Western Pennyslvania's football history is a long and storied one and the area continues to pump out top talent year in and year out. The breakdown of the top prospects in the WPIAL and Pittsburgh's City League in the 2018 class concludes today with the area's top five.
5. Devin Danielson - Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson Hills (Pa.) Thomas Jefferson defensive tackle Devin Danielson has been drawing rave reviews in his role battling on the line of scrimmage for the Jaguars since his freshman season. At 6-foot-3 and 290 pounds, Danielson is a rare blend at defensive tackle who can excel in both shutting down the run and getting after the passer. He'll likely fit in as a one-technique defensive tackle at the college level, but Danielson has a surprising array of pass-rushing moves for a player who's already 290 pounds and will get bigger at the college level. Perhaps his most impressive trait is his motor. Danielson plays on both sides of the ball for Thomas Jefferson, rarely taking off a snap while showing impressive effort play after play.
4. Jake Kradel - Butler
Butler (Pa.) prospect Jake Kradel has managed to place himself on top of the heap of impressive linemen in the WPIAL's 2018 class after a strong junior campaign and continued improvement through the offseason. Although there were some bumps along the way - Kradel had some issue dealing with quicker linemen during the spring - he looked light on his feet and athletic during the summer camp season, addressing previous concerns. The 6-foot-4, 270-pound two-way lineman is expected to play guard at Pitt, where he'll bring his plus-athleticism, quick feet, and tenacious run-blocking to the table. There's the possibility that Kradel could play defensive tackle, but he seems to be a more impressive prospect as an offensive lineman.
3. TJ Banks - East Allegheny
Few prospects in the entire Mid-Atlantic region, let alone the WPIAL, have a more impressive blend of athleticism and size than North Versailles (Pa.) East Allegheny tight end TJ Banks. At 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, Banks is a huge target as a pass-catcher for his quarterback and has the ability to move around after making the catch. Banks shows strong and sure hands, rarely dropping the football. Between his ability to seemingly always be open and haul in the ball every time it enters his catch radius, Banks will be an exciting option in the passing game at the next level. He will need to improve as a blocker and his small-school level of competition at the high school level means he may have a longer learning curve in college than his fellow top tight ends, but the future is bright for TJ Banks.
2. Kwantel Raines - Aliquippa
Rivals250 safety Kwantel Raines cemented himself as one of the region's top 2018 prospects in the WPIAL early on in his career. The Aliquippa (Pa.) star does it at all at the high school level and at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, he could either stay at his expected safety role in college or move down to the linebacker position as he adds weight and muscle. Raines is an intellectual player who understands the game very well and can captain a defense. He's a plus-athlete and a long prospect who can cover ground quickly in pass coverage when he's decisive, making him appealing to a number of college programs.
1. Phil Jurkovec - Pine Richland
Phil Jurkovec established himself as the WPIAL's top prospect early on in his high school career and has never ceded the spot since that point in time. Although an injury early in his junior season kept Jurkovec from leading Pine Richland to their expected place among the WPIAL's top programs, the 6-foot-5, 190-pound dual-threat quarterback still has incredibly high potential. If his senior year goes as expected, Jurkovec will cement his place as one of the most productive players to ever lace up his cleats in western Pennsylvania. He can kill teams with his legs, showing a willingness to tuck the ball and run and flash his impressive speed. Although he has a slightly long wind-up and his mechanics will need some refinement early on in his career at Notre Dame, Jurkovec's arm talent is his impressive and he has shown an ability to make every throw he's asked to on the field. Consistency will come with practice, but all of the tools are there for Jurkovec to be an absolute star at the college level and beyond. Arm strength, athleticism, decision making, prototypical size - if there's a trait you'd like to see in a quarterback, Jurkovec possesses it.