Monday, February 10, 2014

2015 Pitt Recruiting Preview- Wide Receivers

Where the position stands now: 

This unit has been overrated under Paul Chryst because they've had a strong starting duo in the past two years.  Unfortunately, there hasn't been much after that.  But now there finally appears to be depth.

Of course we have to start off with sophomore Tyler Boyd. He's a dynamic star who may elevate to college superstar next season.  I really can't say enough about him so I won't even try. We all know that he is a potentially great college player, and I don't throw that word around a lot.

The other starter, and the No. 3 receiver, are much more up in the air. The good news, however, is that there are many interesting candidates for those positions. In fact, I see six players that will battle to get the majority of snaps at those two spots.

For the starting position opposite Boyd the best options appear to be 6'2" 200 pound redshirt sophomore Dontez Ford and 6'3" 190 pound true freshman Adonis Jennings.  Ford, who played in high school locally at Sto-Rox, is a transfer from Syracuse where he was a safety. But he has a solid, athletic body and he can run. It remains to be seen whether or not he can actually be a good receiver but the size/speed combo is intriguing.  As for Jennings, he originally committed to Rutgers but switched to Pitt just before signing day. He is close to Boyd in raw skills, and if the starting position was determined on paper then he will be a slam dunk starter because he is long, quick, and can really run after the catch.

A sleeper for the starting spot, and possibly the No. 3 receiver, is 6'2" 195 pound redshirt freshman Zach Challingsworth. The local South Fayette product has nice size, better than average speed, and great hands. He's definitely somebody to monitor because he could be a quality college receiver.

The incumbent No. 3 receiver is 5'10" 170 pound redshirt senior Kevin Weatherspoon, who missed the bowl game due to an injury but still caught just 14 passes in 12 games. He made some important third down catches, and had some drops. He's solid, and he's a senior, but he may have trouble getting as much time this season due to much improved depth. I'm not saying he won't keep his position, but he will really have to battle to do so.

One of those players improving the receiver depth is 5'8" 170 pound redshirt junior Ronald Jones, a former Todd Graham recruit that was suspended all of last season. If he stays around, he could be an ideal candidate to use his speed and quickness in the slot.

The last of the candidates who could see time is 6'2" 205 pound former walk on Chris Wuenster, a redshirt sophomore who has played well in practice but rarely has seen game time. I'd be somewhat surprised if he started or was the main No. 3 receiver but he is in the mix for more snaps.

After that group comes 6'2" 200 pound Reggie Green, and 6'3" 190 pound Jester Weah, both redshirt freshmen who have length and speed but are still playing catchup, and 6'2" 170 pound Jaquan Davidson, and 6'2" 185 pound Elijah Zeise, who both should be a factor in the future, but who will presumably redshirt next season.

Future recruiting:

Despite the newfound depth and some interesting developmental projects, this unit still only has two elite talents, and one of them hasn't yet proven that he will be an elite player in college.  That's why another elite receiver in this class would be an excellent development for the program, especially since Boyd will probably go to the NFL after his junior year.

But here's where things get tricky because right now the Panthers don't have a WR coach since Bobby Engram left to take a similar position for the Baltimore Ravens.  And most of the top receiving prospects that the program has already been recruiting hard were being recruited by Engram. If that alone doesn't throw a wrench into things, Chryst has been historically slow when hiring coaching replacements. If he does so again it may put Pitt permanently behind for their top elite WR prospects in this class.

Of course that doesn't mean they won't come up with an elite receiver. If the replacement has connections to any of the current targets, or connections with top prospects that the Panthers have yet to target, then things could change back to the positive.

For the moment at least the staff has targeted a very specific type of receiver, and it's the same type that most programs crave- big and fast.  Of the handful of of elite prospects that they've offered, 6'4" 210 pound Irvin Charles of Paul VI HS (Haddonfield, NJ) and 6'5" 215 pound Matoaca HS (Chesterfield, VA) are big, highly coveted prospects that Pitt has no chance with. The same goes with a fast slot receiver, 5'9" 160 pound Brandon Polk of Brian Woods HS (Ashburn, VA).

But the Panthers may still involved with some very good receivers, and in one case, an excellent receiver. But again that's only if the staff can convince them to stay around until they can possibly find a good replacement for Engram. The best of this bunch is 6'5" 195 pound Juwan Johnson of Glassboro (NJ) HS, who wanted to make a decision in the spring and had Pitt high on his list until Engram left. Johnson, whose brother played at Rutgers, has been recruited hard by Pitt for two years, and was a teammates of former Pitt commit Corey Clement who eventually signed with Wisconsin. Johnson is not a speed demon, but he has good speed to go with his great size, athleticism, and hands. He would be a different kind of weapon for the Panthers, and it would be great for the program to land an elite New Jersey product.

Other possibilities include 6'3" 185 pound Najee Clayton of Paramus (NJ) Catholic, 6'4" 190 pound Jabari Greenwood of Gonzaga College HS (Washington, DC), and 6'3" 200 pound Tavin Richardson of Byrnes HS (Duncan, SC). Greenwood is teammates with major Pitt QB target Nick Johns, as well as two other elite Gonzaga products. As for Richardson, some thought that Pitt led for him until Engram left.

A level down from that bunch, but still a good recruit is 6'3" 190 pound Cameron Stewart from Shiloh HS (Snellville, GA).  Right now Pitt is his lone offer.

As for smaller, quicker slot receivers, look for a local product, 6'1" 155 pound Tre Tipton of Apollo Ridge HS, who appears to be a possible backup plan at this time. He has yet to receive an offer. He's a good sleeper but with probably only or two receivers being signed in this class, Pitt will first try to aim higher.

The same can be said for one of the two wide receivers/all-purpose backs that the Panthers are recruiting. One, a local product from North Catholic HS, is tiny, but dazzling P.J. Fulmore, who at only 5'8" and 175 pounds, may just be too small for an offer. But he may be hard to pass up because he really is fun to watch. A lot will depend on just how small he is. If he's under 5'8", like he's usually listed, then he may be too small, but the Panthers have been showing a lot of interest in him so it's something worth monitoring.

If the Panthers are determined to add a smaller, quick as a cat player, then he'll probably be a backup plan since they haven't offered him yet. A similar player that they did offer is just as dazzling, but a little bigger, and that's 5'9" 175 pound Quadree Henderson of Alexis I Dupont HS (Wilmington, DE). Henderson, who also has offers already from Clemson, West Virginia, and Rutgers, would be a great addition for the slot in Pitt's offense.

Bottom line:

Boyd will be a star for the next two seasons, and Jennings has the potential to be very good from the start. And there's finally some actual numbers in the unit. At the very least, Boyd, Jennings, Weatherspoon, Ford, Jones, and Wuenster should at least form a solid bunch.

But this unit still only has one elite talent, and one projected elite prospect, so more topnotch talent is needed.  If the Panthers can land a nationally recruited big, fast, receiver in the 6'4" range, the unit goes from good to excellent.  Throw in a quick game breaking slot receiver like Henderson and suddenly it would be one of the better young receiving corps in the east. But first the Panthers need a WR coach who can close the deal on these types of talents.


  1. To me, Pitt looks really SOLID in the Wide Receiver area.

    Jones SHOULD be a regular contributor if he's committed. Also expecting Challingsworth to have an immediate impact... creating headaches for opposing Defenses.


  2. I get coach chryst method of hiring coaches he can retain but just like recruiting he has to keep an updated chart of hot coaching and recruiting prospects and be quick in his hiring.

  3. I've got a neice that goes to Byrnes (Rebels). I'd be shocked.
    Not many from SC venture north of the mason-dixon line. They think the war is still going on. One did end up at Rutgers (Dodd the QB) and that didn't work out well. Those Brynes coaches recommend stay near home.
    Byrnes is one of the top 50 football programs in the country. They know how to develop talent.

    1. Richardson is not that impressive, looks big and slow going by his tape. Would much rather have Johnson and Stewart.

  4. Jester Weah is the sleeper in my opinion