The guy Pittsburgh fans, as well as the Panthers' coaches, are most anxious to see on the field is T.J. Clemmings. The 6-foot-6, 260-pound defensive end is considered to be a blue-chip recruit by any standard, and he should make an immediate impact even though Pitt has two-year starters Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard returning for their senior seasons.
Saheed Imoru, a junior-college transfer, enrolled in January, 2010. And he should immediately battle for one of two starting cornerback spots now that seniors Aaron Berry and Jovani Chappel are gone. Fifth-year senior Ricky Gary, junior Antwuan Reed and Imoru are the top cornerbacks right now. So, Imoru will compete against Gary and Reed for the starting spots.
Todd Thomas, originally a 2009 recruit, also could be a factor. He has not yet been cleared academically and won't enroll until the summer even if the NCAA Clearinghouse makes him eligible. Thomas will play if he's available, and he should, because he's an amazing athlete. But Imoru and Clemmings appear to be the only ones all but certain to play this year. The others could be redshirted unless they can make an impact on special teams.
Dion Lewis, who enrolled early, Ray Graham and Dan Mason were the only 2009 recruits to play as freshmen this past season. Safety Andrew Taglianetti, wideout Jonathan Baldwin, safety Ronald Hobby and offensive tackle Lucas Nix, along with JC kids Robb Houser and Greg Cross, were 2008 class members to play as freshmen.
Tailback LeSean McCoy, defensive end Jabaal Sheard, wideout Mo Williams, safety Dom DeCicco, quarterback Pat Bostick and JC defensive tackle Tommie Duhart all played in 2007. And in 2006, along with JC O-lineman Jeff Otah and DB Lowell Robinson, safety Elijah Fields, cornerbacks Berry and Chappel, wideout T.J. Porter, tight end Nate Byham, offensive lineman Joe Thomas, along with former wideout Dorin Dickerson and former D-tackles Jason Pinkston and John Malecki all played their initial seasons at Pitt.
As the Panthers continue to build quality depth for sixth-year head coach Dave Wannstedt, less and less first-year freshmen need to play. That doesn't mean they won't get a chance, and Wannstedt won't keep a player off the field if he can help Pitt immediately, but with the way the Panthers have been recruiting they don't have to play kids just to fill out the depth chart.
So, other than Imoru, Clemmings and Thomas -- if he eventually qualifies -- Pitt could have 21 recruits take first-year redshirts. He's a look at how those recruits might fit into the Panthers' future plans:
While Burns has played running back and linebacker successfully at Wilmington, he appears to be headed for the defensive side of the ball at Pitt. He could start out as a safety, but most likely will end up as a linebacker in a couple years. The brother of Panthers' redshirt sophomore tailback Chris Burns, Derrick was the first player to commit to Pitt for the 2010 class.
Carozzoni is an athletic tight end who caught a lot of passes for St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Ohio, and he has the size and ability to develop into a solid blocker as well. He teamed with quarterback Mark Myers to form a big-play combination in the St. Ignatius passing attack.
Some believe Carswell has the frame to grow into being a tight end, but it seems like his athleticism could make him a great option as an H-back, kind of like Dorin Dickerson was last season. Carswell could get bigger, but right now he could fill that role.
Doakes has a huge up-side, but he is a bit of a project. He dominated at his level, but that won't be the case at Pitt. That's all right, though, because he'll have a couple seasons to hone his skills under the tutelage of offensive line coach Tony Wise and strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris.
Donald certainly should be an impact player from the middle of Pitt's D-line someday, but not this year. He played at a high level in high school against top competition, and that should pay off in the future for him and for Pitt.
Givens has said that he won't shy away from competition, and that's a good thing because he'll get all the competition he wants with Dion Lewis, Ray Graham and Chris Burns already ahead of him. Givens was the top back in Ohio, and he has a lot to offer. But his style is similar to Graham, so it will be tough to crack the top two in the next couple years.
Some believe that Gonzalez might end up somewhere other than quarterback at Pitt, but he'll start out there and get a chance to compete at some point. But it's highly unlikely this year. Gonzo might be a safety in waiting, like Kolby Gray this year, but his size and athleticism make him an intriguing prospect no matter where he plays for the Panthers.
Unless he can help on special teams, and there's a chance he could, Ifill will be redshirted with the majority of his class. When he is ready to play, Ifill should be an excellent player whether he is at safety or cornerback. It appears that Ifill will be a safety first, but he should be able to fill either role.
Along with the other O-linemen recruited this year, Johnson should shine after a couple years with Wise and Morris training him. Despite his size, Johnson moves well and should be an effective interior linemen.
Jeff Knox Jr.
Like Ifill, Knox will be a big safety for the Panthers in the future. He also could get a shot this season if he can make a mark on special teams, but if he redshirts he certainly should be in the mix for next season.
Smith should join Donald as a top defensive tackle at Pitt in the future, but not this season. He'll certainly take a redshirt to improve his strength and conditioning.
The No. 2-ranked player in New Jersey, Murphy could be the surprise of this class. Well, not necessarily a surprise, because he was highly rated. However, few believed he could come in and get immediate playing time. It probably won't happen, but he'll certainly push those ahead of him this summer.
Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said it was unlikely that Myers would make an impact this season, but he should in the near future. If Pat Bostick wins the starting job the next two season, Myers will have three years to battle for the top spot at quarterback.
Peeler is a bruising back that certainly gives Pitt another option in the future, but he certainly will redshirt after going through knee surgery last month. When he hits the field, Peeler will give the Panthers a bigger power runner than they have now. There was talk that Peeler would take a grayshirt, but the Panthers are leaning toward having him on campus so he can take classes and train with their staff.
Rotheram is really raw and will need at least a couple years with Wise and Morris to be ready to play, but he has tremendous size and upside. Three Pitt offensive line recruits were 300-pounders, and that was a change for the Panthers this year.
Sacco is an interior O-linemen who could be Pitt's center for the future. The Panthers will need to solidify that position this spring, but they likely recruited one with Sacco. He's a tough, intelligent athlete who could be needed after a redshirt season.
Schneider has the size and intelligence to be the blocking tight end that Pitt needs now that Nate Byham is gone. Schneider isn't as accomplished a pass-catcher as Carozzoni, but he already is a devastating blocker.
Some believe the sure-handed Weatherspoon is not fast enough or big enough to be a good college wideout, but the Pitt staff has not talked about him moving to the secondary. So, Weatherspoon will start out at receiver and see what he can do after a redshirt year.
Despite playing safety in high school and not really wanting to move, Williams already is listed as a linebacker for Pitt at 6-3, 215 pounds. After a redshirt season where he should pack on some muscle, Williams could be a multiple-year starter for the Panthers. he is a big hitter and a sure tackler.
Williams isn't big, but he can run and is a solid cover corner. He's another guy who could help the Panthers quickly after a redshirt season. He'll be solid on special teams and be an extra DB when necessary.
A big receiver, Williams will be part of an extremely competitive group with the Panthers after a redshirt year. Pitt has some talent now with prospective starters Jonathan Baldwin and Michael Shanahan, but Baldwin could leave after this season and there will be a large contingent battling for his spot immediately afterward. Williams will be in the mix there.
Here is Pitt's complete 2010 recruiting class.
Recruits Should Add Depth
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