Friday, December 2, 2016

Where Pitt recruiting stands

There are just two months left before players can sign their letter of intent, and I expect a lot to still happen when it comes to the Panthers. There could be a graduate transfer or two, and there will probably be at least 8 or 10 more commitments. I also expect that Pitt will flip other commitments, even players that we don't know about yet. And with coaching changes on the horizon, more players will find themselves available, and that's where Pitt could swoop in. With that in mind, let's look where things stand as we enter into the stretch run. This info will change quickly, and often, and I wouldn't be surprised if something changed by the time you read it, so keep in mind that this info is very fluid.

Quarterbacks: Kenny Pickett is in the fold, and I don't expect that he will flip, and I don't expect Pitt to land another high school prospect. But that doesn't mean they won't land another quarterback. Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire graduates this month, and then he can transfer to another school with immediate eligibility. Right now, it is believed that Pitt and North Carolina lead for his services. If current North Carolina star quarterback Mitch Trubisky goes to the NFL, and it would be very surprising if he doesn't, then the Tar Heels immediately become a big possibility. There is also the chance that Larry Fedora gets mentioned for another job, which may also influence Zaire. Obviously, if the Panthers land Zaire, he would start, and the Panthers would be significantly better next year, so this will be a huge development one way or the other. Other than that, the focus is on the 2018 class, and as quarterbacks commit early, the time to land one in the class is now. The prize here would be 6'3" 190 pound Kevin Doyle of Malvern Prep in eastern PA. Doyle's dad told me that his son absolutely loves Matt Canada, and also loves how Canada uses the quarterback, so this could actually come to fruition. It would be a huge deal if it does.

Running Backs: Ohio back Todd Sibley has verbally committed, and he is solidly in the fold. He has the ability to be a future every down back, so it's not imperative that the Panthers add another running back in this class. But Anthony "AJ" Davis, a fast water bug type of athlete from Florida, has suddenly come back into the picture, and he'd simply be too good to pass up. An elite prospect, Davis is expected to visit next weekend, along with his teammate, cornerback Damarri Mathis, who the Panthers apparently lead for. There is room for both Sibley and Davis, should it come to that. They are two different types of backs and I would expect Davis would be used, not only as a change of pace with Sibely, but also out in space in many of the same ways as Quadree Henderson is used.

Wide Receivers: The recruiting of this group, since Narduzzi has been there, has been a little disappointing thus far. The staff has added good receivers, but they still haven't added that one elite, All-American potential player yet. As a prospect, Ruben Flowers is the closest they've come to that, but he had to redshirt this season so the jury is still out until he actually plays. In this class, Floridian Dontavius Butler and in-state legacy Darian Street have verbally committed so far, but once again that elite prospect is missing. Trying to rectify that, the staff is still looking at two Florida speedsters- Carmoni Green and DJ Edwards. Green, inexplicably committed to Illinois a few months ago, despite better offers, and so far he's still sticking with them. But the Panthers are still trying to get him to flip. Edwards is visiting Pitt next weekend, and he has been vocal about liking the Panthers lately. Rutgers commit Bryce Watts can flat out fly and he is a possibility at wide receiver or cornerback. The staff, clearly trying to add the topnotch talent that it's been missing, has been offering big time southern athletes in the '18 and '19 classes, but in this class at least one big time athlete is still needed. In the summer, a possible bonus is former local gem Robert Foster, who could be graduating from Alabama, and could be a graduate transfer with immediate eligibility. It's unknown if he is going to definitely transfer, and if he'd be interested in Pitt, but if he does end up with the Panthers that would be a huge development because he has the immense talent to still have a breakout season, especially in a Matt Canada offense.

Tight Ends: The Panthers have already added elite Ohio tight end Charles Reeves, as well as two locals in Tyler Sear and Grant Carrigan. No other tight ends will be added in this class.

Offensive Line: Two very big tackles- Carter Warren and Gabe Houy- have committed, and tough center Owen Drexel is also in the fold. There appears to be room for one more tackle, and the two elite ones in the mix are Thayer Munford and Mekhi Becton. Many prognosticators have pencilled in Munford for Pitt for awhile now, but apparently nobody has told him because he's been visiting everywhere but Pitt. He is clearly waiting to see if Ohio State offers, and they may. If they do, he will end up a Buckeye. But if they don't, Pitt could be the pick. That's if Becton doesn't commit first. The Virginia native has been pegged to stay home and play for the Cavaliers for a long time, but the Panthers have stuck around and are now making a big time push. If Pitt land either then this would be a superb OL class.

Defensive Ends: The defense needs more ends, and the only end the staff has added so far is Carson Van Lynn. With an All-American in Ejuan Price, Tom Sims' great personality, and Narduzzi's reputation, it's very surprising to me that the staff has been unable to land an elite prospect or two at the position. Don't get me wrong. There is some interesting potential already on the roster, and they are currently courting the same kind of prospects, but that elite prospect continually eludes the staff. Tyjuan Garbutt could rectify that, but the former Virginia Tech commit may be leaning back towards the Hokies. After him, there's only projections, though some are enticing. The two most enticing, in my opinion, are Kofi Wardlow, a late bloomer from Washington, DC, and 6'6" Stephon Mayas, a skinny Floridian that's long and athletic. Syracuse commit Zach Morton is a player that the Panthers have been trying to flip for many months, but so far the Detroit native has not bit. After that, the end prospects get even more raw. Those would be Kevince Brown and NC State commit Dreslin Alexander (both Florida), and Zion Debose (North Carolina).

Defensive Tackles: The program has three very good young tackles in Amir Watts, Keyshon Camp, and Rashad Wheeler, but at least one more is needed, and that would be a big space eating nose tackle. The two big options here are Washington, DC native Jaylen Twyman, a 6'2" 300 pound fireplug that can move very well, and 6'4" 300 pound former North Carolina commit Kyree Campbell, an elite prospect that has been at prep school this year. Both are so good that they'd find a way to add both if possible, but at least one of them needs to be added to round out this unit.

Linebackers: The staff has done well here, landing Kaezon Pugh, Chase Pine, and Elias Reynolds last year, and Cam Bright, Kyle Nunn, and Albert Tucker in this class. But the staff are still attempting to land two elite prospects in Drew Singleton and Nathan Proctor. Singleton, from New Jersey, and Proctor, from Maryland, are big timers that have the ability to start right away at Pitt. Unfortunately, the Panthers aren't leading for either, but they are hanging around, and are involved enough that they could get visits. And with a visit anything is possible. If they don't nab either, they will probably be done at this position, unless you include Connor Heyward, who could end up at this position if he commits. It's still very much up in the air where he would play at Pitt, and it probably wouldn't even be decided until he started practicing.

Safeties: Elite local Paris Ford is already committed, and despite overtures from the likes of Michigan and USC, he is firmly committed to the Panthers. No other safeties are needed in this class.

Cornerbacks: A lot of cornerbacks were brought in since Narduzzi has been at Pitt, but you can never have to many, especially since the ones you have are still suspect. The main prize here is obviously elite local Lamont Wade, who would be Pitt's biggest recruit in many years. If I had to guess I think he will end up at Penn State, but nobody knows yet for sure despite what you hear. If Wade does go elsewhere then it will be even more important to land a few more quality corners. Ambry Thomas and Donovan Johnson are an elite Detroit duo, but both are long shots, especially Thomas. Not as polished yet, but still with a high ceiling are Maryland commit Kenny Bennett, Kentucky commit Michael Nesbitt, and former South Carolina commit Damarri Mathis. Bennett is a big, athletic corner that Pitt has been very fond of for a long time. He is perfect fit for a Narduzzi defense. As is Mathis, who is visiting next weekend. Both are raw, but they are also both big, athletic, and loaded with potential. Nesbitt has a big time offer list, and he's another kid that the Panthers have been enamored with for a long time.