Toughness, versatility help Uziel

Scott Uziel may not end up being a Pitt Panther next season, but it sure seems like he was destined to be one. His older brother and sister, who happen to be twins born on Christmas Eve, are both seniors at the University of Pittsburgh this year. Pitt was one of the first schools he visited back in April of this year.

Franklin Regional High School's mascot? Yep, a Panther. He even jokes that "Go Pitt" were his first words, and there's something in his voice that makes you think he might not be joking at all.

But the tight end from Franklin Regional has not received an offer from the university as of yet. Despite spending so much time with Coach Harris on Pittsburgh's Blue Chip Junior Day, and even being asked to come back later in the week for measurements and a vertical jump test, Uziel is still waiting for a formal offer.

This summer, Scott Uziel visited Michigan State, North Carolina, Virginia, Penn State, and Michigan. Several other schools also have shown interest. He states that he's fielding calls from over forty schools at this point, often several each day. Uziel recently received his first offer from Akron.

"It's good to get the first one out of the way," Uziel said.

But Akron is the only school that has extended a scholarship offer to him so far. While it's been reported that Uziel might make a decision to commit before the start of this season, the team's first game is fast approaching. Franklin Regional hosted Fox Chapel in their final scrimmage last night, and their regular season begins at Plum next Friday.

The Panther Report recently spoke with Scott, and he had this to say about his top schools.

Michigan State: I went on a trip there for camp. It was a great camp—I talked a lot with [head] coach [John L.] Smith and their tight end coach [Dave Baldwin]. They've got wonderful facilities up there.

Pittsburgh: It's the hometown school. I've got family there and they have nice facilities.

Penn State: I love Penn State. It's a really nice campus, and they have great coaches. I talked with [defensive coordinator] coach Bradley and [tight ends] coach Kenney up there.

Virginia: I haven't heard from them too much. They've had lots of commitments already, so that may have something to do with it.

Syracuse: They've died off too—I didn't hear much lately.

It's hard to figure out why Uziel has only received one scholarship offer when so many schools are expressing interest. He has the credentials to be a top prospect. Scott earned an honorable mention for the All-State team as a tight end last season and was second team All-Conference. Uziel is one of only six WPIAL seniors on Street & Smith's Magazine's "Players to Watch" list for the 2004 season. He's 6'4" and 245 pounds. Uziel runs the 40 in 4.75 seconds, benches 315 pounds—he has a 26" vertical leap and a 3.5 grade point average.

What's not to like?

It's hard to tell, but perhaps it's because Uziel's story is found in the details that can be easily overlooked. Like how Franklin Regional Head Coach Greg Botta asked Uziel to play fullback for the first time before a playoff game. Really, he did. Franklin Regional was 4-5, their opponent was an 8-1 Upper St. Clair squad that had given up just 57 points all season, Uziel was only a sophomore, and he happened to be playing with a partially torn ACL.

Again: he's never played fullback in a varsity game before, and it's the playoffs.

Botta's coaching move worked. Uziel rose to the challenge and helped his offensive line blow through USC's vaunted defense en route to a 28-21 upset. Franklin Regional's tailback, Myke McAfoose, carried the ball 37 times and gained 212 rushing yards in the game: the most USC had allowed by a running back all season.

The rushing attack was so successful with Uziel in the backfield that Franklin Regional only had to throw the ball seven times in a victory that ended Upper St. Clair's season. Not bad for a guy playing on one leg.

"Scott Uziel is a man," Botta said after the game.

We hear you, coach. Let's just hope more schools hear you too.

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