The quarterback position is going to be key in the 2012 class. With Pat Bostick forgoing his final year of eligibility, the overall experience of the position takes a huge hit in terms of experience. Tino Sunseri, who will then be a senior by the time one of these freshmen are officially enrolled in college, is now the only person on the Pitt roster who has taken any snaps at quarterback.
One name at the top of the list is Bloomsburg (PA) quarterback Blake Rankin, who will be at Pitt this weekend. He has already been recruited by quarterbacks coach Todd Dodge a little bit, and based on his numbers, appears to be a quarterback who could thrive in Graham's system. In 2010, Rankin threw for 1,600 yards and 17 touchdown passes, with just three interceptions. He rushed for 981 yards with 16 rushing touchdowns.
Also expected to come in this weekend are a pair of Ohio quarterbacks in Austin Appleby (North Canton Hoover) and Demetrious Davis (Austintown Fitch), though Davis will be recruited as a slot receiver. Coatesville's Manny Stocker is also expected in, but he is also getting recruited by schools at safety. Central Catholic's Perry Hills is also a possibility, but he will be competing in the WPIAL wrestling sectionals. Other local quarterbacks such as Montour's Dillon Buechel and John Matarazzo are possibilities. Buechel will be playing for a WPIAL basketball championship on Friday night.
The biggest draw, who will be one of the biggest draws anywhere he goes, will be five-star running back Rushel Shell. It's anyone's guess as to which direction Shell is leaning at this point, but Pitt fans have to be excited at the fact that the five-star running back is taking his second unofficial visit to Pitt since Todd Graham's staff was put in place.
And, it doesn't stop with Shell either. Erie (PA) McDowell's Greg Garmon—who recently hit double-digits in offers—will be there, along with Montour's Julian Durden. Durden's lone offer is from Pitt, and he seems to be very pleased with how the new coaching staff is recruiting him so far. Two more local running backs will also be there in Penn-Trafford's Manny Simpson and Brashear's Joell Nesbit. With other running backs such as Shell, Durden and Garmon, it's easy for the 5-11, 205-pound Simpson to get overlooked. He rushed for over 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior. Nesbit battled a nagging ankle injury during his junior season, but still averaged 100 yards a game and finished his junior season with 70 tackles on defense.
Despite returning four receivers (Mike Shanahan, Devin Street, Cameron Saddler, Ed Tinker) who saw the field in 2010, the addition of another three redshirt freshmen (Drew Carswell, Kevin Weatherspoon, Salath Williams) and the signing of three more receievers (Darius Patton, Ronald Jones and Justin Jackson), there is a big number of receivers that will be in attendance this weekend.
Clairton's Trenton Coles—who has a Pitt offer—makes his second unofficial visit since Graham and company took over. A number of other Pennsylvania receivers will also be in attendance including Shady Side Academy's Reggie Mitchell, Coatesville's Kyle Kerrick, Penn Hills' Corey Jones and Greensburg Central Catholic's Justin Kempka.
Pitt is in the chase for several linemen, and will have to fill the graduation of senior linemen Jordan Gibbs, Chris Jacobson, Lucas Nix and Greg Gaskins—all of whom have started over the last two seasons.
Though Ian Park—one of the top targets—will not be here, a number of other in-state linemen will be. Tyler Alt from Greensburg Central Catholic will be here. There's a possibility Alt will move to center for his senior year. Other in-state linemen possibly making it in this weekend include Fox Chapel's Adam Bisnowaty, Greensburg Central Catholic's Josh Stepoli, Montour's Domenic Martinelli and Penn Hills' Treyvon Hester—who could still play offense or defense at this point. The same could be said for Alt too. Bisnowaty is up in the air. Like Perry Hills, Bisnowaty also has sectionals for wrestling this weekend that may prevent him from being in attendance.
If it weren't for Shell, Sto-Rox linebacker Deaysean Rippy would be the big name in town, but still—even with Shell's star power, the Pitt coaching staff has to be excited about Rippy being on campus again. This is now his third unofficial visit to Pitt with the new coaching staff. He recently told Scout.com that he has quickly developed a good early relationship with the new staff. Rippy is getting national offers, but his relationship with this new staff, the fact that Pitt graduates three linebackers after this season and now Rippy's third unofficial visit here in recent weeks is looking good for the Panthers.
Peabody's Jaylen Coleman will also be on campus this weekend. Coleman just got his Pitt offer last week. He also holds an offer from Toledo, and is expected to be offered by Wisconsin when he goes up for their spring game in April.
Jeannette's Demetrious Cox got an offer from Pitt this week, and now holds offers from Penn State, West Virginia and Michigan State in addition to his offer from Pitt. Cox is already the most heavily recruited safety, if not the most highly recruited defensive backs overall in the state.
This new coaching staff put a great deal of emphasis on the safety position—similar to the way they did at the receiver position—in putting together its 2011 signing class. Even though they signed Rodrick Ryles, Stephen Williams and Jevonte Pitts to a team that returns Jarred Holley, Jason Hendricks and Andrew Taglianetti—all of whom have started games for Pitt in the last two seasons.
Other secondary prospects who will be in are Penn Hills safety Chaz Whittaker, Coatesville's Manny Stocker. Coatesville corner Dae Jon Cheung will also be in attendance.