take any snaps from him at all.

    We'll see how these two are positioned during the first three or so practices of training camp. If Sunseri is still getting all 1st string snaps, and he'll start off that way, then that means Chryst and Rudolph are ready to get the playbook in gear with their 1st string QB.

    The only real question in my mind at this point is who will be getting the lion's share of 2nd string snaps in camp. Voytik will have to get a decent amount of snaps to gauge his abilities at the college level and I think that will mean reps being split with whoever else is 2nd string at that point. The staff has a big decision whether to redshirt him or keep him ready to play. They aren't going to make that decision without seeing Voytik play against the two-deep talent.

    At some point not too far into the camp the offensive staff has to shut down competition and get ready for the season - this is especially important when it is a new staff with a new offense. There is a ton to learn before that first game and Chryst's offense isn't white bread at all, it is complex and layered with new terminology.

    1. Imo, if Voytik can't beat out Myers and Anderson for the 2nd string QB spot.... I mean,geez.

      He HAS to be better than those two - whether or not he beats out Sunseri who is a senior is a completely different thing.

      My point is, I don't see any possible scenario where Chryst could red-shirt Voytik.

  3. Chris - sorry for the insane attention to detail, but...

    -- Although I hope that he ends up being "Mr Wonderful", Paul Orndorff...it's Scott Orndoff

    -- "Mary" Myers...really?? You may not like him a lot, but that's harsh!

    1. That's what happens when I write it in the middle of the night.

  4. And what's the story with Chandler Kincaid? Is he still considered to be big-time? Is the word on the street that he will stay committed to Pitt? What does Chryst think of him?

    His tape from 2011 shows he has a pretty quick release.

    1. He is currently a sophmore... a 2014 commit.

  5. According to my 16 yr old daughter (who sits next to him in class), Eric Tetlow now has offers from Navy and Va Tech and she has the impression that Pitt is not No. 1 on his list....and thats not a slam on PC & Co. I got the impression that he's just leaning towards Blacksburg.

  6. I keep hearing and reading about the stars that Chryst and company turn tight ends into. Can you please refresh my memory? I can't name one of them that is in the NFL. Im sure I am just missing them or forgetting who they are.

  7. I'm hoping the staff signs five high school linemen and the JuCo, Wallace. Six O-linemen and four defensive linemen in this class. That's a lot of linemen, but the units need replenished as the coaching turnover has greatly affected the numbers at the positions.

  8. Doke - Who is recruiting New Jersey for Pitt? I saw that the Zeff kid that has been debated on this blog now has an offer from Temple and PSU is in the hunt. Yet Pitt has shown little interest. None of us know if any of these kids are any good, but it is surprising that all of these other schools are chasing a kid that has a Pitt connection yet Pitt is showing little love. Pitt used to patrol NJ looking for prospects but now seems to not care very much about the area. Strange.

    1. Hafley used to handle NJ for them before going to Rutgers. Is he still there or did he go to TB with Schiano?

      And isn't the Zeff kid in Brooklyn right now?... I know its close to NJ, but on a bad day the only way to get there from NJ is to fly - haha.

  9. Quipscript - here is an article I wrote on PITT Blather about Chryst's TEs...