Hale On Official Visit

Adorned in a gold Oakland Zoo T-shirt, Shayne Hale appeared to fit in perfectly while watching the Pitt men's basketball team knock off Oklahoma State 85-68 Saturday afternoon at the Petersen Events Center.

The Pittsburgh fans certainly knew that Shayne Hale, the five-star linebacker from Gateway High School in Monroeville, Pa., attended the basketball game as part of his official visit, because there were various signs in the crowd. One clever one was "Hale Storm.''

Hale was unavailable for comment during the game, because it's against NCAA rules to speak to a recruit while on campus during his visit, but he appeared to have a good time. And the Panthers helped with a strong performance on the court.

Redshirt junior safety Eric Thatcher sat with Hale during the game, along with Dave and Jan Wannstedt, defensive line coach Greg Gattuso and several other Pitt coaches and athletic officials.

Hale recently included the Panthers among his favorites after excluding them a month or so ago. Along with Pitt, Michigan, Virginia and West Virginia were vying hard for Hale's services next season.

According to Bob Lichtenfels, Scout.com's regional recruiting analyst, there's a good chance that Hale will commit to Pitt. The Panthers currently have 14 verbal commitments in their 2008 class which will become official Feb. 6, 2008, national letter-of-intent day.

The Panthers picked up No. 14 this weekend when center Robb Houser from Butte junior college in California. He is the seventh verbal since Pitt stopped No. 2 West Virginia 13-9 Dec. 1 at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W.Va. The Panthers first secured a commitment from Hale's teammate at Gateway, four-star running back Cameron Saddler, and that started the recent flurry.

Pitt, which finished strong this past season to salvage a 5-7 record in Wannstedt's third year, appears to be doing the same in recruiting. Among Pitt's 13 verbal commitments are seven from the WPIAL. Before Wannstedt returned to his alma mater, Pitt wasn't able to get nearly as much football talent from its backyard.

After floundering through the middle games in its schedule, Pitt played much better and went 3-3 down the stretch and with a couple breaks could have been 5-1 in that stretch that was capped by the road win against the Mountaineers. Saddler committed to Pitt a few days later. A month or so earlier, Saddler appeared to be headed to either West Virginia or Virginia.

Commitments from three quarterbacks and two wide receivers followed. They are quarterback Zack Stoudt, former Steelers signal-caller Cliff Stoudt's son, from Coffman High School in Dublin, Ohio; junior-college quarterback Greg Cross from Fort Scott, KS; wideout Michael Shanahan from Norwin HS in North Huntingdon, Pa.; quarterback Tino Sunseri, former Pitt linebacker Sal Sunseri's son, from Pittsburgh Central Catholic HS; and wideout Jonathan Baldwin, former Pitt defensive lineman Jeffrey Baldwin's son, from Aliquippa, Pa. HS.

The Panthers also received early verbals from cornerback Antwuan Reed from Johnstown, Pa. HS; tailback Chris Burns from Wilmington HS in New Wilmington, Pa.; safety Manny Williams from Clairton, Pa. HS; offensive tackle Lucas Nix from Thomas Jefferson HS in Jefferson Hills, Pa.; offensive tackle Ryan Turnley from Hopewell, Pa. HS; wideout Ronald Hobby from Gwynn Park HS in Brandywine, Md.; and place-kicker Kevin Harper from Mentor, Ohio HS.

Along with Hale, Pitt is after cornerback Jarred Holley from Easton, Pa. HS; back Averin Collier, Pitt tailback Kevin Collier's brother, from Churchville-Chilli HS in Churchville, N.Y.; linebacker Steve Gardiner, Stoudt's teammate at Coffman; wideout Marcus Sales from Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse, N.Y.; and wideout A.J. Alexander from Altoona, Pa. HS, among others.

Panther More Top Stories