The Guru Grill

Hello, Pitt football fans. On this frigid January day, it seemed like a good idea to fire up The Guru Grill.

This is where Panthers fans go to get the answers to questions about University of Pittsburgh athletics and primarily recruiting from Scout.com Recruiting Analyst Bob Lichtenfels. Bob will answer the recruiting questions, and Senior Writer Dale Grdnic will handle questions about this year's Pitt football team.

pittmn03: Do you still believe the staff concentrated on the season and not recruiting, believing that a good season would boost recruiting? Seems like the only "name'' prospect we have a shot at is Dan Mason. Also seems as though some of the "better'' prospects for next year are PSU or other leans right now?

Guru: Having a good season and getting a bowl bid were the top priorities for this staff, because if it didn't happen I don't believe there was any guarantee that the coaching staff would have had jobs after four seasons of missing out. The pressure is to win, not on recruiting, but you need good recruiting to win. So, it's kind of tough balancing act for coaches.

And having a good season has allowed Pitt to aim a little higher with guys like Josh Evans and Bernardo Nunez. But it's tough, because recruiting is so early now. If you wait until the season develops or even after it to hit recruiting hard, it could be too late to get in on a lot of the better guys. The 2010 class really isn't shaking out just yet, so they aren't leaning anywhere.

dj0825: How is Pitt going to find room for another hoop recruit? Would DeAndre Kane count to last year's total, and is he the piece of the puzzle we've been looking for in a scoring guard?

Dale: I believe Kane would be a Pitt commit-signee if the Panthers wanted him, but I don't know how they would have made room for him or Dominic Cheek, for that matter. Maybe Gary McGhee would have been asked to go, but that It's all moot now that the Panthers received a verbal for 2010 from PG Isaiah Epps.

chairmanoftheboard: 1. Wannstedt has recruited outstanding without any real sustained success on the field. Now that he has had some, should we expect him to really explode and get some great players in 2010?

Guru: It usually bodes well for a school the year after a winning season, but the 2010 recruiting already began before the season ended. So, it extends further into the future, and that is enhanced when the success is consistent. For example, recruits didn't buy into Rutgers' success right away, but since they had a few years in a row their recruiting has picked up.

2. How many ships does Pitt have to give next year?

Guru: It's not an easy thing to determine right now, but I believe it will be more than 20. Maybe 21-22 like this year and might get to the maximum 25.

3. How strong is the local WPIAL crop of players for 2010? Are there a lot of top end guys and does depth exist?

Guru: Paul Jones and Mike Hull are great players, but it doesn't look like there's a real standout like Terrelle Pryor or Jonathan Baldwin. The depth, however, is what makes it such an outstanding class. It's a lot deeper than this year, some pretty good lineman and the depth is spread out around the state.

4. We know some local names from 2010 connected with Pitt, but who are some other guys that Pitt is going to definitely have on their radar?

Guru: Along with Paul Jones, Andrew Carswell, Miles Dieffenbach and Kevin Weatherspoon, Cullen Christian, Brandon Ifill, D.J. Meyers, I like him a lot. Jim Giansante from Thomas Jefferson, I like he's a great athlete. He can play somewhere. Some other guys out there are Deontae Howard from Clairton, the fastest player at our Combine in Pittsburgh last year. And Aaron Donald from Penn Hills, he's a nice player. So is Tom Ricketts from North Allegheny, Luke Graham from Penn Trafford, Kenny Wilkins from Trinity, Manassan Garner from Brashear, but he has to get his time down in the next camp sessions. There's Corderro Jackson from Monessen and the Aliquippa kids, Rasheem Jones and Stanley Pugh. Jones has a cannon for an arm.

5. How good is Derrick Burns, Chris Burns' brother? Is he high level like his brother? And is Pitt strong with him?

Guru: I like Derrick Burns, but I doubt that he's a Division I running back. He just doesn't have the same skill set as Chris. I like him more as a linebacker, and it really all depends on how big he gets. He's in the 5-10, 185-pound range right now. He's in a group of kids who are close, but need to get a little bigger, stronger or faster to move into the Division I-A range. I could see Pitt getting involved with Derrick if that happens.

6. Pitt seems to really be making some strong in-roads into New Jersey and Eastern PA, but is Pitt need to start making more of an impact in Md. and Ohio?

Guru: Ohio really hasn't been that good to them. They probably spent too much time there when Bryan Deal was at Pitt, but maybe now it's not enough. The thing is, the more time you're spending there the less time you're in Pa. And I would definitely spend time in Ohio next year, because that's going to be their best class in maybe the last five years with 8-10 kids maybe as Top-100 kids. But a lot of teams recruit there, and it's tough to get them from there. So, maybe it is a better idea to stay in your own area, and I think that's how it worked out for Pitt. Maryland and Jersey have some good kids, and Pitt continues to build relationships there. But it was only the first year for Jeff Hafley and Bryan Bossard. Hafley has done a great job so far. And Pitt will continue in Florida, I believe. That state has been good to them the past few years. I know they wanted to get into Virginia, and I think that's a good idea.

7. If Bennett hangs around, is more Texas recruiting around the corner? Or do they just have some sort of connection with the Gray kid?

Dale: Assistant Director of Football Operations (and chief recruiting coordinator) Mike Antonoplos found Kolby Gray in Texas. Then, Phil Bennett used his connections there to find out about the kid and quickly start recruiting him. But I think it was more of an isolated thing than the beginning of more to come.

rmf05: What's your take on Anthony Gonzales? What's holding him back?

Guru: Athletically, he's one of the Top-15 guys in the state, and I like him because he's a tough competitor. But I'm not sold that he can play quarterback at the next level. I think he can play somewhere, though. He's just a great athlete, and he's a winner.

rmf05: I don't hear much regarding Corey Brown of Gateway and Jordan Hall from Jeannette. Has our strong season been too little, too late for these 2?

Guru: Corey has said that he's not going to visit anywhere, so that seems to be where he's at right now. But I wouldn't rule it out. You never know. I know that Jordan Hall is supposed to visit Pitt, but he told me that he wasn't. So, who knows? I'm pretty sure the Panthers think he's going to visit.

buccoboy: The bowl game showed we still have a long way to go to be a top-tier team. We clearly need to upgrade O-line depth and the QB position. Do we have any targets for this upcoming class or next year's class that could step in and make an immediate impact?

Guru: It's pretty tough for a true freshman to come in on the O-line and QB and make an immediate impact. It just doesn't happen. Dan Marino didn't even start right away. Look at Lucas Nix, he was highly recruited, but he couldn't do it. Terrelle Pryor, he got a shot because he can make plays with his legs moreso than his arm right now. But OL, it takes time for their strength and technique to improve, so unless they're just amazing -- like, say, Bill Fralic -- it's tough.

warriordan: Do you feel that the 5 QBs at Pitt can play big time football. and should we go after a top notch juco QB?

Guru: Considering what Pat Bostick went through going into his freshman season, I think he still did an admirable job when he was forced to play in 2007. I don't think he embarrassed himself, and I believe he still has a future. But I like Tino Sunseri, too, and I think the coaches do as well. He has all the tools to be a good player, but it's going to be tough to beat out a fifth-year player like Bill Stull this spring and in camp. I think it's going to be interesting, but Dave's pretty loyal to his older players as well as his coaches. So, it'll be tough.

rmf05: It seems that Wanny likes coordinators to stick mostly to game-planning and Xs and Os and less so on recruiting. How does this compare to the roles coordinators have at "Elite'' programs that we strive to be?

Guru: Well, Paul Rhoads was always very active. He handled Erie and closed a lot of deals from guys in the Cleveland area. Bennett, I haven't heard much about him from kids. The same with Cavanaugh. He has the Youngstown area, his hometown, and Cleveland. Bennett has been recruiting some in Ohio, Dayton and Cincinnati. David Walker has Erie now and above I-80 into New York.

pacoach: I see that Phil Peckich from Montour performed very well at the Combine in San Antonio. Any word if Pitt will go after this kid. Also wondering if you have heard anything about George Beerhalters performance down there?

Guru: Peckich did well. He's a compact kid, pretty muscled-up, but he's a good athlete. And he has some interest in Pitt. Beerhalters, I didn't see him. There were some 600 kids there, so I couldn't see them all.

warriordan: Do you have any idea why Pitt is not hitting Pahokee, Fla. hard when 4 solid players are related to Ricky Gary and ex-Pitt star Ricky Jackson?

Guru: Actually, they've gone after some guys and even had them in town for a few days for camp, but they just didn't pick Pitt.

WeRNotTheirRivals: The 2010 class, IMO, will determine if Pitt is going to be a consistent player for Top 20 recruiting classes, which hopefully leads to consistent BCS Bowl berths. What are your thoughts on the 2010 class?

Guru: Well, 2010 is a much better class than 2009, so the talent Pitt gets should be better as well. Winning this past year will help, too, but like I've said before consistency is what really counts. So, next year, as you said, will be crucial to the direction Pitt goes from here.

w0lfinator: Any locks for the 2010 class? Will Pitt have any REALLY early commits, or do you see any guys that look like they are certain to commit but might wait till June?

Guru: Well, Dieffenbach and Weatherspoon are two who should commit early, and maybe somebody from Florida. I don't know anybody for sure from there, but I'm sure they're in on a few guys down there. And all it takes is a guy like, a Cam Saddler-type guy, who gets the ball rolling and starts recruiting other kids. Dorin Dickerson did that his year. So did Bostick. Maybe that Joe Boisture, the QB from Michigan, will be that guy. Paul Jones, once he decides for sure where he wants to go. Getting him early could get things going as well.

w0lfinator: Qbs for '10. Who is Pitt in on? Chance(%) they end up at Pitt? And a short breakdown of the QBs?

Guru: Boisture is a big kid. I like him a lot. He reminds me a lot of Joe Flacco. Jones, he has a strong arm and good mechanics for a young kid. Obviously, he's a better as a passer than Pryor, but not as mobile. But he can move around well enough. He's more of a pocket passer. Both kids would be excellent additions to any recruiting class, and I think Pitt is high on both players' lists.

w0lfinator: Who is your favorite/top recruit for the 2009 class?

What recruit from this class do you expect to make an immediate impact?

Guru: Fernando Diaz is one tough son of a gun. Pitt found that out at a camp, and they really went after him. He really caught their eye. He wouldn't come right in and play, but if he is solid in the weight room and the classroom as a freshman, maybe he could play his second year.

Tyrone Ezell and Jack Lippert probably are the closest to being physically ready to fit in on the defensive line sooner rather than later in their careers. If they learn the system quickly and maybe work into the two-deep, they have a shot to play real early in their careers. And they'll need to fit in somewhere, just to get their feet wet, because a lot of seniors will be gone after next year.

jells73: Who do you have filling out the last five to six spots this year? Does Pitt have a good chance at Josh Evans from NJ or is he a Gator lock? PSU looks like they are going to get Hull and Jones from the WPIAL. Are those the two top players from the WPIAL next year?

Guru: Dan Mason, Bernardo Nunez, Isaac Holmes, Josh Evans and Malcolm Bush would be a nice way for Pitt to round out its 2009 recruiting class. I do not believe that Evans is a lock to Florida. He really likes Dave and has a visit to Pitt scheduled for Jan. 20.

Mike Hull and Paul Jones definitely are the top two players from the WPIAL next year. Hull already has committed to Penn State, but Jones isn't guaranteed. They already have another quarterback coming in this year.

PotentPotables: It was reported to subscribers here that Pitt had a great chance over the summer with Paul Jones and Andrew Carswell. Is this not true? What happened?

Guru: I believe Pitt still has a great chance with both kids. A lot has changed since the summer, as more schools got involved. Both still like Pitt and would like to go to the same school, but there's a ways to go in the recruiting battle for those two. It hasn't played out all the way just yet.

brownpanther: Please rate our chances 1-10 with the following (10 the highest)

Bernardo Nunez -- 8; Isaac Holmes -- 7; Josh Evans -- 6.5; Corey Brown -- 3; Jordan Hall -- 2 Shane Gordon -- 5; Dan Mason -- 9; Malcolm Bush -- 7.5

brownpanther: Do you think Bryan Bossard is in trouble? He beat out UConn for Fleming, but I can't recall him winning any other battles.

Guru: Yeah, he's had a tough year in recruiting after getting Carl Fleming. He missed out on Duron Harmon, who people believed was a lock to Pitt just because of Bossard, and Abdul Smith. And as far as the WR improvement, you really can't say that it happened this year compared to some other positions.

brownpanther: If Pitt lands Mason do they have chance at another pipleine with Cullen Christian and Brandon Ifill?

Guru: Sure, it will help Pitt to get Mason, but if they don't get him I don't think the other two guys will be affected. Mason will be gone from Penn Hills, and they'll be high on a lot of recruiting lists no matter what. So, I think it will help if they get Mason, but I don't necessarily think it will hamper them if they don't.

brownpanther: With Eric Thatcher graduating, it would seem that Elijah Fields would start at safety opposite Dom DeCicco? I've heard that may not be the case. Do Antwuan Reed or Andrew Taglianetti have a chance to beat him out?

Guru: All the coaches love Taglianetti, especially with the way he plays special teams. So, he'll be in the mix, for sure. Scoot will, too, but I don't know if it'll be any more than he was this season. Reed is a cornerback right now.

brownpanther: Do you know if there are in-home visits with Bernardo Nunez and Isaac Holmes scheduled this week or next to lock those two down?

Guru: Hafley was in New Jersey last week, so they probably had some things set up. You're allowed two, so that could happen if Dave goes back to seal the deal, but probably not right away. I don't think they want to push too hard.

CaptainH: Any greyshirt candidates from the existing pool of commitments?

Guru: Not right now, but maybe if a guy like Matt Plautz was brought in, he could be a candidate. Other than that, I don't know of any. Maybe that Jason Douglas, since they have Cam ready to go this year. They're similar players.

The Sun Bowl came late in the recruiting season. Do you anticipate this having more of a positive impact for 2010 and beyond when he coaching staff has a full year to leverage it and the winning record? What impact do you see of this both on this year and beyond?

Guru: Like I said earlier, consistency is the key here. Sure, this past year's success was great and it will help, but doing it a few years in a row is better.

tbro34: What are Pitt's chances with Cullen Christian? What kind of a battle do you see this shaping up as?

Guru: He's got good size, and he's a physical kid. That is coveted in a CB, but he only started one year at Penn Hills. Some people might want to see more senior tape, but I think his best football is ahead of him.

The ConjuntoPanther: Who are the top 3 OL from PA in the 2010 class? Any leans toward Pitt?

Guru: Miles Dieffenbach, Seth Betancourt from St. Joseph's Prep in Philly and maybe Luke Graham. Dieffenbach certainly is a Pitt lean.

cabe23: Do you think it is now more likely a QB with game experience like Stull or Bostick will play over Sunseri since Shady is gone? I feel as if the offense will need to get more innovative with McCoy gone, but I don't know if either of those two are capable of running much more than a 3 yards and cloud of dust offense. What are your thoughts on Pitt's offense next year?

Dale: I don't believe it will have any bearing on the QB decision. The best guy will play if it's either Bostick or Sunseri and not Stull. They'll actually have to beat him out, but it could happen. I don't think the staff will put up with inconsistent quarterback play for a third straight season.

Where Pitt could rely on LeSean McCoy a lot this past season, the Panthers likely will need to spread the ball around a lot more to the wideouts, tight ends and different running backs -- maybe even a fullback. And I don't think that can't be a bad thing for Pitt.

cabe23: Could you rate the QB prospects for next year in terms of how good they are and what the chances of Pitt landing them? I am thinking of the two Smiths from PA, Paul Jones, and Joe Boisture from Michigan.

Guru: I saw Kyle Smith at Pitt's camp. He is really a finesse guy who did not exhibit a lot of arm strength at all. Paul Jones is by far the best QB in the state next year. I would go as far to say on pure potential, I would take Rasheem Jones at Aliquippa over Kyle right now. Boisture is a big kid with a lot of ability, and he has a big upside.

You have to have arm strength at the D-I level it is what seperates a lot of kids. Look at Shane Murray. He was a good high school QB, but he just did not have any arm strength. The only way you can get away with marginal arm strength is if you're bringing a lot of intangibles to the table. Tyler Palko didn't have a huge arm, but he was a winner. He could scramble, and he was a tireless worker.

pacoach: Other Than Shady what other Pitt players will be drafted, and if you see them being drafted any idea of what round?

Dale: Scott McKillop, C.J. Davis and Conredge Collins should join Shady as NFL draft picks this year. McKillop had two terrific seasons and could be as high as a second-round pick or into the fourth round. Davis has gotten some accolades, and will be a late-round pick at best (5th or more). Collins has been rated by some as the No. 1 true fullback, but he would need to have a strong showing at the NFL Combine to be taken earlier than in the third round. Shady, 2nd round. Rashaad Duncan, Derek Kinder, Mark Estermyer, Dave Brytus, Conor Lee and LaRod Stephens-Howling could all make it as undrafted free agents. Special teams abilities for Kinder and LaRod should help. Estermyer is rated highly as a long-snapper, but those guys start as free agents.

MarquetteForever: I am under the impression that Pitt will go as far as its defense will take it. As long as it is good or better they will follow suit. Given that and Pitt is losing six position players, who could step in as replacements?

Dale: Gus Mustakas and Myles Caragein will battle for Duncan's DT spot. Elijah Fields and Andrew Taglianetti will do the same for Eric Thatcher's safety position. Agreed that MLB will be the toughest to replace. Brandon Lindsey and Steve Dell are the front-runners, but Max Gruder could return to the mix. Shane Murray is back as a starting OLB after sitting out due to a knee injury. Redshirt freshman Kevin Harper and Dan Hutchins are the PK candidates. Hutchins, and fellow walk-ons Pat Costello and Aaron Hassett as the top punters.

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