Former Pitt target M.J. Devonshire announced his plans to leave Kentucky on Dec. 17 and subsequently entered the transfer portal, and on Tuesday, Pitt became the beneficiary of that move, as the Aliquippa native revealed he would transfer to his hometown school.
“It’s just a relief to make this decision and that I’m going to Pitt,” Devonshire told Mike Vukovcan of Pittsburgh Sports Now on Tuesday night. “I’m ready to get started, get there to learn the system and get started on fulfilling my dream of getting to the NFL.”
The 5’11”, 182-pound defensive back spent the 2019 and 2020 seasons in Lexington but played a minimal role on the team. In his two seasons down south, Devonshire accrued six tackles and two pass breakups in 11 games. And while he saw his role grow somewhat this season, he was less productive in eight games in 2020 than he was in three in 2019.
Despite a slow start to his college career, Devonshire was outstanding at Aliquippa High School, and it seems that fact alone was enough to pique the interest of the Pitt coaching staff. During his senior season, Devonshire had eight interceptions and 24 touchdowns as a defensive back, receiver and return specialist with the Quips. And given his versatility, he could fill a variety of roles at Pitt, even if he doesn't pan out at cornerback.
Prior to his commitment to Kentucky on Feb. 6, 2019, Devonshire was said to be intently focused on Ohio State and Pitt as well, and as a four-star recruit, his signature would have given a major boost to Pitt’s 2019 recruiting class. But without him, Pitt finished with the 49th-ranked class, according to Rivals.
However, over the last two years, things have changed in Pittsburgh. Thanks in large part to Pitt receivers coach Chris Beatty and his efforts in Virginia, Pitt now has the 21st-ranked recruiting class for the 2021 cycle. In addition, the Pitt defense has emerged as one of the most dominant forces in college football over the last two seasons and positioned stars like Paris Ford, Patrick Jones II, Jaylen Twyman and Rashad Weaver as future draft picks.
With Devonshire now in the fold, Pitt could potentially have a replacement for departed starting cornerback Jason Pinnock, who recently declared for the NFL draft. That would place Devonshire opposite Damarri Mathis, provided the new addition earned a starting role in training camp. And with heralded 2021 safety Phillip O’Brien flipping from Auburn, the Pitt secondary could be loaded with young talent the next time it takes the field.