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College football notebook: Pitt gets verbal commitment from Hawaiian DT

| Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 8:22 a.m.

Spurned by high-profile wide receiver Robert Foster, yet still in need of a makeover at several positions, Pitt has turned its recruiting efforts toward prospects who have gone largely unnoticed.

The latest to pledge his allegiance to the Panthers is Hawaiian defensive tackle Jeremiah Taleni, a two-star recruit whose only other offers came from Washington State and Massachusetts.

Taleni, who played at tiny Kailua High School on the island's more remote east coast, is the only Hawaiian to receive a scholarship from Pitt in at least two decades. But several players have found success on the U.S. mainland, including Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.

“D-1 prospects are quite plentiful in Hawaii,” Kailua coach Gary Rosolowich said.

Pitt hopes Taleni's quickness off the snap, combined with uncommon size (6-foot-2, 315 pounds), eventually will help improve its talent level on the line.

“He comes from an area of Hawaii (Kailua, on the east coast) that isn't heavily recruited,” said Bob Lichtenfels, recruiting analyst for “But the kid does some things for his size that most guys don't do.”

Pitt has a connection to Kailua through defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield, who has a friend on the Kailua staff.

Meanwhile, Pitt sent assistant coaches to Wisconsin to meet with wide receiver Jester Weah of Madison Memorial and linebacker Zach Poker of Oconomowoc. Plus, Pitt has its eye on Harrisburg linebacker Chris Britton, who was recently named to the Big 33 game after playing only one full season.

Weah, 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, didn't play football until his sophomore year, but he caught 71 passes for 1,436 yards and 13 touchdowns in two seasons. He has an offer from Colorado State, but will visit Pitt this weekend.

“Half of those catches weren't easy, because he was double-teamed, but we always knew what we were going to get with him,” Madison coach Mike Galinda said.

Poker, 6-4, 230, also will visit Pitt this weekend with a 4.0 grade-point average and offers from Air Force, Army and Central Michigan. He turned down several MAC schools because their engineering program wasn't adequate, Oconomowoc coach Ryan McMillan said.

Players such as Weah, Poker and Britton may not play early, but they could help fill out Pitt's roster and compete for playing time in 2014 or 2015.

Pitt recruited a similar athlete last season when it offered a scholarship to lightly recruited offensive lineman Gabe Roberts. Roberts was redshirted last season, but he could compete for a starting job next season.

“The first thing (Pitt) kids say when you mention that kid's name is 'He's a beast,' ”Lichtenfels said of Roberts. “Sometimes, that kid with fewer offers has more to play for and he comes in a little hungrier.

“Just because they are under the rader to us doesn't mean they are under the radar to (coaches).”

Gibson joins WVU

A day after hiring a new cornerbacks assistant, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen selected former WVU and Pitt assistant Tony Gibson as the new safeties coach.

Gibson joins the Mountaineers staff after spending the 2012 season as the assistant head coach, safeties coach and special teams coordinator at Arizona under Rich Rodriguez.

Gibson was the defensive backs coach under Rodriguez at WVU from 2001-07 before the pair left for Michigan for three seasons.

In 2011, Gibson was the secondary coach at Pitt.

“Tony certainly has built a reputation as an outstanding recruiter and is nationally known for his ability,” Holgorsen said Wednesday in a statement. “Being a native West Virginian and having already coached here at the University and successfully recruited Western Pennsylvania for many years, he brings a familiarity that will be an asset to our program.”

Gibson is expected to recruit in Western Pennsylvania, an area that was his primary focus in his former roles at WVU and Pitt and was the responsibility of former WVU assistant Steve Dunlap.

Gibson is the second defensive assistant hired at WVU this week. Former East Carolina defensive coordinator Brian Mitchell was named cornerbacks coach on Tuesday.

San Diego St. shuns Big East

San Diego State is staying in the Mountain West and backing out on the Big East — just like Boise State did last month.

San Diego State president Elliot Hirshman says the school is pleased to be continuing as a full member of the Mountain West.

San Diego State had committed to join the Big East for football only, with Boise State, starting next season. But recent defections from the Big East caused Boise State to reconsider and strike a deal to stay in the Mountain West. Without a western partner, San Diego State retreated, too.

'Bama QB's girlfriend lands TV job

The beauty pageant queen who shot to social media stardom during the BCS championship will be back in front of the cameras ahead of the NFL's title game.

Former Miss Alabama USA Katherine Webb will serve as a correspondent for “Inside Edition” leading up to next month's Super Bowl in New Orleans.

The girlfriend of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, Webb became a star when ESPN's cameras lingered on her during the Crimson Tide's rout of Notre Dame on Jan. 7 and announcer Brent Musburger commented on her looks.

Odds and ends

Police say a University of Florida offensive lineman has been charged with stealing a scooter. Campus police say redshirt freshman Jessamen Dunker was arrested Wednesday and charged with vehicle theft, a third-degree felony. They say he also was charged with driving with a suspended license. ... John L. Smith will take over at tiny Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., after being let go as Arkansas' football coach. Smith will start his new head coaching assignment March 1, the school announced. He inherits a Skyhawks team that went 0-10 last season. ... Georgia sophomore tailback Ken Malcome has announced plans to transfer. He began the 2012 season as the starter but was soon passed on the depth chart by freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Malcome had 57 carries for 274 yards and two touchdowns in 10 games, including one start.

The Associated Press and staff writer John Harris contributed to this notebook. Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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