Pitt Recruiting Update

The Pitt football team will be host to about a dozen or so recruits Friday through Sunday with several high-profile ones sprinkled in with a handful already committed to the Panthers for their 2009 class.

This is a chance for the Pittsburgh staff to give itself an early Christmas present with an addition or two to the 14 players already on board. Pitt could have from 18-20 available spots with no more than 20 likely.

There also will be a big recruiting weekend Jan. 9-11. The Panthers basketball team plays UMBC Saturday night at 7 at the Petersen Events Center. The second event includes a game against St. John's Jan. 11 at noon at the Pete.

"Recruiting started up again Dec. 1, but we had games these past two weekends,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "That put us at a little bit of a handicap in recruiting this month, but this will be a big weekend for us. We have a lot of good guys who already have committed to us, but we want to finish strong with recruiting and keep this thing going.''

Middle linebacker Dan Mason (6-feet, 220 pounds) from Penn Hills High School in Pittsburgh is key visit this weekend. Mason has said that he will wait until the January all-star games to announce his decision, but the tackling machine could commit earlier since he was not named to any initial all-star rosters.

It's between Pitt and Penn State for Mason's talents, but the Panthers appear to have the inside track and could secure him as early as this weekend. This would be a huge commitment for Pitt. With Scott McKillop graduating and other depth-chart shuffling, the Panthers are thin in the middle next year. That doesn't mean he'll come in and start, but he'll certainly push those ahead of him.

Former Rutgers commit Malcolm Bush, a 6-5, 220-pound tight end-defensive end from Hackensack, N.J. High School is another key visitor this weekend. He's a solid tight end prospect right now, but with some work in the weight room could be an incredibly athletic defensive end for the Panthers. He looks like Jabaal Sheard and Greg Romeus did when they arrived at Pitt.

Bush already has taken a visit to North Carolina and has said he'll schedule ones to Rutgers and possibly Iowa. His recruitment could take until signing day, Feb. 4, 2009, but Pitt is a major player to get Bush now that he has re-opened his recruitment and will make a big push this weekend.

Jamal Merrell and Jamil Merrell, twins from Paul M. Hodgson Vocational Tech in Newark, Del., also are visiting this weekend. They are a package deal with Pitt, Rutgers, Boston College and Florida State among the schools that have offered both. The Panthers aren't leading, but certainly are in the mix. Jamal is a 6-6, 200-pound wideout, while Jamil is a 6-4, 210-pound defensive end.

Jordan Hill, a 6-3, 260-pound defensive tackle from Steelton-Highspire High School near Harrisburg, Pa., also is expected this weekend. Hill already has committed to Rutgers, but he is taking some visits. And Pitt is extremely interested. Hill could be a serious run-stopper in the future. The Panthers lose one defensive tackle after this year, Rashaad Duncan, and three after next season -- Mick Williams, Gus Mustakas and Tommie Duhart.

Wideout Todd Thomas from Beaver Falls, Pa. HS, defensive end Jack Lippert from Central Dauphin HS in Harrsburg, safety Carl Fleming from Franklin HS in Reistertown, Md. and running back Raymond Graham from Elizabeth, N.J. HS also will be visiting this weekend. The four already are committed to Pitt.

Already on the docket for a Jan. 9-11 visit are Hoboken, N.J. HS stars Bernardo Nunez and Isaac Holmes, as well as 6-2, 192-pound quarterback Kolby Gray from Cypress Falls HS in Houston, Texas. Nunez is a 6-3, nearly 240-pound defensive end, while Holmes is a 6-3, 290-pound offensive lineman. Maryland and Rutgers are among the leaders for the Hoboken teammates.

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