Two of the biggest keys to recruiting top talent are winning and relationships.
The Pitt Panthers football program is winning and the staff as a whole have tremendous relationships with high school coaches and programs across the country.
Those two things are the reasons for the Panthers getting some initial interest from one of the top sophomores in the entire country.
On Wednesday, Pitt extended an offer to 2024 five-star defensive lineman Nigel Smith from Melissa, Texas. 247Sports rates the 6-foot-5, 260-pound defensive end as the No. 2 defensive end in the country and the No. 19 overall sophomore in the country. Along with Pitt, Smith holds offers from Baylor, LSU, Florida State, Ole Miss, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Rutgers, TCU, Texas and Texas Tech.
After a great conversation with the coach with the best flat top in the nation @TiUnderwood I'm blessed to say I have an opportunity to further my academic and football career by being offered by The University of Pittsburgh!#AGTG #Pitt @MattNally1 @CoachDuzzPittFB pic.twitter.com/nQvNlOi3hg
— Nigel Smith (@NigelSmith_25) March 24, 2022
A few years ago, Pitt offering and more importantly being positively received by a five-star recruit wasn’t realistic, but winning the 2021 ACC championship and having a coach like Tiquan Underwood on the staff has given Pitt a fighting chance.
“I know Coach Wood (Underwood) from Rutgers,” Smith told Pittsburgh Sports Now. “I’ve known him pretty well for the past year since I got offered by them (Rutgers) since he was one of the guys recruiting down here. I guess Coach Wood liked me, he got my name to the coaches, and they liked my film and I called him, and he was able to give me that offer. It was a real conversation and just being able to catch up with him. My grandpa trains people for fun and he actually trains a linebacker that went to Pitt named Phil Campbell. He was down there (Pittsburgh) at Pitt’s Pro Day watching and talking to coaches as well. He got to catch up with Coach Wood which was good.”
Tiquan Underwood is the newest coach on the Pitt staff and his players and people that follow the program are still getting to know him. Smith wanted to help with that as he gave us his description of Underwood as a coach and a person.
“Definitely a great coach,” said Smith. “A real, real genuine guy. A person with high energy and someone that definitely knows what he’s talking about. He’s a real family man and you can tell that he really and truly cares about you as a person. I definitely love him as a coach, and you all are going to love him too.”
Speaking of love, every coach that looks at his film, loves what they see with Smith and within the next year, will no doubt have offers from every elite program in the country as they try and lock down a commitment from him.
— Nick Harris (@RivalsNick) March 20, 2022
“I think I move pretty well for my size and a very athletic guy,” Smith said. “I’m able to bend that corner real well, I’m very nimble and know how to use my hands. I also think my change of speed is very good and believe I’m someone that can play anywhere on the line. Run or pass I can get the job done. If I’m in a two three or out on a five, I’ll get the job done for my team. Coaches tell me that I have a high motor and that I never take any plays off.
“I definitely plan on enjoying the recruiting process,” said Smith. “From coaches and my family, all that has been said to me is congrats and that I need to just keep my head down and keep grinding. This situation is what every kid dreams of being in. To be a five-star player, to be one of the top players in the nation. I know that doesn’t come without hard work and that’s what I’m doing. I’m going to keep working hard over the next couple of years and my goal is to rise even higher in these rankings and maybe finish in the top five and No. 1 at my position. I want to be known as one of the best players in the country. That’s what everyone knows my goal is and I believe it’s an achievable one and that’s why I’m working every day with my coaches and family to become a better football player, a better athlete and a better man.”
— Nathan Daugherty (@NateDaug) February 1, 2022
While his Signing Day is still two years away, Smith has started the process of evaluating schools and developing relationships with coaches. What’s it going to take for a team to become a serious contender for him?
“Coaches are going to grab my attention,” Smith said. “Some coaches you can tell just aren’t genuine and they’re just recruiting you to get a player. I want a coach that’s going to appreciate me not just as a football player but as a person as well. I want them to want to develop me as a player and a person and that can get me to the next level. Obviously, stats speak for themselves and if that coach has been developing guys to elite NFL talent then that is a place that I would love to go. So my main thing is the coaching staff because I love to be coached and wherever in the nation that I believe will do it best, that’s where I’ll go.”
Good news for Pitt is that Smith says that he will be making a trip to Pitt oer the summer in order to get his first look at the campus, see the facilities and meet the coaching staff.