Wednesday, May 11, 2016

News and Notes for May 11

I've been very busy working and traveling for months but I thought I'd carve out some time to give some updates.

First, in basketball, Kevin Stallings landed his first commit in 6'2" PG Aaron Thompson of Paul VI Catholic HS in Fairfax, VA. If that sounds familiar, it's the same school that produced incoming PF/C Corey Manigault (on a side note, Manigault is now up to 6'9" and 236 pounds).

The last Stallings starting PG at Vanderbilt, Wade Baldwin, was a borderline top 100 prospect that is expected to be a mid-first round pick in the upcoming draft. So Stallings does know how to identify point guards, and he really wanted Thompson, who he was also heavily pursuing while at Vanderbilt.

There's a lot of good traits that Stallings can see in Thompson, who has a strong, athletic body and  very good quickness and speed. He is also an excellent passer, drives well to the hoop, and has great potential leading an offense. So why is he not a top 100 prospect? He's not a very good shooter- like, at all.

That doesn't mean that he can't eventually turn into a decent shooter. With teammates Manigault and McDonald's All-American wing VJ King off to college, Thompson will be forced to score more next season. Justice Kithcart was considered to be an average shooter, at best, last summer, but his shooting progressed a lot months later. So much so that it's now not considered a weakness. The same could happen to Thompson. And he has a staff full of shooting gurus at Pitt, so if they can't turn him into at least an adequate shooter than it can't be done. And if Thompson does turn into at least an adequate shooter, than the rest of his skill set will help him be a good college player. In the worse case scenario, he will be a part of a guard group that includes Kithcart, Damon Wilson, Jonathan Milligan, and Crisshawn Clark, and that's at least a group with good potential.

As for football, I continue to be impressed with the job that the staff has done. Three impressive prospects are already in the fold, and more are on the way, probably soon.

I'm still expecting top local prospects like DE Donovan Jeter, LB Kenny Robinson, and OT Gabe Houy to eventually give the Panthers the nod, and I'm a little more optimistic when it comes to Lamont Wade.

The staff has been going crazy with offers, including nearly 50 to Florida kids. 50!!!  One such kid, elite athlete Bruce Judson, who originally committed to Ohio State, has been praising Pitt for weeks, and many think the Panthers could be the favorite. Elite New Jersey DT Fred Hansard also speaks highly of Pitt, and the Panthers have a legitimate chance with him too.

The Panthers need to add at least one elite WR and they currently have about a dozen offers out. They desperately need two tight ends and they are still involved with at least eight. There's also 20 offers out to offensive linemen that haven't committed yet. You get the point. The Panthers have a lot of options available, and with an entire year longer to recruit these kids there's no reason to think that this class won't end at least as impressively as the last class, and I would be very surprised if doesn't end up better.

One aspect of recruiting that seems to be worrying fans is the quarterback position, but it's way too early to panic. Thomas MacVittie is an elite prospect, and if he lives up to his potential the Panthers could be a top 10 team in a few years. And the Panthers still have a very legitimate chance to land 2018 elite QB Phil Jurkovec. Even if they don't land Jurkovec, they will land a 3 or 4 star QB next year and the same in the '18 class. It's very conceivable that a star QB could be all that separates Pitt from being a good team and an excellent team, but the staff will bring in very good talent at the position. They just need to have one of those players hit. And with quarterbacks you never know who that will be.

Bottom line, the Panthers are heavily involved with so many top prospects that I had to scrap a plan a few weeks ago to give a position by position update. The staff is simply involved with too many players to narrow it down at this point. And they also have a fast start in offering top prospects in the '18 class. I told you not to worry about the '16 class, and it turned out to be a very good class. I fully expect the '17 and '18 classes to be even better.