UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State and Pitt haven't played each other in football since the 2000 season, but there's still an intense rivalry between the schools when it comes to recruiting.
Two players who originally had given verbal commitments to Pitt -- wide receiver Bill Belton and linebacker Ben Kline -- decided to join the Nittany Lions after the Panthers fired coach Dave Wannstedt Dec. 7.
Kline gave his verbal commitment to Penn State Dec. 8 and Belton Jan. 17. They are among 15 players in the Lions' Class of 2011 who are expected to sign binding letters of intent today.
"I planned on going to Pitt, but once their whole staff got fired, I decided to go another route and started looking around," said Belton, a Scout.com four-star recruit from Winslow Township High School in New Jersey. "In the end, I thought Penn State was the school that was best for me."
Belton, 5 feet 10 and 185 pounds, is ranked the 11th-best receiver in the country.
He chose Penn State over West Virginia and Cincinnati after receiving an in-home visit from Mike McQueary, the Lions' recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach.
"Coach McQueary was the guy that convinced me to come to Penn State and helped lead me there," Belton said. "He came in and was honest with me and didn't promise me anything.
"He told me I had to come in and work hard and that's what I liked. I would rather know the truth than be lied to."
Belton said McQueary told him Penn State planned to use him as a slot receiver and as a nickel back.
He was a three-year starter at free safety in high school. He started at receiver as a sophomore and played quarterback the past two seasons.
Belton was the first player in New Jersey high school history to pass for 2,000 yards and run for 1,000 in back-to-back seasons. Over the past two seasons, he has thrown for 4,472 yards and 36 touchdowns. He has also rushed for 2,195 yards and 28 touchdowns.
"When Belton committed to Pitt, I felt he was the top prospect on any team in the Big East Conference," said recruiting analyst Bob Lichtenfels of Scout.com/FoxSports.com. "Obviously, coming to the Big Ten Conference, the landscape changes somewhat because there are higher-rated players at that position at schools like Ohio State.
"Belton's going to be raw since he hasn't played receiver in two years. He's going to have to learn how to be a wide receiver again. But I definitely think he could be one of the best playmakers in the Northeast."
Belton has yet to make his official visit to Penn State, but hopes to do that in the next month.
His high school coach, Mike McBride, has sent four players to the NFL -- Donovin Darius, Jamaal Green, Turk McBride and Rashad Baker -- and ranks Belton right up there with all of them.
"I think I can come in and play as a freshman as long as I come in, work hard and learn the system," Belton said. "The things I can bring to the field are elusiveness, vision, the will to win, and the will to get that extra yard."
Kline, 6-3, 225, is rated a Scout.com three-star recruit from Dallastown (Pa.) Area High School. He is the 24th-best outside linebacker prospect in the country.
He registered 157 tackles this past season as Dallastown went 11-1. He led the Wildcats with 35 receptions for 510 yards and ran for 338 yards while accounting for 13 touchdowns.
Kline chose Penn State over schools such as Michigan, Rutgers, Connecticut and West Virginia.
"Kline just barely missed out on being a four-star recruit," Lichtenfels said. "He's a hard-working kid who is very versatile. There's no doubt Penn State got two really good kids from Pitt in Kline and Belton."
"Coach McQueary was the guy that convinced me to come to Penn State and helped lead me there. He came in and was honest with me and didn't promise me anything."
Ron Musselman: firstname.lastname@example.org .