RB Davis, DB Ford, QB Browne highlight Pitt Football’s 2017 Recruits

Just like the NFL Draft, College Football’s National Signing day is the opportunity for teams to upgrade their teams for getting better and a focus on the future Although it’s not guaranteed that most of these recruits will start their freshman year, it’ s a chance for them to make a strong impression on the college level along with the most important reason why they’re going to college: To get an education.

 

The Pitt Panthers are an example of those teams who’re looking to get better after posting consecutive 8-5 seasons under head coach Pat Narduzzi. They are faced with not just adding young men for their future, but also for replacing several starters who have either graduated or left early for the NFL Headlining those names are RB James Conner, who left early for the NFL, and seniors Nate Peterman, TE Scott Orndoff, DE Ejuan Price, and LB Matt Galambos.

 

The Panthers took a step in improving their team when they announced Wednesday that 26 young men will join their team for 2017 and beyond. Each of these recruits made it official that they will become Pitt Panthers.

 

It’s no question that the top recruit is AJ Davis, a 6-0, 205 RB out of Lakeland Florida. The 4-star recruit chose Pitt over fellow Atlantic Coast Conference teams Louisville and North Carolina. selected an Under Armour All-American, David rushed for 5,398 yards during his Lakeland career. As a senior, he compiled 1,498 yards on 187 carries (8.0 avg.) with 16 touchdowns. he’s the only player in Lakeland history to lead team in rushing four consecutive years. Davis was also Polk County’s leading rusher in each of his final three seasons. While playing under Coach Bill Castle, Davis led team to a three-year record of 28-7 (.800) with Florida Class 7A playoff berths each season. in seven career playoff games, Davis rushed for 1,195 yards, including a 231-yard effort on just 14 carries (16.5 avg.) in an opening-round game his senior year He was named Associated Press Florida All-State Class 7A and The Ledger Large School Offensive Player of the Year He was named to the ESPN 300 (No. 140) and Rivals 250 (No. 247) He was rated the nation’s No. 14 running back prospect by ESPN and Rivals, No. 21 by 247Sports and No. 28 by Scout. He played in the 2017 Under Armour All-America Game played in Orlando, helped Team Armour to a 24-21 win over Team Highlight.

 

At his Wednesday news conference, Davis brought back memories of LeBron James when he announced that he would be “Taking his talent to Pitt” while donning a blue Pitt cap with his family standing behind him. Davis will compete with current Pitt players Quadree Ollison, Darren Hall, and Chwntez Moss.

 

Also on offense, the Panthers added a graduate-transfer from USC in QB Max Browne who has one season of immediate eligibility remaining and will participate in spring drills. In his three active seasons with the Trojans (2014-16), Browne completed 69-of-112 passes (62%) for 650 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in 18 games. In 2016, Browne played in nine total games, starting the initial three contests of the season, and completed 58-of-93 passes (62%) for 507 yards with two TDs and two INTs. He was a highly-decorated prep quarterback at Skyline (Wash.) High School…honors included Gatorade National Football Player of the Year, USA Today All-USA Offensive Player of the Year, Parade All-American, ESPN 150, Rivals 100 and Scout 100. Some may feel like Browne has the inside track at winning the starting job for 2017, but he will compete with QB’s Ben DiNucci, Thomas MacVittie, Bo Schneider and Manny Stocker.

 

One of the areas that Pitt hopes to continue improving on is their defense, especially in their secondary with the addition of Pittsburgh product Paris Ford. The 6-0 175 bound defensive back Drew accolades as one of the nation’s elite prospects. He was selected an Under Armour All-American, rated the country’s No. 5 safety by Rivals, No. 6 by Scout and No. 7 247Sports. As a senior at Steel Valley, Ford was highly decorated and productive on both sides of the ball as he scored 22 touchdowns five different ways—by rushing, receiving, interception return, punt return and fumble return. He had an incredible 2016 with six interception returns for TDs as a senior. The Pennsylvania Football Writers selected him All-Class 2A as a defensive back, while Pennsylvania Football News honored him with the same designation as a wide receiver. He was named to the Pennsylvania Football News 2016 #Team PA, which recognized the best players in the state regardless of school classification. Ford was the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Class 2A Player of the Year and was named to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette “Fabulous 22” …Pittsburgh Tribune-Review “Terrific 25”. he led Steel Valley to a 15-0 record, the WPIAL Class 2A championship and the school’s first PIAA title. He was named to the Rivals 100 (No. 51), Top247 (No. 66), ESPN 300 (No. 68) and Scout 300 (No. 69) Ford was rated the nation’s No. 4 “athlete” by ESPN and rated one of Pennsylvania’s top three overall prospects by ESPN (No. 2), 247Sports (No. 2), Rivals (No. 3) and Scout (No. 3).

 

Ford may have the greatest chance at starting position as the team desperately needs cornerbacks. Ford will be competing with Avonte Maddox, Reggie Mitchell, Terrish Webb and Dane Jackson among others.

 

With the goal of replacing Orndoff, the Panthers added TE Tyler Sear from New Castle, Pa. (6-4, 245). He excelled as a pass catcher and blocker at Neshannock and was named to the Pennsylvania Football News 2016 #Team PA, which recognized the best players in the state regardless of school classification, Pennsylvania Football News All-Class 2A (first team). Sear was named to the Pennsylvania Football Writers All-Class 2A and led the Lancers to a 12-2 record, the Midwestern Conference title and the first WPIAL championship game appearance in school history He compiled 27 catches for 364 yards (13.4 avg.) and three touchdowns. As a defensive end, he had 45 tackles, two sacks, five passes defended and two fumble recoveries. He was rated the No. 14 overall prospect in Pennsylvania by 247Sports, No. 19 by Rivals and No. 21 by ESPN and played under Coach Frank Mozzocio.

 

Sear will compete with Chris Clark, Zach Poker, and Andre Schifino for the starting TE spot.

 

Here’s a complete list of the 2017 Pitt recruits:

 

2017 UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH FOOTBALL RECRUITING CLASS

Name                                          Pos.        Ht.           Wt.          Hometown/High School/Last School
Cal Adomitis                              LS            6-1          210         Pittsburgh, Pa./Pittsburgh Central Catholic
Deslin Alexandre*                     DL           6-4          250         Pompano Beach, Fla./Deerfield Beach
Cameron Bright                         LB            6-0          210         Montgomery, Ala./Park Crossing
Max Browne*                             QB           6-5          210         Sammamish, Wash./Skyline H.S./Southern Cal
Dontavius Butler                       WR          6-0          205         Hallandale, Fla./American Heritage School
Grant Carrigan                          TE           6-7          260         Wexford, Pa./Pine-Richland
Kamonte Carter                         DL           6-4          300         Germantown, Md./Gaithersburg H.S./East Mississippi C.C.
Kirk Christodoulou*                  P              6-1          210         Melbourne, Australia/Balwyn
A.J. Davis                                    RB           6-0          205         Lakeland, Fla./Lakeland
Jerry Drake*                               OL         6-5          315         Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Palm Beach Gardens
Owen Drexel                              OL           6-3          270         Montclair, N.J./Montclair
Paris Ford                                  DB           6-0          175         Pittsburgh, Pa./Steel Valley
Gabe Houy                                  OL           6-6          265         Pittsburgh, Pa./Upper St. Clair
Damarri Mathis                         DB           5-11        185         Lakeland, Fla./Lakeland
Kyle Nunn                                  LB            6-3          200         Findlay, Ohio/Findlay
Kenny Pickett*                           QB           6-2          195         Oakhurst, N.J./Ocean Township
Jason Pinnock                            DB           6-0          190         Windsor, Conn./Windsor
Charles Reeves                          TE           6-5          280         Steubenville, Ohio/Steubenville
Tyler Sear                                  TE           6-4          245         New Castle, Pa./Neshannock
Todd Sibley                                RB           5-9          215         Akron, Ohio/Archbishop Hoban
Michael Smith                            WR          6-1          205         Vero Beach, Fla./Vero Beach Senior
Darian Street                             WR          6-1          180         Bethlehem, Pa./Liberty
Albert Tucker                            LB            6-1          210         Plantation, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas
Jaylen Twyman                          DL           6-2          315         Washington D.C./H.D. Woodson
Carson Van Lynn                       DL           6-5          240         Columbus, Ohio/Worthington Kilbourne
Carter Warren                           OL           6-5          325         Paterson, N.J./Passaic Tech

 

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www.PittsburghPanthers.com

Aunty Anita Baker

Last week, I headed to work on what seemed like the 100th consecutive day of rain and clouds after a relaxing long weekend. Heavy hearted and footed, I began mine over one hour commute with an Uber ride. As I settled into the back seat, “Angel” by Anita Baker came on the radio. I immediately knew it was a sign. This song, just like Stevie Wonder’s “Ribbon in the Sky” and Luther Vandross’ “Don’t You Know That” speaks to me on a spiritual level. They always seem to pop up when I’m feeling anxious, unlucky, unloved or all three.  These songs serve as an anchor that keep me centered when my mind threatens to capsize from an angry sea of overwhelming thoughts and remind me that everything is indeed okay.

I took an interest in Anita Baker because my dad—my idol– liked her. I was always immediately curious about anything my dad liked because I liked having things in common with him–another means of connection. He’s also the reason I like cheesecake and am a diehard Seinfeld fan. Speaking of Seinfeld, the first time I ever saw Anita, she was twirling and dancing “Elaine”-style and in a dark room illuminated by candles in her “Rapture” video. But even with the weird visuals, I couldn’t deny that it was a good song. It didn’t take much for me to develop my relationship with Anita; my father was simply the angel who delivered what my soul had been waiting on.

To me, Anita’s music exudes a spiritual component to the experience of love without necessarily being gospel. Anita is that aunty who found love so good she can’t shut up about it, but you’re not mad because you get to experience its goodness through her. Her music is about the OG couple at family events who are guaranteed to be the first to hit the dance floor to show off their matching outfits and their syncopated two-step. Her music is about Grown Folks Love™: a.k.a. “We just went there and said some slick shit to and about each other, but that’s how love is sometimes and if we can’t come back from this, we ain’t had no business spending $20K on no damn party (i.e., wedding)” love. A romantic relationship is not the only way to experience transcendent love, but it is one way, and Anita sang for those whose love is a testament to a higher power if only for the fact that through their relationship, they overcame spiritual and emotional pain they never would have believed they could.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the shallow nature of the love talked about from the male-dominated Hip Hop/ R&B love songs of my adolescence. The type of love they’re talking about doesn’t hold a candle to the experience of transcendence and profound emotion that Anita shares. If anything, the women the men proclaim to love are simply objects used as a means to an aspirational end. They are merely an extension to strengthen his own ego and status through his decision and ability to “wife” (marry) “ice” (to lavish in diamonds) and “lace” (to provide with an enormous amount of luxury goods) the interchangeable “dimepiece” (a woman who rates 10 on a scale of 1-10 on a scale of attractiveness) prototype.

Aunty Anita recently announced her retirement. I was more shocked about this simply from a place of confusion (don’t most singers just sing until they can’t? She’s a healthy 59) rather than disappointment. I admit that I had not kept up with her recent career moves. I didn’t have to. To me, her career is encapsulated and wrapped entirely in an 8-year (1986-1994) time capsule or “Good Love” syllabus as I have decided to call it. I have yet to find the type of love she describes, but I am forever grateful to her for giving me an earful about its magic.

Shanna Houser

“Rise Up” The Atlanta Falcons will Soar in Super Bowl LI

Sunday the Atlanta Falcons will play in their second Super Bowl when they take on the New England Patriots.  In 1999, the Falcons lost to the Denver Broncos 34-19 in the first Super Bowl in franchise history. New England is accustomed to playing in the big game and will be appearing in their NFL-leading ninth Super Bowl. The Pats have the top defense in the league while the Falcons have an offense that has been compared to the Kurt Warner-led St. Louis Rams when they were known as the greatest show on turf.  Despite Atlanta’s prolific offense and their six game winning streak, New England is still the odds-on favorite to win.

 

However,  I think this time may be different. In addition to having the league’s top scoring offense, the Falcons are lead by Matt Ryan;  the man I believe will be the offensive player of the year. The Atlanta quarterback has passed for over forty-nine hundred yards this season completing a pass to almost every player in his receiving corp. He has thrown seven touchdown passes in the postseason without an interception  ( That’s two months), and he has the red and black averaging 39 points in their last six games.

 

Wideout Julio Jones has been Ryan’s’ primary target hauling in 83 of his passes for over fourteen hundred yards, reaching the end zone six times. Jones is the key component in an arsenal that includes Taylor Gabriel, Mohamed  Sanu, Justin Hardy, Aldrick Robinson, Nick Williams and  Bethune-Cookman University Alum Eric Weems. But the receivers are just one part of the Falcons attack. The Atlanta ground game features five foot eight inch running back Devonte Freeman. His diminutive stature allows him to disappear  behind an offensive line that stands an average of 6’4″ and 305 pounds. Freeman rushed for over one thousand yards this season and had found himself in the end zone eleven times.

 

Now you may ask, “Why do I think the Falcons will win despite being one of seven teams that Tom Brady  has never lost to as a starter?” Consider this,  Atlanta has scored the eighth-most points in NFL history this season, They are on a six-game winning streak, Ryan has passed for at least three touchdowns in four consecutive playoff games ( the longest streak in NFL  history), and Jones is averaging 110 yards per game in five career postseason games. Do you need more? I don’t think so.

 

I’m not taking anything away from the Patriots who have won four of their previous eight trips to the big game. But bearing in consideration that their last Super Bowl title came at the expense of the Seattle Seahawks and that infamous pass at the goal line (which was intercepted by Malcolm Bell)  that preserved the win in Super Bowl XLIX. It’s just my opinion that the slogan heard all year long in Atlanta  “Rise UP,” can be changed to “They Rose Up and Won” after they win Super Bowl 51.

Trevin A Jones