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Pitt “In the Mix” for 2016/2017 Gatorade New Jersey Football Player of the Year

Pitt “In the Mix” for 2016/2017 Gatorade New Jersey Football Player of the Year

One of the primary reasons Pat Narduzzi hired Shawn Watson as his new offensive coordinator is Watson’s experience with developing young quarterbacks. As Pittsburgh Sports Now addressed earlier today, Watson is already identifying high school recruits that he believes could lead his offense at Pitt. On Monday, he extended an offer to Devin Leary, a 6-foot-2-inch 185-pound recruit from Sicklerville, New Jersey. Pittsburgh Sports Now spoke with Leary Tuesday night, and as it turns out, this isn’t the first time Coach Watson has offered the 3-star recruit.

“I was extremely excited,” Devin said, regarding his offer from Pitt. “The coach that offered me was actually Coach Watson, who was previously at Indiana. It’s funny because he was the same coach that offered me when he was at Indiana. So getting back in touch with him now that he’s at Pittsburgh, and for him to offer me from a school like that, was huge for me.”

For Coach Watson to extend an offer to Leary twice, he must see some amount of promise in the young quarterback. According to Devin, Watson has made sure to relay why he believes the young man is someone with which he could entrust his offense.

“I think the biggest thing that he’s said to me was how he’s seen my film, and he’s talked to my head coach, and not only likes me as a player but as a person. From a player’s standpoint, he thinks that the scheme and the system that he does fits me perfect, and he’ll really be able to coach me up and develop me.”

Of course, for Pitt to hold a chance at earning Leary’s commitment, Shawn Watson’s admiration must be requited. Luckily for the Panthers, Devin has identified multiple honorable qualities in Pitt’s offensive coordinator.

“[Coach Watson] is a really great guy,” said Devin. “He’s very humble, and I like that in a coach. And I think he’s a coach that really knows what he’s doing with his quarterbacks. He knows how to teach them correctly and just get them ready for college football.”

Pitt’s interest in Leary did not begin when Shawn Watson assumed the offensive coordinator position. Coach Narduzzi and his staff have been in contact with him for some time now.

“I actually have been receiving interest mail and a couple letters from the coaches for the past year now. I would say I started getting them at the beginning of my sophomore year and ever since.”

Devin has yet to visit the University of Pittsburgh, but he plans to do so during the Panthers’ spring practice sessions. Although there is much more to learn, he knows enough about Pitt’s academic reputation and recent on-field performances to praise the university.

“It’s a great school,” he said. “The University—I’ve heard nothing but great things about it. And from a football standpoint, they played in a bowl game last year, which is huge. They had a couple big wins, and I think their team is definitely on the rise.”

When you look at Devin’s 2016 season, it becomes apparent why teams are seeking his commitment. In Leary’s second season as a starter, he led Timber Creek Regional High School to a perfect 12-0 record, and its second straight South Jersey Group 4 state championship. Individually, he completed 198-of-316 passes for 48 touchdowns (a state record), 3,688 yards (also a state record), and just 4 interceptions. For his successes, Leary earned numerous accolades, including the 2016-2017 Gatorade New Jersey Football Player of the Year. Passing records and state championships have not rendered Devin complacent, though. He has set lofty expectations for both himself and Timber Creek in 2017, and he knows just how he can achieve these goals.

“My goals for next season are to win another state championship—I think winning three in a row, that’s really a big accomplishment—and to break my records that I broke this past year, both passing yardage and touchdowns. And I think I’ll be able to accomplish that by working on the chemistry with my new receivers coming in next year. Our offensive line is all coming back. We had a couple seniors graduate, but we have guys to fill in the roll next year. And I just believe our receivers next year are going to be really good, so I’m building chemistry with them right now. I’m excited for next year.”

Leary’s teammates should be excited for 2017 as well, especially when they have a player like Devin behind center.

“I would say [I’m] a competitor, but also a leader,” he said. “I’m someone who likes to have the ball in their hands. 4th-and-1? We need a touchdown? I want to be the guy with the ball in his hands … the guy that makes the decision. And a leader, because I want to be the guy that everyone can follow my lead, whatever needs to be done. If they ask me a question, I’ll know exactly what to do. And my guys are confident in me and look at me as a leader as well.”

Devin currently holds offers from numerous FBS schools, including Baylor, Iowa, Maryland, Rutgers, and West Virginia. He insists that no team has emerged as a favorite, and the playing field remains wide open for his commitment. More offers will likely arrive in the upcoming months, especially if Devin succeeds at achieving his senior year goals. However, teams may not want to wait too long to offer if they wish to receive his pledge.

“I don’t really have anything set in stone or anything,” Leary said. “But I think before my senior year, I would definitely like to make a commitment.”

With approximately six months until his senior season begins, Pitt is already positioning itself for a chance at Leary’s commitment.

“I think I would put Pitt definitely towards the top a little bit. I don’t have a top school or anything right now, but they’re definitely in the mix. It’s a school I’m really going to look at, and I just can’t wait to get up there and visit.”

At the conclusion of most interviews, I ask recruits if they have anything else they would like Panther fans to know. Not many recite a fun fact or message on a moment’s notice, but Devin managed to come up with one.

“I would just say that, as a player and as a person, I’m just a very humble young guy,” he replied. “And I just love football.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker

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