Pitt was a surprising visit for Jahsear Whittington. He didn’t enter the visit with any negative preconceptions, of course, but his time in Pittsburgh Thursday opened his eyes. In fact, it actually felt like home.
“I feel like me, my playing style, fits their defense,” Whittington told PSN. “Me talking to coach (Charlie) Partridge, it basically just narrowed down each check box. It just checked off each box. What their defense is, how they want their defense, whatever type of guys they need on their defense, what do they want out of the guys on the defense. And that fits me almost 100 percent.”
Whittington, a 2024 four-star defensive tackle from Imhotep Charter High School in Philadelphia, Pa., had his entire mentality around Pitt changed seeing it for the first time. In seeing Pitt’s culture, the energy around the program, up close and personal, his entire thought process changed.
And it doesn’t hurt that the best chicken parm he’s ever had in his life came from Pitt’s cafeteria Thursday at the South Side facility.
Whittington (6-foot-2, 280 pounds) made the trip out to Pittsburgh for the first time Thursday, along with a few of his Imhotep teammates, and it came on the heels of building a relationship with Pitt safeties coach Cory Sanders. And while Sanders and head coach Pat Narduzzi showed a lot of love Thursday, it was another coach who really made an impact.
“I spoke with coach Partridge, the defensive line coach, and he spoke a lot of knowledge to me,” Whittington said. “He really changed my whole perspective about being a defensive lineman, and I thank him for that. I felt very different walking out of his office, when he talked to me, he likes me a lot. I love coach Partridge actually, I can definitely say that. … He made it seem like he was already my coach.”
While Whittington is a defensive lineman who is listed at 6-foot-2, he’s closer to 6-foot, 6-foot-1, and Partridge didn’t care. In fact, he was excited about it. Height isn’t something that holds back a defensive lineman, look at former Pitt star Aaron Donald, it’s the speed, quickness and determination that matter.
“(Partridge) said, ‘I don’t need a 6-foot-5 defensive lineman that can’t move.’ He said, ‘I’ll take a 6-foot defensive lineman who’s quick,'” Whittington said. In hearing that from Partridge, it hit home with Whittington.
Whittington actually reminded Partridge, and the entire Pitt staff, of an undersized yet dominant defensive tackle already on the roster: Calijah Kancey. Whittington felt blessed to be compared to an All-American, and while he saw a few clips of Kancey in Partridge’s office during the visit, he wasn’t too familiar. But with a long car ride back to Philadelphia after the visit, he said he’d be well acquainted by the time he returned home.
“I haven’t seen much, but when I was in coach Partridge’s office, he played a couple of clips and Calijah is different,” Whittington said. “That is somebody I would look up to. I’ve seen his film, he’s a dog. Me and Calijah, we gotta stand out, and he stands out a lot, so I got two years to grow, so I can just imagine when my body fully fills out.”
Aside from building a legitimate connection with Partridge on his visit to Pitt, Whittington went through the typical process. He was able to see the facilities at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex — the weight room, the indoor and outdoor practice fields and the indoor facilities — and he saw Pitt’s next-door neighbors.
“I found it pretty cool that they share a facility with the Steelers,” Whittington said. “So, now, every time I’m practicing, I get to see that next-level talent where I really want to go, where the main goal is. So, that’s a great thing.”
Whittington was able to run through the photo shoot, one of the best parts of his visit to Pittsburgh, but that wasn’t why he came at the end of the day. He was in Pittsburgh to see if he was able to see himself at Pitt long-term, and through the whole experience, his eyes were opened.
“You know what they say, you never want to turn down your home state,” Whittington said. “They showed why. Pitt is somewhere I would definitely consider playing at.”
With Whittington’s Imhotep coaches already having talked about potential 7-on-7 opportunities in the area, and a Big Man Camp opportunity this summer, he’s going to be back in Pittsburgh soon. And if not this summer, then he’s definitely going to back for the Pitt-West Virginia game to kick off the 2022 season.
In the meantime, Whittington has a visit to Syracuse this week and a future visit to WVU. And with offers from Boston College, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss, Nebraska, Penn State, Pitt, Syracuse, Temple, Tennessee, Virginia Tech and WVU, his recruiting process is already in high demand.
247Sports rated him as the 202nd-ranked recruit in the class, checking in as the 17th-ranked defensive lineman and the eighth-ranked recruit from Pennsylvania. Rivals is even higher on him, rating him as the 146th-ranked recruit in the class, slotting him as the seventh-ranked defensive tackle and the sixth-ranked recruit from Pennsylvania.
Whittington has been to Penn State, Rutgers, Temple and Maryland in recent visits.