Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A look at Pitt's football recruiting- Offense


Roster: Chad Voytik will start this year and next year, and Tennessee graduate transfer Nathan Peterman should be a solid backup for those two years. That quality experience gives the younger group of Panthers quarterbacks time to develop under offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. One of those is incoming freshman Ben DiNucci, whose future development should be very interesting.

2016:  Chaney didn't take long to strengthen the position. After nabbing the late sleeper, DiNucci, he followed it up not long after by adding talented Thomas MacVittie, who has the size, arm, and brains to be a big time player down the line. And don't worry about him flipping. His father contacts me from time to time and the family absolutely loves Pitt. There's no reason to think they'll be any other quarterbacks in this class.

2017:  Proving once again that he knows what he's doing, Chaney already has three offers out, and they're all big timers.  He went out of state for all three- David Mills (Georgia), Sean Clifford (Ohio), and Jake Allen (Florida). Mills doesn't hold a Georgia offer yet, and the Bulldogs landed the top QB in the country in the '16 class, so he may end up leaving the state. He's got double digit major offers, but Pitt in the mix. Clifford likes Missouri, Pitt, and Louisville the most right now but he will get more major offers. Allen is one of the hottest quarterback prospects in the country right now and the Panthers recently offered. He has also shown a lot of early interest.

It's probable that at least one quarterback will be added in this class. Ideally, it would be great if it were one of these three. But MacVittie, Clifford, and Allen were discovered by Chaney before they took off and he no doubt has his eye on other gems.

Running Back

Roster:  It's virtually guaranteed that James Conner will move on after this season, but the cupboard won't be bare. Chris James looked good in spurts as a true freshman, and Qadree Ollison is getting a lot of buzz after a redshirt freshman season. But neither are a sure thing star yet so more talent is needed.  Darrin Hall was the lone running back added, and while he's considered a 4-star RB he's coming off a knee injury. He adds to a potentially very good group, but there's still room for more.

2016:  With Conner probably moving on, elite backs will be looking at Pitt as a place they could play right away. The obvious top option is Penn State commit Miles Sanders. The biggest problem in landing Sanders obviously, is that he's currently committed to someplace else. Flipping an elite player from Penn State is not easy, but it's definitely possible that it could happen, especially if most of the other elite WPIAL prospects chose the Panthers. Flipping him would be huge in many ways.

Sanders isn't the only option, though. Two other WPIAL stars could also project at running back, though ideally they'd play defense. McKeesport's Khaleke Hudson is an elite safety prospect, but he could also be an elite running back. He really impressed me at the position during national camps this year. He could be in the group of WPIAL players that commits to Pitt en masse, but if he does he may want to do it as a defensive back so that he can play with more of his friends.

Aliquippa's Kaezon Pugh has the looks of an excellent college linebacker, but like Hudson he also has the potential to be a big time college running back. The grand slam scenario is that the Panthers land Sanders for running back, Pugh for linebacker, and Hudson for safety, and while that will take some doing it's not completely out of the question.

A possible local backup plan is the teammate of Sanders at Woodland Hills, Jo-El Shaw, who is a solid 230 pounds but may lack some explosion. He could also project as a linebacker. But otherwise, if the staff strikes out with Sanders, and lose or move to defense Sanders and/or Pugh, then they'll have to find a running back somewhere else. But as previously stated, with Conner moving on, there's a good chance that a really good running back will want to replace him. This could be a case where somebody explodes this season and the Panthers jump on him.

2017:  De'Andre Swift is the top player in the state for '17, and will be at or near the top for best backs in the nation. I doubt Pitt will be a major player. Outside of him, it's too early to see who the major targets will be for this class.

Wide Receivers

Roster:  With Tyler Boyd moving on, there appears to be a dearth of high end talent.  Dontez Ford will be a senior next season and Zach Challingsworth, and Elijah Zeise have talent, but with Jester Weah and Jaquan Davidson struggling the depth and high end talent is in question.

The high end talent problem may or may not have been helped with his class, but at least the depth has definitely improved.  Local Tre Tipton is a talented sleeper, but he will probably redshirt because of his lack of size. Quadree Henderson is small, but has lightning speed. Outside of Boyd, he has the most raw talent of the group, and it will be interesting to see how the staff utilizes his skill set. Sophomore juco Rafael Araujo-Lopes and Gentry Ivery are athletic but to say they are sleepers is an understatement.

All four of these players have potential but it's unknown just how much they will produce. Because of that the staff needs to add a No. 1 receiver with a big ceiling to take over for Boyd.

2016:  The local option is tall, athletic Aaron Mathews, who appears to be highly under recruited. I've always ranked him highly but I think I may have also underrated him after seeing him in national summer camps, where he looked dominating at times. I like Pitt's chances with him, and I think that would be a major addition.

I'm assuming that the staff will take two or three receivers, and if they land Mathews, who else they get will be anybody's guess. The Panthers have about 20 offers out at the position, including from places such as Florida, Ohio, New Jersey, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, Illinois, and Maryland. Bottom line, I think they will probably land three really good receivers from this group but it's still too early to know who that will be.

2017:  In-state talent Mark Webb will probably be a major target but Penn State will be tough to beat since he's on the other side of the state. Little speedster Kahlee Hammler holds an offer but he's from Michigan and already has Michigan and Michigan State offers so it doesn't look good for him either. But there will be many more offers on the horizon.

Tight Ends

Roster:  At the moment, the position is strong with J.P. Holt coming back for one more season and Scott Orndoff coming back for two more. Behind them, Devon Edwards, Tony Harper, and Brian O'Neill will be around for at least three years.

2016:  None were taken last year, which isn't surprising considering what was already on the roster, but now that means you can expect two to be added in this class. In fact, tight ends coach Tim Salem, who has been offering tight ends all over the place, has told recruits that he wants to take two. A couple of New England prospects that are very underrated are Jay Rose (Connecticut) and Sean McKeon (Massachusetts).

2017:  Another New England prospect, Alex Marshall, had a Pitt offer already for the '16 class but he recently moved to the '17 class. At 6'7" he's very athletic, and he will be a major target. Pat Narduzzi has been interested in him since he was at Michigan State.

Offensive Linemen:

Roster:  All but one of the linemen are returning next year so there's plenty of time to develop talent. High end talent like Jaryd Jones-Smith, Alex Bookser, Michael Grimm, Dorian Johnson, Alex Officer, and Alex Paulina will be back for multiple seasons. The position is strong.

2016:  Big Brandon Ford of Upper St. Clair is already in the fold and this was a good start. Elite Philadelphia guard/center Johncarlo Valentin is a massive bulldozer that camped at Pitt, and is very interested. If they are the only two that the staff lands then it was a big success.

2017:  This is the year that the Panthers can make a killing. There are four potential elite linemen in the WPIAL alone in Josh Lugg (North Allegheny), CJ Thorpe (Central Catholic), Robery Hainsey (Gateway), and Gabe Houy (Upper St. Clair).  It's early but I feel good about Lugg and Houy.  Houy is a teammate of Brandon Ford. He's under the radar now but I think he will get much more noticed soon.  Thorpe's dad played at Penn State, but Pitt is still a major player in his recruitment.  He came to Pitt's camp and liked it a lot.  Hainsey, on the other hand, doesn't seem to be highly interested in Pitt.  Outside of PA, Noah DeHond (New Jersey), has seen his recruitment take off, including an Alabama offer, but he is interested in Pitt enough to come to their camp.


  1. some of the whack jobs on scout & rivals are already critical due to lack of volume at this point. I guess it is best to tune out the lunatic fringe. I like the direction so far.

  2. well, werent we all killing Chryst and his staff for not having a "high volume" of verbals at this time last year?

    1. If people were then they aren't very informed. There's 8 months and a lot of top players out there. They know what they're doing. Chryst was critized for taking low rated players. Would people prefer that? Pitt could load up on 3 star players right now but they're trying for higher caliber. Those 3 star players will always be there.

  3. If I were a highly rated prospect, I would wait for the season to begin before committing to see how the team does under the new staff. Hopefully Pitt will get off to a good start and the commits will start. The fact there is not early signing period in football is to Pitt's advantage this year. Until late September I would expect things to be slow.

  4. good thing with that is there is less time for targets to be flipped.

  5. Chris

    I have seen some commentary about the #412crew looking to do a mass commitment to one school. Make their mark as a group. And, in theory, Pitt fits best with that move. You give that any credence?


    1. Yes. I expect most of the top WPIAL kids will end up at Pitt.

  6. Chris, do you think Pitt will offer the Jackson twins? Tim is slated to play WR, seems like a good fit. Where do we stand with Therran Coleman? Thanks in advance.

    1. Pitt won't offer kids until they think they'll be eligible, and it doesn't help that they didn't camp at Pitt. It would not surprise me if they never got offers but ultimately it's up to them.

      Coleman seems to be looking around a lot but he doesn't have a lot of major offers so he may have limited options.

    2. Thanks. Seems like every major WPA recruit is in play except for Pryts and Hudson, and Sanders if he sticks I guess. Getting 7 of the top 10 from the area would be a good sign.

  7. Cooter, bout time you got out of the garden and gave us some recruiting info!

  8. "The Panthers have about 20 offers out at the position, including from places such as Florida, Ohio, New Jersey, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, Illinois, and Maryland." Is that a good thing? How do they prioritize time and resources spent on recruits? I could use a "Recruiting Cliff Notes." Thanks & btw mulch does make everything better.

  9. Chris, even though I follow players during recruitment, I don't understand how the offer process works. You say that Pitt is holding out for the big kill, so offers to what must be around 100 players so far, have to tentative offers, with some kids knowing they are backup plans if other higher targets go elsewhere. Any light you can shed on the process would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    1. Take a look at Meat Market: Inside the Smash-Mouth World of College Football Recruiting by Bruce Feldman. Definitely shines a lot more light on the process.