Pitt's prospects camp yields QB commitment

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Pitt coach Paul Chryst repeatedly has said one of his staff's biggest criteria when evaluating potential recruits is in-person evaluations.

This weekend was a big step in that regard.

Chryst and his assistants got to look at some of their potential 2015 recruiting targets over the past few days as hundreds of high school football players flooded Pitt's South Side facility for the school's first prospect camps of the year.

Saturday afternoon, the Panthers landed their fifth verbal commitment for the 2015 class when Malvern (Pa.) quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who worked out Saturday at the camp, then gave his verbal pledge to the coaches.

Hornibrook, a three-star prospect on Rivals.com, chose Pitt over offers from Akron, Connecticut and Rutgers.

Chryst and his staff are hoping that some of the camps' other participants will soon join Pitt's 2015 recruiting class. One of the stars Friday was Apollo-Ridge receiver Tre Tipton, who impressed the coaches with his fluidity and athleticism coming down with passes.

"The Pitt coaches just told me that they loved that I was able to make plays and create things," Tipton said.

"They loved how I connected with [receivers] coach [Greg] Lewis and [receiver] Tyler Boyd, we all seemed to connect very well. They felt like I could be a big part, so, hopefully, I could be that for them."

Tipton, who caught 44 passes for 697 yards and scored 14 touchdowns for Apollo-Ridge last year, also recently received a scholarship offer from Michigan State, and said he'll likely choose between the Panthers and Spartans within the next two weeks.

Without tipping his hand, Tipton admitted Pitt has undergone an image renaissance over the past two years.

Now two seasons removed from the drama of the Todd Graham and Mike Haywood eras, Pitt has started to rebuild its image around young stars such as Boyd, a second-team All-ACC selection as a freshman, and fellow sophomore running back James Conner.

Recruits such as Tipton are taking notice.

"Pitt is definitely coming back up," Tipton said.

"The local recruits, even a few of my friends are seeing Pitt as a big place that they want to go now. A while ago, it wasn't a place to go.

"[Boyd and Conner] bring a whole new type of game to Pitt, just in general. ... This isn't even just about playing, just how emotional they are toward the game, how they act toward the game, just how they are as people."

Boyd offered more than a recruiting pitch. He, along with some of his Pitt teammates, ran drills for the players working out at the prospect camps.

"Tyler Boyd is a good coach, too," Quaker Valley's Dane Jackson said. "[He told me] just come out of my routes better, sell the fake well, and just be a good player."

Jackson, who plays quarterback for the Quakers but projects as a wide receiver or defensive back in college, is still waiting on a Pitt offer, but was hopeful that his performance this weekend could make a difference.

"Coach [Chris] Haering and [offensive coordinator] coach [Joe] Rudolph were telling me that they're pounding on the table for me and they'll make it work, just be patient," Jackson said.

Peters Township's Cory Owen is in a similar situation. He could end up at quarterback in college, but one thing the Pitt coaches wanted to see this weekend was his versatility.

If he could play quarterback, defensive back or wide receiver in college, that might increase the likelihood of a scholarship offer.

Owen felt he got the job done, with a 4.6-second 40-yard dash and some drill work with the wide receivers.

"[The coaches] thought I did pretty good," Owen said.

"Obviously, the first time playing receiver in a while, there were a few things I need to work on, but, for the amount of time I got to work at receiver, they liked what they saw, I think."

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

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