In this week’s 3-2-1 column, we talk a lot about Pitt football recruiting, and maybe a little baseball, too.
THREE THINGS WE KNOW
Tuesday was a big success
Before we touch on what is happening this weekend with the Pitt football program, let’s take a quick rewind to what transpired on Tuesday. June 1st marked the end of the recruiting dead period set forth by the NCAA due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Pitt football program took advantage in a big way by hosting what the coaching staff dubbed, ‘The Hometown Throwdown’ as Pitt hosted all of the big recruits in Western Pennsylvania at once for an unofficial visit held on Tuesday.
It was a big way for the staff to open up its doors again, as they got all of their top local 2022 targets on campus, but also some of the biggest rising stars in the classes of 2023 and 2024 as well. Judging by the reactions of some of the biggest names that were there, it was a rousing success for the Pitt coaches.
“I met the whole coaching staff, tried on the uniform, went to the weight room, saw all the different stuff at the facility and everything. That was my first time in the facilities, and they’re really, really nice. A lot better than I expected.”
– 2023 two-sport star Rodney Gallagher
“I’ver never seen Pitt’s facility before. It was so mind-blowing.”
– 2022 four-star Tyrese Fearbry
“Now that I visited and saw it, Pitt’s a great place. I could see myself there.”
– 2023 four-star Ta’Mere Robinson
“It was my first college visit ever and what I saw up there was just mind-blowing: the facilities, the weight room, their practice fields, the coaches’ offices – everything up there was just phenomenal.”
– 2024 rising star Quinton Martin
“I have a deeper understanding of the program and how good the defense actually is. I enjoyed the visit a lot and I’m excited to develop further relationships with the coaches throughout the recruiting process.”
– 2024 standout Anthony Speca
As you can see, the recruits in attendance came away impressed from Tuesday visits. In many cases, it was there first time ever seeing the facilities at Pitt, and in some other cases their first time taking any college visit period. Pitt seemed to have come out of the dead period in a big way on Tuesday, and did it with players in their own backyard.
The layout for an official visit
As you are reading this, Pitt will be in the middle of hosting eight official visitors in the class of 2022. It marks the first time Pitt will host one of these big June official visit weekends since 2019, because as you know…there was a global pandemic since then that sort of shut that kind of thing down.
Official visits for Pitt typically run from Friday through Sunday, but this week is a little different with a Thursday – Saturday format, as the Pitt coaching staff is planning to host a prospect camp on Sunday, so everything is shifted up a day.
So what exactly happens on an official visit? Recruits and their families fly into Pittsburgh and they get to see, well, everything Pitt has to offer with a red carpet style treatment from start to finish.
They will see the campus, the football facilities, Heinz Field, dorms, Cathedral of Learning, Petersen Events Center, the classrooms, basically anything Pitt related – they will be taken there. The groups will meet with the coaches, academic advisors, and life skills staff – basically the entire support staff that a football student athlete has at Pitt. They will eat very well, get to spend time with the current players, and just really will have the opportunity to visualize everything there is about being a football player at Pitt in a compact 48-hour window.
On Pitt’s end, they really try to show everything the school has to offer in the best light possible. Their goal is to make that particular recruit feel like Pitt is the greatest place on earth, that they are wanted, and that Pitt is where they need to go to school.
And typically, that is exactly what happens in some form or fashion.
Official visits are all positive and usually there’s a lot of momentum and energy around them. The way Pitt stages these visits is to bring in a lot of players at once, and try to build a connection within the group that is visiting. Other schools don’t always push for the June visits the way Pitt does, and they might prefer ones later in the year ahead of signing day or even during the season.
Sometimes commitments happen right on the spot on these visits, sometimes they take a day or two, and of course sometimes they simply don’t happen at all. But in the end, the goal is to make the recruit think Pitt is a great place and this coaching staff has done a good job of that in recent years, as their hit rate on official visits have been pretty good.
The eight visitors
So let’s get acquainted with who is in town this weekend. The June 3-5 visits is one of three big weekends the Pitt coaching staff has planned, along with next weekend and June 25th.
Sean FitzSimmons is the lone commitment that will be ‘in town’ as the local product made his decision back in April. FitzSimmons is a powerful defensive linemen with a decorated high school career for Central Valley, as he is coming off of a state title run and an All-State season.
Tyreese Fearbry is back on campus just a few days after attending the event on Tuesday. Ferry is a four-star defensive linemen from the Pittsburgh City League, and is towards the top of Pitt’s wishlist. Pitt has done well keeping top defensive linemen at home, and the staff would really like to add Fearbry.
Brian Parker comes from a solid program in Ohio and is one of the offensive linemen the staff really likes for this class. He has versatility and can play all three spots up front.
Leyton Nelson has over 30 scholarship offers and is one of the fastest rising offensive line prospects in the country. Pitt will have some stiff competition here, but to get one of his five official visits is a good start.
Dominque McKenzie is a speedy wide receiver from Utah, a state not typically a recruiting hot spot for Pitt. McKenzie has track speed and so does his brother, Marcus, who will also be in town, though not technically as an official visitor.
Tray Lathan is a talented linebacker prospect out of Miami. Pitt didn’t do as well in Florida in the class of 2021 as it normally does, but the key with Florida recruits is getting them to come to Pittsburgh and having Lathan here is a big one.
Ryland Gandy is a top cornerback prospect from the state of Georgia. He has a strong offer sheet, and he chose to make his first official visit to Pittsburgh. He also has some lined up with West Virginia and Virginia as well.
Pitt is in the top six for this impressive wide receiver from Florida. At 6’4” he can be a difference-maker on the field. The other teams in the mix are Florida State, Miami, UCF, Cincinnati, and Kansas.
TWO QUESTIONS WE HAVE
Did Pitt baseball deserve better?
OK, let’s shift gears a bit to baseball. The NCAA Tournament regional round is happening this weekend, and the Pitt baseball team won’t be playing in the 64-team field. The Panthers ended their season last week with a loss to North Carolina State in the ACC Tournament. The question we have here: Is that right? The answer, for me at least, is no. This team should have been in the NCAA Tournament.
Pitt had the pedigree to be in this year’s tournament. The team was 17-12 against RPI top-50 teams. That should have been plenty. The Panthers racked up a 23-20 record and posted 17 wins against ACC competition, a league that sent eight teams to the NCAA Tournament. Something just feels off about why Pitt was left out, and maybe a few other teams got the benefit of the doubt ahead of them that they didn’t receive.
There’s no doubt Pitt did not play well down the stretch. There is also no denying the two-week layoff due to COVID-related issues played a huge part in that. The team at the end of the year was not the same one that started the season, and it doesn’t feel like a stretch at all to see that two week pause in the middle of the season as a big reason why.
Pitt was ranked for a good portion of the year and came out of the gate on fire. The selection process should take into account the entire season, not just a late-season slide. In any event, Pitt has now missed the NCAA Tournament for 26 straight seasons. 1995 was a long time ago, but it’s clear this program appears to be on the upswing. In only his second full season (not counting the 2020 season that was cut short due to COVID), Mike Bell really had this team buzzing for a good portion of the year. There seems to be some potential for this team going forward, but a tournament berth would have been a nice added boost for a program trying to establish itself.
Will there be a commitment this weekend?
Honestly, I don’t have the answer. I promise. There are two ways of looking at this question in my opinion, and I only ask because the circumstances are so unique this year. We just had a full year of no college on-campus visits for prospective recruits. I mean hell a lot of 2021 recruits across the country probably didn’t see their new schools until they reported to class. It was different.
So I think that’s a new added wrinkle we have this year. Can a recruit be so blown away by his first-ever visit and does he just pull the trigger on the commitment? I mean, yea I can buy that line of thinking 100%. After seeing how Tuesday’s unofficial visit went and talking to some of those guys, they were really and truly blown away.
But on the other side of things, after not taking any visits at all for a year, are there going to be some prospects that try to take a million visits this month and beyond? Yes, that also makes perfectly good sense. If you have been cooped up for a year, but have been talking to coaches from dozens of schools you may also want to play out your options out and go see as much as you can.
So to answer the question, I don’t know if there will be a ‘Pat Signal’ on Saturday evening, but I also can’t rule it out either. This has been such a strange year to cover recruiting, you can almost throw anything out the door and expect the unexpected.
This month will be crazy
I know, real original Jim. Very bold etc. I get it. But yea, every June is crazy in its own right on the Pitt beat, because like we mentioned before: this coaching staff likes to host official visits this month. They also like to host a lot of them.
So that’s typically a lot of guys for us to try and track down and interview, and in the past it has also meant a lot of commitments too. Remember that one weekend in 2018? Yea, it can be pretty hectic. Pitt landed 11 members of its 2019 signing class in June of 2018, so it can go like that sometimes.
This year? It might be even crazier, and I’m not just talking about commitments. I’m talking about the unofficial visits, the camps, and the changing of schedules. All of it. It has been a long time coming, man. That dead period was something else. Every coaching staff in the country will basically have their doors wide open this month to whoever wants to come. And of course, many 2022, 2023, and even 2024 prospects will take advantage. Why wouldn’t they? If you have been stuck doing virtual tours or FaceTime calls for the past year, and you can go take a visit, you are going to do just that.
I think plans will change and that will only add to the chaos. The list of visitors we have slated to come to Pitt next weekend might look different in a few days, and that’s just how it is going to be this year.