Pitt Recruiting Update

The Pitt football team currently has 13 verbal commitments to its 2009 recruiting class, and many are expected to attend the Panthers' game against Rutgers today at 3:30 p.m. at Heinz Field.

Pittsburgh expects to sign 18-20 (at most) recruits on letter-of-intent day, Feb. 4, 2009, the first day next year's players can officially sign with a school. That means Pitt has 5-7 more players that it wants for the class and has targeted a number of players to fill that void among this year's high school seniors.

That group includes middle linebacker Dan Mason from Penn Hills High School in Pittsburgh; the Merrell twins, linebacker Jamil and wideout Jamal from Hodgson Vo-Tech School in Neward, Del.; offensive lineman Isaac Holmes from Hoboken, N.J. HS; defensive end Bernardo Nunez from Hoboken, N.J. HS; offensive lineman Khalil Wilkes from St. Peter's Preparatory School in Jersey City, N.J.; tight end Gary Gilliam from Milton Hershey, Pa. HS in Hershey, Pa.; running back Greg Pratt from Naples, Fla. HS; defensive end Olivier Vernon from American Senior HS in Hialeah, Fla.; and linebackers Shane Gordon and Austin Gamble from Cypress Bay HS in Weston, Fla.

Pitt should beat out Penn State for Mason's services. Mason has said all along that he likely will wait until an all-star game like the U.S. Army event to announce his choice. Pitt also is among the leaders for the Merrell twins, but likely will have a tough battle against Rutgers for their talents. The Scarlet Knights have an edge on the Panthers for Wilkes, Holmes and Nunez as well, so today's head-to-head matchup on the field could be a deciding factor.

Gilliam is a Penn State lean, but not a certainty with Pitt also in the running. The Panthers also are among the leaders for all the Florida kids, but linebackers coach Joe Tumpkin needs to visit the Sunshine State after the season to secure their commitments. Four-star safety Daytawion Lowe from Oklahoma City, has interest in Pitt, but it's a long shot to get him away from his home state.

Some have suggested that cornerback Corey Brown from Gateway HS in Monroeville, Pa. might decommit from Ohio State, but a more likely candidate is running back Jordan Hall from Jeannette, Pa. HS. The Buckeyes also have secured commitments from two Florida backs, five-star Jaamal Berry from Miami and four-star Carlos Hyde from Naples. Since Malcolm Bush decommitted from Rutgers, Pitt is interested and could be back in the running again for him.

The Panthers also could be in the mix for freshman outside linebacker Taylor Hill from Cardinal Mooney HS in Youngstown, Ohio. He reportedly has left Michigan and could enroll at either Pitt or West Virginia in January.

Pitt already has sent written offers to eight juniors this year who would be in the 2010 recruiting class. That group includes quarterback Paul Jones and wideout Andrew Carswell from Sto-Rox HS in McKees Rocks, Pa.; wide receiver Kevin Weatherspoon from Clairton, Pa. HS; linebacker Mike Hull from Canon-McMillan HS in Canonsburg, Pa.; offensive lineman Miles Dieffenbach from Fox Chapel, Pa. HS; running back Corey Brown from Cardinal O'Hara HS in Springfield, Pa.; linebacker Nick Forbes from Governor Thomas Johnson HS in Frederick, Md. and tight end-middle linebacker Kyle Baublitz from Central York HS in York, Pa.

Jones and Carswell are expected to be in attendance for the Pitt-Rutgers game. Penn State also is going after Jones, but he and Carswell would like to go to the same school, like the Merrell twins, and the Nittany Lions aren't as interested in Carswell. Dieffenbach and Weatherspoon have Pitt family ties and actually could commit to the Panthers sometime after the 2009 class is signed.

Pitt's 2009 verbal commitments are from wideout Todd Thomas from Beaver Falls, Pa. HS; tight end Brock DeCicco from Thomas Jefferson HS in Jefferson Hills, Pa.; running back Raymond Graham from Elizabeth, N.J. HS; defensive end Will Clarke from Taylor Allderdice HS in Pittsburgh; defensive end Tyrone Ezell from Steel Valley HS in Munhall, Pa.; safety Carl Fleming from Franklin HS in Reisterstown, Md.; running back Kevin Adams from St. Joseph Regional HS in Montvale, N.J.; offensive guard Fernando Diaz from Cardinal Hayes HS in Bronx, N.Y.; wideout Devin Street from Liberty HS in Bethlehem, Pa.; defensive end Jack Lippert from Central Dauphin HS in Harrisburg, Pa.; lineman Juantez Hollins from Aliquippa, Pa. HS; tailback Dion Lewis from Blair Academy in Blairstown, N.J.; and offensive tackle Cory King from Lakeview HS in Stoneboro, Pa.

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