Pittsburgh had the top Class for 2010 in the Big East and a top-20 ranking nationally, according to most outlets, as 24 players signed letters-of-intent and faced them to the school Wednesday. It was the first day that players could do that.
"We had some great exposure here the last couple years,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "I think we were on national TV nearly every other week, and we've had a chance to bring kids to football games that were sold out. And that's something we weren't able to do earlier.
"(And) that can influence a young kid. So, we're selling out games, getting national exposure, and our kids are graduating. (And) we're putting guys in the NFL. ... So, there's enough strong foundational things happening that coaches, parents and players can look at positively, and they want to be part of it.''
Wannstedt would not admit that this is his best recruiting class going into his sixth season coaching his alma mater, but there is a distinction. The Panthers had done well in New Jersey before, but had not returned strongly there until recently. With lead recruiter Jeff Hafley, Pitt's secondary coach, the Panthers have secured nine recruits from the Garden State the past two years and four this season.
That group includes the state's top two players, defensive ends T.J. Clemmings and Bryan Murphy. Clemmings is rated among the top 10 players at his position nationally, and Pitt beat out schools like Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State for him. While some believe it's a no-brainer that he should play this year, Pitt defensive line coach Greg Gattuso hedged.
"We'll see how it plays out,'' Gattuso said. "He and Murphy will be in the mix with Shayne Hale and Brandon Lindsey for those backup spots to Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard. And if Clemmings doesn't play, it won't be because he's not physically ready. It's all how a freshman handles practice, working out and off-field stuff. It's more mental than physical at this point.
Murphy and center Brandon Sacco were from Don Bosco Prep, the No. 1 team in the nation by USA Today. Maryland-D.C.-area power Dematha Catholic sent offensive guard Shane Johnson and safety Jeff Knox to the Panthers, while powerhouse St. Ignatius in Cleveland, Ohio provided quarterback Mark Myers and tight end Brendan Carozzoni.
Speaking of Ohio, signed five players from the Buckeye State, but the core of the class is from Pennsylvania. There were 11 recruits from Pitt's home state.
Pitt's 2010 class also includes eight players who were named to the 2009 Pennsylvania Sports Writers All-State Team, including two-time first-team honorees in defensive lineman Aaron Donald (Penn Hills), quarterback Anthony Gonzalez (Liberty) and receiver Kevin Weatherspoon (Clairton) and nine players who have won at least one state title during their scholastic careers.
Todd Thomas, actually a 2009 recruit, is listed as either a wideout or safety. He initially was recruited for offense, but played defense at Milford Academy prep school and could do either. He is not yet eligible, but the Panthers believed he will be available by May to enroll then.
One recruit, cornerback Saheed Imoru, enrolled in January and will participate in spring drills. Imoru was a standout player for Navarro Junior College in Texas.
Also, fifth-year senior Elijah Fields will be worked out at weak-side linebacker this spring. He has been a safety the past couple years at Pitt.
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