Pitt has 25 prospects on its 2013 football pledge list, including only three four-stars (Tyler Boyd, Dorian Johnson and Tre’von Chapman).
Yet, the little-known prospects — especially four big offensive lineman — could turn this year’s recruiting class into one of the best in the ACC. Rivals.com ranked Pitt’s class sixth in the conference last week.
Pitt has pledges from 13 three-stars and nine two-stars, including defensive tackle Jeremiah Taleni, the first Hawaiian offered a football scholarship by Pitt (or, at least, in anyone’s memory). Taleni may not help until 2014, but his quickness at 315 pounds has the Pitt coaches intrigued.
A couple of other lightly recruited players from Wisconsin could end up at Pitt, too, after visiting this weekend.
— Wide receiver Jester Weah of Madison (Wisc.) Memorial High School, who is just starting to scratch the surface of his potential, according to coach Mike Galindo.
Weah has been mainly a basketball player at Madison, starting as a sophomore for a state championship team in Wisconsin’s biggest classification, averaging 20 points per game this season and recording six dunks in one game.
Galindo said Weah, whose uncle George was a celebrated Liberian soccer player who once ran unsuccessfully for president in that nation, is one of the top athletes ever at the school that is known for its outstanding sports teams.
“He figured (football) out real fast,” Galindo said. “He is a natural learner.”
— Linebacker Zach Poker of Oconomowoc (Wisc.) High School, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound athlete, who is being recruited by Pitt as a linebacker. But he played wide receiver, fullback, tight end, kicker, punter and returned kicks in high school.
He also plays basketball and has thrown the shot put 60 feet.
Poker is looking at Air Force and Army, along with Pitt and Western Michigan, but his coach Ryan McMillen said Poker turned down scholarship offers from some MAC schools because he didn’t like their engineering program. That’s the type of character player coach Paul Chryst wants to add to his program. If they can play, of course.
Weah and Poker don’t even have offers from Pitt yet. And if they get them and accept, they likely will be redshirted next season. But they could develop into good players and, eventually, help the Panthers build desperately needed depth.
Pitt recruited a similar athlete last season when it offered a scholarship to offensive lineman Gabe Roberts, who could have walked on at Wisconsin. Roberts was redshirted last season by the Panthers, but he could compete for a starting job in 2013.
“The first thing (Pitt) kids say when you mention that kid’s name is `He’s a beast,’ ” said Bob Lichtenfels, a nationally known recruiting analyst with 247.com.
“Sometimes, that kid with fewer offers has more to play for and he comes in a little hungrier. Just because they are under the rader to us doesn’t mean they are under the radar to (coaches). You have certain guys who fit what you are trying to do.”
While talking to Oconomowoc coach Ryan McMillen, I asked him how the high school coaches in the state feel about Chryst and other members of his Pitt staff, who previously coached at Wisconsin.
“Their presence is felt. They have built a lot of relationships,” McMillen said. “They have built a lot of trust.”