Grading the 2004 Recruiting Class

Bob and Chris grade out Pitt's 2004 football recruiting performance.

QB - 1 signee D: Walt put all his eggs in the Anthony Morelli basket and it came back to bite him. We did get Darrell Strong, who is a big athlete, but the Wing T offense he ran in high school will make him very raw. If he doesn't stick at QB, look for him to be a TE.

RB - 2 signees B: Brandon Mason and Rashaad Jennings are good pick-ups. Both have good size and speed. Jennings may end up at another position eventually, but he will first get a crack in the backfield. Both have the skills to make an impact, but both are an unknown commodity for now. Jennings isn't eligible yet and Mason only became a starter in his senior year.

FB - 1 signee B: Tyler Tipton is quick, strong, and tough. Has a very aggressive attitude. Also has the ability to play LB some day.

TE -1 signee D: We don't have any depth at the TE position and Rob Agnone will have to develop into the position. He is undersized as of now, but has the athletic ability to be good in a few years. PA will be loaded with TE's next season.

WR - 3 signees B: We got 3 good players but we lost out on Johnny Peyton and Dorien Bryant. Marcel Pestano is a Hines Ward type player. Not great speed, but quick and athletic. Sees himself as a possession receiver. Kelvin Chandler was hurt in HS and played on run-oriented teams, but has great athletic ability. Could be really good. Derek Kinder is another good athlete with good size and toughness.

OL - 3 signees B: Dave Weber is probably the most advanced of the three, but we needed tackles and got three with very good potential and size. Weber, Chase Clowser, and Jerald Robinson are all over 300 pounds and in good shape.

DL - 4 signees A: Corey Davis has great athletic ability and could be a star at DT. Craig Bokor is as tough as nails with good athleticism and a great attitude. Phil Tillman is a 300 pounder with bull strength. Nick Williams is a very good athlete at DE who could also play all three LB positions if need be. Look for Davis, Tillman, and Bokor to play early and often. This was a very big need that the Pitt staff addressed nicely.

LB - 2 signees A: Vernon Smith and Scott McKillop are studs who are added to an already talented young unit at Pitt. Smith will vie for playing time at MLB and he has the speed, tenacity, and attitude to make an immediate impact. He isn't eligible yet, but is confident that he will be. He will know in a few weeks.

DB - 4 signees A: Darrelle Revis, Steve Walker, Steffon Brinson, and Adam Gunn are all high quality players and athletes. Revis is a true, lockdown corner that would have been recruited much higher if he were eligible. As it is, he may still have problems in that area, and may have to go to prep school. Walker is quick and athletic. Brinson can fly and has the potential to be very good. Gunn would have been rated much higher if he didn't commit so early. He has great size and speed, and can hit like a ton of bricks.

K - 1 signee A: Josh Cummings is an experienced JUCO star. Pitt needed consistency at the position and found Cummings who has the potential to be excellent.

Overall Grade B: Even after losing Smith, Bryant, Peyton, Morelli and Johnson, Pitt has assembled a very nice group of athletes, and more importantly, kids that want to very badly be Pitt Panthers. They are good players, but most of all, Pitt filled some major need positions with this class, especially at DT, K, and OT.

Bob Lichtenfels
My overall take on this year's class is that it is very tough to compete nationally when you can't fence in your own backyard. Pitt got Revis, Davis, Gunn, McKillop and Bokor from Western PA, which was very good, but look at who they didn't get:

QB- Anthony Morelli
RB- Andrew Johnson
TE- Rory Nicol
WR- Devon Lyons
OL- Ben Iannchione
OL- Kyle Mitchum

DE- Tyrell Sales
LB -Dontey Brown
S- Mortty Ivy

That is becoming a trend at Pittsburgh. This was one of the best years for talent in Western PA and Pitt didn't get close to what they thought they would. While getting prepared for next year's class it is very easy to see why this is a continuing trend. Over the last two weeks we have spoken to some of the top junior prospects in PA, and while they've gotten letters from Iowa, Penn State, Syracuse, Indiana, USC, and everywhere else, one name fails to appear - PITTSBURGH. Five or six kids would verbal to Pitt today because they love Pitt but Pitt hasn't found their way to contact most of them. So the other schools will come in and offer these kids early and Pitt will probably lose most of them too. These kids want to feel wanted and they want the attention showed to them. Hopefully Walt learned from this, that while Morelli and Johnson were Blue Chippers there were several other kids in Pennsylvania who could've helped the program.

The kids we got from Western Pa - McKillop, Gunn,Revis, Davis and Bokor - are true blue collar tough as nails kids. Coach Partridge did a good job with Florida, getting Vernon Smith was a major coup for Pitt, he had over 40 offers from all over the country. I am a firm believer that one of the things that hurt Pitt's efforts was the coaching staff situation. Harris should've tried to have new assistants in place before the end of the recruiting period. Dino Babers was big in the recruiting of Dorien Bryant and Andrew Johnson, he then went to UCLA. No replacement was made. JD Brookhart was a big reason Peyton wanted to play at Pitt, He left for Akron, No replacement was made.

These kids have to make a decision thats going to effect the next 4-5 years of their life, I'm pretty sure they'd at least like to know who their position coach is before they decide. I am thankful for the opportunity to meet these kids and their parents.

Chris Dokish
First of all, let me say that Pitt got some very good players who can't wait to play for Pitt. And there are some really athletic kids that have the ability and desire to really grow into stars. Needs were filled and recruiting in Florida has never been better for the Panthers.

But like Bob, I share the belief that this was a talented crop in PA that Pitt didn't take advantage of. A combination of the conference being unsteady and a season that fell short of expectations combined to hurt Pitt badly. The Morelli and Johnson fiasco has hurt Pitt and Walt Harris' image and it looks like the program will have to battle to regain momentum.

The most troubling part is that it appears Pitt focused so much on keeping the players that were wavering that they didn't get a crucial early start on the next class. We have already talked to many of the top players in PA, some in Pitt's own backyard, and some that would love to come to Pitt. And sadly, Pitt has had minimal or no contact at all with these national recruits. One top player in the Pittsburgh area has already been visited by Penn State and Michigan six times. Pitt has visited him once. When the perception, right or wrong, is that Pitt's ship is leaking, you would think the coaches would start to bail out the water a little faster. Instead it looks like the staff is merely treading water.

On a bright note, Bob and I have had the pleasure of getting to know the Pitt recruits in this class, and we are happy to report that not only are they fine players, they are some of the nicest young men you will ever want to know. It was an honor to know them and we hope that they are instrumental in making Pitt an elite program once again. Even if that is too hard of a task to accomplish, rest assured that these kids will make great adults and will make us all proud to say that they play for our team.


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