Panthers remain the leader for Florida TE

The Panthers did not meet their expectations of contending for the Big East title in Dave Wannstedt's first year as head coach. Pitt went 5-6 and missed a bowl game. Making matters worse, all of their losses were on national television, including the first loss to Rutgers since 1998. Surprisingly, it might be that loss to Rutgers that turned a top recruit from the sunshine state onto the Panthers.

"Pitt is my number one," said Fabian Ruiz, a top TE recruit from Miami Sunset Senior High School in Florida. Ruiz listed South Carolina as his second favorite with Boston College, Rutgers, and Western Michigan rounding out his top five.

But what was it about the loss to the Scarlet Knights that turned Ruiz onto the Panthers?

"I watched a tape of the Rutgers/Pitt game from last year. I like the way [the Panthers] play their tight ends and how they play freshmen, sophomores…young guys." lists him at 6' 4" tall and a weight of 230 lbs. Despite that size, he runs a 4.7 forty yard dash. With those impressive measurables he is indeed a rare combination of speed and size for a high school player. Due to Miami Sunset's run-oriented offense, Ruiz has not had a lot of opportunities to catch the ball. He also played both ways last year as a junior, spending a considerable amount of time chasing quarterbacks at defensive end. Despite his time on the defensive side of the ball last year, he said he is being recruited solely as a tight end, especially by Pitt.

"They [Pitt] like the way I catch the ball. The way I stretch the field and create mismatches," said Ruiz.

Ruiz is being recruited by Pitt's wide receiver coach, Aubrey Hill, who covers Florida for the Panthers. One thing he really appreciates is the approach Pitt takes in recruiting him. Ruiz was adamant in pointing out that the communication between him and Hill focuses more on Ruiz as a person than just his football skills.

"We talk about school: ‘Keep up your grades. How are things at your house?' "

Ruiz also admitted that although he doesn't mind red-shirting his first year, he thinks his size might give him an opportunity to garner some early playing time, especially at Pitt. He very much wants to attend camp at Pittsburgh this summer. But due to financial considerations, he is still not sure if he will be able to. He said that he will work with his coach to find a way to get up to the Steel City.

Steve Gephart can be reached at

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