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2014 Pitt Signing Day Snapshot

Wednesday, February 5, 2014 7:34am
By: ACCSports.com Staff

Here's an inside look at Pitt's 2014 recruiting class. 


Head Coach:  Paul Chryst
Total Number of Signees:  23
National Recruiting Rankings:  
Rivals.com:  No. 39 (2002), No. 34 (2003), No. 74 (2004) under Walt Harris; No. 38 (2005), No. 21 (2006), No. 26 (2007), No. 28 (2008), No. 47 (2009), No. 33 (2010) under Dave Wannstedt; No. 59 (2011) under Todd Graham; No. 47 (2012), No. 35 (2013) under Paul Chryst
Scout.com:  No. 25 (2002), No. 39 (2003), No. 47 (2004) under Walt Harris; No. 42 (2005), No. 11 (2006), No. 8 (2007), No. 25 (2008), No. 31 (2009), No. 17 (2010) under Dave Wannstedt; No. 48 (2011) under Todd Graham; No. 40 (2012), No. 21 (2013) under Paul Chryst 
247Sports.com: No. 58 (2011) under Todd Graham; No. 42 (2012), No. 33 (2013) under Paul Chryst
ACC Rankings (Rivals.com):  No. 7 (2013)
2014 Pittsburgh ACC & National Rankings By Network: 
ESPN: Unranked (Not in Top 40 nationally) 
Rivals.com: No. 9 ACC, No. 44 overall nationally 
Scout.com: No. 7 ACC, No. 42 overall nationally
247Sports.com: No. 7 ACC, No. 44 overall nationally 
Signee Breakdown by Star Rating:  
Rivals.com: Five Stars (0), Four Stars (4), Three Stars (15), Two Stars (4)
Scout.com: Five Stars (0), Four Stars (2), Three Stars (16), Two Stars (5)
247Sports.com: Five Stars (0), Four Stars (2), Three Stars (18), Two Stars (3)
States Represented (10):  Pennsylvania (9), Ohio (4), Florida (1), Michigan (2), New York (2), Connecticut (1), Delaware (1), Illinois (1), New Jersey (1), Virginia (1) 
January (Spring Semester) Enrollees: None Known 
Unconfirmed Academics: Jaquan Davidson 
Breakdown by Position: Defensive Linemen (5), Defensive Backs (4), Running Backs (4), Linebackers (3), Offensive Linemen (3), Quarterbacks (1), Wide Receivers (2), Tight Ends (1)  

Top Recruiter  

Panthers' offensive coordinator and tight ends' coach Joe Rudolph did a bang-up job recruiting talent all over the Northeast and Midwest in helping put together approximately a third of Pittsburgh’s class. At home in the Steel City, Rudolph assisted the Panthers efforts in getting running back prospect Dennis Briggs out of nearby Shady Side Academy, and in the suburbs he went up to Wexford to pull wide receiver Elijah Zeise out of North Allegheny High, and down to Elizabeth to snag running back/athlete Jacquan Davidson out of Elizabeth Forward Senior High School. Rudolph also helped Pitt successfully recruit three prospects out of Ohio (Maria Stein quarterback Adam Bertke, Hilliard defensive back Phillipie Motley, and Cincinnati defensive end Shane Roy), one prospect out of Delaware (Wilmington defensive end Brian O’ Neill) and one out of Illinois (Niles running back Chris James). 

10 Key Misses  

Monroeville (Pa.) defensive back Montae Nicholson (Michigan State), Washington (Pa.) running back Shai McKenzie (Virginia Tech), Cleveland (OH) wide receiver Dorian Baker (Kentucky), Virginia Beach (Va.) wide receiver Jamil Kamara (Virginia), Lancaster (OH) offensive tackle Kyle Trout (Ohio State), Bethlehem (Pa.) wide receiver K.J. Williams (Syracuse), Jefferson Hills (Pa.) linebacker Chase Winovich (Michigan), Aliquippa (Pa.) defensive back Dravon Henry (West Virginia), Philadelphia (Pa.) wide receiver Jamal Custis (Syracuse), Cleveland (OH) defensive end Joe Henderson (Tennessee)

 Pittsburgh Recruiting Storylines

  • After a chaotic couple of years with multiple coaching changes, this looks to be a more stable, predictable signing class for Pittsburgh, filled with local and in-state talent but sprinkled with good prospects from the Midwest, Northeast, and Florida. After over-signing with 27 prospects in the 2013 class, 2014 marks the seventh class out of eight - going back to 2007 - in which the Panthers are signing 25 or fewer players, including a stretch where Pitt signed 21 or fewer players in four out of five classes between 2008 and 2012. This is a balanced class with equal numbers on both defense and offense (12 players each).  
  • Paul Chryst and his Pitt staff are clearly making Pennsylvania its top recruiting priority, as the Panthers have now signed well over 20 prospects from its home state over the past two recruiting cycles. 2013 was the most productive in-state recruiting class for Pitt (14 commitments) since 2008, when Dave Wannstedt and his assistants signed 14 out of 19 prospects from Pennsylvania. Pitt’s in-state recruiting suffered a bit through all the coaching turmoil---the program signed just 10 Pennsylvania natives combined in the 2011 and 2012 classes---but with nine solid commitments from Pennsylvania in this year’s signing class, it appears that things are settling down for the Panthers at home.  
  • The majority of Pitt’s class came together over a remarkable six-seek stretch in midsummer. Starting with the pledge of Newburgh (N.Y.) defensive back Jalen Williams on June 14, the Panthers landed a total of 12 commitments over the next 16 days, including three each on June 19 (Philadelphia defensive back Patrick Amara, Bethel Park (Pa.) offensive lineman Mike Grimm, and Detroit defensive back Avonte Maddox) and June 20 (Wallingford (Conn.) defensive tackle Connor Dintino, Staunton (Va.) defensive tackle Mike Herndon, and Fox Chapel (Pa.) linebacker Quintin Wirginis). In all, the Panthers went five straight days from June 18 through June 22 landing at least one commitment per day. Three more additions in the month of July (Wexford (Pa.) (wide receiver Elijah Zeise, Hilliard (OH) defensive back Phillipie Motley, and Pittsburgh defensive end Rori Blair) put the Panthers at 16 commitments heading into training camp in August, after they had just one pledge (Traverse City (Mich.) offensive lineman Connor Hayes) prior to the mid-June flurry . 
  • Pittsburgh’s lone addition from the state of Connecticut in the 2014 class, defensive tackle Connor Dintino, signs with the Panthers out of Wallingford’s Choate Rosemary Hall. Choate is the alma mater of many celebrities and historical figures, including former President John F. Kennedy, actors Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, Jamie Lee Curtis and Paul Giamatti, and two-time Democratic Presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson. In addition to being a two-way standout for Choate as an offensive and defensive lineman, Dintino is an All-American wrestler at the school. Dintino had an impressive showing at a Rivals Camp Series event in Newark (N.J.) a few weeks prior to his commitment to the Panthers. “Dintino might have been the biggest surprise at any of the Rivals Camps,” said the recruiting network. “The 6-foot-4, 289-pound Dintino made his way down to the New Jersey RCS from Connecticut and really made his mark. As a center, Dintino beat just about every defensive lineman he went against. He showed the ability to anchor, extend and slide to re-adjust.”

 A Closer Look At ...

Alex Bookser, OL (6-6, 295) Pittsburgh (Pa.) Mount Lebanon
Rivals.com Ranking:  (No. 249 overall nationally, No. 22 offensive tackle, No. 4 in Pennsylvania)
Scout.com Ranking:  (No. 186 overall nationally, No. 13 offensive tackle, No. 3 in Pennsylvania)
247Sports.com Ranking:  (No. 189 overall nationally, No. 18 offensive tackle, No. 2 in Pennsylvania)
Lead Recruiter(s):  Chris Haering
Bookser may not be needed immediately, with Pitt returning four out of five offensive line starters in 2014 and Dorian Johnson, who excelled as a true freshman last fall and could fall into the fifth spot, as well as multiple redshirted freshmen from 2013. But he’s going to have a chance to be a huge part of the Panther program’s future with his strength, size, and agility. A multi-year starter at local high school Mount Lebanon in Pittsburgh, Bookser helped lead the Blue Devils to state playoff appearances his sophomore and junior seasons in 2011 and 2012. Bookser’s lead recruiter, Chris Haering, was his head coach at Mount Lebanon High before joining Pitt’s staff as linebackers coach in 2012. “Bookser is much more polished as a run blocker compared to pass protection, but that is common for high school players,” said Scout.com national analyst Brian Dohn. “He gets off the ball quickly and can play physical, and he has the ability to get to the second level, line up his target and make a block. He has good knee bend to win the leverage battle, despite being 6-foot-6, 300 pounds. He has a nice initial punch, but in the passing game he has a tendency to allow his feet to get out from under him, which causes him to reach and lose balance. He has the ability to kick step and cover the edge, but he needs to be in better control. In the running game, Bookser engages the defender well and can spin him to open a running lane, but again, he needs to keep his feet under him to make it tougher for the defensive player to shed the block. One of the most impressive things is he plays with a great motor and doesn’t show signs of tiring despite playing on both side sides of the ball.”
Chris James, RB (5-9, 210) Niles (Ill.) Notre Dame for Boys
Rivals.com Ranking:  (No. 22 running back, No. 14 in Illinois)
Scout.com Ranking:  (No. 244 overall nationally, No. 22 running back, No. 8 in Illinois)
247Sports.com Ranking:  (No. 38 running back, No. 20 in Illinois)
Lead Recruiter(s):  Joe Rudolph
James is one of the centerpieces of Pittsburgh’s class in a recruiting cycle where they were looking to reload at running back. James had a good run at Notre Dame for Boys in Chicago’s Northwest suburbs, earning All-State honors from the Chicago Tribune his junior year in 2012 after running for 2,098 yards and 30 touchdowns. As a senior James ran for 1,734 yards and 21 touchdowns. “His (James’) explosiveness is eye-catching,” said Rivals.com’s Josh Helmholdt. “He is an extremely patient back, allowing holes to open and having the burst to exploit them. James has great balance and is always falling forward for extra yardage.” 
Adonis Jennings, WR (6-3, 190) Sicklerville (N.J.) Timber Creek 
Rivals.com Ranking:  (No. 38 wide receiver, No. 9 in New Jersey)
Scout.com Ranking:  (No. 92 wide receiver, No. 13 in New Jersey)
247Sports.com Ranking:  (No. 45 wide receiver, No. 11 in New Jersey)
Lead Recruiter(s):  Bobby Engram
Jennings was committed to in-state Rutgers for a while before switching to the Panthers in early January, and his loss to Pitt’s former Big East rival is very much the Panthers' gain. Jennings earned All-State honors this past fall after a hugely-productive senior season. He recorded 83 catches for 1,434 yards, averaging 119.5 yards per game and making 14 touchdown receptions, helping lead Timber Creek High School to a 10-2 record and state title game appearance in New Jersey’s South Group 4 Division. Following his senior season, he participated in the Semper Fi All-American Game in California in January. “(Jennings) is another big target who can shield defenders well and catch the ball out in front and put himself in good position to be a big target,” saidRivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell of Jennings. 

 Why They Chose Pittsburgh

They (Pittsburgh) were the first coaches to recruit me and the first to offer me. That meant something to me. I really liked them and felt like they were sincere when they said they felt like I was a good character guy and when they told me they believe in my athletic ability. They're telling me that I have a place on their team, so I'm going to work and earn my spot. I know I'll be supported there, and being home is a plus. I just feel like everything is falling into place.
---Pittsburgh (Pa.) running back Dennis Briggs to Panther-Lair.com
It feels great knowing I’m going there. I love the city and what it has to offer. I love the fans, they are so intense about their football and I want to make them happy. And more than anything, I love that I’m coming to Pitt to build back what was such a great team.
---Hilliard (OH) cornerback Phillipie Motley to Scout.com 
I went to a lot of schools; I probably visited 20 schools and Pitt really stuck out. It's a unique campus and they have a unique relationship with the Steelers. Just all around it fit me really well. I expected it to be in the city and not like a college town. But I was surprised that it really wasn't like that. It was like its own little town away from Pittsburgh but still close to the city. It reminds me a lot of my hometown.
---Cincinnati (OH) defensive end Shane Roy to Panther-Lair.com 
It was something about the school and the coaches and the city that it felt like a home environment. I have aspirations to play early, so it was very important that I see, with my own eyes, I have a chance to go there and play early. I had a chance to see what they had at the running back position, and that was (important), and it was an influence. They (the Pitt coaches) told me for a long time they were in need of a running back.
---Buffalo (N.Y.) running back Qadree Ollison to Scout.com