Pitt Junior Day Interviews

The Panthers held their Junior Day on Saturday, March 6th, and welcomed approximately 60 players to the festivities, which included brunch, a highlight film, meetings with coaches, the touring of the facilities, and the Panther basketball game against Villanova. The reaction of those that attended was very positive, with at least two local players offered scholarships and at least a few more putting Pitt at the top of their list.

Both OL Jason Kacinko from Penn-Trafford and RB LaRod Stephens from Johnstown were offered scholarships and in grand style to boot.

"I was talking to Coach (Curtis) Bray and he said ‘Coach Harris wants to speak to you'", says Kacinko. "I walked in the office and there was a jersey with my name, Kacinko, on it. I was floored when Coach Harris said, ‘Jason, I would like to offer you a scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh'."

Stephens' offer was as memorable; as soon as he arrived he was also shown a jersey with his name on it, and offered a scholarship. Long a big fan of the Panthers, Stephens was very touched.

Two players attending that already were offered scholarships by the Panthers included Monroeville RB/CB Justin King and Pittsburgh Central Catholic TE John Pelusi. Pelusi's father played center for the Panthers on the 1976 national Championship team. He was offered by mail last week, and while Pitt is one of his favorites, he wants to go through the recruiting process. King was offered over a month ago, but he has felt that the Panthers haven't shown as much interest in him as others, and therefore does not list the Panthers on his list of six favorites.

King's Gateway teammate Mike Barlak did enjoy the day. "It was nice. I had a good time."

Two other top prospects now have Pitt firmly entrenched as their favorite as a result of Junior Day.

"It was excellent," said Franklin-Regional TE Scott Uziel. "Everything about it was great. That's the place I want to go." Though he didn't get an offer while there, Uziel laughed, "I was waiting!"

Also, Brad Jones, an extremely athletic DB from McKinley HS in Canton, OH, who once had Pitt and Ohio State as his favorites, now says it's all Pitt.

"It was ten times better than Ohio State's Junior Day," said Jones. "All of the coaches were so nice and the facilities were awesome. Pitt is way ahead of Ohio State now. I can see myself playing there."

Jones spent a lot of time with Cleveland Heights (OH) HS cornerback Bruce Hampton and Akron Buchtel players Bryan Williams, a DB, and Carlos Parish, a lineman that Jones says is a sleeper. "He is 6'2" and 280 pounds and he is very strong," said Jones.

Hampton is another player strongly considering the hometown Buckeyes, but was as impressed as Jones.

"The coaching staff did a great job and Coach Harris is always impressive and would be great to play for," said Hampton. "I look forward to coming to the summer camp and showing why I should be a Pitt Panther."

Massive New Brighton lineman Brandon Richardson was another fan of the day. "I had fun," said Richardson. "I learned a lot. They showed you what it took to be at the level."

The visit solidified the Panthers on Richardson's favorite list. He was also invited to the Michigan Junior Day but went to Pitt's instead. He has also been invited to the Florida State Junior Day. He says Pitt is with Syracuse, Boston College, and North Carolina on his new favorite list because all have been to his school personally.

One of PA's top offensive linemen, Ben Maderia from Forest Hills HS, was another that loved the experience.

"It was a definite 10 out of 10," said Maderia. "The whole experience really opened my eyes and made me want it even more. My dad and me were the first ones there so we got to talk to the staff for a while. We both were impressed. They are very nice people."

"They said they were going to bring in 4 linemen this year, and they said to take the SAT's as many times as we had to. They just emphasized how important they were."

Offensive lineman John Bachman, a fast rising offensive lineman from Moon HS, talks about what most impressed him.

"The facilities were impressive," said Bachman. "Better than I thought they would be." He was also very impressed with Coach Harris. "He's a really nice guy. Pitt solidified itself in my top three."

Zach Haulman, a highly coveted offensive lineman from Altoona had this to say. "I liked everything about it. My parents both liked it, the facilities are amazing, and the coaches were very friendly."

TE/OL Josh Byrom from Montour was already at one Junior Day, but said Maryland couldn't compare. "I would have to say Pitt was better. All of the people and the staff were really nice and the facilities are top of the line. It is definitely a place I'd like to go."

Some top players were unable to attend, though all said it was not by choice. Some, like star Dayton, OH defensive back Brandon Harrison, Washington, DC LB Rico McCoy, Canton, OH WR Brian Hartline, Westerville, OH lineman Philip Pollard, and Lower Dauphin LB Mike Dell simply couldn't travel that far. All, however, say they are still very much interested in the Panthers.

Others like Upper St. Clair safety Sean Lee and Ohio WR J. Sharps had basketball playoff games.

Three others had other things to attend to. The third Gateway player invited, lineman Matt Houy, had to work and could not attend. Pittsburgh Central Catholic superstar RB Eugene Jarvis missed the early festivities because of SAT preparation class, but he did get to catch the game in person with the other attendees. Monessen stud LB Ernest Williams missed the game for family reasons, but was very upset about it. The very affable Williams said he had to watch the basketball game on television and hated knowing that he couldn't be there.

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