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November 22, 2012
Commit Tales, Part Two
One Pitt commit had to make a tough decision this season, and another had to make a move to help his team. Meanwhile, one other Pitt commit is getting ready for college. These are the Commit Tales.
A move for the team
Grand Blanc needed some extra help from Luke Maclean this season. It wasn't going to be enough for Maclean to be a standout like he was in 2011; the Greyhounds needed Maclean to be more than a playmaker. They needed him to be a leader.
So instead of lining up primarily at defensive end like he did last season, Maclean moved into the middle of the defense, where he could provide more than just tackles.
"Last year we had a senior-dominated defense, so I played more defensive end," Maclean said. "This year our defense was young, so I played middle linebacker where I could help direct traffic.
"The coaches said if I was at defensive end, they could run away from me. But with me playing middle linebacker, I could communicate to the safeties and the corners and the linemen and really make the defense go."
Of course, Maclean did a bit of tackling, too, and played on offense as well.
"I'm really proud of how everyone played, and I played really well, too," he said. "I led the team in tackles. I played both ways, too; I was on the offensive line, most of the time.
"I guess you could say I was a starter at offensive tackle. I'm pretty good at pass-blocking, so if we were going to pass a lot, they'd throw me in there to block the best pass-rusher. But then they'd also put me in to run as a fullback."
At 6'4" 235, Maclean will move to the defensive line full-time when he gets to Pitt. But his experience as a middle linebacker this season should help him even when he has his hand on the ground in college.
"I think it gave me a good advantage to see the whole defense," Maclean said. "I'm excited to get to Pitt. I know that once we start getting the type of players that Coach Chryst wants, it will fall into place and we'll start doing big things."
The singing punter
Ryan Winslow knows that punters don't always get scholarship offers. He also knows that football players don't usually sing in the chorus.
Winslow doesn't care too much about convention.
"I sing in the chorus at my school; I'm one of the few football players at my school who sings in the chorus," Winslow told Panther-Lair.com. "It was a requirement at my middle school, and then I came to high school and stuck with it and ended up doing it all four years.
"I'll probably end my career at the high school level."
Winslow, 6'5" 205, won't end his punting career at the high school level. He accepted a scholarship offer to Pitt over the summer and has put together an impressive senior season. Winslow punted 19 times this season; he averaged 42.7 yards per punt, had a long punt of 62 yards, put eight of those punts inside the 20, and only had three punts returned all season (for a total of 29 yards).
"I just wanted to be consistent and have my average over 40 yards, and I wanted to make sure that we didn't give up any touchdowns. We haven't, so that's good."
The punter is often the final line of defense when a returner breaks through the coverage. Winslow hasn't had to make any life-saving tackles this season, but he did last year after a kickoff.
"He caught the kick at the 3 or the 2 and "he broke it up the middle," Winslow said. "I forced him to the sideline and took him down.
"It's a scary feeling knowing that it's all up to you in that situation, but in the heat of the moment you don't even think about it. You just let your athleticism take over and make the play."
Winslow gets in some extra work each week to prepare for those situations.
"Every Monday we have a varsity practice while our JV team plays its games, and I hit the sled with the linemen. It's fun. My team got fired up when I made that tackle in that game last year. I think they were pretty relieved, too."
Deciding for the future
Aaron Reese had a rough senior season at Chambersburg. After missing the first three games with mono, Reese returned and promptly reinjured a labrum issue that had been troubling him for the last two years.
"It was the first week of practice; Tuesday and Thursday it came out once each day. So I had to start watching what I was doing, because if I reached the wrong way, it would come out. I had to be extremely careful and it affected my blocking.
"I played three games and it hurt pretty bad. My whole arm goes numb and I can't move it, I can't move my fingers. It usually takes a couple plays to come back. In the last game, they pulled me out in the second half because I really couldn't move my arm. I mean, I could move it, but I couldn't get a push."
After playing - or attempting to play - three games, Reese called the Pitt coaches.
"We told the Pitt coaches about the situation, and they said it could wait until the end of the season or I could do it now and get it over with to get started with training and recovery," Reese said. "It was a tough decision, but after I thought about it, it's my future. I had to get it done."
So Reese, 6'5" 280, had surgery about a month ago, ending his senior season and his high school career. There's no question it was disappointing to have such a finality, but Reese said he had a lot of support from his Chambersburg teammates.
"It would be worse if I wasn't around my team," he said. "I still went to all practices and helped the backup left tackle and went to the games. Being around the team helped me a lot. It would have been a lot worse to not be around them.
"Now I'm still going through rehab. I have a sling for the next two weeks, and after that I should be able to get some muscle back into my shoulder. I have about five months left, and after that I should be ready to hit it hard."
In less than a month and a half, Scott Orndoff will be packing for college. Unlike most seniors, Orndoff is finishing his high school career early and moving on to college for the start of the spring semester in January.
That means getting a head start on college football, as Orndoff anticipates early playing time at Pitt. But it also means missing the rites of spring like prom, senior week, and the plethora of good-natured nonsense that makes a senior year memorable.
Saying Orndoff will "miss" those things is probably a misstatement, though.
"I haven't second-guessed the decision to enroll early at all," he said. "High school has just been like any other thing: all I do is go to school and play football. I never got into the extra stuff that went into it. When I have free time on the weekend, I'm not big on going out and screwing around, I enjoy being home with nothing to do.
"And when I go to college, I'm not going to miss high school that much. I'll miss my friends, but I'll make new friends and I'll still be able to hang out with the friends from high school."
Maintaining relationships with friends from the Pittsburgh area will be easier for Orndoff now than it appeared to be a year ago. Last fall he was committed to Wisconsin, but after Paul Chryst and Joe Rudolph left the Badgers to be Pitt's head coach and offensive coordinator/tight ends coach, respectively, Orndoff started looking at the hometown school.
"When all of this started happening, when I started getting recruited, I thought it would be nice to stay home, but if the best opportunity was far away, then I was fine with going away. I will say that I'm glad to stay home now that I can.
"My parents never admitted it too much, but I think they're glad I'm staying home. They always say it's much better than having to fly out there; like, now with me getting ready for school, they keep saying, 'Imagine if we had to get ready to take all of your stuff out to Madison.'"
In his final year at Seton-La Salle, Orndoff, 6'5" 245, caught 18 passes for 313 yards and six touchdowns. He also returned an interception for a touchdown while playing linebacker on defense. Orndoff will be a tight end at Pitt, and while he has seen quite a bit of the Panthers' struggles this season, he is confident about the future.
"The record might not show it, but there's progress being made. A coach isn't going to come in and turn a team around in one or two years, but once they get the right personnel for their system and get guys in the right position, they're going to get it going."