Signing Day Player Analysis

The Pitt football team has 20 signed letters of intent for this class, and while there are no five-star athletes according to the rankings there are five four-star players and 12 with three stars to make this an above average recruiting class before it even joins the Panthers on the full-time basis.

Once that happens, the sky's the limit for this group, which is as athletic as any -- even though it isn't rated as highly -- in the previous years for Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt.

The four-star players are middle linebacker Dan Mason, wideout Todd Thomas, tight end Brock DeCicco, tailback Raymond Graham and defensive end Tyrone Ezell. Interestingly enough, neither could play this fall due to depth at their respective positions, but there's a long time before the season begins.

Mason isn't a prototypical middle linebacker, but he doesn't miss many tackles. And that's a priority for the the Panthers, whose defense is designed for that position to be in position to make the most plays. Mason is among a few who could make an immediate impact at Pitt, especially if he gets a little bigger.

Thomas is a little bit raw as a receiver, so he will need to hone his skills after playing a couple different positions in high school. He also has academic issues that must be worked out before coming to Pitt.

DeCicco has a lot of talent and size to be a successful tight end, but he needs to add some muscle to his frame before he makes an impact. Also, Pitt has three seniors tight ends this year to limit his playing time as a freshman at least and force him to redshirt at most. Eventually, he'll be a star for Pitt.

Graham also has a bright future, but size and academic issues could delay his start with the Panthers. Several players will be vying for LeSean McCoy's lost yardage this fall, but Graham isn't likely to be in the mix until next season.

Ezell is physically imposing and should be a fixture on Pitt's line sometime in the future, offense or defense, but not this fall. The defensive line, in particular, is a little too deep for him to crack the lineup, but he could be at least a three-year starter in the future on either side.

The three-star recruits are offensive tackle Ryan Schlieper, middle linebacker Shane Gordon, defensive end Bernardo Nunez, quarterback Kolby Gray, wideout Ed Tinker, safety Carl Fleming, RB-DB Kevin Adams, wideout Devin Street, defensive end Jack Lippert, offensive lineman Juantez Hollins, running back Dion Lewis and offensive tackle Cory King.

Schlieper has the size to develop into an excellent offensive linemen under Tony Wise's tutelage. He played for a Quad-A school against good competition and could be a candidate for early playing time after a redshirt year.

Gordon runs well and like Mason just makes plays. The two should be fixtures in Pitt's linebacking corps early on and remain there for several years.

Nunez is tough and talented, and after a year with Buddy Morris he'll be ready to replace the Panthers' current book-ends Jabaal Sheard and Greg Romeus.

Gray has decent size, athleticism and arm strength. He could be the dual-threat quarterback that Pitt -- and every other major college team -- desires. An excellent find, he certainly will push the older players in front of him this fall.

Tinker is an older player after spending a year at a prep school, and he also could make an immediate impact on Pitt's receiving corps. He doesn't have burning speed, but he is a tough kid with terrific hands.

Fleming has good size and athleticism. He should be a good safety for the Panthers in a couple years. There also were some academic issues reported that need to be worked out, but he'll be a good DB for Pitt.

Adams most likely will play in the secondary for the Panthers, but nothing has been decided yet. He wants to be a running back and has decent size and speed to play in either backfield. He also could grow into a linebacker at some point.

Street has the size and speed to be a talented receiver in college, but his school didn't throw the ball much. So, he'll need some time to develop his skills.

Lippert appears to be the type of player who just looks like they should play for Pitt. He's strong and tough and loves to hit. He'll be a solid contributor for the Panthers in the coming years, but likely will redshirt this fall.

Hollins was dominant for Class AA Aliquippa, and with his size and athletic ability he could be the same type of offensive lineman for Pitt after a couple years with Tony Wise. He is very raw, but has all the tools.

Lewis also has enrolled at Pitt and will battle for playing time at tailback with Chris Burns, Shariff Harris and Kevin Collier this spring.

King is huge, but will need a lot of work with Buddy Morris to be ready for a spot on Pitt's offensive line. He has a big upside. No pun intended.

Cornerback Jason Hendricks, running back Jason Douglas and offensive guard Fernando Diaz are the three two-star recruits. Defensive end Will Clarke, who committed to Pitt but hasn't signed, also is a two-star player.

Hendricks has good size and speed, and after a year he could make an impact on Pitt's secondary. He might play special teams this fall, though.

Douglas has blazing speed, but is similar to redshirt freshman Cameron Saddler and will vie for playing time with him as a slot-back and return specialist. Both can run the ball and catch passes and are dangerous running back kicks.

Diaz reportedly has tremendous strength and is fairly quick for his size. After a couple years with Buddy Morris and Tony Wise, he should be ready to throw some people around for the Panthers on the offensive line.

Here is a complete list of the players who have signed letters of intent for Pitt, their national rank and star status:

OT 70 *** Ryan Schlieper, North Allegheny HS, Pittsburgh, Pa. 6-6, 278

MLB 38 *** Shane Gordon, Cypress Bay HS, Weston, Fla. 6-0, 220

MLB 8 **** Dan Mason, Penn Hills HS, Pittsburgh, Pa. 6-0, 218

DE 44 *** Bernardo Nunez, Hoboken HS, Hoboken, N.J. 6-3, 235

CB 148 ** Jason Hendricks, Hudson Cath. Reg. HS, Jersey City, N.J. 5-10, 180

QB 43 *** Kolby Gray, Cypress Falls HS, Houston, Texas 6-2, 192

WR PG *** Ed Tinker, N.C. Tech Prep, Charlotte, N.C. 6-3, 215

RB 224 ** Jason Douglas, Cypress Bay HS, Weston, Fla. 5-7, 155

WR 31 **** Todd Thomas, Beaver Falls Area HS, Beaver Falls, Pa. 6-2, 202

TE 7 **** Brock DeCicco, Thomas Jefferson HS, Jefferson Hills, Pa. 6-5, 227

RB 34 **** Raymond Graham, Elizabeth HS, Elizabeth, N.J. 5-10, 175

DE 21 **** Tyrone Ezell, Steel Valley HS, Munhall, PA 6-4, 248

S 74 *** Carl Fleming, Franklin HS, Reisterstown, Md. 6-1, 200

RB 92 *** Kevin Adams, St. Joseph Regional HS Montvale, N.J. 6-0, 208

OG 76 ** Fernando Diaz, Cardinal Hayes HS, Bronx, N.Y. 6-2, 270

WR 110 *** Devin Street, Liberty HS, Bethlehem, Pa. 6-3.5, 180

DE 48 *** Jack Lippert, Central Dauphin HS, Harrisburg, Pa. 6-4, 245

DT 38 *** Juantez Hollins, Aliquippa HS, Aliquippa, Pa. 6-4, 265

RB 70 *** Dion Lewis, Blair Academy, Blairstown, N.J. 5-7.5, 180

OT 38 *** Cory King, Lakeview HS, Stoneboro, Pa. 6-5, 300

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