Pitt doesn't have a game Saturday, but this could end up being one of the program's most important weekends of the season.
The Panthers will have three elite WPIAL prospects on official visits this weekend. Clairton running back Tyler Boyd, Belle Vernon offensive lineman Dorian Johnson and Central Valley wide receiver Robert Foster will be spending the weekend with Pitt coaches and players.
"The three headliners here are not only three of the top-rated kids in Pennsylvania, but they're all Western Pennsylvania kids and they're all 'must-gets' for Pitt in this class," said Mike Farrell, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com
Johnson and Foster have had their visits this weekend set up for a few weeks, but Boyd was a late addition after a visit to Wisconsin fell through.
Johnson's senior season at Belle Vernon came to an end two weeks ago when, coincidentally, Foster's Central Valley squad knocked the Leopards out of the WPIAL playoffs in the first round. Johnson is rated as a four-star offensive tackle on Rivals.com, and the 19th-best tackle in the country.
He said Pitt is a slight leader over Ohio State, but he doesn't plan to make a verbal commitment anytime soon.
"[This weekend,] I'm just looking forward to spending time with some of the coaches and players, getting a good feel of everything," Johnson said.
Foster's Central Valley squad has a WPIAL semifinal game tonight against West Mifflin before he heads to Pitt for his visit. So far this season, he has 43 catches for 736 yards and has scored 20 touchdowns. Foster also is a Rivals.com four-star prospect.
His final two college choices are Pitt and Alabama, and he visited Tuscaloosa in late October.
Farrell said he thought Foster was the closest of the three to making a decision.
"I think they're going to see if they can get him to be the leader of this trio," Farrell said. "If they can get him on board, I think it would really help them with the other two."
Boyd only finalized his visit this week after his plans to visit Wisconsin fell through. He leads the WPIAL in scoring with 38 touchdowns, and has rushed for 1,850 yards this season. He is being recruited primarily as a wide receiver, though.
Boyd is also strongly considering West Virginia, and Farrell said he got the sense that the Mountaineers might have a slight edge. If the Panthers can impress Boyd this weekend, though, he would be a home run addition to the 2013 recruiting class.
"That kid is a dynamic athlete who can make plays in any situation -- bubble screen, slant, wide receiver screen, reverse, inside handoff, special teams," Farrell said. "I think he's a really gamebreaker and I think he's the type of guy that his skill set fits more moving to the ACC."
The fact that all three are visiting the same weekend also gives them a chance to improve their bond as potential future teammates. Johnson said he talks to the other two fairly regularly, but that each one would make his own decision on his own timeline.
Securing verbal commitments from any or all of the trio would also be a significant step forward in Pitt coach Paul Chryst's stated goal of keeping elite WPIAL talent in Western Pennsylvania.
"Most of these kids want to stay home," Farrell said. "There's a certain mentality about Western Pennsylvania kids, at least some of them, that, all things being equal, they'd prefer to play in front of family and friends and represent the western part of the state."
One of the current headline verbal commitments for Pitt's 2013 class, Kent, Ohio, quarterback Tra'von Chapman, also was scheduled to visit this weekend, but said Thursday that it was up in the air whether or not he'd make it. He wants to visit with both his mother and father, and that might not be possible this weekend.
Sam Werner: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @SWernerPG. First Published November 16, 2012 5:00 AM