Speed, Speed and More Speed as the Panthers Sign 20

Todd Graham faced a steep uphill battle from the moment that he took the Pitt job as he was tasked with assembling a full recruiting class for the Panthers in spite of starting from only four remaining committed players.  To that end Graham and his staff did a fantastic job by leaving literally no stone unturned in order to find players that fit his system, snapping up a host of under-recruited and just plain unknown Southern talent.  In addition to scouting literally everywhere, Coach Graham also made a lot of noise by pushing hard on highly sought after players who were dismissed as un-recruitable by the previous staff.  In the end he may have come up just short on some of the bigger names, including Woodland Hills linebacker Ejuan Price (Ohio State), the McKeesport pair of Delvon Simmons (North Carolina) and Branden Jackson (Texas Tech) and California quarterback Michael Eubank (Arizona State), but the impression that Graham was able to make in such a short time bodes well going forward.

However today isn’t really about bemoaning the players that you failed to land (unless you are Alabama and stud offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio spurned you for your arch nemesis across the state), it is instead about celebrating the players that you did sign.  And in that regard the Panthers did quite well for themselves; not only did Pitt manage to sign a nearly full complement of twenty players but those twenty players are comparable to the recruiting classes of the rest of the Big East conference. (except for Louisville who kicked some serious ass)  Moreover, the players that the Panthers signed today are ideally suited for the hurry-up offense and aggressive 3-4 defense that Graham wants to install…I would not be shocked to see four or perhaps even five of this group make a serious impact as true freshmen and that is a pretty nice ratio indeed.

So come along with me after the jump where BB&G gives you a full run down of the Pitt recruiting class.  We will take a look at who projects at what position, who is a stud and who is a dud and just who might be the biggest sleeper to sign for the Panthers since Greg Romeus.

Running Back

Jeremiah BrysonOne of the four Wannstedt recruits to stay with Pitt, Bryson is a small shifty back in the Dion Lewis mold and is the best between the tackles runner of the four recruits.  His competition in Tennessee wasn’t exactly stiff but his numbers were prolific, even so he looks likely to redshirt next season.

Isaac Bennett has the physique to contribute at running back from day one.

Isaac BennettBennett wasn’t even ranked by most of the major recruiting services this year since no one expected him to qualify…he was likely on his way to UL-Monroe until his scores improved and Kansas State and Oklahoma State started to sniff around.  An Oklahoma state champion in football and the long jump, Bennett is an exceptional athlete and should be the Panthers primary downhill back in the fall.

Malcolm CrockettCrockett flipped his commitment from Cincinnati after the Bearcats brought in former Pitt commit Jameel Poteat and with all due respect to Poteat I absolutely would much rather have Crockett.  Crockett is the most complete running back in the Pitt class as he is the best receiver out of the backfield and pass blocker of the four commits.  In addition to those skills, Crockett is a fine runner in his own right, runs a 10.9 100m dash and is also a strong student in the classroom.  A great signing.

Corey DavisDavis was criminally under-recruited out of the state of Texas as he ran for 28 touchdowns and 8.4 yards per carry on a lousy football team with no other offensive options.  A low center of gravity runner with breakaway speed Davis may be the lowest ranked of the running back recruits but he may also be the best.

Wide Receiver

Justin JacksonUntil he signed his LOI this morning no one even was aware that the Panther staff was recruiting Jackson but new OC Calvin Magee went to the Daphne, AL well once again (former WVU star Pat White also was from Daphne) to sign this sleeper wideout.  Jackson is a 6’4″ receiver with 4.5 speed and Daphne head coach Glenn Vickery in no uncertain terms has called him the best wide receiver that he has ever coached.  On his limited tape you can clearly see a physical receiver with great straight line speed who attacks the ball at it’s highest point.  A potential star.

Ronald JonesA pint sized running quarterback from Florida, the speedy Jones is going to transition to the slot receiver position at Pitt.  Likely a project while he learns the position, Jones still possesses a nice upside owing to his excellent top end speed and vision and could contribute early on in the return game or Wildcat looks.

Darius PattonThe former Penn Hills wideout turned Poland Seminary (OH) burner is the son of former Youngstown State running back and national champion Shawn Patton and possesses every bit of his father’s speed.  Likely an instant impact from the slot receiver position, Patton is the fastest player in a Pitt class already loaded with players who can run.

Offensive Line

Sam ColluraCollura is listed on all major sites as a tight end but his future in Pittsburgh lies either on the offensive line at guard or on the defensive line as a 3-4 defensive end.  Collura comes from a winning program at DeMatha and possesses excellent football smarts, he shouldn’t have any trouble putting on weight up towards 280 pounds and contributing as a multi-year rotation player.  Reminds me a lot of former Panther Gus Mustakas.

Zenal DemhasajA junior college giant from New York state, Demhasaj is part insurance policy at tackle and part flyer at attempting to find the next Jeff Otah.  A mauler of the highest order, Demhasaj gets to the second level well in the running game but too often allows pass rushers to engage him instead of vice versa, putting himself at a disadvantage in spite of his reach.

Artie RowellAn original recruit who never wavered in his commitment, Rowell has all of the skills required to be an excellent multiyear starter for the Panthers at the guard position.  If you enjoy watching five minutes of a lineman knocking defenders down until the whistle then I highly recommend Rowell’s highlight film.

Defensive Line

KK Mosley-SmithMosley-Smith, you may recall, was a Panther commitment last year out of Woodland Hills who was performing exceptionally well during summer practice before finding out that he was ineligible and prepping for a year at Milford.  With his grades now in order, Smith is back on campus already for the winter semester and should be a dominant 3-4 defensive end in the new scheme.

Linebacker

Nicholas Grigsby (white) is a seek-and-destroy style linebacker.

Devin Cook - A late bloomer from Beaver Falls, Cook is best described by his tape where he spends two minutes blowing up every running play in the WPIAL.  Cook is something of a funny story as until his commitment to the Panthers he was completely unranked as a recruit.  However, once he committed the recruiting services couldn’t slap 3 stars fast enough on this 6’4″ 230 pound outside linebacker.

Nicholas GrigsbyThe top linebacker recruit in the state of Ohio, Grigsby has the closing speed and gap recognition ability to draw comparisons to Steeler inside backer James Farrior.  With the Panther linebacking corps not currently in the finest shape expect Grigsby to step onto campus and challenge for a starting spot from day one.

LaQuentin Smith - The first of two Pitt commits from Orlando, FL powerhouse Dr. Phillips, Smith is a converted safety with exceptional speed and real nose for the football.  Smith’s ability to make an instant impact with the Panthers is likely to be limited by his still inconsistent tackling form but you can’t teach his instincts and he should be a good linebacker down the line.

Defensive Backs

Lloyd CarringtonCarrington is a unique case on the recruiting trail as he is an absurdly talented athlete with only one year of football playing experience.  While extremely raw, Carrington nevertheless has proven to be an exceptionally skilled press cornerback with a nose for the football and could develop into the shutdown corner that Pitt has lacked since Darrelle Revis.

Jason FrimpongFrimpong is the answer to the question of “Who is the fastest player that Pitt recruited” if Darius Patton is not and the MacArthur (TX) has the size and speed combination to be an excellent press cornerback.  Frimpong, like Carrington, is also extremely raw as in his case he was a quarterback in high school so any early expectations should likely be tempered.

Jevonte PittsFellow recruit Lafayette Pitts’ cousin and high school teammate, the Woodland Hills safety Jevone Pitts is an interesting prospect in the Panther secondary but is not a likely bet to qualify academically.

Lafayette Pitts expects to factor in all three facets of the game for the Panthers

Lafayette Pitts - The likely jewel of this class.  While he ran for 25 touchdowns during his senior season at Woodland Hills, Pitts still figures to start his career as a cornerback and should make an instant impact at that position in nickel and dime packages.  In addition to that Coach Graham has also explicitly said that he expects Pitts to be a factor from day one in the Panther return game and to get some looks in the Wildcat.

Roderick Ryles - The second of the Panthers two coveted recruits from Dr. Phillips, Ryles is the likely more immediately ready of the two as he possesses an exceptional size/speed combination in a safety.  A sure and solid tackler from the secondary, Ryles also does an excellent job of reading the routes from deep zone coverage when asked to play cover 2 or cover 1.

Steve WilliamsA flyer of a recruit if there ever was one, Williams was a running back for a tiny Catholic school in Savannah, GA that the Panther staff has recruited at the safety position.  Very tall with a broad frame and good straight line speed, Williams is extremely raw and a little bit stiff in the hips to be a truly useful safety and may be better served bulking up into a linebacker.