Gorman: Florida State game golden opportunity for Pitt
Ever since its inaugural ACC schedule was announced, Pitt has been hyping its Labor Day opener against Florida State on Monday night at Heinz Field.
The Panthers haven't been shy about boasting on radio and TV ads that they have the hottest home schedule in the country.
Now, it's time for Pitt to take advantage of the national spotlight by turning it into a showcase for prospective recruits.
The Panthers are heavy underdogs, but ESPN recruiting analyst Jared Shanker believes it's a golden opportunity for Pitt.
“It's more important to make a good impression,” Shanker said. “Having said that, if they lose, 45-0, it's hard to make a good impression. As long as the experience is good, a loss doesn't matter — as long as you don't lose in horrible fashion.”
Having Arizona Cardinals All-Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, whose No. 1 jersey will be retired, among the Pitt greats in attendance should only help the Panthers with prospects.
“They might say that it's cool that Larry Fitzgerald is there and getting his number retired,” Shanker said, “but that will go away quick if they lose. It becomes tougher to recruit after a loss because the locker room is dead. They've got Notre Dame and Miami at home, so there will be other opportunities.”
The Panthers have invited dozens of recruits from the Class of 2014 to the game. That includes WPIAL stars in Mt. Lebanon left tackle Alex Bookser, Aliquippa defensive back Dravon Henry, Washington tailback Shai McKenzie and Gateway receiver-safety Montae Nicholson, as well as Buffalo Canisius tailback Qadree Ollison.
“They've got their five biggest targets going to the game,” Shanker said. “They need to get at least two of them.”
Shanker called Bookser and Henry the two most important recruits for the Panthers to get.
“You've got to build from the inside out, and Bookser is one of the best tackles in the region,” Shanker said. “And Dravon's a dynamic athlete who has so many connections.”
Pitt has a long history of an Aliquippa pipeline, from NFL first-round picks Mike Ditka and Sean Gilbert to Darrelle Revis and Jonathan Baldwin, and Henry is the latest Quips star.
And he hopes the Panthers make it a memorable moment.
“A lot of people doubt Pitt right now. I hope they prove people otherwise,” said Henry, who also is being recruited by the Seminoles. “This is my first time seeing Florida State, so I'm excited to see that, too. I don't really care if they win or lose. Just make it a good game.
“It should be a great time.”