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December 18, 2017

It’s been a while, I know.

The first early signing period in college football is only a couple days away. December 20 is the day Pitt and most other programs (that haven’t been through a major spin on the coaching carousel) look to have 90% or so of their recruiting class complete.

The last couple weeks have brought a bit of shake-up to the expected 2018 roster. Some expected. Some not.

GOING:

Jordan Whitehead (S), Brian O’Neill (OL), Quadree Henderson (KR/PR/WR), Tom MacVittie (QB),  Ben DiNucci (QB), Chawntez Moss (RB).

Whitehead, O’Neill and Henderson all declared for the NFL draft. Henderson was the one surprise in the group. The magic he brought to the offense in 2016 was largely missing in 2017. Whether it was injuries, the new OC and a slightly different system, and teams being much more aware of his presence anywhere on the field; he just didn’t have the same impact. He remained a dangerous return man, but he is going to have a tough go to do better then an undrafted free agent.

Whitehead and O’Neill weren’t big surprises. Both had some issues in 2017 — Whitehead was suspended for the first three games and O’Neill shifted positions on the line which took some adjusting. Both will be middle of the draft picks, by most accounts. Maybe they increase their stock a bit coming back for another year, but that is debatable. Between earning money now and the ever present risk of injury, I can’t fault them for going early.

Chawntez Moss has been in the doghouse, suspended for periods, fallen down the depth chart at running back. There was no surprise when it was quietly announced that he was no longer with the team.

DiNucci and MacVittie leaving killed the depth chart at QB for about a week. The coaches knew it was coming, though. DiNucci leaving wasn’t a surprise, and the way fans soured on him in the season probably makes this for the best. He’s likely to drop down to either a non-P5 school or or to a lower division.

MacVittie remains an enigma. He came to Pitt as one of the more promising QB prospects. Came from a strong program in the Cinci area. Fairly highly rated and recruited late by plenty of major programs. Recruited by Chaney. Committed with Canada as the OC and redshirted. Coached this year by Watson.

He looked the part. But never made it up the depth chart. Due to closed practices we will not know what the coaches saw that made them want MacVittie to change positions. No idea where he’s headed.

COMING:

Tyler Zelinski (QB), Ricky Towns (QB), Tyler Bentley (DT)

While Pitt is waiting on a couple other possible commits on Wednesday and crashing photo shoots; they did pull in Bentley from Ohio. Bentley originally committed to Kentucky but decommitted and looked around at other schools including Louisville.

“He and coach (Charlie) Partridge (defensive line coach) had developed a nice relationship,” said Bentley’s coach at Lakota West (Ohio) High School, Larry Cox. “He’s been recruiting him for over a year.”

Bentley, 6-foot-3, 290 pounds, has been a three-year starter at Lakota West and was ranked the 43rd overall prospect and fourth defensive tackle in Ohio by Rivals.com. Bentley is the 14th senior to commit to Pitt’s class of 2018 and third defensive tackle, joining Central Catholic’s David Green and Thomas Jefferson’s Devin Danielson.

Aside from Kentucky and Louisville, Bentley also considered Tennessee, Indiana and Cincinnati among his 25 scholarship offers (19 from Power 5 schools).

“He did commit to Kentucky, but that’s such a different deal now than it was five years ago,” Cox said.

Cox said he has sent more than 50 players to Division 1 schools in his 21 years at Lakota, including Ryan Kelly of he Indianapolis Colts and Jordan Hicks of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Cox has seen recruiting change, including schools pulling back scholarship offers.

“With everything a coach does, it shouldn’t be a surprise what the kids do,” he said. “I don’t think kids have changed all that much. I think adults have changed.”

Cox said he believes Bentley might have been impressed by Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi’s new seven-year contract, but there was more that went into his decision.

Since Coach Pat Narduzzi and the coaching staff knew the departures of DiNucci and MacVittie were coming, they had been at work with the now traditional transfer approach. First was a DiNucci-level transfer with a preferred walk-on spot for Zelinski who is presently at Erie Community College.

Zelinski said Pitt’s coaches told him he’ll have a chance to earn a scholarship, and he plans to get right to work by enrolling early in January as a junior-college transfer. Coach Pat Narduzzi already has a freshman quarterback coming in the 2018 recruiting class in New Jersey’s Nick Patti, but his staff obviously felt the need to shore up that spot. It’s impossible to ignore that adding Zelinski could be an indication that Pitt won’t return all its options under center, given that Ben DiNucci lost the job to the freshman Pickett as a redshirt sophomore, and Thomas MacVittie was never much in the mix during his redshirt freshman campaign.

The Panthers already have one walk-on quarterback on the roster in sophomore Jake Zilinskas, a former local standout at Indiana High School who transferred from Division III powerhouse John Carroll.

Depth is what this move looks like. Pure depth.

The other one was a bit of a surprise last night. Most of the attention seemed to be Pitt competing to get Kai Locksley. A once heralded recruit (and son of ace recruiter/ex-New Mexico head coach/now one of many Alabama assistants) Mike Locksley. Instead, in a bit of surprise it was Ricky Town.

Ricky Town, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound quarterback from Ventura College in Ventura, Calif., has committed to coach Pat Narduzzi, per a 247Sports report citing Town’s personal coach.

Town’s pledge is an intriguing one given his history before playing at the junior-college level. A 2015 graduate of St. Bonaventure High School in Ventura, Town was rated as a four-star prospect and fifth-best “pro-style” quarterback in his class by Rivals.com. Like Max Browne, whom Pitt brought in as a graduate transfer this time a year ago, Town started his career at Pac-12 power Southern California.

But Town — who first decommitted from Alabama — transferred out of USC during training camp and jumped to Arkansas. He never played in the SEC, either, eventually ending up at Ventura where he threw for 1,160 yards and 12 touchdowns with five interceptions in nine games this past season. He should have two years of eligibility remaining.

Ventura went 8-3 piloted by the once-highly touted Town, who appears to have come out of nowhere in terms of Pitt’s recruiting.

So, like TE Chris Clark he had some issues making up his mind about schools at first. At this point, even with 2 years remaining. This is probably his last chance at a P5 school. The Pitt connection is his JUCO head coach.

Ventura coach Steve Mooshagian, a former Pitt offensive coordinator under Walt Harris from 1997-99, told the Tribune-Review that Town visited Pitt coaches this weekend and was flying back to California on Sunday night.

So the tie is a bit tenuous, but it’s something amusing.





Good article Chas. And thanks to Steve Mooshagian for alerting Pitt about Ricky Town. Walt’s still tied to Pitt QB’s. Imagine that.

There should be a lot of Pitt FB news in the next few days – hopefully all good…

Two WR’s, a LB, RB, OLman and DB on the recruiting wish list. And 4 stars would add to the excitement.

H2P!

Comment by Erie Express 12.18.17 @ 12:51 pm

Browne and Town . What more could we ask for.

Comment by fred filopek 12.18.17 @ 1:58 pm

If he runs well, let’s hope for the nickname of “Mo”. Imagine: irony of ironies – a white quarterback named “Mo Town”!!

Comment by Savannah Panther 12.18.17 @ 2:35 pm

I heard a great segment this morning on the ESPN Golic & Wingo Show – the guest was former Steeler Safety Ryan Clark. They were talking about Aaron Donald and how good he is.

All three men (Golic, WIngo and Clark) agreed he is the best player in the NFL today. They all said AD doesn’t get the notoriety that QB’s, RB’s and WR’s get, but that he dominates the opposition better than any other player, at any position in the NFL.

Clark told a story from the Steeler practice facility when he passed AD after a workout one day. Clark said, “that’s the dude that everyone is talking about (in college) that no one can block? He ain’t that big.” Clark went on to say that AD is a mean, beast on the field and he makes his money with his unbelievable leverage.

They all think that a very big payday is coming his way. Clark even said if he wants a billboard in Hollywood, he’ll get it. LOL

Another great Pitt player in the NFL.

H2P!

Comment by Erie Express 12.18.17 @ 3:39 pm

Thanks for the story, EE.

Comment by alcofan 12.18.17 @ 4:15 pm

Two Pat Signals in the last 2 hours.

Anyone know who they are (for sure)?

Comment by Erie Express 12.18.17 @ 5:08 pm

Comment by BigB 12.18.17 @ 5:59 pm

Also preferred walk-in from Mt Lebanon signed.. last name is Stocker.

Comment by BigB 12.18.17 @ 6:00 pm

Good flip by Duzz of S Carter from Iowa State and star HC Matt Campbell.

There are more irons in the fire. Patience – this Pitt HC is a late closer.

H2P!

Comment by Erie Express 12.18.17 @ 7:32 pm

James Stocker is another QB.

link to maxpreps.com

Comment by BigB 12.18.17 @ 8:25 pm

Well we just lost WR J. Harris who chose Louisville. This was a huge loss for a key need. One thing I can’t get is how we lose a Receiver when we share the facilities with the team that has the best receiver in the nfl. That should be a closer in itself. Makes you wonder?

Comment by ROC2 12.19.17 @ 11:27 am

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