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Newcomers to Watch

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One-time Michigan Wolverine Ray Vinopal is one of several transfers who figure to play a significant role for new coach Paul Chryst and the Pitt Panthers this fall.

Pitt
Safety Ray Vinopal, #9

Vinopal transferred from Michigan last season and sat out per NCA rules. As a freshman with the Wolverines in 2010, he played in all 13 games and started six, collecting 33 tackles and one interception. The strong safety stood out throughout spring practice and ended the spring as the starting strong safety. The Big East appears to be deep at safety this season, but Vinopal could wind up standing out in his first active year with the Panthers.


Cornerback Cullen Christian, #24
Another Michigan transfer, Christian ended the spring running with the first team at corner, opposite junior K’waun Williams. Christian, a Penn Hills graduate, lettered as a freshman at Michigan, playing in 11 games and recording six tackles. The secondary may turn out to be Pitt’s strongest and deepest position, but the 6-0, 190-pound Christian appears to have forced his way onto the field.


Running back Rushel Shell
Pennsylvania’s all-time leading high school rusher, Shell was one of the elite recruits in the country last season. He’ll have to battle sophomore Isaac Bennett, who had a tremendous spring, and senior Ray Graham, who will return from an ACL tear that ended his eye-popping junior season early. Shell is too talented and too much of a game-breaker to watch from the sidelines, however. Expect to see him on the field sooner rather than later.


Others to watch:
Eric Williams, LB:
Redshirted last season after a standout career as a defensive back and receiver at Pennsbury HS. Ended the spring at the top of the depth chart at outside linebacker.
Chad Voytik, QB: A four-star quarterback prospect from Tennessee, Voytik will get a look when he arrives on campus this summer. “I anticipate him getting work,” head coach Paul Chryst said at the ACC spring meetings. “Legitimately getting work and then we'll see."


Penn State
Wide receiver Eugene Lewis

One of the top recruits in Pennsylvania last season out of Wyoming Valley HS, the 6-2, 185-pound Lewis has the size and speed to play right away, and under first-year head coach Bill O’Brien he’ll likely get that opportunity. With veteran receiver Devon Smith’s status up in the air due to a pending drug charge, thDeion Barnes photo from Penn Stateere will be an opening opposite starter Justin Brown.


Defensive end Deion Barnes, #18
A redshirt freshman from Northeast HS in Philadephia, Barnes earned a spot in the rotation at defensive end this spring. He’s raw but extremely athletic, and with Devon Still, Jack Crawford and Eric Latimore all graduated, Barnes could provide a third-down pass rush as a quality reserve.


Head coach Bill O’Brien
No newcomer in the college football world will be under more scrutiny than O’Brien. The former New England Patriots offensive coordinator will try to leave his mark on a program that was run by Joe Paterno for 46 years. He’s overhauled the offense to model the one he ran in Foxboro, but he doesn’t have Tom Brady at quarterback anymore. O’Brien has kept a busy schedule and was greeted with open arms during his many public appearances this offseason, but the scrutiny will get more intense once the games start.


Others to Watch:
Jesse James, TE:
A true freshman who graduated from South Allegheny HS early and participated in spring practice, James is big (6-7, 265), athletic and fast. Penn State’s new offense will feature several tight ends, giving James a legitimate change to earn early playing time.
Ben Kline, LB: Kline, a redshirt freshman linebacker from Dallastown HS, recorded five tackles and intercepted a pass for the Blue squad during the Nittany Lions’ spring game.


West Virginia
Linebacker Karl Joseph

Karl Joseph photo by Stephen M DowellAn Orlando product, the hard-hitting Joseph put himself in contention to win a starting job after an outstanding spring. Joseph came to Morgantown as a safety and is best suited for a hybrid-type position. "You can pencil him in to play a good bit," Coach Dana Holgorsen said this spring.


Wide receiver Jordan Thompson
An early-enrollee from Katy, Texas, Thompson impressed in the spring. At just 5-8, 160-pounds, Thompson’s size kept him from being a highly sought-after recruit, but his elusiveness and pass-catching ability will get him on the field early. "You can't tackle what you can't touch," Holgorson said of Thompson during spring practices.


Defensive back Matt Moro, #0
Not a true newcomer, Moro arrived at WVU from junior college last year but did see much action. Moro received a chance this spring due to an injury to safety Pat Miller and made the most of it, picking off a pass in the spring game and forcing his way into the Mountaineers’ third-down packages.


Others to Watch:
Brandon Napolean, CB:
The son of former Mountaineer Eugene Napoleon, Brandon played running back, quarterback and defensive back at St. Peter’s Prep in New Jersey.
Deontay McManus, WR: An elite recruit as a linebacker, McManus wanted to play receiver in college and wound up finding a home in Morgantown. He’s 6-2, 215-pounds and runs in the 4.5 range. If he can make the transition to offense, look out. If not, he’ll find a home across the line of scrimmage.

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