Pitt lands top-ranked recruiting class
By Kevin Gorman
Thursday, February 8, 2007
When the final letter of intent transmitted through the facsimile at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, it marked the completion of a recruiting class that had been unimaginable even to Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt.
The Class of 2007 ended as it began for Pitt, with a fantastic flourish. The Panthers overcame a six-loss season by signing a star-studded class that ranks as the best in the Big East Conference and No. 9 nationally by Scout.com.
"I can't wait until we start winning eight, nine, 10 games a year, with the job these guys on this staff are doing," Wannstedt said. "Coming off a six-win season is really a credit to all these people. It's incredible. When we start winning nine games a year, we'll start having some fun."
Pitt started with a commitment from Keystone Oaks All-American offensive guard Chris Jacobson, added the state's top quarterback in Manheim Township's Pat Bostick and a talented tailback in Harrisburg's LeSean McCoy and finished with highly touted defensive end in Florida's Jabaal Sheard, who was the last player to sign.
The Panthers addressed multiple needs by signing 10 linemen, three linebackers, three defensive backs, four running backs and a quarterback. Of the 25 recruits, 16 are from Pennsylvania (four WPIAL, one City League), four from Florida and one each from Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina and Ohio.
Although McCoy is considered Pitt's marquee recruit -- Wannstedt said the Panthers needed to "get him here as fast as we can, (and) get him the ball" -- the class is filled with prospects who are expected to contribute early and often.
"They're going to play," Wannstedt said. "The film doesn't lie. We don't give scholarships to anyone unless we watch them on film. They're all good football players, and coaching them will be the easy part. Players win games.
"You've got to have talent to win. The key is to get a good foundation of talented players that are accountable and have the desire to go out and be the best. That's what we're building here."
The Nittany Lions landed a class that ranks among the nation's top 25 by scouting services, thanks to their ability to fortify their offensive line.
That group includes Central Catholic All-American Stefen Wisniewski, Southern Columbia's Josh Marks, Milford Academy's J.B. Walton and junior-college transfers Nerraw McCormick and Ako Poti.
"I think it's just amazing the offensive line talent Penn State has coming in, both from the prep and junior college ranks," SuperPrep publisher Allen Wallace said. "Penn State is not in the habit of taking junior college kids, but this year they got two offensive linemen, and both are listed on the SuperPrep Juco Top 100 Team. I also like Stefen Wisniewski; he's one of the best guards in the country.
"Add in Josh Marks and J.B. Walton, and it really shows Joe Paterno is taking care of major needs on the offensive line."
Wisniewski is one of four WPIAL recruits, joining receivers Jon Ditto (Gateway) and Derek Moye (Rochester) and Greensburg Central Catholic safety Nick Sukay.
What the Lions failed to do was attract a top-flight tailback, despite late attempts to land McCoy and Broderick Green of Little Rock, Ark., who signed with Southern Cal.
Penn State also added another solid linebacker class, with State College's Nate Stupar, Michigan's Chris Colasanti and Ohio's Andrew Dailey, and a potential star at defensive end in Devon Still of Wilmington, Del.
The Mountaineers appeared to pull off a recruiting coup when they received a commitment from All-American tailback Noel Devine.
That was followed by the Devine intervention of Deion Sanders, as the former Florida State cornerback convinced the North Fort Myers, Fla., star to reconsider.
West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez otherwise managed to keep his class intact despite losing his recruiting coordinator and offensive line and receivers coaches. The Mountaineers added WPIAL linemen in Seton-La Salle's Gino Gradkowski and Seneca Valley's Donny Barclay.
Most importantly, West Virginia strengthened its linebacker corps with Ohio's Vince Harris and Will Johnson, and junior-college transfer Archie Sims, and added a possible shut-down cornerback in Ellis Lankster.
"The goal, I think, of every Division I football program is to have competition at every position to elevate everybody's play," Rodriguez said. "We really felt that we needed that, particularly at linebacker and at corner on our defense. ... I think we addressed that in this class."