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.
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.