Tinker Could Be Next

There were seven football recruits still open to making their college choices who took official visits to Pitt this past weekend, but none have verbally committed to the Panthers just yet.

The first could be former Brashear High School standout receiver Ed Tinker, who starred in Pittsburgh's City League as a senior in 2007. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound speedster initially showed no interest in his hometown school. Along with the Panthers, Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Louisville, Michigan State and West Virginia offered scholarships to Tinker.

Academic difficulties forced him to attend North Carolina Tech Prep in Charlotte in the fall, and now Tinker has returned home. Since he has limited options after being out of spotlight for a year, despite being a former three-star wideout, Tinker has honed in on Pitt and expects to enroll in January. However, there is no guarantee that the Panthers will take a chance on him or that he will qualify after retaking the SAT.

Pitt currently has 14 verbal commitments, and with just 14 players in their final seasons of eligibility some personnel moves will need to be made to get to the 20 recruits that the Panthers expect to officially sign Feb. 4, 2009. And Tinker would count toward that class. Since there are a lot of juniors on this year's roster, Pitt's 2010 recruiting class should be have a full complement of 25.

Middle linebacker Dan Mason, Penn Hills HS, Pittsburgh, Pa.; tight end-defensive end Malcolm Bush, Hackensack, N.J. HS; defensive tackle Jordan Hill, Steelton-Highspire HS, Steelton, Pa. (near Harrisburg); linebacker Jamal Merrell and wideout Jamil Merrell, Paul M. Hodgson Vocational Tech, Neward, Del.; and cornerback Quron Pratt, Palmyra, N.J. HS. were other recruits in attendance who Pitt are targeting. Pratt does not have an offer.

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.

Mason has said that he wanted to announce his college choice during one of the all-star games, but he was not chosen for any. So, his plans are up in the air as far as an announcement is concerned. Even though he is expected to take more visits in January, the Panthers are confident that he'll commit to them in several weeks or so.

The Merrell twins still have visits to West Virginia and Iowa planned, so their decision isn't likely until late January. Bush is visiting North Carolina, while South Fort Myers, Fla. cornerback Brodrick Jenkins -- who visited Pitt for the West Virginia game -- just took a trip to WVU and still has a South Florida one to make. The players scheduled for the January visit weekend aren't likely to make their choices until later that month as well.

So, Pitt shouldn't get more than two commits, if any, the rest of this year. A recruiting dead period begins Dec. 22 and runs through the New Year. And after a week, there's another one that runs through the NCAA coaches convention.

The 14 Panthers in their final seasons of eligibility include punter Dave Brytus, offensive tackle Chase Clowser, fullback Conredge Collins, center C.J. Davis, defensive tackle Rashaad Duncan, long-snapper Mark Estermyer, outside linebacker Adam Gunn, wideout Derek Kinder, place-kicker Conor Lee, middle linebacker Scott McKillop, outside linebacker Austin Ransom, tailback LaRod Stephens-Howling, safety Eric Thatcher and offensive guard Dominic Williams.

Among those seniors who could be asked to move on could include middle linebacker Steve Dell, defensive tackle Craig Bokor, safety Irvan Brown and offensive guard John Bachman. Juniors include Scott Corson and Jared Martin. Doug Fulmer will be a fifth-year senior, but hasn't played for some three years due to various injuries. He might not be able to continue.

There also is some question about senior-to-be Tommie Duhart. He was expected to contribute as a defensive tackle this fall, but an ankle injury -- from which he finally has returned to practice -- and other disciplinary issues have hampered his development this season. If the latter problems continue, he could be asked to move on as well.

Since Pitt is looking for a quarterback for the future and has four on scholarship right now -- redshirt junior Bill Stull, sophomore Pat Bostick, redshirt sophomore Kevan Smith and junior Greg Cross -- some space might be needed to be cleared at that position. Smith could be placed at an area Division II school, and so could Cross. He might be tried out at wide receiver as well.

Also, redshirt sophomore tailback Kevin Collier doesn't appear to be in the team's plans any more. However, he reportedly has enjoyed his time at Pitt and wouldn't mind staying even if he doesn't play.

This is all speculation, of course, but certainly some personnel moves need to be made between signing day and summer camp and 4-6 appears to be the number necessary.

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