Pat Narduzzi and the Pitt coaching staff continued to make headway on the recruiting trail this week, and their work landed the program in the top 12 of Antonio Gates Jr., a promising wide receiver out of Fordson High School in Dearborn, Michigan.
Recruitment still open pic.twitter.com/uJiOYzNLP5— AntonioGatesJr‼️‼️‼️ (@AntoniogatesJr1) January 20, 2021
In addition to Pitt, Gates included Boston College, Iowa State, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, Michigan State, Nebraska, Ole Miss, Penn State, Washington State and West Virginia as finalists in his top 12.
Gates’ list was created by trimming down an offer sheet with more than 20 programs represented, and the cuts included Arkansas, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Cincinnati, Coastal Carolina, Eastern Michigan, Florida Atlantic, Memphis, Southern Mississippi and Toledo.
The 6’3”, 185-pound receiver holds four-star ratings from 247Sports and ESPN, while Rivals considers him a three-star recruit. ESPN ranks him as the No. 281 overall prospect in the 2022 class and the No. 40 receiver. 247Sports has a higher opinion of Gates, placing him at No. 177 overall and No. 23 at his position.
Pitt was late to the party in the recruitment of Gates, as the program offered him on Jan. 6. That placed the program almost a year behind Kentucky, which was the first to offer him on Jan. 17, 2020, and well behind Michigan State, which appears to be Gates' front-runner.
Gates is the son of former San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, who many Pitt fans of a certain age know best for leading Kent State to a 78-73 upset of Pitt in the 2002 NCAA men’s basketball tournament prior to his NFL career. With that said, the elder Gates’ first choice when he was a recruit was Michigan State, where he hoped to be a two-sport star under Nick Saban and Tom Izzo. And while that did not pan out, it seems he passed his predilection for Sparty onto his son.
As for the younger Gates, the recruit is coveted for his size and strength and has drawn comparisons to former Ole Miss star Laquon Treadwell. Allen Trieu of 247Sports praised his solid route-running and his ability to fight for 50-50 balls and noted he already appears to have the potential to play in the NFL.
As a sophomore in 2019, Gates came up with 32 receptions, topped 600 yards and scored five touchdowns at Fordson. And during his junior year in 2020, Gates caught 30 passes and accrued 750 yards and 10 touchdowns. The recruit also tallied eight pass breakups and three picks as a defensive back.
At Pitt, Gates could address a major area of concern, as the team is in dire need of sure-handed receivers after ranking among the nation’s leaders in drops for the last two seasons. But with that said, it seems the Pitt staff will have to outmaneuver Narduzzi’s old employer in Michigan State to win Gates over, and time will be on their side, as it appears the recruit’s decision could be months away.