Friday, May 25, 2012

Trey Zeigler eligible immediately

It was announced by the university today that Central Michigan transfer Trey Zeigler will not have to sit out a year and will be eligible for the Panthers immediately.  With the arrival of freshman center Steven Adams, and the improvement of players such as Lamar Patterson and J.J. Moore, the Panthers appear to be a legit top 25 team this season.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pitt football loses a commitment

Paul Chryst lost one of his 2013 commitments today when 6'5" 290 pound offensive lineman Dan Samuelson of Plymouth (IN) HS chose to change his commitment to Nebraska.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Monessen QB has a final three

Monessen quarterback Chavas Rawlins has named a final three and they are West Virginia, Tennessee, and Duke.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Panthers offer another quarterback

Paul Chryst has offers out to Tra'von Chapman and Chavas Rawlins, and now a third quarterback has been offered.  Pitt joins Syracuse, UMass, UConn, and Boston College in offering 6'3" 195 pound Tim Boyle of Xavier HS in Middletown, CT.

Boyle needs to gain strength but has an above average arm and is technically sound. He is considered a bit of a sleeper at this time, but with very good potential.  He was not a full-time starter as a junior and threw only 48 passes the past season.  He is also operating out of the shotgun in a spread offense at Xavier.

However, Chryst has had great success in the past with two quarterbacks who were not elite prospects in high school-  Johnny Unitas Award winner Scott Tolzien and All-American Russell Wilson.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Commitment, resignation, and possible transfer

Just some updates from this morning since it has been busy.

1.  The Panthers got a commitment from 6'1" 230 pound Gateway star Jaymar Parrish.  He's not the big name that Panthers fans are dying to see but he's a good prospect.  Pitt was his only major offer but that's mostly because Parrish is a bit of a tweener.  Not many programs are looking for fullbacks anymore and he's too short to be a tight end.  But make no mistake about it, he's a solid prospect.

2.  Big East commissioner John Marinatto has stepped down.  This is clearly one of these things where he jumped because he was getting pushed, but at least he's gone.  No matter what, the Big East won't be Pitt's problem soon enough.

3.  Last but not least, Rutgers and Arizona transfer Tom Savage has hinted that he may be transferring to Pitt.  A one time elite recruit out of Cardinal O'Hara HS in suburban Philly, the 6'5" 240 pounder had a big freshman season before his losing his job as a sophomore.  He then transferred to Arizona and sat out last year.  However, before being eligible to play a game Savage left Arizona after the season. Citing family matters, he tried to be eligible immediately and transfer back to Rutgers, but the NCAA denied him.  For that reason, it looks like Savage will have just one year of eligibility remaining and that won't be until 2013.  In that case, it just may be better to start Chad Voytik in his second season rather than Savage in his first- and last- season, but since there's no guarantee that Voytik will be good enough, i guess Savage would be an excellent fallback option.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Some names to remember in the WPIAL for 2014

As I've stated before, and as any Pitt fans already knows, the Panthers have had trouble recruiting quality linebackers in the past few years.  Luckily for the program, western PA looks like it has some very good linebacker prospects next year who could change that should the staff convince them to play for the local school.  Of course these kids are only sophomores right now so how good they will become remains to be seen, but all have great potential and at least now project as high major prospects.

Brenon Thrift, Gateway HS (Monroeville) LB-  Recently transferred from Steel Valley and the exposure of playing at Gateway should bring him many offers.  In fact, despite being just a sophomore he already has offers from Pittsburgh and West Virginia. A beast already at 6'3" and 230 pounds. He could turn out to be a national recruit and the guy in the Pittsburgh area that everybody wants.  Unfortunately, however, he says he has no interest in Pitt as of now, and loves West Virginia.

Nate Stone, Greensburg Central Catholic (Greensburg) LB-  Want the next Dan Mason?  That's exactly who this kid reminds me of.  Right now he's in the 5'11" or 6'0" range, but has time to grow an inch or two.  He's also a rock solid 220 pounds.  All muscle, an explosive hitter, and great range, he has the chance to be really good.

Sage Curry, Beaver Falls Area HS (Beaver Falls) LB-  Not as big as some of the others at 6'2" and 200 pounds, but he hits like a ton of bricks, has excellent speed, and flies all over the field.  If he fills out, he could be a very good linebacker.  If he doesn't he should be a very good safety. Either way the kid can play.

Justice Rawlins, Monessen Area HS (Monessen) LB-  A national freshman all-american but blew out his knee before his sophomore season started.  That didn't stop Pitt from already offering him.  Unfortunately, just like his brother, Chavas, he will likely want to move away from the area. Already big and fast at 6'2" and 220 pounds, and it should be interesting to see how good he can be as a junior now that he's healthy.  Also an excellent baseball prospect so that may factor into his recruiting.

Shai McKenzie, Washington Area HS (Washington) LB-  The last, but certainly not the least of the four linebackers is this nasty 6'1" 200 pounder.  He is also an excellent running back, but his aggressiveness, toughness, and great speed and range makes him a definite major college prospect.

Jaleel Fields, Aliquippa Area HS (Aliquippa) DT-  The Quips are flat out loaded with talented underclassmen but the 6'2" 260 pound Fields projects to be among the best.  He put on 25 pounds recently but has regained his quickness.

Dravon Henry, Aliquippa Area HS (Aliquippa) RB/CB-  College coaches have been licking their chops with this since he was a freshman. Right now he's a slim 5'11" and 180 pounds, but he has speed to burn and in football these days, skill players are more about speed and quickness than size.  Could be a national recruit.

Brock Boxen, Beaver Falls Area HS (Beaver Falls) DT-  How could a kid named Brock Boxen not play for Pitt?  Like Aliquippa, Beaver Falls is loaded with young talent, including this intriguing 6'3" 250 pounder.  He has good explosion and he'll only get bigger.

Ricky Rogers, Keystone Oaks HS (Pittsburgh) WR-  Pitt did well with former Keystone Oaks products Chris Jacobson and Myles Caragein, but it may be even harder to land this big time prospect.  Rutgers has already offered and many more will follow.  Could be a national recruit.  By no means am I saying he is in the same category as Larry Fitzgerald, in my opinion the best receiver in NCAA history, but he does remind me of him.  He is already built like an NFL receiver at 6'2" and 190 pounds, he has great hands, and runs hard.  He's more fast than quick, but like Fitzgerald he looks like a linebacker playing receiver.  The most interesting thing about Rogers, and something that may effect his recruiting, is that he is a world class dancer.  Yes, a dancer.  In fact, he goes to school at Lincoln Park Performing Arts School in Midland.  He is allowed to play football at Keystone Oaks since Lincoln Park does not have a football team.

Harry Randall, Woodland Hills HS (Pittsburgh) DB-  One of the young kids who really impressed on the recruiting circuit this season.  Now at 6'0" and 180 pounds he looks like he can be a top cornerback recruit thanks to size, athleticism, and great hands.

Chandler Kincade, Blackhawk HS (Beaver Falls) QB-  Is Beaver County loaded or what?Obviously this is somebody that Pitt fans know since he's already committed to the Panthers.  I still don't understand why Todd Graham offered him because he couldn't be more wrong for Graham's offense, but thankfully for Panther fans he will fit in nicely in Paul Chryst's offense.  He's already 6'4" and 210 pounds so size is not a problem.  The rest of his game?  Time will tell. He didn't play much as a sophomore because of injuries so his junior year will tell a lot. But there is a lot there for Chryst to work with.

Brandon Mitchell, Fox Chapel HS (Fox Chapel) QB/WR-  Size and athleticism is what Mitchell is all about.  At a lean 6'5" and 180 pounds, he looks like he's eight feet tall on the field.  Transferred from Penn Hills.  Track and field star and one of the best hurdlers in the area.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

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

The Panthers defense does not need the tweaking that the offense needs.  The unit has been at least solid for a few years now and there is young talent, especially in the secondary.  For that reason I suspect that the defense will have less commitments for this class when all is said and done, but that doesn't mean that both impact players and depth aren't needed.

Defensive Line:  It begins with All-American candidate Aaron Donald whose lack of size will probably keep him from leaving after this season.  T.J. Clemmings, Tyrone Ezell, Khaynin Mosely-Smith, Bryan Murphy, and LaQuentin Smith are also back for multiple years, though the defense will probably best be served if Smith could eventually return to linebacker.  Terrell Jackson and Daryl Render are arriving on the scene this fall and 2013 verbal commitment Shakir Soto will be joining next season meaning the Panthers have at least nine promising young linemen on the roster right now.

But that is not enough for the staff, who will be changing to a 4-3 and has been offering many defensive linemen over the past few months.  Most of the best ones appear to be heading elsewhere or aren't seriously considering the Panthers, but there are still some good ones out there, including two junior college players.

New Jersey native Aaron Hush plays in Brooklyn now, and at 6'4" and 280 pounds he has the size for tackle, but also has good enough speed and explosiveness to play end.  He previously had a stint at prep school and signed with Temple but eventually ended up back in the junior college ranks. But don't be fooled by his past.  His grades are what kept him from being recruited by bigger schools and now he has offers from Penn State, NC State, Vanderbilt, and UConn.  He has gained 60 good pounds since high school and at 280 pounds he runs a 4.85 and has a 36" vertical.

Just as impressive is Edwin Delva, a Miami native who is currently playing at a California junior college.  At 6'3" and 295 pounds he is a big time talent with offers from Kansas State, Oregon State, and Purdue, but he's also being monitored closely by the likes of Oklahoma and Texas A&M.

Some developmental linemen that the staff has a chance to land include 6'3" 265 Justin Moody (Philadelphia), 6'4" 260 pound Eric Joraskie (Mt. Carmel, PA), 6'3" 250 pound Antonio Miles (Canton, OH), and 6'4" 245 pound Luke Maclean (Grand Blanc, MI).

Linebacker:  The Panthers have had good defenses recently but the linebacker corps have been a weakness.  When the Panthers defense failed it was more often than not because the linebackers were exposed.  While there are some promising young players at the position a major influx of talent and depth is needed.

Dan Mason, Shane Gordon, Eric Williams, Nicholas Grigsby, Todd Thomas, and Juan Price all have at least two years remaining, and Mike Caprara and Devon Porchia will be freshmen this fall.  There is some potential there, but like I said, that's not going to be enough.

Chryst hasn't started off well at the position with top targets Ben Gedeon (Ohio State), Dorian O'Daniel (Clemson), Alex Anzalone (Ohio State), Shane Jones (Michigan State), Courtney Love (Nebraska), and Ryne Rankin (Georgia) already choosing other schools.

Two in-state players are leaning elsewhere, too.  Harrisburg's Zayd Issah is probably heading to Penn State and McKeesport's Hodari Christian is favoring West Virginia.

Big Ohio prospect Darrien Howard (6'2" 250) could be a possibility but other than it looks like the staff is going to have to unearth some hidden gems.

Defensive backs:  If it's one position that the Panthers should be good both now and in the immediate future it's the secondary.

Only safeties Andrew Taglianetti and Jarred Holley will be gone after this season and an influx of talent in the next two years is a welcome sight.

Star cornerback K'waun Williams still has two years to play, as does safety Jason Hendricks.  Promising sophomores Cullen Christian, Lloyd Carrington, and Ray Vinopal have three years remaining, and the freshmen and redshirt freshmen include Lafayette Pitts, Roderick Ryles, Bam Bradley, Deaysean Rippy, Jahmahl Parder, and Ryan Lewis.

You can never have enough defensive backs, however, especially since LaQuentin Smith and Bradley may eventually end up at linebacker, and the staff has correctly thrown a lot of offers out there to strengthen the position even more.

Clairton's Titus Howard was just offered and with Pitt's history with Clairton players I wouldn't be surprised if he committed to the Panthers, especially since he is not expected to get many, if any, other major offers.

After that it's anybody's guess, but the chances are they will come from Ohio (6'0" 170 Darian Hicks, 6'1" 175 pound Reon Dawson, 5'9" 180 pound Billy Aaron, 6'0" 175 pound Solomon Warfield,  6'3" 200 pound Marcus Ball, 6'0"190 pound Godwin Igwebuike), New Jersey (6'3" 185 Kyle Queiro), or Florida (6'1" 205 pound Paris Bostick).

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.