When Aliquippa standout M.J. Devonshire was coming out of high school, the recruitment of the four-star prospect took a number of twists and turns, and ended up with Devonshire signing with Kentucky.
Two years later, he’s back. Devonshire transferred back to Pitt from Kentucky, enrolled in January was re-introduced to Pittsburgh in a meeting with the media Wednesday morning.
The Panthers heavily recruited Devonshire, a 5-foot-11, 182 pound cornerback rated as a four-star prospect by Rivals. He feels he’s best suited for bump and run coverage, a staple of Pitt’s defense.
At Kentucky, he recorded just six tackles and two pass breakups in five career games, and felt underutilized in the Wildcats scheme. A broken wrist in 2019 didn’t help matters, and he never had a chance to get going at Kentucky.
Devonshire looks to shore up a Panthers secondary that was gashed on eight plays of over 50 yards last season, and will lose Damar Hamlin, Paris Ford, and Jason Pinnock to the draft in April.
His role is far from certain, though, and he will compete with Damarri Mathis, A.J. Woods, and Marquis Williams for a starting job.
Devonshire could also find a home on special teams, as he returned eight punts for touchdowns at Aliquippa. Devonshire stressed his gratitude for the perspective he gained from his recruitment and tenure at Kentucky.
“I was going into it like it was a video game, like it was a fairy tale… being older and more mature, you’re able to make a better decision that fits you,” Devonshire said.
Returning home to Pennsylvania was a big factor for Devonshire, who also considered Penn State.
“I immediately felt at home … walking around the facility it’s all smiles, you know, it’s a friendly environment. You’re definitely more comfortable in that situation,” Devonshire said.
Devonshire’s ties to the area run deep. Panthers quarterback and fellow Aliquippa alum Eli Kosanovich reached out to Devonshire when he entered the transfer portal. Pitt wide receiver Will Gipson, another former Quip, has been working out with Devonshire in the offseason. And of course, his parents are overjoyed to have him home.
“My mom loves it, you know, she still cried when I moved in… [she] definitely loves that I’m down the road,” Devonshire said.
By coming to Pitt from Aliquippa, Devonshire will be following in the footsteps of a number of legendary players like Mike Ditka, Sean Gilbert, Darrelle Revis and Jonathan Baldwin, but said he isn’t worried about living up to the
“[Revis] definitely preaches not to be in the shadow of Darrelle Revis, to just be M.J. Devonshire,” Devonshire said.
In order to do that, he just wants a chance to compete, something that he didn’t feel he had at Kentucky and that he sees coming in spades at Pitt.
“That’s the biggest thing we talked about, me and Coach (Archie) Collins, having a chance to compete,” Devonshire said. “The way they compete, every play. You’re pressed and if you give up a catch, you’re right back at it. It’s no change. They’re going to do what they do best and they’re going to get it done. I love that about this defense. You’re going to compete every play from the start to the finish of the game.”