Penn State And Pitt Among The Winners In Recruiting

Posted: February 10, 1988

If Joe Paterno really intends to retire after the 1991 season, as some recent reports from central Pennsylvania have suggested, the veteran Penn State coach has a chance to go out in regal style.

He will be challenged, however, by nearby opponents such as Notre Dame and Pittsburgh, and by more distant foes such as Texas, UCLA and Clemson.

That was the early assessment of recruiting experts on the eve of "signing day." Today is the first date on which football recruits are permitted to sign binding letters of intent, committing them to attend particular institutions. The signing period runs until April 1.

Most of the top players already have made oral commitments to schools, and virtually all are expected to sign with the schools they've indicated.

Once signing day is over, various experts sift through the available evidence and rate the incoming freshman classes. One of the best at doing so is Philadelphian Frank Trocoli, eastern coordinator for the Terranova Report, the oldest and most widely read of the national recruiting books.

While pointing out that it was still too early to get an accurate assessment, Trocoli said yesterday that UCLA, Texas, Pitt, Penn State and Notre Dame were enjoying outstanding recruiting years. Others who were doing well included Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Alabama and Purdue.

Conspicuous by its absence was reigning national champion Miami (Fla.). The Hurricanes have not been a major factor this winter in the recruiting battles, despite the fact that their home state is acclaimed as the best recruiting territory in the nation this year.

"It's going to be interesting to see who they pick up in the next day or two," Trocoli said. "Considering the national championship, we thought they'd bring in every great kid in Florida. But a lot of the top kids there are leaving the state."

Allen Wallace, editor and publisher of SuperPrep Magazine in Costa Mesa, Calif., said: "Not one of our top 162 prospects has committed to Miami."

Trocoli also pointed out that virtually any school in the recruiting top 10 could lay claim to having had the best year.

"There's not a whole lot of difference between No. 1 and No. 10," he said. "One great kid can jump you two or three spots. There's no clear pattern out there yet, but if UCLA keeps coming on as strong as they have this week, it could be them."

Listed in alphabetical order, here are the universities some experts feel are headed for big recruiting years:

CLEMSON. The Tigers have firm commitments from kicker Chris Gardocki of Stone Mountain, Ga.; tackle Les Hall (6-foot-8, 295 pounds) of Columbia, S.C.; defensive end Al Richard of Clinton, S.C., and 275-pound defensive lineman Chester McGlockton of Whiteville, N.C. Gardocki connected on 13 of 23 field- goal attempts, five of them, including a 59-yarder, from more than 50 yards out. He also put 52 of 59 kickoffs into the end zone and punted for a 45.8- yard average.

Clemson was also expected to sign Inquirer all-South Jersey tight end Rich Pollitt (6-4, 230), from Woodrow Wilson High in Camden, and all-Southeastern Pennsylvania tackle Gary Downing (6-3, 245) of George Washington High.

NOTRE DAME. On Friday, the Irish got a commitment from the prospect some experts feel is the best player in the country - tight end Derek Brown. A 6-6, 230-pounder from Merritt Island, Fla., Brown was Parade Magazine's lineman of the year last fall. Since Notre Dame also recruited the best tight end in the country last year, Frank Jacobs of Kentucky, many feel that coach Lou Holtz will inaugurate a two-tight end offense.

Among the other top prospects committed to Notre Dame are: tackle Gene McGuire (6-5, 275) of Panama City, Fla.; tackle Justin Hall (6-5, 290), from

Plano High in Texas, the No. 1 team in the country in USA Today's national ranking last fall; defensive back Graylin Johnson (6-4, 200) of Port Arthur, Texas, who may be that fertile state's best all-round athlete; running back Rod Smith (6-1, 190), the player of the year in Minnesota, and linebacker Mike Smalls (6-3, 220) of Rialto, Calif.

Other Irish prospects who have drawn high praise are running backs Raghib Ismial of Wilkes-Barre and Rusty Setzer of Hammond, Ind.

PENN STATE. The Lions are expected to bring in at least 26 players, and the class projects as their best since the 1983 freshman class that went on to win the national title in 1987 and, perhaps, since the great class of 1976.

Among the top prospects are two-way end John Gerak (6-5, 240) of Youngstown, Ohio; strong safety Ivory Gethers (6-3, 205) of St. John Island, S.C.; tackle Anthony Matesic (6-2, 260), from Bergen Catholic (N.J.); quarterback Matt Nardolillo (6-3, 195) of Randolph, N.J.; linebacker Eric Renkey (6-3, 245), from western Pennsylvania champion North Hills, the No. 2 team in the country in the USA Today poll, and quarterback Tony Sacca (6-5, 205), The Inquirer's offensive player of the year from Delran.

Other future Nittany Lions who have drawn high praise are defensive backs Donnie Bunch, from Woodrow Wilson High in Camden, and Adam Shinnick of Walpole, Mass.; running back Bobby Samuels of Farrell, Pa., and linemen Anthony Grego of Bergenfield, N.J., and Todd Rucci of Upper Darby.

PITTSBURGH. The Panthers, who have had their second straight outstanding recruiting season under third-year coach Mike Gottfried, brought in a platter of "meat-and-potatoes" types, according to Trocoli.

The best of the group are linebackers Curtis Bray (6-2, 212), from Gateway High in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, and Mike Chalenski (6-5, 242) of Kenilworth, N. J. That gives Pitt two of the three first-team linebackers selected by USA Today.

The Panthers' most important recruit, however, may turn out to be running back Curvin Richards (5-11, 200) of LaPorte, Texas. Richards averaged 7.5 yards per carry last fall and was rated one of the top five backs in the Southwest by Trocoli. With the departure of Craig Heyward, who has said that he is leaving school to enter the pros, the Panthers will need immediate help at running back, and Richards may be the man.

Pitt also landed outstanding prospects in linemen Calvert Jones (6-6, 280) of Lynchburg, Va.; Tony DeLazio (6-4, 245) of Whitehall, Pa., and Mike Livorio (6-5, 250) from Gateway High.

With the usual roundup of players from western Pennsylvania, Pitt again will approach 30 scholarship players.

TEXAS. The Longhorns have been absent from the national scene for several years now. But second-year coach Dave MacWilliams was expected to sign three outstanding linemen and a top quarterback from Texas alone. When the chips stop falling, the Longhorns should be firmly on the path to rebuilding one of

college football's great traditions.

Texas was expected to sign defensive lineman Tommy Jeter (6-5, 240) of Deer Park, Texas, who is rated as the best prospect in the state; defensive lineman Paul Moriarty (6-6, 270) of Conroe, Texas, who is just behind Jeter; quarterback Jason Burleson (6-7, 235) of Sherman, Texas, and offensive lineman Mark McDonald (6-5, 245) of DeSoto, Texas.

UCLA. The Bruins, quiet most of the winter, have finished with an awesome rush. Three of the nation's most spectacular talents lined up for UCLA this past weekend: Kevin Williams (6-2, 193) of Spring, Texas, considered by many the nation's best running back; Bret Johnson (6-0, 180) of El Toro, Calif., ranked among the nation's top three quarterbacks, and offensive lineman Brian Jacobs (6-5, 255) of Newhall, Calif.

Given the depth of talent in California, the Bruins should fill out an outstanding class.

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