Welcome to one of the new recruiting segments that I will be bringing to Dream Backfield. This is Prospect Watch. Every one of these pieces are one-on-one “interviews” either via phone call or email conversation that I personally have with the athlete. I will do these quite regularly, in order to keep Panther Nation updated on the future of Pitt football.
The inaugural athlete is a local one – Cody Ross. Cody (#51) is a 2019 recruit from Freedom Area High School. This young man is an integral part of why Freedom has had success this year, and why the Bulldogs look to clinch a playoff berth this weekend.
Listed at 5’11 215 lbs., Ross is already on the verge of college size. With two more years of high school ball left, Ross has time to grow physically and mature before it’s time to make a college decision. But even if you consider him undersized, don’t let those numbers fool you, this is one bad dude.
Ross is a downhill, physical player on both sides of the ball. On offense, he sticks out on Freedom’s tape, because he’s the one bowling people over, and gaining an extra 3 yards. His build is perfect for a pro-style offense Fullback. But his real talent is on the other side of the ball. He is an absolute tackling machine. Through 7 games this season with the Bulldogs, Ross has already recorded 62 solo tackles – 13 of those for a loss – and an interception.
Watching his film, you can see why he is always the one dragging down ball carriers. Ross’ vision and first step is exactly what recruiters want to see. He constantly shoots gaps and takes away running lanes.
The football IQ is through the roof, and there is no doubt that his lineage has something to do with it. If you know anything about Beaver County football (Aliquippa, Hopewell, and Beaver Falls to name a few), you will recognize the last name Ross. Cody’s grandfather is legendary Hopewell football coach Richard “Butch” Ross. The late-great Butch is an inductee of the Beaver County Sports Hall of Fame, and a member of the Pennsylvania Hall of Fame. He was also a big part of the success of Pitt legend Tony Dorsett. Up until his Junior season, Dorsett was a defensive back, not an eventual Heisman winning running back. Butch Ross decided Dorsett should carry the rock, instead of chasing it. (Thank You Butch!)
Cody calls his grandfather his hero, he visits his grave before every game, and plays with his name written on his wrist tape. Football is in his blood, from his grandfather, to his dad Mark – also a coach and ex-player – and now Cody, this young man was born to be a football player.
Ross calls Pitt his top choice, and has already made unofficial visits down to campus and to Heinz Field. When asked why Pitt is a favorite: “I’ve always liked Pitt, I grew up around the program…” Ross said, “Pitt holds a special place to me for personal reasons.”
Growing up around the program, attending camps, and of course having a relative responsible for arguably the best player in Pitt history, it’s no wonder why Ross loves the Panthers.
When asked about Coach Narduzzi, Ross told me his favorite thing about Pitt’s leader was, “the energy and enthusiasm he has brought to their program. He’s a no-nonsense type of coach. He brings discipline, [and] you can tell he really cares about the players, the program, and the school.” He even added that the staff as a whole was impressive, noting their energy was top notch, and that’s what he is looking for in a school.
Ross himself is very high energy on the gridiron. That’s why he loves being right in the center of attention – at Middle Linebacker. “MLB fits my personality on the field. I’m a very intense player, I like being in the middle in the action, and making the calls to align our defense. Plus it gives me the opportunity to be a play maker and go sideline to sideline”.
The same approach Ross has at linebacker is one that you see in his favorite Pro players. Ross loves another Hopewell product – Paul Posluszny – whose alma mater shall remain unnamed (hint: Pitt Dominates the State). Another favorite of his, Luke Kuechly – a Boston College product – is known for his playmaking abilities and leadership. Though it is a lofty comparison, and not one I’m ready to make physically, Kuechly was known for his mental aptitude for football. And if I can say anything about Ross for certain, it is that he knows football as well as any top recruit in Western PA.
As far as a “Player Comparison” it is very hard to gauge how high school football translates to the college or even pro level. In Ross’s case when I watch the defensive side of the film, I can’t help but think about Tyler Matakevich, the ex-Temple and current Steelers Linebacker. Much like Matakevich, Ross isn’t some 6’5 260 pound beast of a human being. These two players prove that sometimes eating, sleeping, breathing, and living football is just as important. Leading up to the draft, Matakevich was considered undersized and a step too slow by NFL draft pundits. Ross (5’11) may hear the same thing during his recruitment, but some numbers don’t measure heart and Football IQ. And as I said before, Ross has a whole lot of both.
Look out for this kid, as I am lead to believe that Cody Ross has caught the eye of the right people, and could one day be donning the Script.
Ross other schools of interest (In no particular order): Central Michigan, Syracuse, Temple, Rutgers, Delaware, Purdue, Michigan State, West Virginia, and Penn State
Watch Cody’s Hudl film here:
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more “Prospect Watch”, coming soon!