Paul Chryst’s incoming freshmen class for the Pitt Panthers’ first year in the ACC was a huge contributor to a winning season. The young Panthers provided a building block and a much-needed level of stability for the program.
Chryst’s first two recruiting classes were not eye-catching in the national spotlight. However, barring transfers or suspensions, the fab freshmen could carry Pitt to a level of success that hasn’t be reached for awhile.
Who misses Rushel Shell now? I certainly did when I heard he was transferring from the program. Chryst made a statement to his players when he denied Shell from rejoining the team after transferring to UCLA.
The following true and redshirt freshmen, highlighted by Tyler Boyd and James Conner, have already substantially contributed on the field for Pitt. These athletes make up a nice core for Chryst, who will be entering his third season.
Keep in mind that I am only talking about freshmen contributors. There are several key returning upperclassmen (i.e. Todd Thomas, Ray Vinopal, Lafayette Pitts, Anthony Gonzalez, Isaac Bennett, T.J. Clemmings, J.P. Holtz, Kevin Weatherspoon, etc.) that will play significant roles for the Panthers in their second year in the ACC.
- Tyler Boyd, WR, Clairton, Pa./Clairton (108 yards rushing on 11 carries, 1 rush TD, 1174 yards receiving on 85 receptions, 7 TDs)
- James Conner, RB, Erie, Pa./McDowell (799 yards rushing on 146 carries, 8 TDs)
- Rachid Ibrahim, RB, Rockville, Md./Avalon (136 yards rushing on 27 carries, 88 yards receiving on 9 receptions, 1 TD)
- Scott Orndoff, TE, Waynesburg, Pa./Seton-LaSalle (6 receptions for 50 yards and 2 TDs before being injured)
- Titus Howard, DB, Clairton, Pa./Clairton
- Terrish Webb, DB, Clairton, Pa./Clairton
- Jaymar Parrish, FB, Monroeville, Pa./Gateway
- Matt Galambos, LB, Collingdale, Pa./The Haverford School
- Shakir Soto, DL, Wilkes-Barre, Pa./G.A.R. Memorial
- Dorian Johnson, OL, Belle Vernon, Pa./Belle Vernon Area
- Chris Blewitt, K, Alexandria, Va./West Potomac (40/41 extra points, 14/18 field goals)
- Chad Voytik, QB, Cleveland, Tenn./Cleveland (6 for 11 passing, 116 yards, 3 carries for 26 yards and a TD in the bowl win)
- Trenton Coles, DB, Clairton, Pa./Clairton (Anyone else impressed with WPIAL Class ‘A’ power Clairton?”)
- Bam Bradley, LB, Dayton, Ohio/Trotwood-Madison
- Jahmahl Pardner, DB, Rochester, N.Y./Aquinas Institute
- Chris Wuestner, WR, Carlisle, Pa./Carlisle
- Mike Caprara, LB, Turtle Creek, Pa./Woodland Hills
- Adam Bisnowaty, OL, Pittsburgh, Pa./Fox Chapel
These 18 freshmen will be vital in how much success the Panthers can achieve next season. There are many other freshmen who redshirted this season, so look for these players to provide a further lift for Pitt.
The entire country is now aware of playmaker Boyd. Boyd captured the ACC play of the year with a diving catch against North Carolina, and surpassed receiving records by the great Larry Fitzgerald.
Quarterback Chad Voytik will likely be the leader on offense, so his progression over the offseason will be important to follow.
I would also like to point out a remarkable run by the WPIAL Class ‘A’ Clairton Bears, whose streak of 66 consecutive high school victories was snapped this past season.
Five players from the Bears played significant minutes for the Panthers in 2013, and all will be returning next season with their winning mentality.
Brett is a Pitt writer for City of Champions. Follow him on Twitter @BJoseph21.