Pitt Football Starters Are Homegrown

With 18 out of 24 starters from Pennsylvania and 10 from the WPIAL, the Pitt football team really is home grown this year.

This is a marked difference from 2008 when 12 of the 24 total starters were from Pennsylvania and seven were from Pittsburgh-area schools. In 2008, five starters were from Florida with some two dozen on the Pitt roster from the Sunshine State.

"We wanted to do a better job in our home state and especially in the WPIAL,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt, also a former Western Pa. product from Baldwin, Pa., said. "And we've certainly done that.

"In the past couple years, we wanted to improve our standing in Ohio and Maryland, as well as maintain what we've done recently in New Jersey.''

For now, though, the Keystone State rules with the Panthers. Quarterback Tino Sunseri, Central Catholic High School, Pittsburgh; wideout Jon Baldwin, Aliquippa, Pa. HS; wideout Mike Shanahan, Norwin HS, North Huntingdon, Pa.; offensive tackle Jason Pinkston, Baldwin HS, Pittsburgh; offensive tackle Lucas Nix, Thomas Jefferson HS, Jefferson Hills, Pa.; offensive guard Chris Jacobson, Keystone Oaks HS, Pittsburgh; William Penn HS, York, Pa.; center Alex Karabin, Greensburg, Pa. Central Catholic HS; fullback Henry Hynoski, Southern Columbia HS, Elysburg, Pa.; and place-kicker Dan Hutchins, Loyalsock Township HS, Williamsport, Pa. are Pitt's offensive players from Pennsylvania.

The only offensive player for the Panthers who basically is not local is tailback Dion Lewis from Albany, N.Y.

Defensively, along with punter Hutchins, Pitt's Pennsylvania players expected to be starters include defensive tackle Myles Caragein, Keystone Oaks HS, Pittsburgh; defensive tackle Chas Alecxih, Penn Manor HS, Lancaster, Pa.; middle linebacker Dan Mason, Penn Hills HS, Pittsburgh; cornerback Antwuan Reed, Johnstown, Pa. HS; safety Dom DeCicco, Thomas Jefferson HS, Jefferson Hills, Pa.; and safety Jarred Holley, Easton, Pa. HS.

Defensive ends Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard and outside linebacker Greg Williams are all from Florida. Cornerback Saheed Imoru is from Texas, and Max Gruder is from North Carolina.

In 1976, the last time the program won a national title, the Panthers were loaded with local players and other Pennsylvania products as well. Pitt had 15 of 24 starters from the Keystone State and seven from the school's back yard.

"We recruited nationally, but we certainly were mindful of the local talent,'' former Pitt coach Johnny Majors said. "And we tried to get as many of those players that we can. But we also got a lot of players from surrounding states and Florida. And, don't forget, we could bring in a lot of walk-ons. And a lot of those players primarily were local.''

Heisman Trophy-winning tailback Tony Dorsett, from Hopewell, Pa. High School, led the way among Panthers starters from the WPIAL. There also was his scholastic teammate, defensive end Ed Wilamowski, offensive tackle Joe Stone from Kiski Area, offensive guard Tom Brzoza from New Castle, wideout Gordon Jones from East Allegheny, free safety Bob Jury from South Park and strong safety Jeff Delaney from Upper St. Clair.

Other Pennsylvania players among Pitt's starters in 1976 included offensive tackle George Messich from Greensboro, Pa.; offensive guard Matt Carroll from Norwood, Pa.; tight end Jim Corbett from Erie, Pa.; place-kicker Carson Long from Ashland, Pa.; defensive tackle Randy Holloway from Sharon, Pa.; linebacker Jim Cramer from Jefferson, Pa.; punter Larry Swider from Rockton, Pa. and wideout Willie Taylor from the Philadelphia area.

Remaining starters were quarterback Matt Cavanaugh from Youngstown, Ohio; fullback Robert Hutton from New Jersey, part-time starter Elliot Walker from Florida, center John Pelusi from Youngstown, defensive tackle Don Parrish from Florida, nose guard Al Romano from Syracuse, N.Y.; defensive end Cecil Johnson from Florida, linebacker Arnie Weatherington from Florida, cornerback Leroy Felder from Baltimore, Md.; and cornerback J.C. Wilson, a transfer from Tampa University, originally from Cleveland.

Another successful time for Pitt was from 1979-81 when the Panthers recorded an 11-1 record three straight seasons.

Here is a list with 25 key players from those Pitt teams, and about half were from Pennsylvania with the majority of those from the WPIAL:

Quarterback Dan Marino, Central Catholic High School; offensive tackle Jim Covert, Freedom Area HS, Conway, Pa.; center Russ Grimm from Scottdale, Pal; cornerback Tim Lewis, Philadelphia area; wideout Julius Dawkins, Monessan, Pa. HS; offensive tackle Bill Fralic, Penn Hills HS; offensive guard Ron Sams, Bridgeville, Pa.; linebacker Sal Sunseri, Central Catholic HS; defensive tackle Greg Meisner, Valley HS; tight end Benji Pryor, Valley HS; defensive tackle Jerry Boyarsky, Scott, Pa.; linebacker Chris Doleman, York, Pa.; defensive tackle Bill Neill, Perkiomen Valley HS; center Emil Boures, Philadelphia area; and cornerback Rich Kraynak, Bethlehem, Pa. are the Keystone State players.

Some other key players from 1979-81 included tailback Brian Thomas from Ohio, defensive tackle Dave Puzzuoli from Connecticut, offensive guard Rob Fada from Ohio, offensive tackle Mark May from New York, linebacker Hugh Green from Mississippi, linebacker Rickey Jackson from Florida, fullback Randy McMillan from the Washington, D.C. area, cornerback Carlton Williamson from Atlanta, Ga.; defensive back Lynn Thomas from Mississippi and quarterback Rick Trocano from the Cleveland, Ohio area.

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