Each year around this time, we get to do a lot of speculation. Who is going to step up on offense and defense? Who’s going to raise his level of play from last year to this year? And of course, who will be the newcomer that makes an impact right away? Lets be honest, aside from game day, the most exciting aspect for most fans is recruiting. Soon we will get to see which player or players in the ’17 recruiting class have the ability to bring the excitement they created by committing to Pitt onto the field on Saturdays this fall.
First of all, this recruiting class has a ton of talent. With three Under Armor All-Americans and six 4-star recruits (according to ESPN), the group of newcomers have a lot of buzz surrounding them. With an onslaught of talent in the mix for playing time this year combined with highly coveted recruits, it is clear, this is not the Pitt football program of years past. This team has skill, size and speed at every position. They also have youth, which can be a good thing.
So which player in the class of ’17 has the ability to step in right away? There are a few factors that come into play. When you look at depth at different positions, along with talent and team needs, the positions that stand out right away on offense are tight end and wide receiver. In the past two years, Pitt has lost two NFL caliber TEs to graduation, one of Pitt’s best all-time receivers in Tyler Boyd to the NFL, and a very productive Dontez Ford to Graduation. This year, after watching tape on every offensive player, looking at what players are already at the position, I feel confident that there is a 2017 player that has a chance to be a big time threat this year. The player is Dontavius Butler-Jenkins.
Butler-Jenkins, a native of Plantation, FL, played his football at powerhouse American Heritage Plantation. Dontavius was a two year starter at American Heritage compiling 23 receptions and 278 yards and 4 touchdowns his senior year. Butler-Jenkins is not exactly a burner, but his good size, route running and exceptional ball skills make up for him not being a 4.3 guy. One thing that really stood out to me on film was Dontavius’ football IQ. He has a knack for finding the soft spot against zone coverage and sitting in that window. In layman’s terms, he has a habit of getting open. With the unfortunate injury to Tre Tipton this offseason, look for Butler-Jenkins to jump in and make a big splash in new OC Shawn Watson’s offense. Dontavius Butler-Jenkins is an extremely high character person with an awesome work ethic and understanding of the game, which is something that goes a long way under Head Coach Pat Narduzzi. At the end of the day, you have to be able to contribute and make plays; I believe Dontavius Butler-Jenkins will do just that.
If I were to compare Butler-Jenkins to an NFL player, it would be with former Alabama star turned Oakland Raiders rookie sensation Amari Cooper. Dontavius Butler-Jenkins was extremely overlooked as a HS prospect because he was a bit of a late bloomer. Another reason Butler-Jenkins may have been overlooked is due to the lack of passing plays run by his Plantation High School offense. This could prove to be a fantastic find by Narduzzi and his staff.
Later this week, I will take a look at the newcomer on the defensive side of the ball which I believe will make the biggest impact during the 2017 season.