Tuesday, June 6, 2017

How Pitt football can finish out their 2018 class

QUARTERBACK: The Panthers will only take one, and that one will be 6'3" 195 pound Nick Patti. For the longest time it looked like Kevin Doyle would be the man, but he continued to drag his feet, and the Panthers moved on to Patti. The New Jersey native has a good arm and is very athletic. With Patti, Kenny Pickett, and Thomas MacVittie the three quarterbacks taken in Pat Narduzzi's three full classes, the Panthers still have not brought in that guaranteed big time talent, though all three have very good potential as developmental quarterbacks.

RUNNING BACK: With what should be a small class (probably around 16-18), and Chawntez Moss, Todd Sibley, and AJ Davis all with many years of eligibility, this is not a position that the Panthers will spend much time on this year. Of course if a big time halfback wants to come, they'll probably take him. Big, tough 6'4" 255 pound Massachusetts native Jay Symonds has been brought in to be used much the same way as living legend George Aston, which is as a fullback and H-Back, with some blocking and receiving skills. It's not often you see kids that big used as a fullback, and that's a testament to his good agility for his big size.

WIDE RECEIVER: Again, with a small class and a young group already, they will probably not take many- quite possibly just one- this year. Who that will be is anybody's guess because they don't appear to be close to landing anyone obvious yet. Like at quarterback, Narduzzi still hasn't landed that guaranteed big time No. 1 receiver talent at the position, and ideally the one that he lands in this class could be that type of talent. I wouldn't be surprised if it came late, maybe from Florida where they grow elite wide receivers on trees (not literally).

TIGHT END: The staff landed a good group of tight ends in the last class, but there's room for one more, and there's two excellent options for that spot. Local star TJ Banks is already a well put together 6'5" 250 pounds, and he has the athleticism to match. He has big time potential, and landing him would be huge. The secondary option is Ohio native Keaton Upshaw, who at 6'7" 225 pounds is a different kind of tight end. If the Panthers land either, they succeeded at this position.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Local lineman Jake Kradel, who has already committed, could factor in at guard here, but the 6'4" 290 pounder could also end up at defensive tackle. The staff is in good shape with linemen on both sides of the ball, and how well they do with each side may end up determining where he begins. Other real possibilities are Jimmy McKenna, Chris Bleich, Blake Zubovic, Chase Brown, and TJ Bradley. Ideally, they land three of this group, though I don't know if they would turn away four if they could get them. McKenna needs to add a lot of weight to his 6'5" 250 pounds, but he has excellent feet. The 6'5' 305 pound Bleich is a former Penn State commit that many think is leading towards Nebraska. Zubovic went to the same local high school as Dorian Johnson, and the 6'5" 300 pounder seems to be leaning pretty heavily to the Panthers. The 6'6" 310 pound Brown and the 6'7" 290 pound Bradley are juco teammates that currently play in Scranton. Brown has two years of eligibility, and Bradley has three. With Bleich more of a long shot, if the Panthers can land Zubovic, McKenna, and Brown and/or Bradley (all very possible), that would be a magnificent haul for the program.

DEFENSIVE LINE: At tackle, the aforementioned Kradel could be a factor here, but two other local tackles could also be major additions. Devin Danielson is a 6'3" 290 pound force, and Pitt is probably the favorite with him. There is also David Green, a smaller, yet very athletic tackle at 6'2" and 255 pounds. He has been very quiet during his recruitment, but the Panthers are heavily in the mix. Other possibilities include massive Washington, DC native Cam Goode, who at 6'0" 310 pounds is a nose guard-type, and 6'5" 270 pound Spencer Anderson, a Maryland native that could project on offense, too.

At end, the Panthers have already got commitments from Danielson's high school teammate, Noah Palmer, as well as Maryland native John Morgan. Palmer is thin, but has good length and quickness. Morgan is a stocky 6'3" and 240 pounds, but he's strong and knows how to rush the passer.

LINEBACKER: Commit Wendell Davis has already committed, and the 6'2" 220 pounder is a very good start. There could be a few more since the Panthers have made inroads with some very good talent at the position. The best of this group is Columbus native Brian Asamoah, who at 6'0" 210 pounds is ideal for the star linebacker position. Pitt has to beat out the likes of Michigan and Penn State for him, but from what I hear the Panthers are very much at or near the top currently. Floridian Kenny Bastida recently named Pitt and Michigan State his top two. Another Ohio native, Jeslord Boateng, has the Panthers in his top group.

DEFENSIVE BACK: Cornerback Judson Tallandier, a high school teammate of Morgan in Maryland, is already in the fold, and that's a good start. There's no other cornerbacks that are reportedly close to joining him (which doesn't necessarily mean there aren't any that are close), and since you can never have enough defensive backs (and athletes), I could see the staff adding another if it's possible.

As for safety, local star Kwantel Raines can be a safety or an outside linebacker, and he would be a fantastic pickup. Another local, Marcus Hooker, can also project to safety or linebacker.

Summary: The Panthers currently have seven commits, and could add roughly ten more, though the exact number is never fully known until much later in the recruiting season. For the sake of argument, let's go with the number 17. Here would be an example (not a prediction) of how this class could realistically shake out:

QB- Nick Patti
FB- Jay Symonds
WR- Probably one from the south
TE- TJ Banks
OL- 2 of 3 of Jimmy McKenna, Chase Brown, TJ Bradley
OL- Blake Zubovic
OL/DL- Jake Kradel
DT- Devin Danielson
DT- David Green
DE- John Morgan
DE- Noah Palmer
LB- Wendell Davis
LB- Brian Asamoah
LB/S- Kwantel Raines
LB/S- Marcus Hooker
CB- Justin Tallandier

Like I said, that's just a general idea. It never goes as planned. But that would be a very good smaller class. They won't get all of those, though if they get similar to that, and especially land Raines and Asamoah, then this class will be a major success.

And is usually the case, I'm sure there will be one or two major names toward the end of the cycle that the staff will try to swoop in and steal at the last minute. Just like they did with players like Keyshon Camp, Amir Watts, and AJ Davis, three big time prospects that at this time of the year where not mentioned prominently with Pitt.