Pitt enters another key recruiting weekend

The University of Pittsburgh football staff will host a myriad of upper echelon recruits over the next two weeks. Ten recruits will arrive in Pittsburgh on Friday to take part in official visits. The PantherDigest.com takes a quick look at the visitors.

The University of Pittsburgh's 2006 football season revealed a disparity in talent between Pitt and the top programs in the Big East (West Virginia, Louisville, etc.). Head Football Coach Dave Wannstedt and his coaching staff are preparing to host a myriad of blue-chip recruits this weekend. They hope to complete their 2007 recruiting class and further close the talent gap.

The PantherDigest.com takes a quick look at the weekend visitors.

BRANDON LINDSEY ~ Aliquippa High School (Aliquippa, PA)

Scout.com ranks Lindsey (6-foot-2 inches, 220 pounds) the 10th best outside linebacker in the nation and a "four-star" recruit. A phenomenal athlete that led the Quips in tackles for two consecutives seasons. He visited Ohio State on November 11th and West Virginia on December 2nd. It appears that Lindsey is down to Pitt and West Virginia. Brandon recently reported to Scout.com that the Panthers may have a slight lead.

Publisher's Note : Lindsey is a "must get" recruit. The Panthers need depth and talent at the linebacker position. Brandon has stated that playing time is very important to him and he has the ability to push for a starting position next season. The coaching staff will attempt to close him this weekend. Don't be shocked if verbally commits to the Panthers by Sunday.

JOSH HARTIGAN ~ Northeast High School (Oakland Park, FL)

Scout.com ranks Hartigan (6-foot-3 inches, 210 pounds) the 43rd best middle linebacker in the nation and a "two-star" recruit. Hartigan is a long, lean and mobile linebacker from the state of Florida. He made a strong impression over the summer when he attended the Dave Wannstedt Summer Football Camp. Josh appeared to be down to North Carolina State (September 8th visit), Iowa State (canceled December 2nd visit) and Pitt. The Wolfpack and Cyclones recently dismissed their head coach leaving Pitt as his strongest option. The Panthers need linebackers and Hartigan would make a great developmental prospect. Josh was "blown away" the first time he visited Pittsburgh. Let's hope he can replicate those feelings this weekend.

MAURICE WILLIAMS ~ Strong Vincent High School (Erie, PA)

Scout.com ranks "Mo" (6-foot-1 inches, 190 pounds) the 28th best wide receiver in the nation and a "four-star" recruit. Superprep Magazine and Scout.com's Allen Wallace referred to Williams as the "next Steve Breaston". Maurice, like Breaston, played quarterback in high school but colleges prefer him as wide receiver. He has previously mentioned Pitt, WVU and Penn State amongst his leaders. Mo recently indicated that Pitt was his leader.

Publisher's Note :Like Brandon Lindsey, Harris is a "must get" recruit for the Panthers. Pitt has lost out on several blue-chip wide receiver recruits and Williams is one of the last gems available. The coaching staff will attempt to close him this weekend. He's a phenomenal athlete and big play specialist.

SHARIFF HARRIS ~ St. Peters Preparatory School (Jersey City, NJ)

Scout.com ranks Harris (6-foot-2 inches, 210 pounds) the 56th ranked running back in nation and a "three-star" recruit. He currently has 14 schools that have extended scholarship offers but the Panthers are clearly his leader. Shariff rushed for over 1,400 yards for two consecutive seasons. He's a powerful runner capable of running a 4.4 forty-yard dash. The Panthers need to land a quality running back and Harris has openly stated there was a "strong possibility" he will commit this weekend. He has described his father as a "Pitt guy". You have to like that.

TRISTAN ROBERTS ~ Pennridge High School (Perkasie, PA)

Unlike a players like Brandon Lindsey and Maurice Williams, Roberts (6-foot, 215 pounds) has flown under the radar. Tristan attended the Panthers summer camp and left a stellar impression with the coaching staff. Despite being somewhat undersized, he's very strong and capable of running a 4.5 forty-yard dash. Pitt's coaching staff believes he can develop into a "mobile and hostile" outside linebacker. Roberts has indicated there is a "high probability" he will commit this weekend. It's worth noting that Tristan scored a 1980 on his SAT and carries a 4.31 grade point average.

RONTEZ MILES ~ Woodland Hills High School (Pittsburgh, PA)

Scout.com ranks Miles the 75th best safety in the nation and a "three-star" recruit. Rontez (6-foot-2 inches, 185 pounds) may be the most underrated player in the state of Pennsylvania. He's a hard hitting safety with a muscular frame and tremendous speed. Miles visited Toledo last weekend (12/1). He has offers from Pitt, West Virginia, Colorado and several MAC programs. Rontez has one major issue: academics. It appears that he may not qualify. If he opts to commit to Pitt, look for Miles to be placed in a solid prep school program.

JARED WILLIAMS ~ Perry Traditional High School (Pittsburgh, PA)

Scout.com ranks Williams a "two-star" cornerback. Jared (5-foot-9 inches, 190 pounds) was one of the first players to join the Panthers 2007 recruiting class. In less than a month, he opted to re-open his recruitment. A cornerback with a "stocky" physique, Williams has outstanding closing speed. Pitt, Virginia and Iowa appear to be the main schools involved. With the exception of his weekend visit to Pitt, he has yet to schedule additional visits. The PantherDigest.com recently spoke with Williams and he was somewhat cryptic about his scholarship offer. It appears he has to initially meet with Coach (Dave) Wannstedt prior to receiving his offer. Stay tuned.

TYSON BUTLER ~ Cypress Lake High School (Fort Myers, FL)

Scout.com ranks Butler a "two-star" cornerback. Tyson (5-foot-11 inches, 175 pounds) is an athlete capable of playing a number of positions including running back, wide receiver and cornerback. The Panthers have talked to Butler about playing wide receiver and he loves the idea. Tyson has openly stated that he prefers offense. He primarily played running back this season and rushed for 1,928 yards. Butler is capable of running a 4.4 forty-yard dash. He has received offers from a number of top programs including Pitt, West Virginia, South Florida and Tennessee. It appears his final decision may come down to Pitt and South Florida.

DAN MATHA ~ McDowell Senior High School (Erie, PA) & GREG GASKINS ~ William Penn High School (York, PA)

Scout.com ranks Matha (6-foot-7 inches, 310 pounds) the 15th best offensive tackle in the nation and a "four star" recruit. Dan committed to the Panthers in late June. A towering physical specimen, Dan bench presses 400 pounds and squats close to 600 pounds. With the dearth of offensive tackles on the Panthers roster, Matha was a "must get" recruit. He has the ability to push for early playing time. Dan chose Pitt over offers from West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, Michigan State and Connecticut.

Publisher's Note :I spoke with Dan for 20 minutes prior to the West Virginia game. In case you're wondering, "Yes, he's that big". At 6-foot-7 inches tall, he looks like a large power forward. Unlike some prospects that are overweight and lumbering, Dan appeared to be relatively thin at 310 pounds.

Scout.com ranks Gaskins (6-foot-4 inches, 280 pounds) the 18th best offensive center in the nation and a "three-star" recruit. Greg committed to the Panthers in late June after an impressive summer camp showing. He chose Pitt over Maryland. Gaskins is an outstanding student. He's currently ranked fourth in his class of 290 students. Greg's on course to graduate early and join the Panthers in January. At 16 years of age, he continues to grow and improve. Many believe the Panthers landed a hidden gem. The sky is the limit for this young prospect.

WEEKEND THOUGHTS from Publisher:

Let's talk shop! Will the Panthers receive commitments this weekend? Shariff Harris, Brandon Lindsey, Tristan Roberts and Maurice Williams are strong possibilities. Clearly Lindsey and Williams are marquee players that will enhance Pitt's recruiting rankings. Pitt needs to add one to two more running backs and Harris is a good one. I spoke with the head coach at North Bergen High School (North Bergen, NJ) and he told me that Shariff was one of the most "fast and explosive" running backs he's ever seen. Pitt needs to add linebackers. They could easily land the trio of linebackers visiting this weekend. Hartigan and Roberts will probably need to redshirt. Lindsey will immediately factor into the Panthers two-deep lineup. Another linebacker the staff loves is Evan Rodriguez from North Bergen, NJ. He's currently in the process of setting official visits.

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