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Local target M.J. Devonshire picks Kentucky over Pitt

Pat Narduzzi and his staff pursued the four-star cornerback heavily

NCAA Football: Youngstown State at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The late stages of Aliquippa cornerback M.J. Devonshire’s recruitment were shrouded in doubt, as Pitt appeared to be alone in the race to land the local standout but was joined late by Kentucky, Ohio State and West Virginia. Kentucky then emerged as the favorite to land Devonshire and capitalized on that momentum, securing his commitment Wednesday morning.

Devonshire would have been one of the crown jewels of Pitt’s 2019 recruiting class, as he holds a four-star rating from Rivals and was considered the top undecided recruit in Pennsylvania heading into national signing day. Rivals ranks him as the No. 6 recruit in the state and the No. 32 cornerback in the nation.

Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi made no secret of his pursuit of the coveted recruit, as he took to social media on multiple occasions to post messages that appeared to be unambiguously directed at him. However, Narduzzi’s overtures failed to pay off, capping off a disappointing display on the recruiting trail by the Pitt staff.

In an extension of a worrisome trend, Pitt landed just one WPIAL player in 2019, Devonshire’s former Aliquippa teammate Will Gipson. While some may write that off as a byproduct of the Pitt staff’s focus on out-of-state recruiting, the bottom line is that a significant effort was expended locally and it turned up only one signee. Among those offered but not signed by Pitt in the 2019 cycle were Andrew Kristofic, Trent Holler, Joey Porter Jr., Jayvon Thrift and Dino Tomlin.

Narduzzi commented on his local recruiting efforts on Wednesday afternoon.

”I want guys that love Pittsburgh, OK?” Narduzzo told reporters. “And that’s what it comes down to. You either love Pittsburgh and you want to stay here and play for your city, or you don’t. And if you don’t, I’m good. We wouldn’t win with you anyway.”

While Narduzzi’s defense of his approach is unlikely to ease the concerns of Pitt fans yearning to see WPIAL talent in blue and gold, it will have to suffice as the final word on the recruiting class from the program as it turns the page on 2019 and looks ahead to 2020.