Scout.com and recruiting services from around the nation have named the University of Pittsburgh the top "recruiting surprise" of the year. The Panthers currently have the 8th ranked recruiting class in the nation.
Top Offensive Players
Pitt's class has five national top 100 prospects in tight end Nate Byham (Franklin, Pa.), offensive lineman offensive linemen Joe Thomas (Lakewood, Ohio), athlete Elijah Fields (Duquesne, Pa.), running back Kevin Collier (Churchville, N.Y.) and wide receiver Dorin Dickerson (Imperial, Pa.). Byham is the nation's top tight end prospect while Dickerson is the No. 4 rated wide receiver.
Coach Wannstedt will put the ball into the hands of Dickerson and Fields early and often. Both players are physically gifted with a knack for making the big play. Kevin Collier will remind many Panther fans of standout New York Giant running back Tiki Barber. A rare combination of size, vision and speed, he will immediately see playing time. Nate Byham will drive defensive coordinators insane. He's a tall, pass catching tight end that's nearly impossible to cover due to his leaping ability and speed. Nate will have to add some weight to his frame to become an effective blocker, but the sky is the limit for this talented player.
Offensive linemen Joe Thomas and Jeff Otah (Wayne, PA) will immediately factor into the Panthers two-deep roster. Otah is a mammoth 6-ft-7 inches, 340 pounds. He is projected as the Panthers starting left tackle heading into next season. Thomas, like his good friend John Malecki, is known for his physicality and nasty disposition on the football field. Several Midwest scouts believed that Joe was the top offensive line recruit in the state of Ohio. The Ohio State Buckeyes heavily pursued him until he kindly asked them to "back off".
Top Defensive Players
The Panthers signed the top defensive tackle class in the Big East. John Malecki (Murrysville, Pa), Jason Pinkston (Pittsburgh, PA) and Jared Martin (Davie, Pa) are a trio of wildly talented prospects. Malecki was the most dominant defensive player in Western Pennsylvania. He's a blue-collar gladiator with a nasty disposition on the football field. His "take no prisoners" attitude will instantly make him a fan favorite and leader on defense. Martin is built like a cinder block with thick arms and legs. He is a vertically challenged 6-ft-1 ½ inches tall. Scouts have stated that Jared would have been ranked amongst the top 20 defensive tackles in the nation if he were a few inches taller. The Panthers will benefit from overlooking this insignificant fact. Pinkston has an NFL caliber physique and an abundance of potential. He, along with Dorin Dickerson, can be credited for starting the Panthers fabulous "recruiting landslide" over the summer. With proper weight training and coaching, Jason may turn into the reincarnation of Sean Gilbert.
Pitt also signed an extremely strong group of cornerback prospects. "Sticky" Ricky Gary (Pahokee, FL), Jovani Chappel (Trotwood, OH) and Aaron Berry (Harrisburg, PA) have a great deal in common. They are fast, physical and play larger than their recorded size. Gary and Berry accumulated over 30 scholarship offers a piece. Chappel has already enrolled at Pitt. Expect at least one of these players to accrue a significant amount of playing time next season. One of them could potentially land a starting position.
Expect "Sticky" Ricky to become an instant fan favorite. He's a rare combination of verbosity, energy and personality. I often to refer to him as the Panthers new Deion Sanders.
Linebacker Nate Nix (Clairton, Pa) is an absolute warrior. He has outstanding lateral quickness and pursuit. Although he roughly weighs 215 pounds, Nate has little to nothing when it comes to body fat. Nix has the tenacity, speed and pass coverage ability to work his way into the Panther two-deep next season.
Coach Wannstedt and staff will be anxiously waiting to hear from three players: defensive end McKenzie Mathews (Syracuse, NY), athlete Tamarcus Porter (Pahokee, FL) and defensive end Audie Augustine (Oakland Park, FL). Mathews is down to Pitt and Syracuse. Porter, a player that originally committed to Pitt, will choose between Pitt and Wake Forest. Augustine will choose between Pitt and North Carolina State.
Quotes and Pontifications
"Our class is going to be the recruiting class to put Pitt back on the map. We're going to put Pitt in the top ten nationally amongst football programs and win a national championship. Mark that down." - Jared Martin
"During my official visit, I walked onto Heinz Field with Elijah Fields. Both of had played for a championship on that field months before. He looked at me and said "next year, our class takes over". He's totally right. We're the class that's going to bring a national championship to Pitt." - John Malecki
"Our recruiting class is special. We have tried to get together at least every other week. It already feels like we have known each other for years. It's a brotherhood and we have a special bond. It's the type of bond that will take this team to a Big East and national championship." - Dorin Dickerson
"Letter on intent day is going to be one of the greatest days of my life. It's going to change my life for the better and give me a chance to help my family in the future. Tell Pitt fans to remember three little letters, B-C-S. When I get there with the other great players in the class, we're going to win championships. Ricky wants to win championships." - "Sticky" Ricky Gary
"The best part about our class if looking at the future of the program. There is so much talent coming into the Pitt football program, there's no limit to our future. It's truly amazing and exciting. I'm just glad I'm part of this group." - Joe Thomas
Harry G. Psaros can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.