The ink is still drying from the 2013 recruiting class, but Pitt coaches have shown that they are being proactive when it comes to the next recruiting class. While it is still uncertain who will be back with the Panthers before and after Spring Camp, Pitt will need to identify their needs for a much smaller recruiting class in 2014.
The glaring hole in the Panthers roster for 2014 will be at running back. The Panthers did sign an athlete in 2013 that could potentially end up at Running Back in Erie McDowell (PA) Defensive End/Running Back James Conner. In the likely circumstance that Conner moves to defense the Panthers will be left with just three running backs on scholarship: Rushel Shell, Isaac Bennett, and Malcolm Crockett. Shell is the likely starter for the Panthers entering next season and Bennett finished the 2011 season as a starter when Ray Graham tore his ACL. Crockett also saw playing time towards the end of the season in 2013, but behind him the cupboard is bare.
Currently the Panthers top RB target is Washington (PA) Running Back Shai McKenzie. McKenzie had a breakout year in 2012 for Washington High where he led them to a WPIAL championship appearance against Aliquippa. McKenzie has been offered by Pitt and made it to the recent Junior Day held by Pitt during the weekend of the Pitt-Syracuse basketball game. From all reports, including from Shai himself, he loved the visit and Pitt currently leads for the talented Junior. While recruiting for 2014 has a long way to go, the Panthers are sitting in the driver seat for McKenzie.
Another top target for the Panthers will be Jersey City (NJ) Running Back Jonathan Hilliman. Hilliman has a lot of offers already, including offers from Georgia, Ohio State, and Michigan. He has Pitt ties thanks to his father, who is a Pitt graduate, and his godfather is former Panther great Craig Heyward.
Here are the top targets at other positions for 2014:
Quarterback: Chandler Kincaide (verbally committed)
Offensive Line: Mike Grimm, Alex Bookser, Jarrett LaRubbio, Brock Ruble, James McHale
Tight End: Darryl Long
Wide Receiver: Troy Apke, KJ Williams, Saeed Blacknall, Dorian Baker
Defensive Line: Brock Boxen, Jaleel Fields, Courtel Jenkins
Linebacker: Chase Winowich, Tyler Burke, Zaire Franklin
Safety: Marcus Allen, Dravon Henry, DeAndre Scott
Corner: Troy Vincent, Anthony Davis
Athlete: Montae Nicholson, Elijah Zeise