Pitt recruiting 2014: Panthers try to keep pace in the ACC

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers will have to step up their recruiting efforts if they hope to compete with the likes of Clemson, Miami, and Florida State.

Pitt is getting ready to wrap up its first football season in the Atlantic Coast Conference, where the the recruiting stakes going forward will be significantly higher than what the Panthers experienced during the twilight years of the Big East. To this point in the 2014 recruiting cycle, the Panthers have a solid if unspectacular class featuring 15 three-star commitments and 3 two-star commitments, giving them the 10th-ranked class in the ACC (43rd nationally) according to the 247 Sports Composite recruiting index.

So far the the strength of Pitt's 2014 class is the offensive line. Head coach Paul Chryst has secured commitments from a pair of hulking offensive tackle prospects in Michael Grimm (6'7, 315 pounds) and Connor Hayes (6'4, 300 pounds), both of whom are given high-three star evaluations by 247 Sports and rank as the 37th- and 66th-best prospects at their position, respectively, according to the 247 Sports Composite. Committed offensive guard Connor Dintino (6'4, 280 pounds) is ranked the 49th-best prospect at his position.

Pitt's most highly rated commitment is Elijah Zeise, a North Allegheny High School product who committed to the Panthers on July 3rd. The 6'2, 185 pound Wexford, PA native is listed as an athlete but is projected by most to be a wide receiver on the next level.

The Panthers reached into neighboring Ohio to snag pro-style quarterback Adam Bertke over offers from Bowling Green, Kent State, Illinois, and Toledo. On October 3rd, Pitt added a second quarterback in three-star, dual threat signal-caller JaQuan Davidson of Elizabeth, PA. Davidson chose the Panthers over offers from UConn, Temple, Illinois, and West Virginia.

If the move to the ACC was expected to expand the Panthers' recruiting footprint into the talent-rich South, that side effect has yet to become manifest on the recruiting trail. Just 3 of the Panthers' 18 commitments come from the below the Mason-Dixon line.

Still to come

The Pitt Panthers, are still very much in pursuit of a few star prospects.

The top prospect on the board is offensive tackle Alex Bookser, of Pittsburgh (Pa.) Mt. Lebanon. Pitt is the major leader for Bookser.

The Panthers are also after Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway athlete Montae Nicholson. Nicholson can play receiver or defensive back. He is a four star who is also considering Penn State.

Pitt is also still in the mix for Washington (Pa.) Heights High School's Shai McKenzie. McKenzie is a power back who is also considering Virginia Tech and Florida State.

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