Signing day still thrill for football recruits

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Last year, the highlight of national signing day for Pitt came when receiver Tyler Boyd reached into a bag and pulled out a Pitt hat, reaffirming his commitment to the Panthers.

There likely will be no such dramatics Wednesday as the high school seniors joining the Panthers next fall put pen to paper and fax in their national letters of intent.

Pitt heads into the final few days of the 2014 recruiting season with its class basically set. There aren't any high-profile players still considering the Panthers and, maybe more important, all 23 current verbal commitments seem solid in their decision to sign with Pitt.

"I've been thinking for a while that I just have to make it to signing day," said Fox Chapel linebacker Quintin Wirginis, one of Pitt's 2014 commitments. "It's weird it's coming up. With basketball [season] and everything, it kind of came a lot faster. I kind of forgot about it. It's coming up pretty fast, I'm pretty psyched about it."

Wirginis is one of seven WPIAL recruits set to sign with the Panthers Wednesday. Coach Paul Chryst's two biggest gets of this class might be the duo of Mt. Lebanon's Alex Bookser and Bethel Park's Mike Grimm, perhaps the two best offensive linemen in the WPIAL.

Bookser and Grimm are two of four four-star recruits who will join the Panthers next season. The others are Niles, Ill., running back Chris James and Sicklerville, N.J., receiver Adonis Jennings, both of whom could make an impact on offense next season.

In the past few weeks, several recruits have made visits, both official and unofficial, to Pitt. Since they're already committed, these visits haven't necessarily been about the coaches trying to sell the program, but just a chance for the players to bond with their future teammates.

"It's crazy just because before the visit, none of us really knew each other too well," Wirginis said.

"But even a few hours into the visit, we just all kind of really bonded and became good friends. It's weird to think we didn't even know each other before that weekend. We all keep in touch now."

Wirginis and the other recruits also watched the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, a dramatic 30-27 Pitt win spearheaded by freshmen.

For the players signing this week, it's their turn to start building on that youth movement.

"We're just bringing a whole new mentality," Philadelphia cornerback Patrick Amara said. "One thing I've always tried to do is lead by example. If the upperclassmen see the underclassmen doing that, they might want to pick that up."

Wirginis noted that several of the incoming recruits chose the Panthers over high-profile schools such as Alabama or Ohio State. That's indicative of the level he and his classmates hope to raise the Pitt program to in their time on campus.

"Everyone's starting to get the winning attitude together," Wirginis said. "All the players they have there now, a lot of young players are playing and I think we have a really good opportunity."


Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG.

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