Pitt's 2009 Recruiting Shifts Gears

The ink on faxes from this year's recruiting class is barely dry, but the Pitt football team is already beginning a push to secure commitments for 2009.

Pittsburgh will hold a junior recruiting day highlighted by the men's basketball game with Louisville Sunday, Feb. 24, at noon at the Petersen Events Center.

The Panthers primarily have targeted players from around Pennsylvania once again, but their concentration has shifted somewhat from Western Pennsylvania toward the East, according to Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt.

"We've gone into the central part of the state to get guys like Aaron Berry, Shady McCoy, Pat Bostick and Greg Gaskins, who will play this year,'' Wannstedt said during the letter-of-intent day press conference. "Getting Jarred Holley out of Easton, Pa. was big for us.

"Just to get out there in that part of the state and get the top player in that area, in our opinion, was big for us. So, I would say, the state of Pennsylvania, we've made a concentrated effort, and we've had some good results. (And) it's going to be stronger out East this year.''

Greg Gattuso, Pitt's assistant head coach who has guided the Panthers defensive line, believed the team was at least three deep along that area this season because 16 players were signed over the past three years there. However, defensive line will be an area of emphasis in 2009.

"We've already talked about next year's class, junior recruiting, and defensive line will be a priority next year,'' Gattuso said. "So, we'll need to go out and get some guys there and try to bring in quite a few.''

Pitt likely will get around 50 prospects or so for the big day, since it's a Sunday and the game is early. The recruits will have breakfast together, meet with the coaching staff at the UPMC Sports Complex and then go the basketball game. The Panthers had 65 players at last year's junior day.

Pitt already has offered scholarships to junior quarterbacks Emmanuel Yeager, Ballou HS, Washington, D.C. and Tom Savage, Cardinal O'Hara HS, Springfield, Pa.; running back Jordan Hall, Jeannette, Pa. HS; tight end Brock DeCicco, Thomas Jefferson HS, Jefferson Hills, Pa.; wideouts Todd Thomas, Beaver Falls, Pa. HS; Corey Brown, Gateway HS, Monroeville, Pa. and Je'Ron Stokes, Northeast HS, Philadelphia, Pa.; offensive linemen Raynard Randolph, Gwynn Park HS, Brandywine, Md.; Eric Shrive, West Scranton HS, Scranton, Pa. and Cory King, Lakeview HS, Stoneboro, Pa.; defensive linemen Tyrone Ezell, Steel Valley HS, Munhall, Pa.; Jack Lippert, Central Dauphin HS in Harrisburg, Pa., Johnny Simon, Cardinal Mooney HS, Youngstown, Ohio and Sean Stanley, Gaithersburg, Md. HS; linebackers Dan Mason, Penn Hills HS, Pittsburgh, Pa.; Dorian Bell, Gateway HS, Monroeville, Pa. and Glenn Carson, Southern Regional HS, Manahawkin, N.J.; and defensive backs Darrell Givens, Lackey HS, Indian Head, Md. and E.J. Banks, Montour HS, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Bell, Brown, Shrive, Savage and Stokes are among the highest-rated players in Pennsylvania who were juniors this past high school season. More offers are highly likely during March to set up the big April blue-chip day when the recruits will attend a spring practice session.

Spring practice will begin later this year, March 25, and end with the annual Blue Gold Game April 19 at a site and time to be determined. Pitt officials hope to have it at Heinz Field, but it depends on the condition of the surface.

Wannstedt still must hire another defensive coach-special teams coordinator to replace the departed Charlie Partridge. Former Pitt basketball player Sam Clancy, who spent the past two seasons as a volunteer assistant, reportedly is the front-runner for the spot. He did not play college football, but was a long-time NFL veteran on the defensive line.

Since Partridge's main recruiting area was Florida, Wannstedt must reorganize the staff's duties to cover that area. Defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads, who left for Auburn, handled Ohio. So, that area must be reassigned as well. New offensive line coach Tony Wise and defensive coordinator Phil Bennett also must be assigned recruiting areas.

Jeff Hafley, who was promoted from grad assistant to full-time defensive backs coach, will take over North and Central New Jersey. And running backs coach David Walker will concentrate on New York. New wideouts coach Bryan Bossard, who spent the past three seasons at Maryland, will recruit there, Virginia and the Washington, D.C. area.

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