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April 4, 2007

Something that just happened. The way too early 2007 top-25 predictions have already begun trickling out. Luke Winn at SI.com only does a top-10 but then lists a slew of “on the fringe,” including Pitt (at about #25). Andy Katz has his for ESPN.com and puts Pitt at #20:

Why: The Panthers are losing their big man in Aaron Gray and his sidekick Levon Kendall, but when is the last time the Panthers really slid under Jamie Dixon? How about never. The Panthers will still be in the thick of the Big East race and a top-20 team throughout the season with the core of their guards returning and incoming freshman center DeJuan Blair to fill the role.

This is a new thing. Pitt will have lost 3 starters. The face and focal point of the team is departing (arguably the second straight year of that with Krauser and now Gray) along with the team’s best perimeter defender in Graves.

Despite that. Despite a lot of unknowns about next year — will Sam Young’s knees be better? Who will be at center? Which freshmen (redshirt and actual) will crack the starting line-up and the rotation? Gilbert Brown? DeJuan Blair? And that’s just a superficial scratching the surface of the issues.

Despite all of that, the team has earned a reputation as one that does not slip very far. The expectations are, that this team will put in the right players and they will continue to still be a nationally ranked team.

Next year will be a very different team and I don’t exactly know what to expect. It could be more of a struggle then expected (just look at UConn), it could be a bubble-team season, or even better. Pitt, though, has earned a benefit of the doubt.

Some Recruiting Stories

Filed under: Football,Recruiting — Chas @ 8:37 am

A profile on a DE prospect out of Ft. Lauderdale, Jeremy Longo. He’s got a bunch of offers already including Pitt, Iowa, Wisconsin, UConn and South Carolina.

Although he hasn’t visited either Iowa or Pittsburgh, he says he has family in both places. “I’ve got some family in Des Moines,” he said. “I really like the Big Ten and they have great facilities from what I hear. Also, their coaches have been there for a while and really know what they are doing.

“I also have some family in Pittsburgh and I’ve already talked with Dave Wannstedt and told him I’ll visit them this summer for sure.”

So, that’s another one to keep an eye on. Longo apparently wants to narrow the choices down this summer and make a choice before his senior season begins. Not sure how realistic it is though. The read comes off like he’d really like to stay in the South.

Close to home, Shayne Hale from Monroeville is one of the most sought after linebackers and a part of Scout.com’s National 100. The Ole Miss Scout.com site interviewed him since that school was one of the latest to offer.

What about his home state college, Pitt?

“I just got back from Pitt the other day. I went for a photo shoot. I talk to the Pitt coaches a lot. We have connected. They are cool coaches.”

He’s only been to Pitt and Maryland for campus visits but does plan on going to UNC for a look. This one reads like he is no where near even considering a decision.

Finally, ESPN.com Insider/Scouts, Inc. has a profile on Mike Cruz (a good indicator of his national talent level if they already have an evaluation done). He has great hands, really can grab the ball, runs good routes and they like his build. On the downside they criticize his blocking (too raw), that he gets tackled too easily, and worry that he has already matured physically (at age 17-18?). What’s interesting is that he’s a TE they can see changing position.

His in-line blocking ability has yet to be seen consistently which makes it difficult to rate him as a complete tight end. However, when you see his raw ability at defensive end you can tell that that the tools are there to become a successful blocker. Do not be surprised if those tools make him attractive on the defensive side of the ball to colleges.

Given Pitt’s depth at TE, and the crying need for defensive linemen…

The Key Word Is Sleeper

Filed under: Football,Recruiting — Chas @ 7:56 am

Pitt got a new verbal yesterday in RB Chris Burns. There wasn’t a lot of interest in him at this point, mainly because no one had really seen the kid from Wilmington High (it’s near Sharon, PA).

Wilmington coach Terry Verrelli sent out a highlight tape of Burns to a few colleges and also to talent scout Joe Butler of Metro Index in Pittsburgh. Butler was so impressed that he sent the tape to a few more colleges, including Pitt.

Pitt apparently was impressed, too. The Panthers started recruiting Burns a few weeks ago and eventually offered a scholarship.

In this day and age of recruiting and information out there, I’d say a coach actually having to send out tape of a kid qualifies him for sleeper status. It’s also a little surprising. Still, if Butler saw something in the tapes he liked that is encouraging.
The early other interest in Burns was from MAC schools and Cinci and Illinois started sniffing.  You can see it on his pages at Rivals.com and Scout.com — they knew nothing about him either beyond the public record.

Burns is a 5’10”, 195 pound back. His high school coach stresses his intangibles and innate qualities as a back. He ran for over 1300 yards as a junior in the AA level and was second team in the state. Now we know the basics as well. Welcome, Mr. Burns.

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