The Pitt football program has lacked a pipeline of talented defensive end prospects for quite some time and restocking the position has been a priority for the Panthers’ current coaching staff. The 2016 recruiting class brought in long and athletic ends Rashad Weaver and Patrick Jones, as well as touted prospect Zack Gilbert, but his status is uncertain at the moment.
A year later, the emphasis on defensive end hasn’t changed. Over the summer, three-star Worthington (OH) Kilbourne High School defensive end prospect Carson Van Lynn committed after a strong camp performance. The 6-foot-6 inch, 240 pound prospect chose Pitt over offers from Boston College, Indiana, Iowa State, West Virginia, Buffalo, Ohio, Toledo and Western Michigan.
Van Lynn has remained the lone 2017 defensive end recruit until last week when the Panthers received a verbal commitment from Deerfield Beach (FL) prospect Deslin Alexandre (6-foot-4 inches, 240 pounds). Alexandre had previously been committed to North Carolina State but flipped to Pitt after taking an official visit to campus on December 10th. He had accumulated scholarship offers from Syracuse, Rutgers, Southern Mississippi, South Florida, UCF and Cincinnati, amongst others.
“It was a really, really tough decision, but Pitt just felt right,” said Alexandre. “I had a great feeling there. I prayed and made the decision to commit.”
“Rashad (Weaver) was my host for the weekend. I liked everything about the visit. The academic people, the players, the coaches, everything was great. I knew I wanted to visit Pitt to see what it was all about. When I got there, it just felt different. It felt right.”
Alexandre was asked about his strengths on the football field. He was quick to reply, “Pass rushing is my strength but I have no problem stopping the run. I’m tough against the run. I really like to ‘tee off’ and use my speed to rush the passer but if I have to stay home on the line, I can stop the run.”
Prior to this senior season, Alexandre was primarily known as a basketball player and didn’t decide to play football until his junior year. Three games into the season he dislocated his shoulder and missed the rest of the season. But his myriad scholarship offers is a testament to his potential and athletic ability, even as he remains a relative neophyte to the game of football.
“Coach (Tom) Sims is a great guy. He knows so much about the defensive line,” he said. “He’s the type of coach that will push you on the field and be there for you off of it.”
Alexandre is an ambitious young man that will join the Panthers’ football team in January. He wasn’t shy about expressing his short term goals. “I can’t just sit back as a freshman. I really want to learn their defensive system and contribute to the team. Getting there early gives me an advantage. I want to make an impact.”
Pitt will add at least one, possibly two more defensive ends to the 2017 class. Fr. Lauderdale (FL) Dillard HS prospect Stephon Zayas, Spencer (NC) North Rowan HS prospect Zion DuBose, Winter Park (FL) prospect Kevin Brown and Miami (FL) Booker T. Washington HS prospect Guy Thomas will take official visits in January. The Panthers were in the mix for Washington (DC) St. John’s College HS prospect Kofi Wardlow but he recently committed to the University of Maryland.
Harry G. Psaros can be found on Twitter at @PittGuru