The Pitt football program received great news in the beginning of the weekend when it received a verbal commitment from Phenix City (AL) Glenwood wide receiver Cameron O’Neil (6-foot-3 inches, 190 pounds). He chose Pitt over a number of scholarship offers including Wisconsin, Virginia, Illinois, Memphis and Troy. O’Neil was the 12th player to join the Panthers class of 2018. To gain better perspective on Pitt’s newest wide receiver, Pittsburgh Sports Now spoke with Glenwood High School head football coach Jason Gibson.
“Cameron was a transfer last year. I’m an arena football coach, that’s what I do. So I’m an arena coach (head coach and director of football operations) with the Columbus Lions. (Glenwood) is my second job, “said Gibson. “So when I transferred here to take the job, everybody knew I threw the ball. About two days in practice, this big six foot three kid walks in, that had been transferred in. I’ve never seen him before and he said he played receiver. I said ‘I’ll find out if you play receiver in about four catches’. We sat down to play catch and he swallows the football up. He simply attacks the ball. You can tell, some people struggle catching the ball and some people don’t. He just attacks the football and takes it, you know? It reminds me of kind of a Dez Bryant, kind of a Keyshawn Johnson the way he just takes the ball away. And his ability to adjust his body is amazing.”
“Cameron had to sit out two games because he had to transfer in, but once we got him in the game, and he just started to progress with what we do here. He started making play after play after play. The guy is very competitive. I didn’t get to send highlights out until probably January, maybe December. He really didn’t have any highlights before because his previous school mostly ran the football.”
“We were going four and five wide and isolating him and putting him out there and he’s making plays and just jumping over people in slant routes. I thought his best route in his highlight film was the fourth or fifth on the film. It’s not the touchdown play, even though that fancy stuff the people look at, he caught a slant route, he would call it. As soon as he called it, he’d put his foot in the ground and hit it vertical at the same time … and just the explosion from him, getting up field. He ended up getting tackled a couple yards downfield, but it showed the explosiveness that he’s got. He can catch in traffic and make big plays.”
O’Neil caught 75 passes for 638 yards and seven receiving touchdowns during his junior season at Glenwood. Coach Gibson stated that he runs a legitimate 4.5 forty-yard dash.
“Cameron is very physical, legitimate 6-foot-3 inches and 190 pounds. He’s not this 6-foot-3 inches that you see that turn out to be 6-foot-1 inches and 170 pounds. He’s a big kid that can run a four-five forty yard dash,” said Gibson. “It shocked me, when we ran him. I coach arena ball, so when the guys tell me they run a four-five forty, I know what four-five forty is. You know all these high schools tell you ‘Oh, I ran a four-four’ or ‘I ran a four-six’ … No you didn’t. You know how that goes.”
“Cameron can run, he’s physical, attack the ball, he’s a physical player that can block. He’s a prototypical Division I football player. He has the frame to add a lot muscle and create match-up problems. I could see him eventually weighing 210 to 215 pounds.”
O’Neil and his family drove to Pitt on July 22nd and toured campus. He and his family came away very impressed.
“I remember when (Pitt wide receiver coach) Kevin Sherman called out of nowhere and he said, ‘Hey, we want to offer this, we love him.’ I didn’t think anything of it at the time because the offer came out of the blue. This was after a flood of schools like Wisconsin and Virginia had already offered.”
“Cameron had a lot of different schools he could have went to. I saw Pitt and Wisconsin as big time drives for him. They were supposed to visit Wisconsin but they didn’t want to go due to the distance. I assumed the same might apply to Pitt. He called me and said, ‘Hey, me and my parents are going to get in a car and go to Pitt’. I went to Fairmont State so I spent a lot of time in Pittsburgh. I knew if he walked in the city and on campus, it would be over. He would love it.”
O’Neil is a 6-foot-3 inch standout wide receiver in the heart of the Southeastern Conference. Coach Gibson was asked if he would remain committed to Pitt if eventually offered by an SEC program.
“His commitment is solid. Oh yeah. Cameron is humble. He’s got a good family. He’s got great parents that keep him grounded. His mother is well educated and his father is retired Army. They don’t play around,” he said.
“He’s not a ‘Let’s go hangout, party’ type of kid. He’s a laid back kid, a private kid, a very hard worker. He’s a good student. He has a job as well. He understands responsibility and his parents keep him grounded. He doesn’t have a single red flag.”
“When he came back from the trip, he loved the facilities and the city, but he really kept talking about the staff at Pitt and Coach Sherman. He kept talking about the environment at Pitt. He’s sold on the program.”
Harry G. Psaros can be found on Twitter at @PittGuru