Pitt has made no secret of its desire to sign Aliquippa defensive back M.J. Devonshire, and on Monday, the Panthers coaching staff got confirmation that its efforts had paid off to a degree. That confirmation came when Devonshire told Brad Everett of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Pitt and Ohio State are the schools he is most seriously considering.
“As of right now, it’s [between Pitt and Ohio State],” Devonshire told Everett.
The 5’11”, 170-pound cornerback is considered a four-star recruit, according to Rivals, and he drew offers from Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Oregon State, Syracuse and West Virginia in addition to Pitt and Ohio State. West Virginia fell out of the running for his services after failing to prioritize him, but Devonshire said Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi has been a constant presence during his recruitment.
“I talk to him a lot,” Devonshire said. “Most schools I don’t talk to the head coach as much, but I talk to him once a week.”
The addition of a player like Devonshire would help the Pitt secondary continue its upward trajectory. In 2016, the team nearly hit rock bottom in defending the pass, as it ranked 127th out of 128 teams in passing yards allowed per game, ceding 333.2 on average. But in 2018, Pitt shaped up, allowing 209.3 per game, which ranked 46th in the nation.
During that same span, Ohio State’s secondary has found itself in a downward spiral. The Buckeyes ranked seventh in the nation in 2016, giving up just 172.2 yards per game, but they finished this season ranked 86th, with an average of 245.2 yards allowed per game.
Despite that, Pitt still faces a problem when working against Ohio State in that the Buckeyes finished in the top three in the final AP poll of the 2018 season and are consistently in the national title conversation. Given that fact, Ohio State can offer Pennsylvania recruits the opportunity to play at a higher level than they can reach by remaining in state, and players like Malik Hooker, Marcus Hooker and Terrelle Pryor have headed to Columbus to take advantage of that fact.
Of course, Pitt has been a proving ground for some of the top players to emerge from the WPIAL, and the likes of Tyler Boyd, Aaron Donald, and Darrelle Revis have achieved success in the NFL since opting to stay home and play with the Panthers. Pitt’s defensive backfield, in particular, has piqued the interest of pro scouts over the past few years, as Avonte Maddox and Jordan Whitehead were selected in the 2018 NFL draft, while Lafayette Pitts and K’Waun Williams both landed on NFL rosters after initially going undrafted.
Perhaps the key difference between the two programs is that Devonshire would be a rare gem in Pitt’s 2019 recruiting class, which is ranked 44th by Rivals and has just two four-star recruits, as opposed to one of 11 four-star recruits in Ohio State’s current class, which ranks among the top 25. That could translate to more playing time in Pittsburgh, a point Narduzzi is likely to harp on during his talks with the Quips star in the coming weeks.
Devonshire is set to take an official visit to Pitt over the coming weekend, and he has an official visit to Ohio State planned for the weekend of Jan. 18. He is expected to sign with one of the teams on Feb. 6.