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July 17, 2014

Pitt got a verbal from another big offensive lineman. Tony Pilato — no, not this guythis guy.

In the last few months alone, the big offensive lineman from Hempfield took a pair of spring visits, attended the Panthers’ prospect camp in June and returned for another visit a week later. So when Pilato finally made his commitment Thursday, the decision was a natural one.

“I just think it was a really good process with them,” Pilato told Panther-Lair.com. “All the coaches were really genuine and they’re all great guys; I really enjoyed spending time with them and the players. When it came down to it, it was the right fit for me.

“I think it really felt natural with Pitt. I just wanted to take my time and consider all my options. But they offered me first and that was a big thing, and t was just good with them. Toward the end of the process, it just felt right with them.”

As has been the trend with Pitt’s O-line recruits in the Chryst regime, Pilato is a big ‘un at 6-7 and 310 pounds or so.

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June 28, 2014

Basketball Notes, 6/28

Filed under: Basketball,Draft,NBA,Recruiting — Chas @ 7:56 am

Mustapha Heron is still a Pitt verbal.

“I’m able to focus on my game, working on my game to fit into Pitt’s system,” Heron said at the NBPA Top 100 camp. “I don’t have to worry about who’s watching me, what type of letters are coming in, what type of calls are coming in. I can just play freely.”

With that said, the departure of assistant coach and ace recruiter Barry “Slice” Rohrssen to Kentucky has had the rumor mill whirling once again. In fact, all six predictions in the 247 Sports Crystal Ball have Heron going somewhere besides Pittsburgh.

In Virginia, Heron addressed the rumors.

“I don’t pay much attention to it,” he said. “Right now I’m just working on building a relationship with coach [Jamie] Dixon, and that’s going really well.”

Is it possible he could decommit at some point?

“That’s just something I would have to talk to my family about,” Heron said. “But as of now, no.”

That’s really all he can say. He could make absolute declarations of fealty and they would still be taken with the same meaning. The fact is he has not decommitted. He has not reopened the decision and he has not gone around on even unofficial visits to other schools.

He’s heading into his junior year of high school. He cannot sign a NLI until November 2015 at the earliest. I’m not saying he won’t change his mind. I’m just not going to spend the next year plus angsting over it.

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June 25, 2014

Isn’t it great that when all else fails we revert right back to discussing the apparently seminal topic of what wins college football games.  Of course it is the recruiting season, and recruiting season means star gazing, so let’s have at it.

Back in the spring of 2012 I did a three piece series on here about how recruiting stars equated to peer production – that is how many stars did leading college producers have and what the 1st and 2nd string All-Conference (BE and ACC) players had when they entered their respective college programs.  Just for fun, and especially if you are bored, here they are in sequence… remember to read the comments also as there was some spirited discussions back then too.   They are a bit lengthy but you guys can handle it.

So here they are:   Hitch Your Wagon to a Star,   Hitch Your Wagon II and Hitch Your Star III – ACC .  I don’t have the time or inclination to do all that research again to update to the 2013 results but I have a feeling the findings might not be that much different now and probably aren’t year to year.  Why?  Because unless you are running a huge, heavily financed football program such as the perennial Top Ten finishers do then your recruiting is going to look much like those posted results we see from two years ago.

To me there are two requirements as important as recruiting to building a winning football program. First and foremost you have to have a Head Coach and his chosen staff who get the best possible production out of the players on his roster, regardless of the players’ star factor.

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Recruiting and Ranking

Filed under: Football,Recruiting — Chas @ 6:37 am

It’s been well established that Coach Paul Chryst does not find recruiting to be one of his favorite things. His approach has annoyed, puzzled and infuriated plenty in just a short time.

At times he can be slow to offertalent. Ostensibly based on wanting to see them in a camp or meet with them first. Yet, he’s jumping right on that sophomore QB/punter in Wisconsin.

That’s just a side bar. The issue is that the players he gets to commit  — by and large — are not highly starred. A good chunk are players with their biggest offers from MAC schools and lower tier major conference teams.

Like it or not, the recruiting rankings are more than simply guesses. It’s why there is more excitement when a 4- star or so player gives a verbal.

For every Aaron Donald or J.J. Watt that rises well above his star ranking out of high school there are more like Jadeveon Clowney overall in the NFL Draft. Especially versus the total number of 4- and 5-star recruits in each class. The recruiting sites do a better job than we like to admit.

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June 24, 2014

Three More In the Fold

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

Over the weekend Pitt pulled a verbal from Florida. Today two more were added. Chryst really likes June.

First up, running back Sekai Lindsey verballed over the weekend.

[Sekai] Lindsay, who attends Melbourne Palm Bay High School, joins defensive back Malik Henderson of Hallandale Beach, Fla.

Lindsay, 5-foot-10, 205, is rated a three-star prospect by Rivals.com. He also has offers from Cincinnati, Florida International, Georgia Tech, South Florida, Temple, Idaho, Indiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina State and Georgia Southern.

Lindsay is also considered a 3-star running back by 247. Scout.com has him at 2-stars and ESPN.com does not have an evaluation on him (and mixed up his name). Still, some decent offers do offset the star situation.

Today, saw two more verbals.

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June 18, 2014

Marlon “Smoke” Williamson was introduced as a new Pitt assistant coach yesterday.

“We are excited about Marlon becoming a member of the University of Pittsburgh community and I know he is ecstatic to be coming aboard,” Dixon said. “As a former point guard with strong knowledge of the game, Marlon will help us in recruiting, scouting and player development. We are fortunate to have a coach with his well-rounded background. Marlon is also extremely excited to be a part of our staff considering his family ties to Pittsburgh.”

The former YSU point guard is openly ambitious and perhaps a little cocky.

“Actually, my pursuit is to become a great assistant coach right now. In the future, I want to become a head coach,” Williamson said. “When you say ‘great assistant,’ you have to fill a lot of bullets. Recruiting is definitely one, but I don’t want to be singled out as just a recruiter. I can get in the film room and break down Xs and Os. The relationship with the players is a huge factor for you as a coach. It’s much easier to play for someone you respect and love versus someone you just play for. That’s what I want to strive for as a professional in this business, being able to relate to the coach, co-workers on the staff, as well as the players and their parents.”

So, like [UMass Coach Derek] Kellogg before him, Williamson made a move to put his career in an upward trajectory.

“This is a big step,” he said. “When you talk about the University of Pittsburgh and ACC, you’ve got to go get players first. Our position as assistants is to put Coach Dixon in a position to be great. I look at coach Dixon as a legend. I don’t think he hired Coach Knight or Coach Barton to be mediocre. We want to give him the tools that he can go coach those guys. Our goal is to win the last game. Why not us?”

These are not bad things for a young assistant.

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June 17, 2014

And The June Commits Continue

Filed under: Football,Recruiting — Chas @ 8:31 pm

A definite position of need. Defensive tackle is a spot Pitt needs to bring in some players. Today, it looks like Pitt got a good one in Kraig Howe.

Howe visited Pitt three times in the last year, with two visits in the fall and another unofficial visit this spring. After the spring visit, he spoke very highly of the Panthers.

“Pitt has been one of my favorites for a long time; really, since I got that offer,” he said after the visit. “They were my second offer and they’ve always been up there with my favorites and top choices, and this visit was really a boost for how much I could see myself playing for Pitt and going to school in Pittsburgh and playing for these coaches. I can see myself fitting in well with program and the defensive scheme and the school and the city. It’s all clicking.”

Howe had offers from BC, Northwestern, Iowa St. and Illinois. 247 ranks him as the the 53d best DT nationally (Rivals.com says 37th and Scout.com has him 45th). He is a 3-star recruit by every site.

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June 15, 2014

More Speed Added

Filed under: Football,Recruiting — Chas @ 9:25 am

There is an emerging theme to the recruiting class. Let’s call it what it is, “get faster.”

The latest addition to the speed force is Tre Tipton.

“I was thinking about it and me and my mom and my coach all talked, and we just said Pitt’s the place to be,” Tipton told Panther-Lair.com. “I called Coach (Paul) Chryst and I told him and he was excited. He said he can’t wait to start working with me.”

Tipton had been favoring Pitt for a long time – he was a fixture at the Panthers’ home games at Heinz Field last fall – but it was the two-day visit this past week that pushed him over the edge, since he spent those two days with current Pitt players, and that ended up being a major selling point for Pitt.

“It was the players and the people; they’re all so together, all so close-knit,” Tipton said. “The players are what sticks with you from the whole experience; they’re the ones who will mean the most when you’re there. I know that the guys that are there are the right ones for me; them and the coaches are the best ones for me.

“The coaches are of the best guys you can ever talk. They understand the process and what every young man has to do to be successful, and they’re like fathers to every guy that goes there. Everything just seems right at Pitt. I wanted it to feel like a family and ball out for four years with a family. They’re the ones for me.”

As a junior at Apollo-Ridge last season, Tipton, 6’1″ 170, caught 44 passes for 697 yards and scored 14 touchdowns. But it’s not just his scoring ability that led the Pitt coaches to offer him.

“They said I could be a very good fit for them,” he said. “They said they know I’m a hard-worker and wherever I can fit in, I’ll be able to play there. They said they think they can utilize me all over the offense.”

Tipton was also a standout defensive back, but it is clear that he wants to be on the offensive side of the ball.

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June 10, 2014

A Couple More In the Fold

Filed under: Football,Recruiting — Chas @ 8:18 pm

Pitt has added a couple verbals to the 2015 football class. I know this is a stunner, but they are on the offensive side of the ball.

Over the weekend, Pitt added a QB (hands off, Vanderbilt!).

Malvern Prep’s Alex Hornibrook, a strong-armed junior quarterback, committed Saturday to play at Pittsburgh. He visited the school Friday and Saturday with his parents, and threw during one of the team’s camp sessions.

“Everything just felt right,” he said. “The campus is amazing, my interaction with the coaches was great, and it’s somewhere I could easily see myself playing.”

The 6-foot-4, 210-pound southpaw, who chose Pitt over Connecticut and Rutgers, added that he is excited about the Panthers renewing their heated rivalry with Penn State beginning in 2016.

Hornibrook is a consensus 3-star QB. He is also strong academically with an offer from Yale.

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June 5, 2014

That seems to be what is happening. Everyone is watching. Everyone is waiting to see what is happening over the next couple of weeks.

With a decreasing number of players expected to leave the Pitt program this year — thanks to the stability created by coach Paul Chryst and his staff — and 49 added in the past two recruiting classes, expect this year’s group to be the smallest since Chryst welcomed 16 in 2012.

Meanwhile, coaches and officials are making plans to host about 300 high school players this weekend and next at Pitt’s UPMC training facility on the South Side for the Paul Chryst Football Camps. This is, generally, where many players make up their minds, but where they also get plenty of instruction from members of the Pitt staff and other coaches.

The next two weekends are so important to the long-range growth of the program that Chryst is skipping ceremonies at Wisconsin-Platteville on June 13 where his late father George will be honored for three decades of service as coach and athletic director.

The attrition over the first two years is not uncommon. Now it is a matter of not just being more selective, but getting the kids to decide Pitt is their best choice.

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June 4, 2014

We Got One

Filed under: Football,Recruiting — Chas @ 9:43 pm

Let’s  do this.

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June 2, 2014

Basketball Notes, 6/2

Filed under: Basketball,Recruiting — Chas @ 7:43 am

One week left until the summer vacation starts for the kids. Which for the first time for them — and me — means camps most of the summer. No more staying home with dad all summer to do stuff. No longer. Everyone is working outside the house this year. Not sure how much really changes for theirs or my schedule. Other than everyone being a little more sweaty from the activities.

Speaking of camp. 2016 verbal commit to Pitt basketball, Maverick Rowan, has been selected to the US contingent for the Adidas EURORCAMP in July.

The team includes top sophomore and junior high school players in the country. Included on the team are five juniors and five sophomores. Among the top juniors are Carlton Bragg, rivals.com’s No. 10 junior in the country. Other juniors are Dante Hales (No. 11) and Brandon Ingram (No. 24). Among the sophomores are 7-footer Thon Maker (No. 3 in the country), Dennis Smith (No. 16), De’Ron Davis (No. 23) and Kobi Simmons (No. 28).

The team will play against top international players who are eligible for this year’s NBA draft. The EUROCAMP is the only NBA-sanctioned pre-draft camp sanctioned by the NBA that is held outside the U.S.

“It’s a very big deal,” said Rowan. “Basically, we go over there and plays kids overseas who are training for the draft.”

Some very good company.

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May 1, 2014

When Jameel Poteat decommitted from Pitt during the Wannstedtian upheaval of 2010-11, it was a difficult but understandable action. Difficult because the 4-star, Bishop-McDevitt kid was also relative of one of the few standout Panthers from the late 90s. He attended the same high school LeSean McCoy did, and was talking of following his path. Difficult because Pitt had done so well in mining Bishop-McDevitt up to that point and getting some very good players.

At the same time it was understandable. Poteat didn’t know the new coaching staff. The offensive system did not seem to fit him well. And he was hardly the only decommit from that group, that he almost got lost in the volume. He switched to Cinci and Malcolm Crockett went from being a Cinci verbal to coming to Pitt.

Things did not work out the way anyone expected. Poteat did not develop as his star ranking suggested. Eventually transferring from Cinci down to Stony Brook.

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April 28, 2014

Cullen Christian Ghosts Out

Filed under: Football,Transfer — Chas @ 7:44 am

I won’t lie. I didn’t even know Cullen Christian was still on the team.

After three years at Pittsbugh, Cullen Christian will be transferring to West Virginia.

Christian graduated from Pitt on Sunday, earning his degree in Administration of Justice. He will go on scholarship at West Virginia, where he will be enrolled in graduate school pursing a Masters in Sports Management.

“I know where I wanted to go after I graduate, and I’m going to West Virginia,” Christian said. “This is something I’m looking forward to. I’ve already started conditioning, and getting ready. I went to the spring game, which was cool. I got to meet the coaches. I’m going to go there this week and get my apartment set up this week. I’ll start school on (May) 19th.”

Christian transferred to Pitt in 2011, after playing as a true freshman at Michigan. After sitting out the 2011 season, due to the transfer rule, he started the first two games of the 2012 season, including the Cincinnati game where he had two pass breakups.

Christian will be reunited with defensive backs coach Tony Gibson for a third time in his career.

Not trying to be mean, but this isn’t much of a loss for Pitt. He wasn’t going to show up on the two-deep. He really never had much of an impact.

Congratulations on graduating. Good luck in West Virginia.

April 21, 2014

Pitt Adds a Late Local

Filed under: Basketball,Recruiting — Chas @ 3:00 pm

Curious to say the least, but Pitt has added a new member to the 2014 recruiting class.

Cameron Johnson is a local kid. He goes to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. Which is apparently in Coraopolis. He was the Trib player of the year. He’s had a significant growth spurt in the last year.

Johnson started his junior season as a 6-foot-2, 165-pound point guard. He now stands 6-6, 185, and can play almost anywhere.

“I expected to grow at least some in high school because my parents are tall and my mom grew late,” said Johnson, whose father is 6-8 and mother is 5-11.

“It’s allowed me to play more positions, that’s for sure. I’ve always stuck to point guard and shooting guard. Now, I can fill in at small forward and power forward. That’s what schools like to see, a guy who is versatile and can play multiple positions.”

He may be up to around 6-7 or 6-8 at this point. His father, Gil Johnson, played at Pitt from 1988-90.

Johnson is not a rated recruit. He has strong academics so he had schools like Rice, Penn and Columbia after him. Late in the recruiting season schools like Stanford, BC and Virginia have been sniffing around him.

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