McGuffey High School was a stop on the recruiting trail for two high-profile assistant football coaches from Pitt and Penn State.
Panthers assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph was in Claysville Wednesday, and one of his newest rivals made the trip Thursday – former Gateway head football coach and current Penn State cornerbacks coach Terry Smith.
The Highlanders, who finished with a 3-5 record in Class AA’s Century Conference and 5-5 overall, possess 10 soon-to-be seniors who have drawn the attention of college coaches across the region.
Two in particular sparked visits from Rudolph and Smith.
Running back/safety James Duchi, who rushed 214 times for 1,514 yards and 13 touchdowns, was one. He averaged 7.1 yards per carry with his longest run being a 60-yard touchdown.
Duchi, who has risen up Pennsylvania’s Class of 2015 prospect list since the end of his junior season, was joined in meetings by Ryan Stienstraw. Stienstraw (6-3, 240) is seen as a high-upside defensive line prospect who can work with his hand on the ground or as a standing pass rusher.
A knee injury limited his junior season, but he did record four sacks and nine tackles, assisting on 23 others.
Highlanders head coach Ed Dalton, who had several players reach the Division I level during his time at Trinity, praised Duchi’s leadership and Stienstraw’s physical attributes – going as far as comparing the lineman with Kenny Wilkins, a former Hillers player who went on to play at the University of Michigan before transferring to Cal this winter.
“Our seniors all have great work habits and (Duchi) probably has the best of anyone,” Dalton said. “He’s the first one there and the last one to leave. Ryan has an incredible physical look. I’ve been fortunate to coach 10 or 12 (Division I) players and Ryan’s look is every bit as impressive as those guys, if not more impressive.”
Rudolph and Smith toured the facilities at McGuffey and had personal meetings with the players.
Rudolph and Smith wanted to see if Duchi and Stienstraw fit the physical mold of a Division I athlete. After talking to Dalton and receiving tape on both players, the coaches offered invites to Pitt’s and Penn State’s one-day summer camps to see the two work out in person.
While the invites are far from an official scholarship offer, Pitt’s camp in June will include coaches from 40 different schools in several different conferences – including the Mid-American Conference and Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. Duchi sees the camp as an opportunity to display his skills for a number of potential schools.
“I was nervous at first, but you kind of get used to it,” Duchi said of the meetings. “They said I look the part with my size. They didn’t really say anything about tapes. They just told me they wanted me to come down this summer to individual camps.”
Leading up to the coaches’ arrival, Dalton prepared mock interviews with the players to prepare them for what questions to expect and what to ask the coaches. It was a simple process, but Dalton offered words of caution to his players.
“The advice I give them is just because Penn State came in and said hi, it doesn’t mean you are going to Penn State,” Dalton said. “Your goal is to keep training, to develop at a high level and wherever you fall, you fall. Your goal is to get an opportunity for your education to be partially or fully paid for and join a school that’s a fit.”
Brumbaugh’s time to shine
South Fayette junior quarterback Brett Brumbaugh, who led the Lions to a PIAA Class AA football title while breaking the WPIAL single-season passing mark, has Division I scholarship offers from Akron and Temple, but his coach is hoping to add a few schools to that list.
South Fayette head coach Joe Rossi has arranged for college coaches to watch Brumbaugh throw in four separate workouts in April and May. The first one is scheduled for Tuesday, but it’s unknown which schools will attend. Rossi had similar workouts for Zach Challingsworth, who is currently a wide receiver at Pitt, and current senior Justin Watson, who will play football at Penn this fall.
Owen receiving interest
Peters Township junior Cory Owen, who quarterbacked the Indians to the Class AAAA playoffs last fall, already has a scholarship offer from Toledo and was given a chance to display his skills this week for several college coaches.
Assistant coaches for Toledo and Western Michigan were in McMurray Tuesday to watch Owen throw. Pitt and Boston College were represented Thursday, and members of Bowling Green’s new coaching staff were in attendance Friday.
Watson to Clarion
Canon-McMillan senior Emily Watson, who was a four-year starter for the Big Macs’ volleyball team, officially signed her letter of intent to continue her athletic career at Clarion University.
Watson helped Canon-McMillan to an undefeated section championship in 2013 and set the school record with over 1,000 assists as a senior. She also had 570 digs, 192 kills and 74 blocks in her career. She was voted the team MVP for the second-straight year and was a first-team All-WPIAL Class AAA selection for the second-straight season.
The Golden Eagles qualified for the NCAA Division II playoffs for the fifth-straight year in 2013 and won their second PSAC West title in four seasons.