New Castle News

Sports

February 7, 2013

Pitt Football: Panthers beef up lines in 2013 recruiting class

PITTSBURGH — There’s a formula Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst likes to use when building a team: start with the inside and go from there.

Given a year to figure out what he’s got on his hands with the Panthers, Chryst hit the recruiting trail this winter with one goal in mind.

“We felt like we wanted to get bigger and the only way to get bigger is to recruit bigger,” Chryst said.

In both size and numbers.

Pitt signed 27 players to letters of intent yesterday, including 10 offensive and defensive linemen that Chryst hopes lays the foundation for the program as it moves from the Big East to the ACC next summer.

The five offensive linemen — Dorian Johnson, Carson Baker, Jaryd-Jones Smith, Alex Officer and Aaron Reese — are all at least 6-foot-4 and weigh 280 pounds or more. The five defensive linemen — Tyrique Jarrett, Luke Maclean, Justin Moody, Shakir Soto and Jeremiah Taleni — are all at least 6-2 with Taleni and Jarrett both listed at 300 pounds or above.

“To a certain extent there is a formula but I don’t think it’s unique to what we did at Wisconsin,” said Chryst, a former offensive coordinator with the Badgers before coming to Pitt 14 months ago. “Any great team has strength in the offensive line and defensive line. We’re not reinventing the wheel there.”

Maybe, but the Panthers are certainly rebranding under Chryst, who went 6-7 in his first season on the job last fall. He’s hoping to do the same at Pitt, which needs to replace two starters along the offensive line and create a more competitive environment at a position that was battered by injuries in 2012.

The linchpin is Johnson, a 6-5, 290-pound star from Belle Vernon (Pa.) High considered one of the top line prospects in the country. Chryst called the high school film on Johnson “as good as you’ll see from an o-lineman” and believes he can make an immediate impact.

“He’s going to get an opportunity, absolutely,” Chryst said. “He’s a special player.”

The Panthers believe they’ve landed more than one in what felt to Chryst like his first real recruiting class. He had the job at Pitt only a handful of weeks last February, the result a 16-player class that included standout freshman running back Rushel Shell but did little to address depth issues.

“We ended up dressing out 53 guys at the bowl game,” he said. “That’s not what you want.”

Pitt had enough leeway this time around to sign both a kicker (Chris Blewitt) and a punter (Ryan Winslow). The core of the skill position players, however, came from the trio of Clairton (Pa.) stars Tyler Boyd, Titus Howard and Terrish Webb.

Boyd, Howard and Webb all starred for a program that is redefining what a high school powerhouse means. The Bears went 48-0 during their final three seasons and won a state title each of their four years in the program. The 6-2, 185-pound Boyd played quarterback, running back and wide receiver in high school but is expected to get his first crack at wide receiver when camp opens in August.

While Howard and Webb were firm commitments all the way through, there appeared to be some last-minute anxiety from Boyd, who was also considering Tennessee and West Virginia among others. Boyd didn’t sign until midmorning yesterday, though Chryst says he was never really worried.

“We don’t get caught up in a lot of the buzz around it and he’s earned the right to have that buzz around him,” Chryst said. “We always felt good about him and what we were saying to him and what he was telling us. We’re certainly really excited to have him because he’s a special person.”

One that could give Pitt’s offense a needed dash of explosiveness alongside senior-to-be Devin Street. Boyd scored 117 touchdowns during his high school career and ran for more than 5,755 yards but showed flashes of what he can do on the outside too, catching 13 passes for 295 yards.

While Boyd talked about working out of the Wildcat formation, Chryst wasn’t quite ready to go that far.

“I think our job is for any player to find ways to get them involved in the offense,” Chryst said. “We will exhaust every way we can for our players to get involved in the offense. I think he’s one, what he’s shown on tape, him talking and his understanding of football, we can put a lot on his plate.”

Getting Boyd, Webb and Howard as a package deal could help the Panthers develop a pipeline to one of the most talent-rich high school programs in the state.

“I know they’re also the type of guys that will keep branching out and it’s not just going to be those three,” Chryst said. “That’s pretty unique.”

Soto, Jarrett, quarterback Tra’Von Chapman and tight end Scott Orndoff have already enrolled and will be available when spring practice begins next month. The rest of the class will have to wait until August, at which point the Panthers will officially be members of the ACC.

Chryst said the conference switch came up on the recruiting trail but he didn’t lean on it as a pitch. He doesn’t think he had to.

“Our focus was on this university and the people here and what we’re trying to do,” he said.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Sports
  • 3on3.jpg Law enforcement youth tournament set

    The second annual law enforcement 3-on-3 youth basketball tournament will be Aug. 9 at New Castle High School.

     

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Taggart.jpg Arsonists damage New Castle’s football field

    With the New Castle football team just days away from the start of practice, vandals have hit Taggart Stadium. Someone set fire to artificial turf at the stadium and damaged a blocking sled the team uses in practice.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • pennstate.jpg Big 10 commission noncommittal on Penn State sanction cuts

    Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany took a non-committal stance on an effort by five Pennsylvania Congressmen to rescind sanctions against Penn State for its handling of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal.

     

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • SteelersSpence.jpg Steelers LB Spence caps lengthy comeback

    The whistle blew and Sean Spence sprinted forward, each cathartic step distancing the linebacker from the horrific knee injury that threatened to end his NFL career before it even really began.

     

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wheaton.jpg Steelers' Wheaton eyeing chance after tough rookie year

    Markus Wheaton realizes the pressure is there, but he doesn’t mind.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Polanco.jpg Harrison’s four hits leads Pirates past Rockies, 7-5

    Josh Harrison had four hits, including a tiebreaking homer, to help the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Colorado Rockies 7-5 on Sunday. Gregory Polanco and Travis Snider also went deep for the Pirates, who avoided being swept in Colorado for the second straight season.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates Rockies Baseb_Fusc.jpg Anderson leads Rockies over Pirates 8-1

    Brett Anderson pitched effectively into the seventh inning for his first win in more than a year and the Colorado Rockies beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-1 on Friday night.

     

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • MANGINO.jpg Mangino finding new home at Iowa State

     The first time Iowa State defensive end Cory Morrissey saw Mark Mangino, the former Kansas coach and current ISU offensive coordinator stopped him in his tracks.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates.jpg Pirates jump on Haren early, top Dodgers 6-1

    Josh Harrison had two hits with two RBIs and the Pittsburgh Pirates jumped on Dan Haren early in a 6-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Aloi.jpg Aloi's PIAA eligibility hearing postponed

    The wait continues for Nick Aloi. Aloi, who transferred from Ellwood City Lincoln High to Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School on Jan. 21, still does not know if he will get to play a full season for the Leopards’ basketball team

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

Shoot For 2
House Ads
Photo of the Day