PSU lands 3-star defender

By Philip Cmor

pcmor@altoonamirror.com

Even though West Virginia safety Derrek Pitts showed up for the Lasch Bash a couple of weeks ago with a large contingent of family and friends, recruiting analysts believed the 6-foot-1, 174-pound three-star athlete would go with his home-state Mountaineers when he pushed up his decision date to Wednesday.

After all, he had followed up his trip to University Park with one to Morgantown just before setting his announcement date.

Pitts, though, swerved them all and put on a Nittany Lion cap at his press conference.

“There were a lot of factors,” Pitts told the Charleston Gazette-Mail. “I made a lot of my visits this summer and I was given different vibes from different schools, but I made my last two visits to Penn State and West Virginia and I wanted (my family) to go see. We had a cookout and my family was the main attention at Penn State.”

Tennessee, Florida and Maryland’s hats also were on the table along with Penn State and West Virginia. Pitts had a long list of other offers, though, including Pitt, Clemson, Oklahoma, Auburn, Arizona, Nebraska and Virginia Tech, and he said Alabama, Texas, Florida State and USC joined that group in the last day.

While oral commitments aren’t binding and Pitts has said he still tends to take official visits to all five of his finalists, his pledge gives the Lions 11 recruits in their 2017 recruiting class – they’ve gotten three on the defensive side in the last eight days, with North Carolina linebacker Brelin Faison-Waldon a week ago and Canada via Virginia safety Jonathan Sutherland on Sunday.

“I liked all the schools up on that table, but my family was the main priority every time I was (at Penn State). My mom was a priority – they were coming at my sister more than me. My sister liked them. Everybody felt comfortable, so that made me feel comfortable, too,” Pitts said.

Pitts is coming off a season in which he led state quarterfinalist South Charleston with 82 tackles, including 61 solos and six for loss. Some scouting services listed him as an athlete, and he was a big threat on offense and special teams for the Black Eagles, too, tallying up 1,052 all-purpose yards.

South Charleston is coming off an 8-4 campaign.

“He plays at a different speed, it’s second to none,” South Charleston coach Donnie Mays told WVMetroNews.com. “He does a lot of things really well, just by instinct, which puts him above a lot of players. He’s a big kid, with room to grow – that’s the positive. He’ll continue to get taller, faster and stronger. You can see it in his body type, I would say he has a couple inches left in him. He can run very fast, but I’m sure it’ll get even better and he’s going to get a lot stronger.”

Pitts has timed at 4.58 in the 40-yard dash, according to his Hudl page.

“(The Penn State coaches) see him as an every-down player that doesn’t have to be specialized or subbed out, because he is fast,” Mays said. “He’s long, rangy and he can jump. He’s that guy that is in a nickel position, but he can play run downs too.”

Brian Dohn evaluated Pitts for Scout.com.

“Pitts accelerates quickly and covers a lot of ground in his first three steps. He has plus length and athleticism, and can chase a play to the sideline. He can line up as a defensive back, but he could grow into an outside linebacker in college. Pitts is physical, and he uses his strength to disengage and find the ball carrier,” Dohn said. “He needs to improve his change of direction, but his explosion helps make up for it.”

Pitts announced his surprising decision before a crowd filled with West Virginia supporters.

“That was a bold move,” Pitts’ mother, Dionne Beverly-Hairston told the Gazette-Mail.

“I do what’s best for me and my family and if you don’t understand that, you didn’t like me from the beginning. If you don’t understand that, you will never understand me,” Pitts added.

The general feeling heading into Wednesday was that Pitts’ recruitment, however he initially decided, still wouldn’t be a done deal, and he even admitted as much. However, he said Penn State has set a pretty high bar, and it will take a lot to sway him at this point.

“It’s a process and it will come more and more. As of right now, they’ve got to come at me with something crazy to get me to come out of my commitment,” Pitts said.