Few Pitt football fans will forget Father’s Day, Sunday, June 17th. It was a rare, exciting and record breaking recruiting bonanza for Pat Narduzzi and staff. The final commitment of the long and winding day was a bit unexpected. It came from hulking Reading (PA) Berks Catholic middle linebacker prospect Brandon George (6-foot-3 inches, 236 pounds). George and his family had visited Pitt one week earlier.
To gain better perspective on George, Pittsburgh Sports Now spoke with Dave Stahler, the associate head football coach for Berks Catholic High School.
“I can’t say enough good things about Brandon. From the standpoint of work ethic, he’s our hardest working guy in the weight room. He works just as hard in the classroom. He carries a high grade point average. I believe he has a 3.6 GPA,” stated Stahler.
“He’s as strong as a high school kid really can be. Cleans over 300 lbs., benches high 300s and squats well over 400 lbs. and all that’s hard work. I’ve known Brandon since he was in fifth or sixth grade, he couldn’t be a nicer young man. When we have kids that are new to the school, kids who are thinking about coming to this school, or kids that are feeling a little lonely or whatever, I often ask Brandon to help out. He’s always willing and does a great job. He just couldn’t be a nicer kid. He comes from a really good family, his folks are just nice people. He’s just a great kid, great family. Brandon gets his work ethic and toughness from his parents. He comes in with that blue collar work ethic and mentality.”
George joins fellow class of 2019 linebackers Leslie Smith (6-foot, 195 pounds) from Northwestern High School (Miami, FL) and Khadry Jackson (6-foot-2 inches, 190 pounds) from Windermere Preparatory School (Orlando, FL).
George is a physically imposing linebacker prospect, but he also has the potential to grow into a defensive end. Coach Stahler was asked about his size and he stated, “Brandon, he’s 235 pounds. He’s probably 6-foot-4 inches tall now. I’m 6-foot-3 inches tall and he’s a little bit taller than I am now.”
“Brandon has big long arms, big hands and big feet. I tease him all the time that if he eats right he could be an offensive lineman. I’m not sure he can eat that much! I do think that’s how big I think his body can get. Our strength coach is Dane Miller (Founder of Garage Strength – Berks County’s premier Olympic weightlifting and sports performance center) who is nationally accredited. He actually coaches throws for the Olympic team. Dane is big on organic foods and eating the right way and stuff like that. So Brandon’s really aware now, of what he’s putting in his body, for a high school kid. He really eats to fuel himself to perform.”
Coach Stahler was asked about George’s on-field abilities. He replied, “He’s an explosive athlete, he’s a long strider. He’s such a big long lean kid that he doesn’t always look like he’s running fast but guys don’t catch him. He’s physical … always has been physical, even as a freshman and a sophomore he was really physical. He’s just a big kid, he throws his body around, plays really hard all the time.”
“Brandon is selfless as well. We’re a Delaware Wing-T team, so we have three backs that carry the ball. He’s been one of those kids his whole career. If we were a single back team, he’d get 25 to 30 carries a game. For us he gets about half of that. But on the other plays he blocks and fakes and plays hard all the time. And then defensively for us he’s been an inside linebacker and he’s been a defensive end. I think he could play outside linebacker as well, depending on the system. He’s the biggest, strongest, fastest kid out there and we try to keep him free and get him to the ball as much as we can. He makes flash plays often so we’re thrilled to have him.”
When Coach Stahler was asked if he felt George could succeed as a middle linebacker in the ACC conference, he replied, “I know they’ve been recruiting him to play middle linebacker. I always have told the (Pitt staff), he’s a good football player. For us and what we do, he can play really anywhere offensively of all 11 positions if we needed him to. The same applies to defense. We fit him in where he helps us best. He’s such a good kid that will do whatever we ask.”
George chose Pitt over scholarship offers from Wake Forest, Temple, Albany, Bucknell, Colgate, Fordham, Holy Cross, Howard, James Madison, New Hampshire and Towson. With his size, strength and mobility, Coach Stahler was asked why he ultimately was an under-the-radar prospect. “We are a 4A school in Pennsylvania and we are located in in eastern Pennsylvania. We have been really successful the last four or five years. Brandon’s been a huge part of that certainty,” he said. “It’s still not 6A football. So last year, like the last Friday of school, our league has one those little combines and Brandon pulled his hamstring at that. He didn’t run for anybody last summer. That’s a critical summer. It’s the summer going into his junior year. He was a big strong looking kid but nobody really knew if he could run. When he can run, he can probably clocked at 4.7, 4.8 depending on where you are (George ran a 4.7 forty at Pitt camp).”
“I think that was the biggest thing that hurt his recruiting. Brandon has got great grades, he’s a great kid, but he had the hamstring and that lingered into our season a little bit. Towards the end of our season, he had a fluke and sprained an ankle. I’m the offensive coordinator and I call the plays. We were really, really careful with him on offense because we knew we had to have him on defense. So you don’t run up stats when you’re offensive coordinator’s thinking, ‘Get him in and use him as we absolutely need to.’ I think that had a little bit to do with it to.”
George was recently named Linebacker of the Year in Section 2 of Berks League after leading his team with 66 tackles and four interceptions. A pair of his interceptions were returned for touchdowns. The two-time All-Berks pick was wreaked havoc at middle linebacker. His defensive unit didn’t allow a point until the 13th week of the season.
“Brandon has a built in work ethic. He’s ready to step on and be a college football player,” he said. “There’ll be a period of adjustment obviously because everybody’s big, fast and strong. But the time commitment thing I don’t think will be an issue for him at all. I’m not concerned with him at all. You have to be willing to work hard and not be the top guy and just kind of start at the bottom. I think he’s ready to do all that, I think he’s really excited about it.”
Harry Psaros can be found on Twitter at @PittGuru