By Chris Dokish
For those of you who follow our yearly rankings, you may have noticed that the Top 50 has become the Top 25. The reason for this is because of the lack of depth in the state. It's become more difficult to find 50 prospects yearly that are at a high-major level. For that reason, we have decided to just report on the very best the state has to offer.
While the depth is not what it used to be in a state that has seen its population plunge over the last few decades, there is still some excellent talent out there. You may notice, however, that there are really only two prospects who received attention from the high level programs around the country. This is a significant drop from past seasons.
Lastly, as we always try to do, we do our best to leave out "scout talk," hyperbole and biases. We try to speak as bluntly, and accurately, as possible, while still remembering that these are high school kids we're talking about.
1. Shariff Floyd, George Washington HS (Philadelphia) DT- Kids in Philadelphia get overlooked often in the football recruiting world, but not when they are this good. A brutally strong 6'3" 295 pound interior lineman, Floyd also has great agility and tenacity. He has also shown great techniques as he spent the spring dominating every combine he attended. He comes from a rough neighborhood, but showed great character by raising funds to pay for his own way on the combine circuit. His offers include Pitt, Penn State, Florida, Georgia, Miami, Michigan, West Virginia, Boston College, UCLA, North Carolina, South Carolina and Rutgers. Bottom line - as a kid from the inner city of Philadelphia, he is still underrated around the country. He has all the skills to be a dominating college player and is the only prospect in the state that could physically play college football tomorrow.
2. Corey Brown, Cardinal O'Hara HS (Springfield) WR/RB- An excellent athlete with legitimate speed in the 4.4s. At 6'1" and 170 pounds, he needs to add muscle, especially if he ends up at running back. Exploded onto the scene as a sophomore, but as a junior a sprained knee in the fourth game of the season cost him the majority of the year. Now he's healthy again and has been running track, where he is one of the best sprinters in the state. Brown has very good hands, either out of the backfield or as a wide receiver. He’s also an excellent kick and punt returner. He has over 30 offers, including Penn State, Pitt, Florida, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Alabama, Michigan, Rutgers, Florida State, Tennessee, West Virginia and UCLA. Florida may be the team to beat. Bottom line- He has to prove he can stay healthy this year, and if he can, his speed and game breaking ability could go a long way at the next level.
3. Mike Hull, Canon-McMillan HS (Canonsburg) LB- Not the biggest linebacker at 6'1" and 215 pounds, but he is tough and strong. He has very good straight line speed, and closes fast and explodes into the ball carrier. His father played at PENN STATE and so will he, as he has already verbally committed to the Nittany Lions early in the process. Other offers included Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and Michigan. Bottom line- He also has no major weaknesses. You combine that with his excellent football instincts and heart, and there is no reason why he can't be the next in a long line of Penn State linebacker stars.
4. Paul Jones, Sto-Rox HS (McKees Rocks) QB- Solidly built at 6'3" and 225 pounds, but the best quarterback prospect in the state is best known for a cannon arm. He is considered a pocket passer, but he can run if he has to, and is extremely mobile in the pocket. While he has spent a lot of his high school career running for his life, he still put up huge numbers against good competition. His mechanics need work and he is still somewhat green. Though, he has good leadership abilities and good character, and is a good student. He committed to PENN STATE over Pitt, West Virginia, North Carolina State, Stanford, Iowa, and Virginia Tech. Bottom line- An excellent developmental prospect that three or four years down the road could be in the position to be a very effective college quarterback.
5. Dakoya Royer, Manheim Central HS (Manheim) LB/DE- He came on to the scene as a sophomore when he was named the MVP of a national combine. He has since lived up to his potential. Royer is currently a skinny 6'3" and 220 pounds needing to gain size, especially if he plays with his hand down at the next level. He’s an excellent pass rusher because of his great range and relentless attitude. He’s also an underrated athlete who has a youtube video of himself jumping out of four feet of water in a pool, and landing effortlessly on his feet. His final ten, in no order, are Pitt, Penn State, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Oregon, UCLA, Illinois, Michigan State and North Carolina; all have offered. Bottom line- Possesses everything it takes to be an excellent football player at the next level, expect for size. If he can add the weight in college, he could turn into a dominating pass rusher at the next level. If he can't gain the size, he will need to learn the linebacker position. Either way, he is too good not to be a major contributor in college.
6. Kyle Baublitz, Central York HS (Central York) DE- He terrorized opponents during his junior year as a 6'4" 255 pound middle linebacker. He shows good range and quickness, but will move to the line at the next level where his great size will make him an ideal strong side end. Some schools want him as a tight end, but he prefers the defensive line. Offers include Penn State, Pitt, West Virginia, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Boston College, Florida State and Clemson. Bottom line- Great natural size and toughness should help him become a good college player.
7. Cullen Christian, Penn Hills HS (Pittsburgh) CB- A former track performer who is relatively new to playing cornerback. He’s excellent corner size at 6'0" and 180 pounds, but does need to add some muscle. Christian has long arms to go along with his good speed and excellent athleticism. Has had a combine measured vertical jump of over 39". He plays tough and aggressive. Michigan has offered and leads over the likes of Pitt, West Virginia, Boston College, Rutgers, Minnesota, Purdue, Maryland, Illinois, Colorado and UCLA. Bottom line- His height, long arms, athleticism, and aggressiveness can't be taught. Once he gets more muscle and experience, he could be a big time lockdown corner.
8. Anthony Gonzalez, Liberty HS (Bethlehem) QB/S- A winner that led his team to the Quad A state championship last season over Bethel Park. His stellar play in the playoffs was enough to catapult him to Quad A Player of the Year honors over some very heralded seniors. Looks skinny, and will need to add muscle, but he currently a lean and athletic 6'1" and 195 pounds. Will get long looks at quarterback where his brains, savvy play, and athleticism could help him be successful at the position. Arm strength and mechanics aren't great, but it may prove to be good enough. If he doesn't pan out at quarterback, he could be an exceptional free safety. Offers include Penn State, Pitt, West Virginia, Clemson, Vanderbilt, Missouri, Stanford, Illinois and Maryland. Bottom line- A very good athlete with excellent football skills, but most of all, he is a winner.
9. Andrew Carswell, Sto-Rox HS (McKees Rocks) WR/TE- Paul Jones has to throw to somebody and lucky for him is best friend is a 6'4" 200 pound wide receiver with great hands. Not a blazer, but has good speed and athleticism. He does a great job of using his big body to his advantage. He runs hard after the catch and has excellent football instincts. Offers include Pitt, Michigan, Wisconsin, Stanford, NC State, Boston College, Duke and Vanderbilt. Bottom line- Lack of elite speed is all that prevents him from being amongst the best receiver prospects in the country, but he has enough strengths to still be a big time player at the next level.
10. Miles Dieffenbach, Fox Chapel Area HS (Pittsburgh) OG/C- Versatile lineman that can play guard, center, or tackle at the next level. Most college coaches think he fits best at center because of his agility and smarts. At 6'4" and 280 pounds, he displays quick feet and athleticism. He’s a tough kid who will destroy you when he pulls. Dieffenbach is also an excellent technician who was very impressive during the spring camp and Combine season. Committed to PENN STATE this week, even though his father is a tennis coach at Pitt. In addition to the Nittany Lions, he fielded offers from Pitt, Florida State, Virginia, Minnesota, Northwestern and Syracuse. Bottom line- Went head to head this spring with some of the best defensive linemen in the East and he showed just how good he was.
11. Tom Ricketts, North Allegheny HS (Wexford) OT- Great wingspan at 6'6", but at 250 pounds he needs to put on a lot of muscle once he gets to college. He has the great frame to do it, though. Father, Tom, was a former Pitt offensive lineman and first round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Played guard as a junior, but will replace Ryan Schlieper, a Pitt freshman this year, at left tackle this season. He’s a project at tackle in college because of his height and extremely long arms. Chose PENN STATE over Pitt, Florida State, Boston College, Stanford, Maryland, Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois and Cincinnati. Bottom line- More than just the son of a former NFL No. 1 draft choice, Ricketts has the great wingspan and quick feet to be a star in his own right.
12. Brandon Ifill, Penn Hills HS (Pittsburgh) WR/DB- At 6'0" and 175 pounds, he needs to add some size, but he has speed in the 4.4s and good athleticism. He can project at wide receiver, cornerback or safety. Has most of his experience at receiver, but has spent the spring running drills on defense and has performed extremely well. Pitt currently leads over Michigan and Maryland. All have offered, as have the likes of West Virginia, Boston College, Minnesota, Purdue, Rutgers, Colorado, UConn and Cincinnati. Bottom line- Ifill is a talented athlete who can project nicely at three different positions.
13. Seth Betancourt, St. Joseph's Prep (Philadelphia) OT- Great size at 6'6" and 290 pounds. He was a bookend with Penn State freshman Mark Arcidiacono last season. He has a great wingspan and quick feet. He chose BOSTON COLLEGE over West Virginia, Michigan State, Minnesota, Rutgers, and Virginia, among others. Bottom line- Some national recruiting websites overrated him early in the process (neither Penn State nor Pitt offered), but he is still the type of good prospect that Boston College turns into an all-star four or five years down the line.
14. Aaron Donald, Penn Hills HS (Pittsburgh) DT- At 6'0" and 260 pounds, obviously his size isn't ideal, but there may not be a quicker interior lineman in the country. In fact, he's so quick and explosive that how well he takes on blockers is a question- he is so fast off the ball he has little experience taking on a blocker straight up. He chose PITT over offers from Rutgers, Akron, and Toledo. Bottom line- Because of his size, he won't fit in most defensive systems, and that's why you won't see him with a lot of offers. But if he fits in your system, which he does at Pitt, then he could be a major force down the road.
15. Ken Wilkins, Trinity HS (Washington) LB/DE- Lean, 6'3" 225 pounder with a good physique, though he will need to get even stronger at the next level. He has good speed and athleticism. Many schools are looking at him as a linebacker, but he may ultimately be too stiff there, so there's a good chance that if he can gain the weight, he will eventually end up at end. Pitt, Michigan, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland currently lead, and all have offered. Other offers include Wisconsin, Boston College, North Carolina, NC State, Illinois and Rutgers. Bottom line- Looks better in combines than on film, but he is a good athlete that could prosper in the right conditions.
16. Luke Graham, Penn-Trafford HS (Harrison City) OG- At 6'5" and 245 pounds, he obviously has to add a lot of weight. Gets pushed around some now because of his weight disadvantage. Very athletic for a lineman, and he has to make sure he keeps most of that athleticism as he gets bigger. He has a great wingspan. Graham committed to PENN STATE over offers from Pitt, Florida State, Maryland, Duke, Stanford, Virginia, Syracuse, Illinois and Northwestern. Bottom line- He is very raw and has a long way to go, but with his wingspan and athleticism, he could be a good player three or four years, and 60 pounds, down the road.
17. Alex Kenney, State College HS (State College) WR/RB- Fastest top prospect in the state with the ability to run in the 4.3s. Track star that runs a 10.6 in the 100 meters. At 6'0" and 180 pounds, he needs to gain more muscle, especially if he ends up at running back. Elite speed makes him a potentially excellent return man at the college level. Doesn't have a lot of experience at the wide receiver position, but does have good hands. Has some moves and isn't the track only type of player who just runs straight very fast. However, he’s not very physical. He has offers from Penn State, Pitt, Boston College, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan State, Stanford, Illinois, Northwestern and Virginia, among others. Bottom line- Speed is obviously what got him offers, but his lack of toughness and aggressiveness is what will keep that offer list from getting too high. To succeed at the next level, he will have to be utilized in space a lot.
18. Tyler Smith, Wilson Area HS (Easton) QB- Good 6'4" 195 pound size, though obviously he will have to fill out more. Strong arm and can make all the throws, especially deep. He was highly productive as a junior and well-coached. Pocket passer who is mobile in the pocket and can take off if he needs to. Smith committed to MARYLAND over Pitt, Rutgers, Iowa, Akron, UConn and Syracuse. Bottom line- For the second year in a row the Terps came in and got an excellent quarterback prospect, after nabbing C.J. Brown last year.
19. Manasseh Garner, Brashear HS (Pittsburgh) LB- Like Philadelphia, the inner city kids of Pittsburgh's City League are often overlooked, but this 6'2" 205 pound athlete deserves to be noticed. Versatile player who played four different positions last season, but at the next level he projects best at linebacker. However, he is also getting looks at safety, tight end, and even wide receiver. Very fast and has a strong body. Offers have come from Pitt, Maryland, Minnesota, Akron and Toledo. Bottom line- Fast rising, yet still an underrated prospect that has a high ceiling.
20. Sal Conaboy, Clark Summit HS (Abington Heights) OG- Solidly built at 6'5" and 255 pounds, though like most lineman prospects these days, he will have to add 40-50 pounds at the next level. Conaboy has quick feet. He’s a bit of a sleeper nationally but college coaches are well aware of his potential. Offers include Pitt, West Virginia, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Rutgers, Vanderbilt and Syracuse. Bottom line- He’s a good prospect with a bright future.
21. Jarrod West, Liberty HS (Bethlehem) WR- Excellent 6'2" height for the position, but at 175 pounds, he clearly needs to add about 25 pounds. He has very good speed and athleticism. Soft hands and can make the difficult catch. Combined with quarterback Anthony Gonzalez and current Pitt freshman receiver Devin Street to lead the Hurricanes to the Quad A state championship last season. West has offers from Pitt, Maryland, Stanford, Cincinnati, Missouri, Northwestern, Temple and Vanderbilt. Bottom line- He has underrated talent who is going to be a steal for some lucky program.
22. Chad Hagan, Canon-McMillan HS (Canonsburg) S/LB- Excellent athlete at a very solid 6'0" and 210 pounds. Ran a highly suspect 4.29 at one combine, but does have excellent speed in the 4.45 range. Could be first looked at for safety, but if he doesn't pan out there, he could be turned into a very fast outside linebacker. Had major surgery for a stress fracture on his shin, and just recently had his cast removed. Ohio State has offered and appears to be the leader. Other offers have come from Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Buffalo and Northwestern. Bottom line- Not as big or as fast as some has made him out to be, but he is still a fast, solidly built safety prospect. One has to wonder why the three most local schools—Pitt, Penn State and West Virginia—all passed on such an athlete, though.
23. Brendon Felder, Gateway HS (Monroeville) WR/CB- You can't have a top list of PA prospects without a Gateway player, and this Massachusetts import is one of the biggest surprises of the combine circuit this spring. At 5'11" and 165 pounds, he needs some work in the weight room, but as he proved the last few months, his 4.4 speed and excellent athleticism will get him places. Offers from Pitt, Boston College, Syracuse and a lot of MAC teams. Bottom line- Once he gets the major exposure of being one of Gateway's best this season, his stock should keep going up.
24. Jordan Paskorz, Hampton Area HS (Allison Park) DE- At 6'3" and 225 pounds, he needs to get bigger, and he needs to get much stronger, too, but he is an aggressive athlete with range and toughness. Brother, Steve, plays for Notre Dame. Paskorz chose MICHIGAN over Pitt, Minnesota, Virginia and most of the MAC schools. Bottom line- Could be a good college player once he gets bigger, but his lack of a high ceiling prevents him from being rated higher.
25. Derrick Burns, Wilmington Area HS (New Wilmington) S- As a running back and middle linebacker last season, he led his team to the Class AA state title over a seemingly unbeatable West Catholic squad. Brother of highly touted Pittsburgh running back Chris Burns. Not nearly as fast or as elusive as his brother, and at 5'10" and 200 pounds, he won't be able to play middle linebacker either. But he is a talented football player who should be able to make an impact as a safety at the college level. Burns chose to play with his brother at PITT way back in February. Bottom line- He’s a tough, hard-nosed football player with better than average athletic ability.
Others to keep an eye on: Small, but feisty Gateway (Monroeville) cornerbacks Orne Bay and Dayonne Nunley have taken on all comers during the Spring, but their lack of height is preventing them from getting any offers. Fellow cornerbacks Ibraheim Campbell of Chestnut Hill (Philadelphia), and Shyquawn Pullium of Erie Cathedral Prep have gotten a handful of major offers, however. All have just missed the list as have wide receivers Salath Williams of Bishop McDevitt (Harrisburg), Kevin Weatherspoon of Clairton, and Erik Williams of Pennsbury (Fairless Hills), and quarterback Malik Stokes of Northeast (Philadelphia).