Pitt has a game this weekend, but later tonight, Pittsburgh Central Catholic will head North to Gibsonia to play undefeated and defending WPIAL champion, Pine-Richland. It will be a rematch of last year's AAAA WPIAL title game in which the Rams knocked off the Vikings 21-13. Pine-Richland went on to the state championship before ultimately falling to Saint Joe's Prep of Philadelphia.
Both teams have gone through a good bit of turnover since last year, but Central Catholic comes into the game with a 6-1 record boasting a number of high level Division One prospects. Pine-Richland managed to find an excellent replacement at quarterback for current Panther, Ben DiNucci. The Rams enter the game at 7-0. Both teams figure to have a big say in the WPIAL Championship. This is a huge game, and fortunately for us fans, the game is being televised locally by Root Sports Pittsburgh at 7:30. Another big aspect, of course, are the recruiting implications. Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi has a number of high priority recruits spread out among three different classes playing tonight, and here is a rundown of who to look out for in this game.
Damar Hamlin 6'1" 180 Safety (Four-Star) Class of 2016 Uncommitted
Damar Hamlin is the biggest name in this contest, and perhaps the biggest name in all of Western Pennsylvania for the class of 2016. Hamlin is certainly a high priority prospect for Pitt. and the Panthers seem like they are in a very good spot to land his services after he named them a member of his "final four" listing of schools. Although it will be difficult to beat out the likes of Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Penn State. Pitt is still in the mix at this point, and that is a good sign for Pat Narduzzi and his staff. In this game in particular, Hamlin primarily plays defense but could always get a look or two on offense.
Rashad Wheeler 6'3" 285 Defensive Tackle (Three-Star) Class of 2016 Committed to Pitt
Rashad Wheeler committed to Pitt back on August 10th. He is 25th ranked prospect in the state of Pennsylvania and picked the Panthers over offers from Penn State, West Virginia, and Tennessee among a host of others. Wheeler may not be assured playing time next season, but he is walking into a position that will see a good bit of turnover. It will be worth monitoring seeing if Wheeler looks ready to contribute next year.
Bricen Garner 6'1" 160 Safety (Two-Star) Class of 2016 Committed to Pitt
Bricen Garner committed to Pitt way back in June. He is ranked as the 33rd best prospect in the state according to Rivals. Garner has some solid offers from Cincinnati, Indiana, and West Virginia along with nearly the entire MAC. Garner is Central Catholic's second leading receiver, and should be a player that is on the field quite a bit.
Ron George 6'2" 205 Linebacker (Two-Star) Class of 2016 Uncommitted
Ron George is a solid prospect, but has not received an offer from Pitt. George has some quality offers from the likes of Virginia, Temple, and Cincinnati with a few others.
Ronnie Jones 6'1" 185 Running Back (Unranked) Class of 2016 Committed to Toledo
Ronnie Jones leads Central Catholic in rushing yards and touchdowns. He is committed to play for Toledo in the MAC next season.
David Adams 6'2" 225 Linebacker (Four-Star) Class of 2017 Uncommitted
David Adams is a big-time prospect in the class of 2017. He is a hard-hitting middle linebacker that Pitt, along with just about any school would love to have. Adams is ranked as the 4th best junior in PA along with being the 5th best middle linebacker in the country. In addition to his Pitt offer, Notre Dame, Penn State, Nebraska, Stanford, Virginia Tech, and Wisconsin headline his list of choices.
CJ Thorpe 6'4" 310 Offensive Guard (Four Star) Class of 2017 Uncommitted
CJ Thorpe is regarded as one of the best offensive linemen in the class of 2017. He is ranked the 7th best guard in his class, and the 7th best prospect in the state of Pennsylvania. Auburn, Penn State, and Tennessee appear to be his biggest offers besides Pitt.
Kurt Hinish 6'3" 270 Defensive Tackle (Three Star) Class of 2017 Uncommitted
Kurt Hinish is drawing some Pitt interest, but has yet to pull in an offer from his hometown team. Hinish checks in as the 13th best prospect in the state for 2017. He holds offers from Rutgers and Toledo.
James Willard 6'4" 285 Offensive Tackle (Unranked) Class of 2016 Uncommitted
Willard reportedly has an offer from Ohio University of the MAC.
Matt Hampson 6'4" 235 Defensive End (Unranked) Class of 2016 Uncommitted
Hampson has a few offers from the MAC, and Army and Air Force.
Anthony Battaglia 6'0" 185 Safety (Unranked) Class of 2016 Uncommitted
Battaglia has a reported offer from Army. He is one of Pine-Richland's biggest play makers as well.
Phil Jurkovec 6'5" 190 Quarterback (Unranked) Class of 2018 Uncommitted
Phil Jurkovec is the big name to watch for Pine Richland. The 6'5" sophomore has not only replaced Ben DiNucci, he has kept things rolling at a high level for this program. Jurkovec already holds offers from Pitt, Penn State, Temple, and Wisconsin. Pretty much the general consensus here is that Jurkovec has the makeup of possibly being one of the very top recruits in the country for 2018. He is a true dual-threat quarterback and has the ability to make big runs. He is definitely one of the more intriguing prospects to watch in this game. Not sure if he will ever be ranked quite this high, but he's the closest thing to Terrelle Pryor the area has seen since he graduated from Jeannette.
Obviously, there is talent all over the field. Pitt has a number of highly coveted prospects all over the field. If you are one to follow recruiting, then it is definitely worth your time tuning into Root Sports tonight to watch this game at 7:30. This game could feature a number of future Panthers, and at the very least should be a competitive and entertaining football game.