Pitt field judged best in Big East
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt keeps turning out Top 25 recruiting classes. The challenge now is to develop those players into a Top 25 team.
The Panthers, coming off successive non-winning seasons for the first time since 1998-99, concentrated on building depth along the offensive and defensive lines with a 2007 class that is Top 20-rated by several major scouting services.
Pitt also picked up two of Pennsylvania’s most prolific yardage producers in Manheim Township quarterback Pat Bostick and former Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt running back LeSean McCoy, a Top 10 recruit nationally before badly injuring an ankle in 2005.
“I can’t wait to start winning eight, nine, 10 games a year, because classes like this are a credit to a lot of people,” Wannstedt said Wednesday. “When we start winning nine games a year, then we’ll start having fun.”
That hasn’t happened yet. Pitt went 5-6 in Wannstedt’s first season in 2005, then was 6-6 with five consecutive losses to end last season despite an excellent freshman class.
Both seasons, Pitt failed to match up strength- or speed-wise to the better teams on its schedule, including Big East rivals West Virginia, Louisville and Rutgers — one reason Wannstedt’s staff made linemen a priority.
Of Pitt’s 25 recruits, six are defensive linemen and five are offensive linemen, though it’s not uncommon for players to shift from offense to defense or vice versa once they arrive on campus.
Most of the players previously identified themselves as Pitt recruits — Bostick did so last summer — but the Panthers picked up a late addition Wednesday in defensive end Jabaal Sheard of Hollywood Hills (Fla.) High. He chose Pitt over Auburn, Arizona State and Rutgers.
Adding the 235-pound Sheard helped boost Pitt into No. 9 in the Scout.com recruiting class rankings. Bostick and Keystone Oaks offensive lineman Chris Jacobsen (6-foot-3, 285 pounds) of Pittsburgh are regarded as Top 50 players by Scout.com.
ESPN.com ranks Pitt’s class as the 17th best nationally. Rivals.com doesn’t rank Pitt in its top 25 but rates it as easily having the best class in the Big East, with McCoy seen as the key recruit.
Pitt has lacked a game-altering running back for years, but may have him if McCoy has fully recovered from the broken right ankle that sidelined him after the fourth game of his high school senior season.
McCoy was on pace to break the state career rushing record but settled for 6,640 yards and 75 touchdowns in about 2½ seasons. He played last season at Milford Academy in New York, averaging 7.1 yards per carry with four touchdowns and 547 yards on 77 attempts against junior college competition.
“We want to get him here as fast as we can and get him the ball,” Wannstedt said. “It’s amazing how things change. Two years ago, Southern Cal and Oklahoma were after him and, after his unfortunate injury ... it was us and Penn State. We stayed with him and stayed with him.”
Pitt also recruited a blocker for McCoy in Henry Hynoski, the 245-pound fullback who led Southern Columbia to PIAA Class A championships in each of his four seasons by rushing for 7,615 yards in his career.
Bostick may have the chance to play early, now that three-year starting quarterback Tyler Palko is gone. The 6-3, 220-pound Bostick threw for 2,172 yards and 20 touchdowns last season after having 2,810 yards and 34 touchdowns as a junior. Scout.com and Rivals.com rated him as the No. 2 player in the state.
Pitt also landed five other big linemen from Pennsylvania high schools in John Fieger (6-5, 275) of Upper Perkiomen, Greg Gaskins (6-4, 280) of William Penn, tight end Jordan Gibbs (6-7, 270) of Penn Manor, Wayne Jones (6-2, 315) of Johnstown Bishop McCort and Dan Matha (6-6, 310) of Erie McDowell.
The Panthers also signed one of the best players in the Washington, D.C., area in 225-pound defensive lineman Tony Tucker of St. John’s. He had 16½ sacks his final two seasons.
Players could not sign NCAA letters of intent until Wednesday.