WPIAL products have Division 1 chance
Ask Joe Butler about a football prospect, and it's likely you'll get a standard answer from a scout who is optimistic yet cautious about providing glowing assessments:
He has a chance.
As director of the Metro Index scouting service, Butler has watched thousands of prospects come through western Pennsylvania. He has a good idea about who can and can't play Division I football, and he is responsible for giving many of them visibility at his skills camps. His 21st edition was held last month in two four-day sessions at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex on the South Side.
Here is a position-by-position report:
Quarterbacks: Pine-Richland's Kevin McCabe (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) proved himself to be the WPIAL's top senior, and Laurel Highlands' Matt Humbert (6-3, 195) caught major-college coaches' attention with his lively arm.
Jake Cuffman (6-4, 195) of Butler emerged as a Division-I prospect.
“He's an upstart quarterback,” Butler said. “He's got potential, size and throws a nice ball. He has good technique. He's not on the level of the other two, but he's good.”
Butler also touted Penn Hills junior Anthony Morelli, who caused a buzz among the attending coaches and was the undisputed star of the camp, as “one of the top juniors in America. He has a lot of talent, poise and arm strength. He throws a great out pattern.”
Running backs: Duquesne's Windell Brown (5-11 1 / 2 , 182) was the best of what is turning out to be an atypically strong position in western Pennsylvania. A footnote should add that Washington's Travis Thomas and Gateway's Ernest Bonner didn't attend.
“He's real smooth. He just glides along,” Butler said of Brown. “He's explosive at times. He has good hands and can play multiple positions.”
Moon's Austin Sykes (6-1, 212) lived up to his reputation, but Trinity's Brad Hammond (6-0, 210) surprised some with 4.4 40s. Others opening eyes were Fort Cherry's Ben Farrell (6-0, 210), who is battling the WPIAL for an extra semester of eligibility, Keystone Oaks' Joe Joe Lamonde (5-11, 205), also a safety prospect, and fullbacks Bob Hathaway of Carmichaels (6-2, 215) and Dustin Ziacik of Knoch (6-3, 200).
Receivers/Ends: Wilkinsburg's Lorenzo King (5-11, 188) and Laurel Highlands' Antwjuan Cox (5-10, 165) stood out with their hands and quickness, Butler said, as did Keystone Oaks' Bryan Dapper (6-2, 188) and Valley's Seth White (6-2 1 / 2 , 185).
Butler considers Mark Clark (6-3, 250), who plays tackle for Perry, a sleeper prospect at tight end because of his good feet. Chartiers Valley's Justin McNeil (6-3 1 / 2 , 215) and Penn Hills' Steve Renfro (6-3, 208) are also tight end prospects. The most intriguing prospect was Jake Parsons (6-7, 225) of Lower Merion High in King of Prussia.
Linemen: Butler believes that New Castle defensive end Allen Billyk (6-4, 255) might have elevated himself to the status of the WPIAL's top lineman. Also causing a stir was Greenville's Andrew Young (6-4, 290) and Woodland Hills' Phillip Hall (6-3, 300).
Among the top offensively were tackles Zach Beebe (6-5, 250) of Mt. Lebanon, Kevin Cimador (6-5, 295) of Baldwin, Rob Lichius (6-4, 295) of Woodland Hills, Skyler Freed (6-2 1 / 2 , 280) of Rochester and Brian Bixby (6-3, 275) of Erie Cathedral Prep, as well as Uniontown center Harry Kaufman (6-3, 275).
Defensively, the camp featured Monaca twin ends Craig and Keith Bloom (6-5, 205) and nose guards Patrick Weber (6-3, 280) of Valley, Deo Beck (6-3, 245) of Kittanning and Mike Hill (6-1, 238) of Penn Hills, who Butler said “is relentless and has a great motor but might have to move to inside linebacker.”
Out of nowhere came massive Belle Vernon tackle Chad Giannini (6-5, 290) and Northgate's Alan Dennis (6-4, 245), a defensive end who missed his junior year to injury. Other sleepers were Wilkinsburg defensive tackle Maurice Powell (6-4, 275) and Oil City's Steve Drozdo (6-4, 310), who Butler said “is really on the rise.”
Linebackers: Hopewell's Paul Posluszny and Kiski Area's Chris McKillop, who committed to Pitt, were “tremendous,” and Butler also was impressed with Uniontown's Adam Muzika (6-1 1 / 2 , 232). Other standouts were Fort Cherry's Mike Harrington (6-2, 225), Quaker Valley's Richard Ferguson (6-0, 240) and Ford City's Richie Bennett (6-0, 222).
Defensive backs: Butler said Perry's Vaughn Rivers (5-9, 165) and Quaker Valley's James Rockymore (5-11, 178) “were like glue” in man coverage and emerged as the best of another deep position. On the rise are Seton-La Salle's Joe DelSardo (5-10, 190), a safety prospect with great hands who ran the 40 in 4.5 seconds, and Penn Hills' Thomas Claiborne (5-11, 180), who showed great hands and coverage skills.
Other standouts were Mars' Brad Mueller, who ran a sub-4.3 40 the same week he won the WPIAL Class AA 100- and 200-meter championships, West Allegheny's Dionte Henry and Woodland Hills' Antwan Coleman.
Originally, the western Pennsylvania Class of 2003 wasn't expected to be very strong. The Metro Index camp showed otherwise.
“This class is really on the rise,” Butler said. “This is what I call a 'super sleeper' class.”
In other words, they have a chance.
Kevin Gorman's Recruiting2Day column appears Fridays in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He can be reached at (412) 320-7812 or firstname.lastname@example.org.