Pitt recently landed a verbal commitment from linebacker Preston Lavant (6-foot-2 inches, 210 pounds) from Crisp County High School in Cordele, GA. Lavant had nearly 20 scholarship offers but chose the Panthers over West Virginia, Nebraska, Minnesota, Louisville, Memphis and Cincinnati.
To gain perspective on the Panthers’ newest linebacker, Pittsburgh Sports Now spoke with Crisp County head football coach Brad Harber.
“We started playing Preston and his 2021 class very early. They are a tight knit group. I decided to roll the dice and play them very early. Preston has played a lot of varsity reps and we’re excited about this year,” stated Harber. “We have big expectations for Preston and his senior class. We played for the state championship a year ago and result wasn’t what we wanted. We lost the game 21-14. The only expectation is to be back again and with a favorable result. Preston and his class are going to provide us the leadership we need to succeed on the field this season.”
“We’re a AAA high school in Georgia and play iron man football. We have about 1,150 students in our high school so we’re not a larger school. Our guys play on offense, defense and special teams.”
“This is where Preston ‘gets it’. He understands the importance of offense. He plays on our special teams and plays defense,” he said. “He’s a force at outside linebacker but he could play inside on the next level. Preston plays tight end for us on offense. He can catch the ball and block well. He’s very unselfish and a great team player for our program.”
The Pitt coaching staff, especially secondary coach Archie Collins, has worked diligently to lure talent from the Peach State to Pittsburgh. Collins was able to close defensive back Rashad Battle and wide receive Jaylon Barden in the 2020 recruiting class. Lavant continues the pipeline.
Coach Harber was asked about Lavant’s growth potential. Most recruiting services have him list at 6-foot-2 inches tall and anywhere between 200 to 210 pounds. He stated, “My wife is like a team mother. We spend a lot of money and her money feeding our guys. The school does a great job feeding them after school as well. Once Preston has a nutritionist and starts eating properly at Pitt, he’s going to take off. He’s very long. He’s lengthy. He has a frame that can pack on muscle in the future.”
Lavant is a well-established force on the football field. Coach Harber strongly believes he’ll make a comparable impact off the field. “Preston is going be one of those guys that, upon graduation from college, is going to change the world. He’s going to make a difference in the world,” he said. “He has a 3.8 core grade point average. Preston ‘gets it’. He’s already academic qualifier. You’re not going to have to worry about him academically and he’s going to enhance Pitts’ team grade point average.”
“Preston is just a great kid. I love him. Pitt fans are going to love him. I never had to worry about him academically and on the football field he knowns how to flip the switch. He’s a different person on the football field. I’m not just talking about game days, that includes practice as well. He has a ‘no friends’ attitude on the football field and he knocks the crap out of everybody. We have several guys like that. He has controlled aggression. That’s what you want, especially from a defensive player and linebacker.”
Lavant wants to major in Architectural Engineering. He was the 10th player to join the Panthers’ 2021 recruiting class. Pitt will be replacing projected starters Phil Campbell III and Chase Pine following the 2020 season.
When asked about Lavant’s off the field demeanor, Coach Harbor replied, “He’s a no-nonsense kid of guy. He’s easy to talk to and you can hug his neck in the morning and hit him in the afternoon or before a game to fire him up. Preston is very receptive to people and he’s got an engaging personality. When he gets on the football field, he’s a different dude. He flips the switch and knocks the crap out of people.”
“Preston just understand it. He gets it. He does everything to be the best at whatever he puts his mind to doing. If you want to talk academics, he has a 3.8 core grade point average. If you need him to return a punt, he’s going to return punts. If you need him to run down a kickoff, he’s going to run down a kickoff. Preston has my full trust because I know that whatever I ask him to do, he’s going to do it to the best of his ability.”
“He’s been coached hard, and he accepts coaching, he wants to be the best at anything he does, but he accepts coaching. He’s a very likable kid. I think he’s mature beyond his years. He’s a joy to coach and the staff at Pitt is going love him. That’s what I’ll say about that kid. I love him to death.”
The table is set for Lavant to have a remarkable senior season. With his combination of talent and academic accomplishments, there remains a possibility of additional P5 programs, especially SEC programs, pursuing his services. Coach Harber was asked if he felt his commitment was solid. He stated, “I see Preston as a guy that he made his decision and I don’t think he’s wavering from that. I don’t. I trust Preston. He made this choice and I think he’ll stick with it. The Pitt staff did a great job recruiting him and he speaks highly of them.”
Harry Psaros can be found on Twitter at @PittGuru