Happy National Signing Day, folks. I'll be keeping this space updated all day as the faxes roll in and from Paul Chryst's press conference at 3 p.m. over on the South Side. With the defection of Wade Freebeck yesterday, Pitt is expecting 22 Letters of Intent to come in today (defensive end Rori Blair is already enrolled) and, hopefully, no other late surprises. Players can start sending their LOIs in at 7 a.m., so after that time, make sure to check back here for updates as they come in...
11:26 a.m. - With all 23 now official, here's a look at Pitt's final 2014 recruiting class:
QB Adam Bertke, 6-6, 210 lbs, Maria Stein, Ohio (Marion Local High School)
RB Qadree Ollison, 6-2, 215 lbs, Niagara Falls, N.Y. (Canisius High School)
RB Dennis Briggs, 5-10, 195 lbs, Pittsburgh, Pa. (Shady Side Academy)
RB Chris James, 5-11, 210 lbs, Chicago, Ill. (Notre Dame College Prep)
WR Adonis Jennings, 6-3, 195 lbs, Clementon, N.J. (Timber Creek High School)
WR Elijah Zeise, 6-2, 195 lbs, Pittsburgh, Pa. (North Allegheny High School)
TE Brian O'Neill, 6-6, 245 lbs, Wilmington, Del. (Salesianum School)
OL Alex Bookser, 6-6, 295 lbs, Mt. Lebanon, Pa. (Mt. Lebanon High School)
OL Mike Grimm, 6-6, 325 lbs, Bethel Park, Pa. (Bethel Park High School)
OL Connor Hayes, 6-4, 270 lbs, Traverse City, Mich. (Traverse City West High School)
DL Rori Blair, 6-4, 230 lbs, Pittsburgh, Pa. (Upper St. Clair High School)
DL Hez Trahan, 6-4, 250 lbs, Philadelphia, Pa. (Roman Catholic High School)
DL Shane Roy, 6-4, 245 lbs, Cincinnati, Ohio (Reading High School)
DL Connor Dintino, 6-3, 295 lbs, Mashpee, Mass. (Choate Rosemary Hall (Conn.))
DL Mike Herndon, 6-4, 320 lbs, Staunton, Va. (Riverheads High School)
LB Jamal Davis II, 6-2, 200 lbs, Canton, Ohio (Canton McKinley High School)
LB James Folston Jr., 6-3, 200 lbs, Rockledge, Fla. (Cocoa High School)
LB Quintin Wirginis, 6-2, 220 lbs, Pittsburgh, Pa. (Fox Chapel High School)
DB Avonte Maddox, 5-9, 165 lbs, Detroit, Mich. (Martin Luther King High School)
DB Phillipie Motley, 5-10, 170 lbs, Columbus, Ohio (Hilliard Davidson High School)
DB Patrick Amara 6-2, 190 lbs, Lansdowne, Pa. (West Catholic High School)
DB Jalen Williams, 6-2, 180 lbs, Newburgh, N.Y. (Newburgh Free Academy)
ATH Jaquaun Davidson, 6-2, 170 lbs, Elizabeth, Pa. (Elizabeth Forward High School)
10:35 a.m. - There we have it. DE Hez Trahan and WR Adonis Jennings have both sent their LOIs in to Pitt and that'll wrap up Pitt's 2014 class. Trahan is a bit of a project at defensive end, and was recruited mostly on his potential. He's 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, and if he develops well could be a contributor down the road. Jennings, meanwhile, is another guy with a strong chance to play as a freshman in 2014. He's 6-foot-3, 195 pounds and has really nice hands for a high school senior. Wide receiver is another spot where Pitt has an open starting job next season. I'm not sure that I expect Jennings to step in and be a major factor right away (like Tyler Boyd) but he's certainly a good bet to be a contributor in 2014.
9:43 a.m. - Only a few more recruits still left out there for Pitt. Over the last hour or so, the Panthers have received LOIs from CB Avonte Maddox, S Patrick Amara and LB Jamal Davis. With 20 faxes now in, Pitt's just waiting on WR Adonis Jennings, one of the biggest names in this class, and DE Hez Trahan. Maddox could be a steal as a cornerback. He's really quick, and, like I mentioned with Motley, there could be opportunities for playing time at cornerback next season. Amara has won over a lot of fans with his gregarious nature on Twitter, and he has really picked up some more interest and accolades over the past few months. I wrote about him a few weeks ago about the bond he had formed with former Pitt running back LeSean McCoy. Davis, a Canton, Ohio, native, tweeted earlier this morning that he might not be able to get his fax in because he didn't have school today, but he was obviously able to get everything taken care of. Only waiting on two more now...
8:49 a.m. - We're up to 17 signees for the Panthers now, less than two hours into the day. The latest were CB Phillipie Motley and RB Chris James. Motley chose Pitt over mostly MAC offers, but will come in at a spot where there could be playing time to be had. Lafayette Pitts and Titus Howard seem like the only sure bets to see the field at cornerback next year, so Motley could have a chance to earn some snaps. James, on the other, is probably the most likely recruit of the 2014 class to see the field. He's got a really nice mix of size and speed and could add a nice new weapon in the backfield for Chryst and company next year. Chryst has shown he has no problem using multiple RBs, and I would expect James to be one of them next season.
8:34 a.m. - Three more faxes in and we're now at 15 of 22. Pitt has now officially received LOIs from QB Adam Bertke, OL Alex Bookser and LB James Folston, Jr. Bertke is obviously even more important in the wake of Freebeck's decommitment yesterday, and some recruiting services had him ranked higher than Freebeck. He's a big guy (6-foot-6, 210 lbs), but there are some questions about the level of competition he faced in small-school Ohio high school ball. Ideally for Pitt, he can redshirt this year and ultimately compete for the job down the road. Bookser is one of the four-star recruits in this class and, like I mentioned with Grimm, he's important because he plays the offensive line. Pitt recruited enough guys there last year and the year before that I think he'll probably be able to redshirt this year, but should be a potential multi-year starter down the road. Folston has an interesting football pedigree, as his father is a former Oakland Raider and his older brother is a running back for Notre Dame.
8:02 a.m. - We've just crossed the one hour mark and Pitt already has 12 of its 22 expected LOIs in and accounted for. The most recent batch included LB Quintin Wirginis, DB Jalen Williams and DL Connor Dintino. Wirginis could end up being one of the steals of this class because he missed all of his senior year due to a Lisfranc injury suffered in the offseason. I know a lot of schools were high on him before that, but backed off a bit once he got hurt. I spoke to him this week and he said he's back playing basketball for Fox Chapel, so there should be no injury concerns when he gets to Pitt this summer. Williams, at 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, will likely start off at safety for the Panthers. Dintino is listed at 6-foot-3, 295 pounds, but might still have some more room to grow, making him an intriguing prospect at the interior of the defensive line.
7:54 a.m. - The rush continues. Over the past 10 minutes, athlete Jaquan Davidson, OL Mike Grimm and DE Shane Roy have all gotten their LOIs faxed in. Davidson will likely start his Pitt career at receiver, and is among the most athletic members of this class. He actually played quarterback at Elizabeth Forward, and has some deceptive speed that could make him a nice weapon at receiver. Grimm is probably one of the biggest signings of this class, both figuratively and literally. On the literal side, he's 6-foot-6, 325 pounds. From a big-picture point of view, though, he fits in perfectly with what Chryst wants to do in building his team starting with the offensive line. There may be question marks elsewhere, but Chryst has done an excellent job at recruiting the o-line over the past few years and that should pay dividends down the road. It's a lot easier for a good offensive line to make skill position guys look good than vice versa.
7:42 a.m. - Now we're rolling. Running backs Dennis Briggs and Qadree Ollison both got their faxes in within minutes of each other and were quickly followed by North Allegheny receiver Elijah Zeise. A lot of schools were recruiting Zeise on the defensive side of the ball, but he chose Pitt partially for the opportunity to play receiver. At 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, he's still got some room to grow, and I think could end up being a nice big, physical receiver. Briggs' only other Division I offer was from Toledo, but his high school coach, former Pitt QB Dave Havern, has said that he's confident Briggs will be able to be a successful running back in big-time college football.
7:31 a.m. - Two more Letters of Intent have come across the fax machine. Tight end Brian O'Neill and offensive lineman Connor Hayes are both now officially Panthers. O'Neill is a Rivals 3-star tight end, who has a big 6-foot-6 frame that Pitt coaches hope will end up making him a nice big receiving option. Hayes is also a 3-star on Rivals out of Traverse City, Mich., and was the first member of this class to verbally commit last April.
On the local front, it looks like weather is playing a role in Pittsburgh players getting to school and getting their faxes in. With snow and ice around the region, the roads are pretty bad and lots of schools have issued delays. So far, none of the three LOIs that have come in are from in-state prospects. It's nothing to be concerned about, but might just take a little longer before all 22 LOIs are in.
7:19 a.m. - And the first letter of intent to come across the fax machine for Pitt is Staunton, Va., defensive tackle Mike Herndon. Herndon's an interesting prospect because, even though he is 6-foot-4 and 320 lbs, he played mostly middle linebacker until his senior year of high school. There are two ways to look at this. One, it might take some time for him to learn the defensive tackle position since he's relatively new to it. On the other hand, though, the fact that his coaches put him at linebacker tells me that he must move well and have good quickness for a guy his size, and those are two very important qualities for a defensive lineman.