June 1, 2015
by Jerry DiPaola
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Pitt’s first prospect camp of the spring/summer season attracted more than 125 players Sunday to the South Side facility, and they came in all shapes, sizes and ages. The classes of 2016, 2017 and 2018 were represented, including rising sophomore quarterbacks Troy Fisher of Central Catholic and Jake Cortes of Peters Township.
I spent considerable time gauging the talent level by striking up conversations with several of the high school and college (non-Pitt) coaches in attendance. Some of the schools represented included Duquesne, Grove City, New Hampshire, Kent State, Malone (Ohio) and Lafayette. I didn’t take attendance, but those were the shirts I saw.
The consensus: There was plenty of talent working out under the direction of Pitt’s coaching staff to satisfy everyone, even the small-school coaches who were taking copious notes. By late Sunday night, there were no commitments to add to Pitt’s current three-man class of 2016, but that will change as we get deeper into June. Camping continues at Pitt over the next two weekends.
Defensive tackle Michael Dwumfour of DePaul (N.J.) Catholic tweeted Sunday night that he was “blessed” to receive an offer from Pitt. It is his ninth, including offers from Iowa and Wake Forest. He stands 6-foot-2, 282 pounds. Included with Dwumfour’s tweet was a picture of Aaron Donald.
The player who looked as impressive as anyone was Aliquippa linebacker Kaezon Pugh, who can cover a lot of ground with his 6-foot-1, 203-pound frame. Pugh also plays running back for the Quips, but he worked out extensively with Pitt linebacker coach Rob Harley and did well. One high school coach told me that Pugh may have been Pitt’s No. 1 target among all the athletes working out Sunday.
But there’s already plenty of competition for Pugh. Among his offers, according to Rivals.com, are Arizona, Arkansas, Auburn, Miami, Mississippi State, Missouri, Nebraska, Pitt, Virginia, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.
If he has a good year athletically and academically, Pugh could be included among the top three prospects in the WPIAL by the end of the season, positions currently held by (in order, per Rivals.com) Woodland Hills’ Miles Sanders, Central Catholic’s Damar Hamlin and McKeesport’s Khaleke Hudson.
Rising junior offensive lineman Noah DeHond of the Peddie School in Highstown, N.J., was hard to miss at 6-7, 325 pounds. He worked out Sunday with offers in hand from Pitt, Alabama and Wisconsin.
Another player who stood out was Chandler Park (Mich.) Academy wide receiver Jalen Martin, who wasn’t on the original list, but was a late addition as a walk-up. Judging from the reception he received from Pitt’s coaches, he was welcome, indeed.
Martin, 6-2, 192, was among the top pass catchers at the camp, and after everyone had gone home he spoke with offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and worked out one-on-one with Harley. Martin didn’t get an offer, but he has six from the MAC — Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Toledo, Miami (Ohio), Bowling Green and Akron. He’s also the 12th overall prospect in Michigan.
Two players who were not at Pitt on Sunday were the Jackson twins of Point Breeze and Allderdice — James and Tim. James, a 6-2, 173-pound quarterback who is being recruited as an athlete, injured an ankle recently in gym class, according to Allderdice coach Jerry Haslett. Tim, 6-2, 165, is a wide receiver. Both are extremely athletic.
They want to go to college together, and Haslett — a veteran coach of 30 years — plans to meet with them and their family this week to discuss the specifics of their recruitment.
They already have an offer from Arizona State, one that arrived before the Sun Devils coaches even talked to Haslett. Pitt, Penn State and West Virginia have not offered, but their coaches have been around Allderdice so often recently that Haslett, the athletic director, may have to start charging rent. Penn State seems particularly interested.
One of the highlights of the day was a circus catch by tight end Sean McKeon of Shepherd Hill Regional (Mass.) High School. While falling onto his back, McKeon, 6-4, 230, tipped the football to himself and secured the catch. Harvard, Yale, Pitt, Boston College, Colorado State, Virginia and 11 other schools have offered McKeon. He is rated only a two-star by Rivals, but earlier this year, he was the fourth overall prospect in Massachusetts.
Prospect who traveled the farthest: Rising junior tight end Grant Carrigan of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas. I’m guessing Carrigan is a by-product of Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi’s willingness to cross whatever borders necessary to uncover prospects.
One other note: Several Pitt players helped with the drills, including James Conner, Chad Voytik, J.P. Holtz, Mike Caprara and Artie Rowell. Rowell’s recovery from his knee injury is progressing well, and he might be able to practice without any limitations when training camp opens in August.