Pitt stacking football recruits in June

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Heading into the month of June, you could almost understand Pitt fans growing concerned about the Panthers’ 2015 recruiting efforts.

But only almost, because that fear would’ve been based in a lack of knowledge of the team’s recruiting trends the past two seasons.

So far this month, Pitt has received seven verbal commitments to boost its 2015 total to 10 with six days to go.

In the 2013 and 2014 classes — coach Paul Chryst’s first two full recruiting cycles — the Panthers had a total of 18 pledges in June.

Part of the reason is that this is the month Pitt has high school players at its prospect camps. That allows the staff to see players in person and decide if they want to offer a scholarship.

As an example, Quaker Valley athlete Dane Jackson became the latest Pitt commit after he participated in prospect camp. He received an offer Sunday and committed Tuesday after a campus tour.

“Coach Chryst, he was excited,” Jackson said. “He smiled real big and he got up and gave me a hug.”

Jackson wasn’t the only commitment Pitt landed Tuesday. Pickerington, Ohio, defensive tackle Davon Hamilton pledged to the Panthers just a few hours later.

With other schools also having prospect camps in June, the month also becomes a kind of national sorting-out period for players who will or won’t get committable offers from various schools.

“At this point in the year, a lot of recruits that Pitt has been targeting lately are in the midst of figuring out whether or not they’re going to get the offers they were looking for or whether or not the offers they have are committable,” said Adam Friedman, Mid-Atlantic recruiting analyst for Rivals.com.

In the past week alone, the Panthers added four new players to their 2015 class. Kettering, Ohio, defensive tackle Kraig Howe committed June 17, Melbourne, Fla., running back Sekai Lindsay gave his pledge Saturday, and Jackson and Hamilton capped things off Tuesday.

The current group might not boast a ton of star power from the recruiting services (all 10 players committed are rated at three stars or lower by Rivals), but Friedman was bullish about the players Chryst and company are landing.

“The talent level they’re getting is pretty good at the positions that they’ve really targeted,” Friedman said.

Specifically, he pointed to Wilmington, Del., receiver Quadree Henderson (another June commit) and Altoona linebacker Kevin Givens (committed in February) as players who could see their stock rise in the coming months.

In his first few years, Chryst emphasized offensive line recruiting, landing elite local prospects Dorian Johnson, Alex Bookser and Mike Grimm. This year, one goal is to get some of the skill position players to round out the group.

“Save for the Alabamas and the Florida States, crazy defenses like that, Quadree Henderson and Tyler Boyd and Adonis Jennings are going to be able to find some room to get open, as long as there’s good protection for the quarterback,” Friedman said.

With just 11 scholarship players set to graduate this year, Pitt will likely take 15-16 players in the 2015 class. That means space is filling up fast.

Friedman said the top target for Pitt is Central Valley cornerback Jordan Whitehead. Whitehead is rated as a four-star prospect by Rivals and the biggest competition for his services will likely be Penn State, West Virginia and Ohio State.

“He’s an impressive-looking high school defensive back,” Friedman said. “He’s got the speed, he’s got the hips, he’s got really good footwork. He’s priority No. 1. Regardless of whether they’ve got 16 already committed in this class, they’re still going to take Jordan Whitehead and they’ll find room for him because he’s not a guy you can afford to turn down.”


Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG.

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