Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Team Recruiting Countdown: No. 23 Pittsburgh Panthers

No. 23 Pittsburgh Panthers (Big East No. 1)

2008 Haul: 19 signees, 3 Athlon Consensus 100

Scouting Report:

With one of the worst offenses in the Big East in 2007, skill position players that can make big plays and stretch the field were a definite area of concern. Pitt certainly addressed this need. Jonathan Baldwin (Aliquippa, Pa.) is a special talent that could play tight end or wide receiver. An athletic 6-6 outside threat is tough to find; he starts from day one. Jarred Holley (Easton, Pa.), Cameron Sadler (Monroeville, Pa.) and Mike Shanahan (North Huntington, Pa.) will all add playmaking ability to the offense. Sadler is a tiny prospect but can take it the distance on any play. He will be an impact player in the return game as well.

Dave Wannstedt is losing two bookend tackles in Jeff Otah and Mike McGlynn along the offensive line and Lucas Nix (Jefferson Hills, Pa.) will fill that void right away. Nix has the potential to play on both defense or offense. With his athletic ability, size and solid feet, offensive tackle will be his destination.

Is Pat Bostick the future of Panther football at the quarterback position? He may be, but just in case he isn’t, the former NFL Coach of the Year landed a nice pair of signal callers. Greg Cross (Brunswick, Ga. by way of Fort Scott, Kan.) and Tino Sunseri (Pittsburgh, Pa.) will push Bostick for the reigns of the newly revamped Panther offense. Cross has more play-calling experience and can make plays with his legs.

The next big star in the Pitt defensive front will be Shayne Hale (Monroeville, Pa.). He played linebacker in high school but could be a terror off the edge as a defensive end. His closing speed is astonishing.

All in all, the Pitt staff once again has done a great job recruiting, especially in the fertile grounds of the Keystone State. Fourteen of the 19 signees call Pennsylvania home. Now, Pitt fans need to see all this talent translated into wins.

Top Prospect: Jonathan Baldwin – TE/WR – Aliquippa, Pa. (6-6, 220)

There has been some debate about where Baldwin (AC100 No. 16) will end up in college. Some scouts say he will be a wide receiver. If The ’Stache decides to move him outside, he will be sacrificing one of the major aspects of Baldwin’s game: inline blocking. He is an outstanding blocker. When dealing with pass-catching tight ends in this class, he is easily the best blocker of the bunch.

Baldwin’s athleticism is what makes scouts think wide receiver, though. He has great size and vertical leaping ability. He will go up and make the circus catch — which was evident in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, when he leaped over a defender to snag a long touchdown bomb. He has great straight-line speed for a player of his size.

Baldwin will be a dynamic red zone threat no matter what position he ends up at.

Best of the Rest:

Shayne Hale – LB/DE – Monroeville, Pa. (6-4, 240) — AC100 No. 55
Lucas Nix – OL – Jefferson Hills, Pa. (6-6, 300) — AC100 No. 35
Chris Burns – RB – New Wilmington, Pa. (5-10, 190)
Cameron Sadler – ATH – Monroeville, Pa. (5-7, 165)
Antwuan Reed – CB – Johnstown, Pa. (5-10, 180)

Sleeper: Jarred Holley – ATH – Easton, Pa. (5-10, 180)

If Jonathan Baldwin is the bigger, vertical threat, Holley will be the slot man. He will be very effective in the short passing game working around the line of scrimmage on bubble screens and quick routes. He also has the potential to return kicks and/or play defense at the corner back position.

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