Pitt mailbag: Which football recruit could provide an immediate impact?

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette JUN 6, 2023 12:37 PM Ben: Who is a recruit on Pitt football’s radar that could provide an instant impact? I know the formula has been all about development, but are there any guys who could come here and start as a freshman? Hiles: A verbal commit in the Class of 2024 that I think has a chance to receive solid playing time as a freshman is Ric’Darious Farmer, who is rated a four-star receiver by Rivals. Pitt is really thin at that spot to begin with and will be even thinner next season when Bub Means is gone. He might not be a starter, but if he enrolls in the spring, I think he would have a really great chance to see the field early. As far as noncommitted players go, a recruit that I think could come in and give the program a boost is Brian Robinson, a four-star outside linebacker from Youngstown, Ohio. I’ve spoken with him a few times and I’ve always been impressed by his size — he looks like he could suit up and start for a Power Five college team today. He’s made nine unofficial visits to Pitt but hasn’t scheduled an official visit yet. He has, however, scheduled official visits to Kentucky, Michigan and Penn State, which tells me Pitt might have some work to do if they hope to land him. Perhaps the fact that his teammate Davion Pritchard just committed to Pitt could help the Panthers’ cause. Pittsburgh Panthers wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald catches a pass from quarterback Rod Rutherford the second quarter against Toledo. Fitzgerald scoresd two touchdowns in a 37-19 victory against Toledo on Saturday, Sept, 28, 2002 at Heinz Field. Carter: That’s a tough question. Those who follow Pitt know how difficult it is for young guys to come in and get instant playing time. I always point out players like Dayon Hayes, who came here as a four-star but didn’t start a game until the Sun Bowl last December. Yasin Willis, a four-star running back who is rated the top player in the state of New Jersey, might be a guy who, if he commits, could start or at least play significantly as a freshman. I know that the running back room has a lot of talent in it already, but if he’s the real deal, they’ll get him involved. For guys who are already committed, I think Farmer and maybe also Jahsear Whittington, a four-star defensive tackle from Imhotep Charter, could both compete for playing time. Daniel: I know people were excited about the idea of Pitt landing “Mongolian Mike” [Sharavjamts] through the transfer portal, but would he actually be a good fit on Pitt’s roster? Hiles: I want to start off by saying that I’d love to cover an athlete that calls himself “Mongolian Mike,” regardless of how talented he is, simply because that nickname rules. But if we’re talking logistics, I don’t see where Mongolian Mike fits into this program. This offseason, he entered his name into the NBA draft process. I’ve spoken to a few people who know him that tell me the guy is trying to get to the next level as fast as possible. There isn’t anything wrong with that; I just don’t think Pitt will give him the opportunity he’s looking for. The Panthers are already very deep at the wing spots. On top of Blake Hinson, Mongolian Mike would have to battle for playing time against top transfer portal signee Zack Austin, longtime Panther William Jeffress and true freshman Marlon Barnes Jr. If Hinson went pro this summer, I think Mike would be an ideal player to fill his spot, but with Blake back, I don’t think he’d be willing to sign up for a bench role. He’s a talented player, but he will likely be a much more important player at other schools. Carter: I’ll say this about Mongolian Mike: He really understands how to play within the flow of an offense. He hasn’t played a ton of college basketball, but that year of experience under his belt is a big plus. Any type of player with experience should be welcomed on this Panther roster, considering they have five freshmen on the team right now. If he’s willing to come in, invest in a specific role and help improve the team’s ball movement, I could see him being a decent fit. Andrew: Which road matchup is more important for Pitt football’s 2023 season: West Virginia or Notre Dame? Hiles: It’s West Virginia. The Panthers will head into Morgantown as a favorite, as opposed to being an underdog when they make the trip up to South Bend. Notre Dame is going to be a great team this year. A win over the Irish — in their stadium — could be huge for the Panthers but only if they take care of business in the games earlier this season. Pitt is set to face Drake Maye and North Carolina the week after this year’s Backyard Brawl. That three-game stretch of Cincinnati, WVU and North Carolina will be a challenge, and West Virginia is easily the worst of those three opponents. Losing that game could put the Panthers in a tremendous hole early in the season. If they lose to WVU, it would be devastating. A loss to Notre Dame on the road in October wouldn’t be nearly as consequential. Carter: The boring answer would be Notre Dame because it is a more meaningful win, but like Noah said, a loss to West Virginia would hurt much more. Not only would it hinder my ability to make “13-9” jokes on Twitter, but it would be a big blow to Pitt’s resume. We already know some people won’t value Pitt’s wins in the ACC because of the lack of respect the league consistently gets as a football conference. Add that in with a nonconference loss to a team that many think will finish near the bottom of the Big 12 standings and your overall body of work suffers. Even if Pitt can steal a win in South Bend or take down tough home opponents like Florida State or North Carolina, that WVU loss will haunt them. Dayton's Mike Sharavjamts, of Mongolia, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Fordham in the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament, Saturday, March 11, 2023, in New York. Noah Hiles Pitt recruitment report: Dayton forward Mike Sharavjamts emerges as transfer portal target Wayne: With most of the notable coaches in the ACC either retiring over the past few years or quickly approaching retirement, does Jeff Capel have a shot at becoming one of the top coaches in the league? Hiles: Possibly. I think Jeff did a tremendous job last season, but he needs to make Pitt a consistent winner before we deem him one of the top coaches in the ACC. This next season is a great chance for him to do just that — he has plenty of talent and expectations are higher than they’ve ever been at the start of a season. Even though legends such as Coach K, Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim and Leonard Hamilton and Jim Larranaga might not be far behind, one winning season doesn’t make Pitt a top-tier program in the league. Guys like Jon Scheyer will have an easier time reaching the top simply because of the program they inherited. If Jeff can build stability in Oakland and make Pitt a regular in the tournament, then yes, he will be in that next group of elite ACC coaches. Carter: I think the road has certainly lined up for that to happen. If Jeff can keep producing winning seasons, his resume as both a former player and current ACC head coach will make him a respected figure in the league. It just seems like the ACC is going through a changing of the guard. How good will Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse be moving forward? To me, Tony Bennett is clearly the best coach in the conference. He will probably hold that title for the next 10 years. Now, as far as who will be the second-best coach in the league over that time period, I think that’s totally up for grabs. Adam: We all know Rodney Hammond Jr. is going to be the starting running back this year, but who is behind him on the depth chart and how much of a role will they have? Hiles: There isn’t one answer. I think Rodney is going to be, in the words of Mike Tomlin, Pitt’s “bell cow” while a group of three will back him up in specific situations. Derrick Davis, C’Bo Flemister and Daniel Carter all have different skill sets. I expect each to be involved with the offense but none as heavily involved as Rodney was last year when he was healthy and backing up Israel Abanikanda. Carter will probably see the most time on the field because he can be used as a fullback. Flemister was used in late-game, short-yardage situations last year and did well. Davis is the most athletic of the three, so maybe we see him more in the passing game? It’s hard to predict exactly who makes the biggest impact, but I think it’s a three-way tie for the second running back spot on the depth chart. Carter: That’s exactly what it will be, which is how Frank Cignetti Jr. wants it. Pitt knows it has a player in the backfield built for any situation the offense will find itself in. Rodney is going to be the leader, as he should, but I’m confident Davis, Flemister and Carter will all have some sort of involvement each game. If one of them gets a hot hand, they might just keep rolling with the backup over Rodney, like we saw Pitt do against West Virginia, when Hammond Jr. was playing better than Abanikanda. But overall, it’s Rodney at the starting spot and three committee players behind him.

Latest Player Notes

How Wisconsin athletes are benefiting from a unique NIL deal with Madison's Exact Sciences

Feb 17, 2024MJ Hammill entered what can be a scary time of an athlete’s life in mid-December.She went into the volleyball ...

Mike Griffith: Texas is Georgia's primary focus this offseason

February 16, 2024The Georgia Bulldogs face three SEC contenders on the road next season in Alabama, Texas and Ole Miss. According ...

Navigating a season that could see Texas play Georgia more than once

February 17, 2024The Texas Longhorns and Georgia Bulldogs will play in Austin on Oct. 19. It may not be the only time they ...

After some key departures from the team, Dykes got busy in the portal this offseason.

5:11 PM on Feb 16, 2024Biggest unanswered question: Who will emerge as the clear WR1?Before last season, Williams was the ...

How Louisville football coach Jeff Brohm balances transfer portal, high school recruiting

Louisville Courier JournalCollege football used to buzz on the first Wednesday in February, but Louisville football's office ...

Bob Asmussen | Illinois defense counting on linebackers to plug the gaps

College Football Reporter/ColumnistCHAMPAIGN — A new linebacker coach is in place at Illinois, and Archie McDaniel said he ...

Where Alabama’s quarterback group stands before spring practice

Alabama football’s offense is going to look different this season. Kalen DeBoer has replaced the retired Nick Saban as head ...

Why did AJ McCarron return to the St. Louis Battlehawks?

When AJ McCarron joined the resurrected XFL last year, the former Alabama All-American hadn’t played since suffering a knee ...

Colorado football self-reported 11 minor NCAA violations from Deion Sanders’ first year with Buffs

1/26/2024The Colorado football program has self-reported 11 minor NCAA violations since the hiring of head coach Deion Sanders ...

What Steve Young said about today’s NFL quarterbacks

By Jackson Payne Steve Young may have enjoyed a Hall of Fame career in the NFL, but that doesn’t stop him from feeling just ...
See More Player Notes