Pitt Panthers: Expectations Of Incoming Freshman And Transfers?


The freshman moved in to begin their college careers this past week, so with their arrival, it is time to take an early look at who could provide an impact in year one. For instance, Chris James, a freshman last season, provided an exceptional punch behind Conner. Not well known or considered a high option headed into camp but played his way into a game.

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Based on quantity, the class that will be donning the blue and gold this fall isn’t great. Saying that, we need to realize that the quality greatly exceeds the aforementioned quantity.

A full view of the 2015 Class can be found here.

Looking at the class, I noticed immediate opportunities for players to make an impact, even as soon as their freshman campaign. I took some time to break down those opportunities.


In Henderson, Pitt is gaining a player with composure, a crafty edge, and the inevitable knack for making plays.

Out of A.I. Dupont high school in Delaware, he was recently crowned the MVP of the Delaware All-Star High School game.

By his position standards he is small, BUT, with his athleticism, attitude, and approach, he should acclimate well to the life as a Division 1 athlete..

His talents should stick out from others currently on the roster at his position and with added polish throughout the summer and early stages of the fall, could see some playing time and ability to make a difference at some point in the season. Of course, everything depends on health, grasp of coach expectations, and the need at the time.

I see him earning time as a kick-returner with the opportunity for additional roles if the need presents itself, seeing as he projects extremely well as a slot-receiver with his overall versatility accompanied with his size.

The position as a returner should open up as I believe the coaches will eventually wean Boyd off of the returning duties to focus additional time at the position that will earn him some jingle in the NFL.


Araujo-Lopes is such an intriguing prospect. Possibly the most ready of any to contribute early in his Panther career. It goes beyond the tape, but what’s on the tape can’t be dismissed either. He tracks the ball at an unrealistic pace, he slithers through the slot and across the middle, and he makes the catches regardless of the coverage blooming over top of him.

I have stated this before via Twitter, @clogue32 by the way, that I believe Araujo-Lopes is uncannily similar in play to what Percy Harvin was able to provide while with the Gators throughout his college career.

It kind of goes back to what I was saying about Henderson with the time and place to earn some playing time. But as well, when I had said that, I had in mind what Araujo-Lopes can immediately provide.

Rafael has that “IT” factor on tape comparable to what Boyd flashed in his first game against Florida State in 2013. I understand the difference between tape and field but somewhere the lines cross each other to create the product we see.

If he shows up through the summer and fall, the talent and knowledge will find its way onto the field as the coaching staff sees fit.


I’ll go ahead and say it, Malik Henderson is a flat-out stud. One who could be looked at as underrated coming out of high school.

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  • It could take him a full fall and some watching early on, but Malik shows some incredible intangibles on film that could translate easily into the ACC and major college football.

    While watching his film, one thing stood out more than others. That is his ability to read the eyes of a quarterback and act on it in the appropriate fashion. He can fall farther back into coverage or come up and pinch at the line with the incredible instincts to close on the ball only when appropriate; allowing him to keep the receiver in front rather than trailing behind watching his assignment trot to the end zone.

    Those attributes are only enhanced by him enrolling early and being able to work with the team and coaches through the spring. Also, the secondary as it is is relatively thin, allowing him to gain additional exposure on lines he wouldn’t have otherwise been able to be apart of.

    His future is undeniably bright and this additional practice is only going to drive him forward.


    Much like Araujo-Lopes, McKee is a very intriguing prospect for Pitt. For his high school team in Ohio, he primarily played as a safety. Well, as of now their is no room at that position with fellow freshman Jay Stocker being able to fill that void. So, that means we get to see McKee compete for a potentially impact-worthy role at outside linebacker in a Pat Narduzzi/Josh Conklin defense with immediate supervision from coach Harley.

    You ask yourself, “Why does it matter those coaches?”


    McKee is FAST, and I mean flying around with rocket-fuel FAST while he is young and enthusiastic about his play on the field.. Narduzzi and Conklin demand speed and discipline while approaching the ball and coach Harley is as youthful and energetic coach as you’ll spot on any sideline at any level. All of which blend together to motivate a potentially lethal pass-rusher that is key in the defenses both Conklin and Narduzzi live-and-breathe.

    Linebacker and outside linebacker in particular are also thin along the lines. Their is a void left by both Anthony Gonzalez and Todd Thomas with their natural incumbents, Ejuan Price and Bam Bradley being both injured and sporadic, respectively.

    I see McKee vying for some early playing time behind both Bradley and Price with the stable rock of Galambos holding down the center of the core.

    As I have stated many times before, it takes only one opportunity at the right time to etch yourself into that spot each week.

    Why is Jordan Whitehead not featured? That is because we all know what to expect when he makes his debut. He is a pure athlete that we are familiar and I have raved about prior to this article. No need to revisit what we already know.

    Some others to keep an eye on heading into the latter stages of the summer and early fall:

    • Mark Scarpinato – DT – Transfer from Michigan State
    • Saleem Brightwell – LB – Freshman
    • Allen Edwards – DE – JUCO Transfer from Dean College
    • Tre Tipton – WR/ATH – Freshman
    • Jay Stocker – S – Freshman

    Disregarding Scarpinato and Edwards, I can see the others potentially redshirting.

    Panthers News and Notes:

    • Pitt received two verbal commitments this past week – Bricen Garner, Central Catholic and Cheyton Pine, Lafeyette
    • Tyler Boyd charged with DUI and awaiting to hear punishment from the coaching staff – I expect a calm but firm one game suspension.
    • Reported that Rashad Wheeler, Central Catholic, is between Penn State and Pitt.

    Next: Pittsburgh Steelers: Training Camp Competition

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