Panthers, recruits set for signing day

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Some members of Pitt's 2013 recruiting class have been committed to the Panthers for more than eight months, and their recruiting process has long been wrapped up.

That verbal pledge will finally become official Wednesday when 23 high school seniors are expected to sign national letters of intent to play for coach Paul Chryst and the Panthers.

"I'm excited," Gaithersburg (Md.) safety Rachid Ibrahim said. "I'm just excited to begin something new in my life. It's really a blessing. I'm happy to make this new step."

Four recruits have already started taking classes at Pitt as early enrollees and count in the 2012 recruiting class. Twenty-three more are expected to join them as signees Wednesday.

Over the past few weeks, the Pitt coaching staff has been visiting with committed recruits, making sure there won't be any last-minute surprises. They're also helping recruits get acquainted with the mundane details of filling out and faxing the national letters of intent.

Unlike many schools around the country, the Pitt coaching staff isn't holding its breath on any prospects announcing their college choice this week. The only concern for the Panthers is the destination of Clairton wide receiver Tyler Boyd, who has committed to Pitt but has taken official visits to West Virginia and Tennessee the past two weeks.

The other 22, though, are rock-solid in their commitments. One of the common themes among this recruiting class is the strong relationship forged between the coaching staff and the 2013 recruiting class.

"[Pitt receivers coach Bobby Engram] is a real great guy," Madison (Wis.) receiver Jester Weah said. "When I went out there on my official visit with my mom, she liked him a lot. He's a really good family guy as well."

The class has also built a good relationship between themselves. Mostly through Twitter and Facebook, recruits have kept in contact with each other as they prepare to enroll at Pitt this summer.

"We're not shy. If we get a new commit, we reach out automatically, even if we haven't talked to them before," South Fayette wide receiver Zach Challingsworth said.

Challingsworth was one of the earliest Panthers to commit to this class, offering his verbal pledge to Chryst in June. In this day and age of recruiting, it's not unusual for opposing coaches to pursue players even after they verbally commit to another school. Challingsworth said he got mail from other programs after he committed, but wasn't shy about telling coaches where he stood.

"I let coaches know from other schools that my commitment was 100 percent and I wasn't going to decommit from Pitt," Challingsworth said. "I think that made a lot of coaches back off and, honestly, I wouldn't have gone anywhere other than Pitt. If I had all the offers in the world, I'd still choose Pitt."

Recruits can fax in their letters of intent starting at 7 a.m. Wednesday. Some players, including Weah and Challingsworth, will have ceremonies at their schools to sign their letters with their classmates who are going on to play Division I sports.

Once that letter gets to Pitt's football offices, it's finally official.

"Signing this letter of intent, me and my family are real excited," Challingsworth said. "It's almost getting something else off your back, more than just the [verbal] commitment. You're going to be part of a new team."

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


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