PITT Big 33 Practice Report

The 49th PNC Big 33 football Classic will be held this Saturday, June 17th at Hershey Park Stadium in Hershey, PA. Eight players from the Panthers' outstanding class of 2006 were chosen to play in the prestigious game. How are the Panther participants performing? Read on for details.

The PNC Big 33 football classic is considered one of the top scholastic All-Star games in the nation highlighting Pennsylvania and Ohio's top football players. The classic has been described as the "Super Bowl of High School Football".

Six of eight future Panthers are participating in the football classic this weekend: Nate Nix (LB) from Thomas Jefferson High School in Clairton, PA, Greg Webster (LB) from Woodland Hills High School in Pittsburgh, PA, Nate Byham (TE) from Franklin Area High School in Franklin, PA and Aaron Smith (WR/KR) from Gateway High School in Monroeville, PA, Elijah Fields (WR/DB) from Duquesne High School in Duquesne, PA and Aaron Berry (WR/DB) from Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg, PA.

Dorin Dickerson (WR) from West Allegheny High School in Imperial, PA and John Malecki (OL/DL) from Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, PA, arguably the top two players in the Panthers' class of 2006, are unable to participate due to minor injuries.

The PantherDigest.com was able to speak with Pottsville Area High School (Pottsville, PA) Head Football Coach Kevin Keating. Coach Keating has named one of the assistant coaches for the Pennsylvania team. Head Football Coach Mark Schmidt (Neshaminy High School) asked Keating to prepare the defense throughout the week. He spent a considerable amount of time with Nix, Webster, Fields, Berry and Malecki.

Coach Keating had the following to say about Elijah Fields:

"Elijah Fields is a tremendous physical specimen. We picked a lot of these players because they can play both ways. Elijah is a standout on offense and defense. He's a big, imposing player. I think of him as a bigger version of Aaron Berry. He has great speed, great "quicks" and he's a hard hitter. He's going to see time at safety on Saturday. I know Coach (Dave) Wannstedt has to make a decision as to where to play Elijah. I won't tell him what to do, but I think he's going to be a very special player on defense. He's a natural play maker."

Coach Keating had the following to say about Greg Webster:

"I love this guy. We are using him as a linebacker and an open edge defensive end. He's so athletic that he had to give him time at defensive end. Greg is quick off the edge, a great tackler and really an intense player. He has great size and I think he's a great pickup for the Panthers. The guy is everything you want in a linebacker. He runs well and tackles well. He's probably one of the most versatile players we have on our squad.

Coach Keating had the following to say about Nate Nix:

"Wow. I was impressed with him on film, but he's even more impressive when you see him live. He's very intense and really a hard hitter. Nate weights 200 pounds right now. If he hits you, he hits you with 199 of his 200 pounds. The best hits this entire week have come from Nate Nix. He can get all of his weight into the tackle. He's on the small side now, but he can get to 225 pounds and not lose a step. Nate has a big frame.

"I can't tell you how impressed I am with all three linebackers from Western Pennsylvania. Greg Webster, Nate Nix and Nate Williams (Northwestern) are really intense, no nonsense guys. They are all business during practice. Nate and Greg are going to have great careers at Pitt.

Coach Keating had the following to say about Aaron Berry:

"Aaron Berry is a gifted player. He's very talented and the exact type of player we wanted putting the team together because he can impact both sides of the ball. We have him playing offense and defense. At cornerback, he's really a competitor. He has great physical skills, he's very fast and he can close on the ball very well. Aaron knows you have to have a bad memory when you play that position. You can't let things both you. We have him returning kicks and puts plus he's playing special teams. Our goal was to keep him on the field as long as possible. He's that good."

Coach Keating had the following to say about John Malecki:

"I was really upset to lose him that quickly to injury. He and Dorin (Dickerson) were two players we were looking forward to seeing in action but we saw no reason to risk anything for an All-Star game. I know this is the Big 33, but those players are special and they are going to have long careers at Pitt."

"We played against Malecki in the state playoffs and he was unblockable. John is a pure football player. He's old school. John has all the intangibles to be an incredible football player. He has the size, the strength and unbelievable "quicks" off the ball. I haven't seen someone with his size explode off the ball for quite some time. John is a special player and an unbelievable get for Pitt."

Harry G. Psaros can be contacted at harrypsaros@msn.com.


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