The recruiting cycle isn’t always the fun, globe-trotting process that it may seem like to those watching from the outside. It can be hard to tell which coaches are legit in their interest in finding a good fit to advance through their programs and those who are snake oil salesmen.
In 2023 three-star linebacker JJ Jean-Louis’s early interactions with Pitt, he feels like he’s received the honesty and perspective that can be tough to find across the college football landscape. Jean-Louis said it can hard to tell someone’s intentions over the phone, but in getting an in-person visit at Pitt last week, he was able to see for himself firsthand.
“They were honest with just me, they were honest with everything,” Jean-Louis told PSN. “Their players, how they describe their players’ game, they listed out some of their players’ weaknesses and strengths and all that, and a lot of coaches aren’t willing to because they want you to think they have the best team, the best program ever, so they’re not willing to disclose some of those weaknesses and areas that they plan on getting stronger. They were comfortable doing that, so that shows trust in their program and that said a lot to me.”
Jean-Louis, 6-foot-2, 215-pound linebacker from Centerville High School in Dayton, Ohio, was able to make it out to Pitt for a visit last week and attend practice, sit in on defensive meetings with defensive coordinator Randy Bates and linebackers coach Ryan Manalac and see Pitt football for himself.
“It’s impressive, it’s fast, everyone seems to already have a gist of what to expect before they’re already in the meeting,” Jean-Louis said. “So, everything was pretty much review for them. But it’s fast and it’s a lot. … The way we play football (at Centerville), it’s not too much different. A lot of our stuff is fast, it’s not as complex as obviously an ACC championship level, but it’s something I’ve had to overcome here, so I feel like that’s kinda prepared me for the obstacles at the next level.”
In addition to practice, meetings and individual time, Jean-Louis was able to meet with some of the players from his area, which only provided further inspiration.
With offers from Bowling Green, Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Massachusetts, Miami (Oh.) and Toledo, and interest from Illinois and Iowa State, Jean-Louis hasn’t yet picked up a Pitt offer, but he’s had good talks with Manalac.
“(Manalac) expects me to get bigger,” Jean-Louis said. “That’s what we’ve been talking about the most, what position he sees me as, playing at the high school level and being a pass rusher and outside linebacker. He’s kind of looking forward to developing me as a pass rusher, but at the same time, if those expectations aren’t met — maybe I don’t end up being 6-foot-4 or growing more height-wise — he’s comfortable seeing me as a linebacker.”
As a linebacker at Centerville, Jean-Louis has filled a sort of hybrid linebacker role, but he’s been tasked more with dropping into rushing the passer opposed to dropping back into coverage. But he’s still comfortable with his coverage abilities.
In getting to known Manalac, he’s appreciated the realness and honesty in their conversations. And it’s not just Manalac that he’s bonded with but Bates too. Bates made a visit to Centerville last year, extending a gameday invite for the Virginia Tech game in October, and the pair have maintained modest communication.
While an official offer hasn’t rolled in yet, Jean-Louis is hopeful. And he’s supposed to attend some camps over the summer, so he’s hopeful that Pitt decides upon his position and may extend an offer.
In the meantime, Jean-Louis is planning a visit to either Minnesota or Duke, likely only able to hit one or the other with the distance required, but he’s already visited Bowling Green and Miami (Oh.) this spring and Illinois and Iowa State last fall.
And with Jean-Louis celebrating his birthday on Sunday, he did say that Pitt reached out to celebrate.