Pitt Recruiting Notebook

After talking with Pitt football coach Dave Wannstedt, some assistants and other Panthers recruiting personnel, none are in a panic mode just yet because Pitt has just one verbal commitment to date.

Now, if the Pittsburgh still had only one at this time in January, that's another story. Then, the Panthers certainly would be harried. However, with camps going strong this month, beginning with Pitt's Specialist Camp today, more offers and several more verbal commitments are expected.

From the group that Pitt will play host to in the next few days, a dozen or so prospects are expected to go on to play football at the Division I level.

"There are lots of good kids coming here the first camp and even more for our passing camp (June 20-21),'' Wannstedt said. "We expect a good turnout both weekends with a full complement of teams already signed up for the passing camp. So, June's a busy time for us, and we'll get more commitments.''

There are several reasons why Pitt has received just one verbal thus far. First, it must be noted, that the Panthers are more selective this year and could have more if they offered every player who is interested in them.

Secondly, Pitt had a coaching upheaval with defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, wide receivers coach Bryan Bossard, secondary coach Jeff Hafley, offensive line coach Tony Wise and linebackers coach Joe Tumpkin added to the staff this year, along with two new graduate assistants.

With Hafley promoted to full-time from his grad-assistant status, the Panthers immediately secured a stronger presence in Eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Hafley and Wise have strong ties to that area, and Pitt expects to get maybe a handful of players from that area and New York with Walker as the lead recruiter.

Two big-time players from that area that Pitt is after are Khalil Wilkes, an offensive lineman from St. Peters Prep School in Jersey City, N.J., the same school that Pitt running back Shariff Harris attended, and defensive end Bernardo Nunez from Hoboken, N.J. HS.

In the past, Walker had parts of New Jersey in his area, but he primarily worked New York. That left New Jersey's fertile recruiting areas open mostly for Rutgers and Penn State. Pitt also is hopeful that Bossard can secure some Maryland prospects, but the Nittany Lions recently got a couple from that area.

And in Beaver County, where Charlie Partridge made the initial contacts, assistant head coach and defensive line coach Greg Gattuso has had to pick up the slack in the recruitment of players from that hotbed of talent.

It also must be pointed out that Pitt had just two commitments last year, picked up a few more before the season started and eventually had to turn guys away after beating West Virginia in the season-finale. Therefore, can be surmised that the same scenario could follow if the Panthers have a good season, beat WVU again and go to a bowl game for the first time under Wannstedt.

With a half-dozen verbals going into the season, which is likely, Pitt will be poised to maybe double that during and after the season when the recruiting action really heats up. A lot of official visits, or unofficial for that matter, could occur in January as schools make their final push for recruits.

One player who could jump on Pitt's bandwagon is linebacker Dorian Bell from Gateway High School in Monroeville, Pa. Bell made an early commitment to Ohio State, which some believe was a hasty decision, but he could be swayed along with others if the Panthers have a strong season. Remember that his former teammate, Shayne Hale, did not appear to be interested in Pitt but jumped aboard after the Panthers beat WVU. Hale, however, did not commit anywhere.

Another player, wideout Todd Thomas from Beaver Falls, Pa. HS, appears to be interested in Pitt and Michigan. Gattuso is recruiting him hard for the Panthers, and after the recruiting is all said and done he could commit to Pitt as well. The same thing for Bell's current teammate, cornerback Corey Brown, defensive end Tyrone Ezell from Steel Valley HS in Munhall, Pa. and linebacker Dan Mason from Penn Hills HS in Pittsburgh. All are interested in Pitt.

But it all starts this weekend for the Panthers, as the camp portion of the year gets under way.

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