Friday, February 7, 2014

2015 Pitt Football Recruiting Preview- Quarterbacks

Where the position stands now:

For next season, and maybe for three seasons, Pitt's fortunes will probably rest on sophomore redshirt Chad Voytik.  He is a one time Elite 11 participant so he has talent but for some reason many fans seem to have doubts about him. There's no reason to.  We haven't got to see him much, but when we have he has shown a lot of promise. He's not big at 6'1" and 210 pounds, but he's big enough. He also has a strong arm despite what many Pitt fans seem to think. In fact at the Elite 11, then No.1 QB recruit Gunner Kiel singled out Voytik by saying "Voytik's got a gun".  National recruiting writer Barton Simmons, who covered the event, reported that Voytik had "one of the strongest arms at the event".  He also has a lightning quick release. Well regarded Scout national recruiting analyst Scott Kennedy said of him at the Elite 11, "he had the quickest release of any of the participants". He also wrote that, "he's got the arm, the release, and the footwork".

These are just some of the many raves that Voytik has received for his arm and delivery. Throw in in his elusiveness, smarts, and leadership, and he has the potential to be special.  Especially with Paul Chryst and Brooks Bollinger coaching him.

Unfortunately after Voytik, things get frighteningly thin. The second string quarterback next season is former walk on Trey Anderson, a senior who, to his credit, has stayed at Pitt for four years despite being a Texas native that was brought in by Todd Graham.  The senior is listed at 6'0" and 195 pounds by Pitt, but I can only assume he was measured in a roomful of funhouse mirrors because it's more likely that he's around 5'10" and 180 pounds. While I admire him, if he is forced to play in anything other than mop up duty, the Panthers are in big trouble.

The best scenario for Chryst was to add two quarterbacks, with one being a player talented enough to play next season in an emergency, and then to compete with Voytik in two seasons. However, it didn't work out that way. The Panthers had two developmental quarterbacks commit to them- Wade Freebeck, from Florida, and Adam Bertke, from Ohio. Both were good developmental prospects, though neither would probably be ready to compete for a starting job for about three years. Worse case scenario, one would think, was that maybe Bertke could provide some snaps as a freshman, while Freebeck redshirted. Then in two years they can reverse that with Freebeck getting some snaps as a redshirt freshman and Bertke taking his redshirt. Then in three years, both could be redshirt sophomores, and both, or at least one, would be ready to provide more. They could take over for Voytik if he is struggling or could provide quality backup snaps. Then in four seasons both would be redshirt juniors and should, at least theoretically, be ready to take over the staring job.

But as we know, Freebeck changed his mind and decided to sign with Vanderbilt instead. That leaves just Bertke, who at 6'6" has great size, while also having a good arm. He's still a project, as most incoming quarterbacks are, but he's a good addition to the program.

Bottom line, behind Voytik, who despite his talent is not totally proven yet, there is a 5'10" walk on and a freshman who isn't ready to play yet. It can't get any more worrisome than that.

Future recruiting:

Obviously landing two quarterbacks, including an elite quarterback, is a necessity.  The good news is that there are some very good possibilities.

Let's first look at that elusive big time quarterback that Pitt needs to get them over the hump.  I mentioned earlier on this blog that I have found the ideal possibility. Pitt has not offered him yet, but he fits in every way. He will be ranked as one of the best quarterback prospects in the country, he's exactly the type of quarterback that the staff likes, and as if he was sent from heaven, he's actually from Wisconsin, which means Paul Chryst and Joe Rudolph are already in love with him.

The quarterback that I'm talking about is 6'4" 205 James Morgan of Ashwaubenon HS in Green Bay, WI. I'm not saying that he'll ever come even close to Aaron Rodgers, but he has the same size, he's from Green Bay, and his school colors are even green and yellow. Physically it's like watching Aaron Rodgers in high school. He is very accurate, has a good arm, and amazing touch.  In a nutshell, he is just flat out good.

There will be competition for such a talent, of course.  I'm assuming that he will get some Big 10 offers, and Notre Dame is interested.  But here's the good news. Many of the Big 10 programs who would usually be interested in him have already filled their quarterback needs this season, including Wisconsin who has already got a commitment for 2014 from an elite Florida quarterback that has drawn comparison to Russell Wilson, and for 2015 from an elite Utah quarterback that has drawn comparison to Johnny Manziel. In other words, unless things change, there's no reason why he would want to end up at Wisconsin.

Morgan visited Pitt in late November and he enjoyed it.  In fact, as of now he has named Pitt and Michigan State as his leaders.  Neither have offered yet.  In fact, nobody has offered yet. With true quarterbacks like this, coaches like to see them throw in person. That means Pitt has to either go watch him throw, and offer, or have him attend Pitt's camp, and offer.

Hopefully the Panthers will be aggressive here. He's the perfect fit in every way, and with Chryst, Rudolph, and Brooks Bollinger, the Wisconsin ties are deep. Hopefully Pitt doesn't blow this one because this is the type of quarterback that Pitt needs to get to a higher level, and he's right there for the taking.

But even though I just went on and on about Morgan, there are at least two other elite quarterbacks that Pitt has shown interest in, and either would also be an excellent addition. One is 6'3" 215 pound Nick Johns of Gonzaga College HS in Washington, DC. Physically solid, Johns also shows good arm strength, mobility, and mechanics. Like Morgan, he visited Pitt for the Miami game and enjoyed it. Also like Morgan, Pitt wants to see him throw first before offering. Virginia is his lone offer so far, but he broke his collarbone and missed much of this past season so schools want to really watch him throw in person. Bobby Engram was his recruiter so a new contact person will be needed. By the way, on an added note, his team is flat out loaded with national recruits in the 2015 class so that's a bonus for landing him.

The last of the elite possibilities is 6'2" 190 pound Alex Malzone of Brother Rice HS in Bloomfield, MI. Coming from the most dominant program in Michigan, he's a winner, but there's more than that. The thing that jumps out the most about him is his arm. The ball absolutely jumps from of his hand effortlessly. That means his mechanics are impressive, too.  And that arm strength comes in a 190 pound package. Once he gets bigger and stronger his arm will become even better. The good news for Pitt is that since he's not big, he may not get a lot of big time offers. He already holds offers from seven MAC programs, but bigger programs will offer once they see him throw in person. He did throw at Michigan, and got raves. He is under consideration for a Wolverine offer, and is also being monitored by the likes of Michigan State, Penn State, and Ohio State. But he did visit Pitt on junior day recently and said it was the best place he's been to.

The next on the list may also prove to be an elite caliber prospect and that's 6'4" 210 pound Kyle Shurmur of La Salle College HS in Wyndmoor, PA. So far he's the lone quarterback in the class to get a Pitt offer and there's a good reason why. He's clearly got the size, but he also has a very good arm. An added bonus is that his dad is long time great offensive mind Pat Shurmur, the current offensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles, so you know he is getting good tutoring on the side. He also holds offers from Illinois and Central Michigan. He has visited Pitt.

After those big four, there are the developmental quarterbacks.  Of course first on that list is local favorite Brett Brumbaugh of South Fayette HS in McDonald, PA. The 6'4" 190 pounder is limited because of his lack of athleticism and arm strength, but he's highly productive, accurate, and smart. Even though he lacks too much to be an elite prospect, he just may be one of those special players that finds a way to succeed anyway. It just may be worth a shot as long as an elite prospect is also signed. He currently holds offers from Akron and Temple.

Another in-state possibility is 6'4" 200 pound lefty Alex Hornibrook of Malvern Prep in Malvern, PA.  Like Brumbaugh he doesn't have a cannon for an arm, but also like Brumbaugh he has a lot of intangibles. He has visited Pitt early in the season. He recently picked up an offer from Akron.

Outside of PA, possibilities include 6'4" 195 pound Joe Burrow of Athens HS in The Plains, OH, who  had a huge year and was named Gatorade Player of the Year for Ohio this past season, and big 6'5" 215 pound Brett Gasiorowski of Glenbard North HS in Carol Stream, IL, who could be very good down the line because of his size, arm, and athleticism.

Bottom Line: It's still early in the recruiting cycle so more quarterbacks will come on the scene. Bu this is an impressive bunch. What's interesting is that the staff was aggressive contacting quarterbacks even before they knew Freeback was not committing. Now that they are really in trouble as far as numbers, I'm hoping they ramp up their aggressiveness even more.

The best case scenario, in my opinion, is that the staff lands two of these prospects. Obviously it would be great to add two elite quarterbacks but that's not realistic. However one elite prospect and one developmental prospect is realistic.

Pitt desperately needs to add either Morgan, Johns, or Malzone. My personal preference is Morgan because I think he has both the highest upside and is also the quickest to be ready. Malzone is very talented and could be excellent, so if the Panthers land him instead then the fans should still be excited. Johns would also be a big time coup but I think at the time that the Panthers are a little more beyond with him.  Shurmur may prove to be just as good as that group, but right now I see him between elite and developmental.

Of the developmental possibilities I think Gasiorowski is the best of that group. He has a lot of tools. But if the Panthers land one of the big boys he may become a long shot because he's not going to want to compete with him.  That's why the best possibility, if one of the elite quarterbacks is in the fold, is Brumbaugh, because he is a local kid that may not bolt if he's behind somebody more talented, and because he just may be one of those players that has enough intangibles to be good despite some limitations.


  1. Nice write up. Off topic... Engram. Gone and at least one more will be soon. Mark it down.

  2. Good stuff as usual Chris - Pitt fans need to hope, and pray that Voytik stays healthy.

    And remember like Anderson, Chad was a Graham recruit so, the Chryst regime has funked big time recruiting QB's.

  3. It appears to me that this staff has learned its lessons and is being much more proactive this year, not only in recruiting QBs but also defensive players ... two big needs

  4. I always liked Voytik because he works hard to get better. His motto is, "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard". He isn't going anywhere with his cousin attending Duquesne in the fall as QB.
    Pitt fans should be thanking Anderson for sticking it out. He has been an excellent teammate that has been running the scout team.

  5. pitt absolutely needs one of those elite recruits and hopefully if they get one, he is a great recruiter himself and helps bring other guys to pitt


  6. Chris... Great job on compiling this group of QBs. "Impressive" is right.

    My perception based on watching each of their highlight reels.

    1) Right at the top of the list is... Joe Burrow. Reminds you a little bit of another Joe named Montana and not just because they share the same first name. Burrow moves effortlessly as he patiently buys time waiting for his receivers to come open. This would be the first kid I'd offer.

    2) Right behind Burrow is your "No. 1" Brett Gasiorowski. Really athletic for being so tall. Accurate with the darts he throws and throws quickly. Also obvious that he's really confident by the way he stands tall and commands time in the pocket.

    3) James Morgan. Another BIG kid who shows confidence. Probably not quite the arm of Gasiorowski but maybe more awareness. What stands out is the way he moves around and seems to instinctively know where to go with the ball to the open receiver. As for the comparison to Aaron Rogers, don't see any except for the uniform. Morgan is listed at 6-4, but looks 6-5. Rodgers is 6-2.

    4) Kyle Shurmur. Not much drop off here with his size, coolness in the pocket and smooth release. Who knows? He could turn out to be the best of the bunch.

    5) A little lower on the scale is Nick Johns or Alex Malzone. Take your pick. Both GOOD but neither jump off the screen at you as much as the others.

    Now as for Brett Brumbaugh. SOLID QB when it comes to the intangibles. But his arm and throwing mechanics leave him out of the discussion when it comes to the QBs mentioned above.

    But, hey... having record of being a WINNER does go a long way.

    As for Pitt and the current QB shortfall... Hopefully Chryst has learned from his experience with Wade Freebeck. Forget being so loyal... go into Signing Day with THREE if you really want to be sure you have TWO.

    Maybe Brumbaugh is your No. 3. Seems like a kid who would relish the challenge.


    1. Just to clarify, Gasiorowski is my No.1 of the developmental prospects. But Morgan, Johns, and Malzone are the more nationally coveted QBs at the moment.


    2. Thanks for the clarification. Maybe you can help clarify something else?

      Chryst seems adamant about NOT signing another QB or bringing in a JC before next season. What's up with that?

      Is there someone on the roster who's going to be given a shot at being No. 4 in the fall?

      Chryst, by nature... is a GAMBLER. But why push the envelope with QBs when next year is shaping up as your "make it or break it" when it comes to securing the support of the fan base?


  7. How about Chris Riddle?

    1. Pitt showed some interest for him before, and may again, but at the moment they haven't been looking at him a lot.

    2. Chris, I have heard about Riddle. A relative's son (6-2 205 with strong and accurate arm) played QB in the same N. Virginia H.S. league. Riddle moved to Florida, relative's son to a school in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) where he was honorable mention all WCAC as a junior QB. From what I hear relative's son has better skills than Riddle. Relative's son prior to Junior year move to WCAC only had interest from Service Academies and Ivy's. He did camp for 1 day at Pitt last year (on his own nickle) and liked it. Pitt will undoubtedly see him play next fall when they scout teams in the WCAC.. He passed for 40 to 60+ points per game as a junior vs those teams where he got decent pass protection. Against the WCAC big dogs (DeMatha, Gonzaga, etc.) he got zero pass protection and only played okay. He would be the type of non-elite 2nd QB in a class than could help Pitt's QB depth, IMHO.

    3. I know all about him. We've been following each other for a long time on twitter. Bollinger knows all about him, too. I wouldn't be surprised if Pitt got involved again. But for the moment they haven't been mentioned with him for awhile.

  8. Thanks Chris. Great insight & way to give us some hope. Morgan should be a slam dunk.

  9. Thanks for the post Chris. It was very informative and gives us some hope for the future. Here in the present someone beside Chad and Trey is going to be pressed into the quarterback role for spring practice. Even though Chryst said he would just go with those two, spring practice is the ideal time to start deepening the position, even if they have to get walk-ons.

  10. Losing Chapman has really fouled things up for Pitt at the QB spot, but I just don't like bringing in 2 freshmen QBs in the same class. By doing so you are guaranteeing that one of them will be unhappy.

    I'd just keep working hard to bring in the best QB you can in every class.

    1. Chryst says he prefers to have five. At this point he'll have two next year so he's going to have to add two. And to be honest if the kid who loses the job decides to leave then they'll just recruit another one. It happens at every program every year. Just keep on adding and leaving, adding and leaving.

  11. Is Chryst really not interested in bringing in a Juco, or a guy like Wittek? That's gotta just be the company line right? How can you go into a season with zero competition and this little depth at the single most important position in all of sports?

  12. Chris, is ideal to bring in 2 QBs a year? Boy, the Chapman mistake really screws us the next two years. What college did he go to btw?

    1. He's at D2 Ashland University in the GLIAC. Fell mighty far.

  13. Doke - The best way for them to land any of these kids is to win a lot of games next year. In order to do that they must get rid of House, Haering, Beckterfeld, etc . . and bring on people that can coach and recruit. It would be great if they could all goes as a package to Morgantown and be co-Defensive Co-Ordinators.

    1. Good thing for us the schedule is so favorable then, 9 wins next year seems well within reach.

  14. Sadly, they probably won't get anyone special. I think you hit the nail on the head, Chris. They focus more on developmental guys because they don't have confidence in their ability to get big-time guys or confidence in where this program is headed in general.

    I'm quite sure Paul Chryst is a wonderful guy. And, I think he's a good OC and QB Coach. But, in disregarding the importance of defense in recruiting, this program will never be more than a middle of the pack ACC team.

  15. Chris -

    What happened to change Dixon's recruiting strategy in the last 12 months, and is there any reason to think that Chryst could have a similar conversion? Seems like Jamie is surrounded by a better supporting cast, but it would be nice to see our guys be aggressive for football talent, even if they don't get top kids.

  16. Good to hear those comments from ppl that were actually at the Elite 11 camp about Voytik. Funny I follow PITT football pretty closely and I never heard those comments from the PG's Zeise or the current clown or the Trib person. Zeise just told us how great Tiny was in practice, this, that and the other thing. I always thought Voytik should have seen the field long before the BG bowl game. Voytik leads us to a come from behind win in his very first half of play, something Tiny never did in 3 years, all he did was play his worst in crunch time of games. Truly amazing he was allowed to play QB at Pitt for 3 long long years. I also thought it was stupid not to play Voytik this year, as Savage was just here for the 1 year and was 6 wins and a Pizza Bowl victory worth having to start all over again next year with mainly an experienced QB. I say "no".

  17. Chris - Some really interesting write-up's the last couple days.

    Overall thoughts:

    - I have no idea if one or more of these QB's will decide to on Pitt but I do know this. No matter who it is, the board will be plenty of posts highlighting the kids shortcomings.

    - It's a shame that Freebeck decided on Vandy but that's recruiting for you. I'm disappointed PC didn't make a late pitch to try and flip someone over to Pitt. Heck, any QB going to a AAC or other lower tier conference should be interested in coming. That failure is on the staff as they probably didn't keep or continue to develop relationships with other players.

    - Maybe I'm wrong but looks like for 2015 recruiting Pitt is focusing a good bit outside of PA. Guessing if they don't sign many local recruits we'll get to read about how PC is ticking off the local coaches and burning bridges...

    - Wonder what impact, if any, the new Chancellor will have on Pitt Athletics in the near future (i.e. 1-2 years)?

  18. Kent -

    I've never shied away from my view of Steve Pederson and believe he is one of the main reasons for the programs mediocrity. It's time for a new voice to oversee Pitt athletics and hopefully Chancellor Gallagher will recognize that. Perhaps upon first meeting SP he will see how little he thinks of alumni and boasters. I've never really cared about the Pitt script and all that, but I can't stand the arrogance of Pederson.

  19. Pederson is the guy that blows your doors off in an interview and then sucks at the job.

    I have no doubt he will make that good 1st impression on Gallagher....unfortunately.

    He'll put on his Bestis smiley face ever.