Western Pennsylvania for years has been a hotbed of football recruiting talent. Mike Ditka, Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Joe Montana, Tony Dorsett, Dan Marino, Russ Grimm, Jim Kelly, George Blanda, Jeff Hostettler, Johnny Lujack, Terry Hanratty, Ty Law, Curtis Martin, Marc Bulger, Sal Sunseri, Bill Fralic, Jason Taylor and so many more played their high school football in Western Pennsylvania.
Even the guy that played the actual Predator in the Predator movies came from Western
Pennsylvania, Kevin Peter Hall.
The production of talent from this part of the world slowed down dramatically in the 1980s with the closing of the steel mills.
But, there are still a few such as the University of Pittsburgh’s sophomore to be Jordan Whitehead.
Whitehead was one of several national players that played on both sides of the football and also special teams. Today’s Iron Men
I’ve been something of a Pat Narduzzi fan since he was the Defensive Coordinator at Michigan State and had so many great defenses.
Last year, he took over as head coach of the Pittsburgh Panthers when their previous coach was hired by Wisconsin. His first season there brought mixed results as his team finished 8-5.
But, they look to have some promise for the future.
Jordan Whitehead was Narduzzi’s top recruit in his first recruiting class as the head guy. The Pitt class, overall, didn’t take anyone’s breath away. In the state of Pennsylvania, the Penn State Nittany Lions dominated, taking 6 out of the top 10 recruits. Or, they took 8 out of the top 14, with Pittsburgh taking 4.
Whitehead was rated 2 spots ahead of Saquon Barkley the Penn State super star in the making.
But, the Pittsburgh Panthers aren’t required to recruit only in Pennsylvania and they grabbed players out of Ohio, New Jersey, Delaware, Texas and Florida.
Other than Whitehead, their top recruit may have been the Nate Peterman transfer from Tennessee. Peterman was one of the more improved players in the country last year by season’s end. Peterman
Whitehead was ESPN’s 11th rated Cornerback. In high school, at Central Valley High School in Monaco, Pennsylvania Whitehead was more than just a top Defensive Back.
He also played Running Back where, as a senior, he ran for 1,933 yards and 22 Touchdowns. During his three years on the varsity in high school, he ran for 3,525 yards at an impressive 10.5 yards per
carry. He also had 43 career rushing Touchdowns.
He played a little at Wide Receiver as a freshman and he caught 57 passes in high school for another 930 yards and 11 Touchdowns.
On defense, his best year was as a senior when he totaled 100 Tackles and 7 Interceptions. But, his second best year was his freshman season when he had 80 total Tackles. He also returned Punts and Kicks and scored 5 Touchdowns in the return game as a senior. Over his career, he had 18 Interceptions and recovered 6 Fumbles.
That high school success translated to much of the same as a true freshman at Pittsburgh. Instead of Cornerback, the Pittsburgh coaches played Whitehead at Safety and he responded by leading the team in tackles with 108 total Tackles.
He also had a pick and a fumble recovery which he returned for a Touchdown.
The previous coaching staff liked huge power runners which explains James Conner at around 250 pounds and Qadree Ollison at around 230 pounds.
They needed somebody that was explosive and had a burst. Jordan Whitehead was that guy. He brought quickness and speed to the Running Back position and on occasions, Whitehead became a two way player.
Whitehead only received 12 carries, but he totaled 122 yards with those carries which came out to 10.17 yards per carry. Now, that is impressive.
All American James Conner returns for 2016 and so will Qadree Ollison, but there will still be plenty of carries for Jordan Whitehead.
Maybe Whitehead’s most impressive game came against Notre Dame.
On offense, against the Fighting Irish, Whitehead carried the ball 4 times for 27 yards and his only 2 Touchdowns of the season. He showed some quickness on the two Touchdown runs that the other Pittsburgh Running Backs seemed to lack.
He also totaled 11 Tackles with one of those Tackles taking the Irish offense back 4 yards.
Although his best game defensively came against the Iowa Hawkeyes when he totaled 15 Tackles.
His best game offensively came against the Naval Academy in their bowl game when he ran for 43 yards on 2 carries.
Next season, look for Whitehead to get more involved with Special Teams and the return game as he continues to demonstrate awesome athletic ability at every other phase of the game.