Grading The 2004 Pittsburgh Panthers

In the second of a three part series, I'll be grading the 2004 Pittsburgh Panthers defense. In the coming days look for the special teams. Heading into the 2004 season....

(Defensive Line) Grade = C

Skinny: For most teams the return of three starters on your defensive line (Vince Crochunis, Dan Stephens and Thomas Smith) would be cause for optimism at the position. Not so for these Panthers. What was supposed to be a team strength in 2003, turned into its weakest link. Early season injuries decimated an already thin depth chart and inconsistent performances translated into several lineup changes. The pass rush was non-existent far too often. The run defense was terrible yielding 185.0 rushing yards (4.5 yards per carry). Whatever the case, a lack of good talent or simply underachieving, this team was pushed around up front.

Outlook: There is good news. The line couldn't get much worse than it was in 2003. Thomas Smith is a year older and a star in the making. Smith knows how to get to the quarterback, as evidenced by his 2 sacks and 16 QB hurries. Azzie Beagnyam, the talented native of Texas (who finished with 31 tackles and a sack), will start opposite of Smith and should be an improvement over an injury plagued Claude Harriot. If the interior lineman can get a push up front, Smith and Beagnyam will thrive by seeing less double teams, using their athleticism to cause havoc in the opponent's backfield. Solid depth across the line will afford defensive coordinator Paul Rhodes the opportunity to keep players fresh.

In the mix: Michael Hearn, Phil Tillman, Andy Alleman, Jake Holthaus,Nick Williams, Corey Davis

(Defensive End)

95 Keith Hill 6-3, 260, Sr. 2003: 16 TT, 8 solo, 8 assts, 2 QBH

Prep Notes: Honors include, All-City League performer. Three-time City League wrestling champion.

At Pittsburgh's Schenley High School, Keith played linebacker and running back (two way starter). Helped Schenley to the 1999 Pittsburgh City League championship, its first title since 1950. Three letters in football also earned three letters in wrestling.

Junior College: Honors include, All-Northeast Conference selection at linebacker.

Played one season (2000) at Hudson Valley Community College (N.Y.). Led team in tackles with 70.

Pitt Notes: Originally joined the Panthers as a walk-on tight end.

52 Ron Idoko 6-2, 260, Jr. 2003: N/A

Prep Notes: N/A,

Bronx, NY

88 Kyle Smith 6-5, 240, Sr. 2003: N/A

Prep Notes: Honors include, The Associated Press Big School All-State Team (second team). First team All-State AAA by Pennsylvania Football News. Harrisburg Patriot-News "Platinum 33". Rated the No. 16 prospect in Pennsylvania and the Midwest Region's top 70 prospects by SuperPrep All-Northeast Team. Also rated Pennsylvania's No. 18 prospect by SuperPrep. PrepStar All-East Region. Three-time All-Erie County League. Named the Make-A-Wish Erie County Male Athlete of the Year. 1st team All County selection as a junior. Was elected to play in the Big 33 Football Classic. Honor Roll student.

Kyle Smith was a 3-year starter on defense and a 2-year starter on offense at tight end. As a senior he compiled 61 tackles, seven sacks, 12 tackles for losses, two fumble recoveries and a 38-yard fumble return for a touchdown. Led team to three consecutive Erie County League championships with an overall mark of 23-6 (.793). Earned four football letters, three letters in basketball, and three in track and field. Kyle was also a 2-year starter on the varsity basketball team, averaging 8 points and 9 rebounds during his senior season.

55 Thomas Smith 6-4, 275, Sr. 2003: 44 TT, 27 Solo, 17 Assts, 8 TFL, 2 Sacks, 16 QBH

Prep Notes: Honors include, first team All-Maryland (big school). Washington Post All-Metropolitan first team. Pigskin Club All-Metropolitan team. Pigskin Club Defensive Player of the Year. PrepStar rated him All-Atlantic Region and SuperPrep ranked him the 21st prospect in the Mid-Atlantic Region.

At Suitland High School, Thomas was a two-year starter at defensive end. His senior season, only his third year of organized football, Thomas collected 58 solo tackles and 11 quarterback sacks and a 12-yard fumble return for a touchdown. He lettered twice in football at Suitland.

41 Azzie Beagnyam 6-1, 245, Jr. 2003: 31 TT, 18 Solo, 13 Assts, 3 TFL, 1 Sack, 5 QBH, 2 PDs.

Prep Notes: Honors include, District 24-5A Defensive Player of the Year in 2001 in Texas. Rated the nation's No. 52 linebacker by Student Sports.

Clear Lake's defensive MVP and two-time defensive line MVP. As a senior Azzie led Clear Lake High School, amassing 80 tackles, nine sacks, four passes defended, and one fumble recovery. Unanimous All-district selection as a junior recording 75 tackles; seven sacks and two fumble recoveries. Earned three letters in football and also lettered twice in track and field.

Pitt Notes: Azzie Beagnyam was a blue chip recruit strong side linebacker/defensive lineman who red shirted his freshman year.

54 Charles Sallet 6-0, 225, Jr. 2003: 5 TT, 3 Solos, 2 Assts

Prep Notes: Honors include, first team All-Western Conference. St. Petersburg Times All-Sun Coast and All-District. Rated the #84 prospect in Florida by SuperPrep. PrepStar Honorable Mention All- Southeast Region. Selected to play in the East vs. West All-Star Game.

Three-year starter at defensive end, he finished as Armwood High School's all-time leader with 38 quarterback sacks while accounting for 82 quarterback hurries. As a senior, Charles registered 101 tackles, 12 sacks, with an interception return for a touchdown. As a junior in 2000, Sallet led Armwood to the regional championship and Class 3A state semifinals with an 11-3 record. The team advanced to two state playoff berths and recorded a 24-12 record over three years during his career there.

Earned three letters in football, also lettered three times in track and field. Three time regional champion in shot put.

(Nose Tackle)

96 Vince Crochunis 6-4, 290, Sr. 2003: 54 TT, 32 Solo, 22 Assts, 5.5 TFL, 2 Sacks, 1 PD, 1 FR, 5 QBH

Prep Notes: Honors include, first team All-state. Three times All-county. Two time first team All-area. Played in the Big 33 Football Classic. 1998 Pottsville Republican Defensive Player of the Year. 1996 Pottsville Republican Rookie of the Year as a sophomore. First team Pennsylvania All-Academic High School wrestling team. Academic Honor Guard, Honor Roll student.

At Schuylkill Haven Area High School, he was a three-year starter at fullback and defensive tackle. Set Schuylkill Haven records for career sacks (43) and quarterback hurries (16). Recorded 291 career tackles, the third highest total in school history, and highest total ever for a lineman. Also had eight fumble recoveries and four blocked kicks (three punts and one field goal) during his career. While playing fullback, Vince rushed for 851 career yards on 195 carries (4.4 avg.) and had 13 TDs. Earned three letters in football.

Earned four letters in wrestling and three in track and field. Was ranked as one of Pennsylvania's top heavyweight wrestlers. He went 31-3 and finished fourth in the state as a senior.

56 Charles Spencer 6-5, 320, Sr. 2003: 19 TT, 9 Solo, 10 Assts, 1 TFL, 2 QBH, 2 PD.

Prep Notes: Honors include, Charles was a two-way starter for three years at Poughkeepsie High School. Earned All-County, All-Section, and All-Region honors. He was named defensive MVP of the Exceptional Senior All-Star game. First team All-Poughkeepsie Journal honoree in basketball where Spencer was a three-year starter. Honor Roll student.

Spent the 2000 season playing under Coach David Coratti at Trinity-Pawling Prep (N.Y). Was a starter at defensive end and tight end and led the team with 75 tackles. Offensively, he had 25 receptions for over 300 yards with three touchdowns

Pitt Notes: Charles Spencer showed flashes of excellence in 2002, his first active season on the squad. Spencer certainly has all the tools to be a playmaker at defensive tackle with outstanding size and surprising quickness pursuing the football.

Feast or famine? Due to a shortage of offensive line depth, Charles was switched to the offensive line. He was considered a good run blocking tightend during his prep career. He'll have to learn his new trade on the fly; Charles was redshirted as a true freshman in 2001. With his size and athleticism Spencer could develop into a very good right tackle.

57 Andy Alleman 6-4, 260, Jr. 2003: 8 TT, 6 Solo, 2 Assts, 2 TFL, 2 QBH

Prep Notes: Honors include, Team captain and named Most Valuable Player. PrepStar All-American, PrepStar All-Midwest Region. Rated top 70 overall prospect in Midwest Region by SuperPrep, and rated the nation's No. 66 defensive end by Student Sports. All-Northeast Inland District. Applebee's Player of the Year. Named as Stark County Most Valuable Player. He was selected for the Ohio East-West All-Star Game. Four-year Honor Roll student.

During his senior season at Massillon Washington High School (Ohio), Andy Alleman helped his team to a 12-2 record and the state semifinals. He compiled 85 tackles (52 solo), 10 tackles for losses and 17 quarterback hurries. Lettered twice in football. Also earned three letters in track and field.

(Defensive Tackle)

94 Dan Stephens 6-2, 295, Sr. 2003: 46 TT, 21 Solo, 25 assts, 4.5 TFL, 3 QBH

Prep Notes: Honors include, first team All-state. Two time first team All-Conference. All-Star honoree in baseball. Outstanding Junior Scholar-Athlete. Honor Student. Head Master's Performance List. Who's Who Among America's High School Students.

Four-year two-way starter (fullback and defensive end as a senior) at the Linsly School. Also played tight end and inside linebacker during his career. He was a team captain and recorded a team-record 292 tackles during his career there. As a senior he had 76 tackles (53 solo) and five sacks. Offensively, Dan had 832 yards rushing over 126 attempts (6.6 avg.) and 12 touchdowns. He also had 13 receptions for 150 yards (11.5 avg.) and three touchdown catches. Helped Linsly to a four-year mark of 28-11 (.718), including an 8-2 record as a senior and a 10-0 mark and the conference championship as a sophomore. Four-year letterman in football, baseball and basketball.

93 Jake Holthaus 6-1, 285, Sr. 2003: 15 TT, 9 Solos, 6 Assts, 1 Sack, 3 QBH

Prep Notes: Honors include, first team All-State. First team All-Southwest Ohio. He twice earned first team All-Conference. Jake was selected to play in the Big 33 Football Classic and also played in the Ohio North-South All-Star Game.

He helped his team (Cincinnati Moeller High School) to the state playoffs his senior year.

92 Michael Hearn 6-6, 255, Fr. 2003: N/A

Prep Notes: Honors include, All-City and Northeast Lakes All-District. Rated as one of the top 75 players in the Midwest Region by SuperPrep. Ranked as one of the Top 100 players in the Midwest Region, Top 25 prospects in Ohio. He was named to the All-Midwest Team by SuperPrep and PrepStar recruiting services.

Did not play football until his junior year at Glenville High making 35 solo tackles and 3 sacks. Although he didn't play football until his junior year at Glenville High School, he had offers from all the big-time programs until his grades came into question. Led team to city championship. Two-year letterman in football, also earned three basketball letters.

98 Vernon Botts 6-4, 255, Jr. 2003: N/A

Prep Notes: Honors include, Two-time All-Burlington County. Two-time All-Olympic Conference. All-Group 4 (first team). A first team All-Academic selection. Scholar-Athlete Award.

At Rancocas Valley High School, Vernon Botts was a two-way starter (defensive end/tight end) as a senior and junior. Helped Rancocas Valley to the Olympic Conference championship and state playoffs as a senior. Earned three letters in football. Also lettered three times in track and field and once in basketball.

Pitt Notes: Due to a lack of depth Vernon has been moved to Tight End

(Linebackers) Grade = B

Skinny: Fast and athletic are the two words that best describe the young line backing corps at the University of Pittsburgh. Returning to the starting lineup are Clint Session, and Brian Bennett. Session, the hard-hitting middle linebacker finished a very good rookie season with 39 tackles (7.5 for losses). Bennett finished second on the team last year with 118 tackles, including 79 solos. Manning the weak side will likely be J.J. Horne, who finished last season with 41 tackles in 13 games after being switched from strong safety. Bennett and Horne will be watching over their respective shoulders with the likes of Malcolm Postell (63 tackles) and H.B. Blades (57 tackles) hungry for playing time.

Outlook: This is the Panthers deepest position. The talent level and depth is at it's highest in recent memory. These two components in the ranks should bring out the best in most players. Expect this group to rise to the occasion and become the strength of the Pitt defense. Increased depth will enable the Panthers to deploy a solid rotation. Though an off season incident involving starting linebacker Clint Session and top backup Chris McKillop leaves some uncertainty regarding the middle line backing position, the Panthers have options. If the defensive line gets their job done, the sky's the limit.

Projected depth chart: (WLB) 1.) J.J. Horne 2.) Malcolm Postell (MLB) 1.) Clint Session 2.) Chris McKillop (SLB) 1.) Brian Bennett 2.) H.B. Blades

In the mix: Joe Clermond, Derron Thomas, Doug Roseberry, Vernon Smith, Scott McKillop

(Weak side Linebacker)

21 J.J. Horne 6-3, 225, Sr. 2003: 41 TT, 28 Solo, 13 Assts, 3.0 TFL, 1 Sack, 1 FF, 1 Int, 2 PD

Prep Notes: Honors include, two time All-Conference. PrepStar All-East Region. District 400 meters champion. District Track Athlete of the Year.

Three-year starter for Franklin High School at wide receiver and defensive back. J.J. led his team to two playoff berths during his career and the conference championship as a junior. As a senior he had 24 receptions for 466 yards (19.4 avg.) and two touchdowns, and rushed 32 times for 282 yards (8.8 avg.) and two TDs. Defensively, J.J. had 34 tackles (22 solo) and three interceptions. He also had a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown. As a junior, he caught 23 passes for 515 yards (22.4 avg.) and six touchdowns, rushed for 81 yards and two TDs and had 65 tackles and two interceptions. Earned three letters in football. Also a track and field standout, earning four letters in that sport.

Pitt Notes: J.J. Horne worked at safety during his red shirt year in 2001 and switched to linebacker in 2002.

6 Malcolm Postell 6-1, 235, Sr. 2003: 63 TT, 45 Solo, 18 Assts, 5 TFL, 1 Sack, 2 Int, 1 FF

Prep Notes: Honors include, Named first team All-State by the Associated Press and Gannett Poll. Also named first team All-State by the Newark Star Ledger. First team All-Shore, All-County, All-Area, and All-Conference. Played in the New Jersey vs. New York Governor's Bowl. SuperPrep ranked Malcolm 34th in New Jersey and named him an All-Northeast Region. PrepStar selected him All-East Region.

New Jersey's leading scorer in 1999 with 232 points, just 22 points shy of the single-season state record. Rushed for 1,658 yards as a senior at Keyport High School, averaging 7.5 yards per carry. Played three different positions as a senior, including outside linebacker and kicker. Also played defensive back as a junior. Led Keyport to the 1998 and 1999 state championships. His team went 22-2 (.917) over his last two seasons with back-to-back 11-1 marks. Four-year letter winner.

Pitt Notes: Originally a running back his first year (2001), Malcolm moved to linebacker. The Pitt coaches were impressed with his aggressive style of play. He was one of the Ed Conway Award winners of the 2001 spring drills for how far he had progressed in the transition to the new position.

58 Joe Clermond 6-2, 220, So. 2003: N/A

Prep Notes: Honors include, All-Tampa Tribune Hillsborough County. All-Western Conference American Division. Honorable mention All-conference in basketball. Regional qualifier in the high jump. Attendance Award.

Joe Clermond was a standout linebacker at Chamberlain High School. He started at linebacker, strong safety, and H-back, and helped lead his team to the Florida 5-A playoffs 3 years in a row, including the 2001 State Finals. Joe made 101 tackles and 6 interceptions as a senior. During his junior year Clermond intercepted seven passes, returning three for touchdowns. Chamberlin went a combined 22-5 (.815) his two years as a starter, including a 12-3 mark as a junior and 10-2 record his senior season. Two-year starter and three-year letterman for Chamberlin High

(Strongside Linebacker)

44 Brian Bennett 6-0, 235, Jr. 2003: 118 TT, 79 Solo, 39 Assts, 7 TFL, 3 Sacks, 6 QBH, 1 FF, 2 FR, 4 PD

Prep Notes: Honors include, All- New Jersey (second team) and two-time All-Burlington County, All- South Jersey, All-League, and a "Hit Man Award" honoree. Recognized as the nation's No. 31 safety prospect by Student Sports. PrepStar All-Eastern Region.

Was a starter since his freshman season, playing his initial two years at Riverside High School (N.J.) and his junior and senior seasons at Holy Cross High School. At Holy Cross as a senior, Brian totaled 156 tackles, eight sacks, and four fumble recoveries. He had over 150 tackles and 10 sacks as a junior. His outstanding play helped Holy Cross to an 18-4 (.818) record and a state championship in 2000. In the 2000 state final, Bennett had 25 tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown to earn defensive player of the game honors. He was a strong safety his junior year and an inside linebacker his senior year. Lettered all four years in football. Also lettered twice in track and field and once in wrestling.

51 H.B. Blades 5-11, 245, So. 2003: 57 TT, 41 Solo, 16 Assts, 4.5 TFL, 1 FR, (Punt Returns) 1 Atts, 9 Yds, 9.0 Avg,

Prep Notes: Honors include, first team 6A All-state selection. Second team All-Florida as a junior. Selected one of the top 50 National Players of the Year by Old Spice "Red Zone". Two-time first team All-Broward County Athletic Association (BCAA) and All-Broward County. SuperPrep All-Dixie Team. Rated the nation's No. 17 linebacker by Tom Lemming. Rated Florida's No. 35 prospect by SuperPrep. Selected to play in the Broward- Dade County All-Star Game.

Four-year starter at Plantation High School. Helped Plantation to an 11-1 record. H.B. Blades made 149 tackles, 6 INT's, 4 sacks, 6 fumble recoveries, and 8 forced fumbles in 10 regular season games his senior year at Plantation. He also scored two defensive TD's while leading his team into the 2nd round of the playoffs and a District 7 6-A title. H.B. averaged 16 tackles a game as a junior. He registered an amazing 22 tackles in a playoff game his junior season. Set Plantation records for tackles in a career (409), season (154) and game (21). His 49 career starts also established a school mark. Led Plantation to the district championship his senior and freshman seasons. Helped lead team to an undefeated regular season (10-0) and 11-1 overall mark as a senior as Plantation reached No. 20 in the USA Today national rankings. Earned four football letters and also lettered in track and field. Three-year staff writer for the student newspaper. Son of former Miami Hurricane Bennie Blades.

39 Derron Thomas 6-1, 220, So. 2003: N/A

Prep Notes: Honors include, Selected one of the top 50 National Players of the Year by Old Spice "Red Zone". First team All-Maryland. First team All-4A League. First team Pigskin All-Metro team. First team All-Prince Georges County. SuperPrep All-Mid Atlantic Team and Maryland's No. 17 prospect. PrepStar All-Atlantic Region. Second team All-Maryland as a junior.

Three-year starter at linebacker and also played tight end for perennial state power Eleanor Roosevelt High School. Derron averaged 16.1 tackles and 1.3 sacks per game as a senior and had over 235 tackles his junior and senior years combined, including 97 his senior season. As a junior, Derron made over 114 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, and had 4 catches for 160 yards. During his four-year varsity career, Eleanor Roosevelt went 40-7 (.851), won three regional championships, two county championships, advanced to the state title game twice and won the 1999 Maryland title. Earned four letters in football.

Pitt Notes: Derron Thomas has been compared by some to Lewis Moore in size and playing style and will have the opportunity to take over his spot in 2004.

(Middle Linebacker)

17 Clint Session 5-11, 230, So. 2003: 39 TT, 29 Solo, 10 Assts, 7.5 TFL, 1 Sack

Prep Notes: Honors include, first team All-Florida in 5A. First team All-Broward County Athletic Association and All-Broward County. Named to the Sunshine Network's All-Gridiron Team. Played in the Dade vs. Broward County All-Star Game. PrepStar All- Southeast Region. Honor Roll Student.

Three-year starter at inside linebacker while also playing fullback in goal-line situations for Blanche Ely High School. Clint made 138 tackles (39 for loss), 7 sacks, and 11 fumble recoveries, returning 3 for TD's to lead Ely to a 14-1 record and the Class 5A state title his senior year. Team achieved a 36-5 (.878) mark during Session's three years as a starter, advancing to the state playoffs each season and winning three regional championships and three district titles. A four-year letterman in football. Also lettered once in track and field.

37 Chris McKillop 6-2, 230, So. 2003: N/A

Prep Notes: Honors include, first team All-Quad South. Named to Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Terrific 25 and Post-Gazette's Fabulous 22. WPIAL's No. 1 linebacker by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review All-Class AAAA at linebacker/all-purpose player, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review All-East, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette All-Quad South. Named to Harrisburg Patriot News Platinum 33. Valley News All-Star. WTAE-TV "Operation Football" Player of the Week. All-Northeast Team and rated Pennsylvania's No. 17 prospect by SuperPrep. PrepStar All-East Region. Ranked as nation's No. 39 defensive end prospect by Student Sports. Kiski Outstanding Linebacker Award. Ivan White Courageous Award. Honor Roll Student.

One of the state's top defensive end prospects coming out of Kiski Area High School. Played in only five games as a senior due to a season-ending ankle injury. During his abbreviated season Chris, at linebacker, compiled 56 tackles, two interceptions (including one returned for a 57-yard touchdown), and blocked a field goal. He rushed for 181 yards and five touchdowns on 27 carries (6.7 avg.) at fullback. As a junior, he was voted first team All-Quad South by league coaches after compiling 76 tackles and six sacks. He also averaged 6.7 yards per carry, rushing for 322 yards on 48 carries. Two-year, two way starter at linebacker and fullback. Two-year football letterman, also lettered twice in basketball and twice in track and field.

30 Doug Roseberry 6-0, 225, Sr. 2003:

Prep Notes: Honors include, First team AP All-State linebacker. Pennsylvania Football News first team All-State. Two-time unanimous First-team All Big 8 Conference selection. Two-time honoree on The Associated Press Small School All-State Team (1999 and 2000). Played in the 2001 East-West All-Star Classic and Lezzer Lumber Classic. Kirk Outstanding Football Award recipient. Masino Team Leadership Award. Pennsylvania Football News Academic All-Star.

Doug was a three-year starter and a member of Tyrone's 1999 PIAA state championship team. Received four letters in football.

(Secondary) Grade = C+

Skinny: Last years starting cornerbacks have departed, the starting safeties return. Shawntae Spencer will be hard to replace. Josh Lay will go back to the starting right cornerback position, a position he relinquished to William Ferguson after the forth game last season. For Josh Lay, talent has never been the issue, consistency has. Lay needs to become the shutdown corner the Panthers envisioned while recruiting him at Aliquippa High School. Reggie Carter and Mike Phillips will battle for starting honors at the left corner. Starting safeties Tez Morris and Ty Gilliard bring stability to the secondary.

Outlook: The pass defense looked well in 2003, in part because opposing teams didn't need to throw the football. Don't be fooled, this secondary is going to be very good. The corners are fast and athletic, the safeties are very good in run support. If the front seven can apply some pressure these defensive backs should thrive.

Projected depth chart: (LCB) 1.) Reggie Carter 2.) Mike Phillips (RCB) 1.) Josh Lay 2.) Kennard Cox (FS) 1.) Tez Morris 2.) Jemeel Brady (SS) 1.) Tyrone Gilliard 2.) Sam Bryant

In the mix: Marcus Furman, Allen Richardson, Larry Moore, Eric Thatcher, Tuazama Edwards, Steffan Brinson, Adam Gunn, Darelle Revis, Steve Walker

(Left Cornerback)

22 Reggie Carter 6-0, 190, Jr. 2003: 1 TT, 0 Solo, 1 Assts.

Prep Notes: Honors include, first team All-Collier County. Listed among the nation's top 60 cornerback prospects by Student Sports. PrepStar All-Southeast Region honorable mention. Honorable mention all-district.

A two-year starter at cornerback, Reggie Carter helped Naples High School to a 12-2 record and the state title in 2001. Highlights of his senior year included 64 tackles, 15 passes defended, 3 interceptions, and 3 touchdowns (91-yard fumble return, 23-yard return of a blocked punt, and 65-yard pass reception on a fake punt). Also had four tackles for losses and three forced fumbles. County, district and regional champion and ranked second in the triple jump in the state of Florida his senior season. in the triple jump. Earned three letters in football.

10 Mike Phillips 5-11, 180, So. 2003: N/A

Prep Notes: Honors include, first team All-Ohio (large schools). First team All-Steel Valley. First team Northeast Inland All-District. First team All-Trumbull County. Selected to play in the Ohio All-Star Classic. All-Midwest Team and rated as one of the top 60 prospects in the Midwest region by SuperPrep. PrepStar All-Midwest Region. Mike received team's annual "Raider of the Year" honor and the Milton J. Mollenkopf All-Around Player Award. Trumbull African-American Achievers inductee. Mike was also voted All-County, All-League, and All-District in basketball.

Mike Phillips was an outstanding cover corner at Warren Harding High School. As a senior he made 30 tackles, had 4 int's, 14 pass breakups, 2 fumble recoveries, and 1 forced fumble. Three-year starter, playing cornerback and also sharing the starting quarterback duties. Helped Warren Harding to a 14-1 record, the Steel Valley championship and the state title game in 2001. Earned three letters in football, four letters in basketball, and also lettered in baseball.

7 Allen Richardson 5-11, 185, Fr. N/A

Prep Notes: Honors include, Midwest Recruiting listed Allen as one of the top safety prospects in Ohio. As a high school junior, Allen had 44 tackles and 2 INT's. He has also played QB, RB, and WR on offense at Euclid High School. He was recruited to play defensive back for the Panthers.

Pitt Notes: Enrolled at Pitt in January of 2004.

(Right Cornerback)

9 Bernard Lay 6-2, 195, Jr. 2003: 37 TT, 33 Solo, 4 Assts, 2 FR, 1 Int, 14 PD

Prep Notes: Honors include, First team Associated Press 2000 Small School All-State, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 2000 Player of the Year and 2000 WPIAL Class AA Player of the Year, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 2000 Class AA Player of the Year, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review "Terrific 25". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Male Athlete of the Year (1999-2000). PrepStar All-Eastern Region. Basketball honors included, Post- Gazette's "Fabulous Five" and the Tribune-Review's "Terrific 10".

At Aliquippa HS, Josh was a three-year two-way starter who had an outstanding career playing quarterback, receiver, and cornerback. As a senior playing quarterback he threw for 1,368 yards and 18 touchdowns, completing 71-of-139 passes (.511), also rushed for 556 yards on 63 carries (8.8 avg.) and caught two passes for 51 yards (25.5 avg.). During his junior and senior years, he completed 147 of 300 passes, amassing 2,831 yards and 37 touchdowns. As a sophomore, at receiver, he led the team with 29 receptions for 637 yards and a 21.9 average. At cornerback he had 18 career interceptions, including four as a senior, five as a junior and nine as a sophomore. Had two interceptions in the 2000 WPIAL championship game despite playing with a broken hand. Over his career at Aliquippa, the team recorded a 34-5 record (.872), including a 14-1 record and appearance in the state finals after winning the 2000 WPIAL AA championship. Lay also starred on the basketball team, which won two WPIAL Class AA championships and the 2001 state championship. Earned three football letters. He was also a standout in basketball, earning three letters. Lay helped the Quips to two WPIAL Class AA basketball championships and the 2001 state title game.

Prep School: Played quarterback, receiver and cornerback at Valley Forge Military Academy. During prep season in 2001 he had four interceptions in one game against Wyoming Seminary.

5 Kennard Cox 6-1, 180, So. 2003: N/A

Prep Notes: Miami Killian's Most Valuable Player as a senior. Played in the Dade vs. Broward County All-star game.

Three-year starter at Miami Killian High School. Kennard played QB his senior year to help his team and led them to an 11-1 record, the district championship and state playoffs. He averaged over 20 yards per catch during his sophomore and junior seasons. Killian went 10-3 his junior season, capturing the district championship and advancing to the state playoffs.

Pitt Notes: Cousin of former Pitt player Torrie Cox. Played for Coach Billy Rolle, who also coached former Panthers standout Antonio Bryant at Miami Northwestern High

35 Larry Moore 5-9, 180, Jr. 2003: N/A

Prep Notes: Honors include, All-Ohio Capital Conference, Honorable Mention All-District, and Who's Who Among American High School Students, four-year academic award winner.

Two-year starter at cornerback for Lincoln High School, Larry compiled 40 tackles, four caused fumbles, two fumble recoveries and one interception as a senior. He also helped team to two conference championships and two playoff berths during his career. Earned two letters in football and also lettered three times in track and field.

(Strong Safety)

31 Tyrone Gilliard 5-11, 195, Sr. 2003: 64 TT, 43 Solo, 21 Assts, 5 TFL, 2.5 Sacks, 2 FF, 1 Ints, 2 PD

Prep Notes: Honors include, PrepStar All-East Region. Three-time All-West Virginia honoree. Three time first team All-conference. All-State and All-Area honoree in basketball.

Tyrone rushed for 3,792 yards and 62 touchdowns in high school career at Princeton High School, leading his team to the state playoffs in his final season. Rushed for 1,260 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior, averaging 7.1 yards per carry. Also had 16 receptions for 300 yards (18.8 avg.) and 118 tackles (50 solo) on defense. Totaled eight interceptions over his junior and senior seasons. Earned three letters in football. Also lettered three times in basketball and three times in track.

Prep School: Spent the 2000 season at Valley Forge Military Academy (Pa.). Started at weak side linebacker at Valley Forge and also played tailback, helping the team to an 8-1 mark. Recorded over 90 tackles, had six sacks and a 30-yard fumble return for a TD on the season.

46 Sam Bryant 6-0, 210, Jr. 2003: 20 TT, 13 Solo, 7 Assts, 0.5 TFL, 3 QBH, 1 PD (Kickoff Returns) 2 Atts, 22 Yds, 11.0 Avg.

Prep Notes: Honors include, AP third team All-State large schools. First team All-Berks County at running back and defensive back. First team All-Lebanon-Lancaster (section 1). 2001 Berks County Offensive and Defensive Back of the Year. PrepStar All-Eastern Region. 27th ranked prospect in Pennsylvania by SuperPrep. Selected to play in Big 33 game.

Sam Bryant was a three-year starter who played both safety positions at Reading High School. Besides safety, he also played linebacker on defense. As a senior Sam accumulated 66 tackles, four forced fumbles, three interceptions and three fumble recoveries (returning one for a touchdown). He also played running back and rushed for 821 yards and 15 touchdowns on 81 carries (10.1 avg.), had eight receptions for 155 yards (19.4 avg.) and three touchdowns. Finished with 19 total touchdowns in 2001. He earned three letters in football and also lettered twice in basketball.

28 Eric Thatcher 5-11, 175, Fr. N/A

Prep Notes: Honors include, first team All-District.

Eric Thatcher was a 4-year starter at powerhouse Moeller High School. He started at safety as a freshman and sophomore, and played running back and wide receiver as a junior and senior. Eric rushed for 662 yards on 120 carries with 4 TD's, plus had 27 catches for 437 yards and 5 TD's last season. Lettered all four seasons in football.

Pitt Notes: Enrolled in January 2004 after a non-football injury prevented him from playing last fall.

(Free Safety)

20 Tez Morris 5-10, 190, Sr. 2003: 81 TT, 55 Solo, 26 Assts, 1 TFL, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 Int, 6 PD

Prep Notes: First team All-Greater Miami Conference. First team All-Southwest Ohio. First team All-Cincinnati. First team All-County. Third Team All-State. Selected by the Southwestern Ohio Coaches Association "All Dream Team".

During his career at Hamilton High School, Tez was an outside linebacker, defensive back, and running back. Averaged over 11 tackles per game his final season, compiling 116 stops (73 solo). Also had four caused fumbles, one interception and one fumble recovery. Earned three letters in football and also lettered three times in basketball and three times in track.

Pitt Notes: Tez won the Ed Conway Award, which is presented after spring drills to the most improved players, and has proven just how worthy he was of the award with his rapid development at his position.

24 Jemeel Brady 6-0, 190, So. 2003: N/A

Prep Notes: Honors include, All-Dade County. Killian High Defensive MVP.

Jemeel Brady was considered one of the top defensive back prospects at Miami's Killian High School in South Florida. He registered 5 INT's as a junior. He played strong safety his senior year and helped lead his team to an 11-1 record. Miami Killian went 21-4 (.840) his last two seasons, going 11-1 Brady's senior year and 10-3 his junior season. Three-year starter, playing both linebacker and strong safety. Helped team to back-to-back district championships and state playoff berths. Lettered three years in football.

23 Tuazama Edwards 5-10, 180, Sr. 2003: N/A

Prep Notes: Honors include, first team All-city. Honorable mention All-District.

Football and track standout at Northland High. Team captain. Earned three letters in football and four in track and field.

Panther Defense: The 2004 Pittsburgh Panthers return seven starters from one of the country's worst defenses in 2003. Last years defense yielded an astounding 402.6 total yards per game. Four opponents amassed more than 500 yards.

Paul Rhoads' past defenses were physical; this defense got manhandled in the trenches. Rhoads continued to make lineup changes/combinations but could never find the right formula to stop the run. Very little depth was a major factor, Rhoads didn't have the personnel. This season, with a healthy defensive team and quality depth Rhoads will have more options to make the proper adjustments.

The Panthers have reason for optimism. Potential stars are littered throughout this defense. Quality depth is in place. The young guys are good. They will push the veterans to be better. It all goes back to the defensive line. If the line improves the Panthers have a good chance at achieving much success. An entire year to think of what might have been should have this defense pumped for a big year.

Panthers Defense Final Grade = C+

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