After a very, very long weekend for Tiquan Underwood, helping to land six commitments off Pitt’s first weekend of official visitors, he needed to head out for Saturday dinner. He decided on Fat Head’s Saloon on East Carson Street on Pittsburgh’s South Side.
2024 four-star defensive end Nigel Smith made the trek from northeast Texas — just a little ways outside Dallas — to Pittsburgh with his family Saturday, and he also had plans for dinner at Fat Head’s. With an unofficial visit planned for the following day, it was the perfect opportunity for Smith to touch base with Underwood.
“We came in and went to a place called Fat Head’s,” Smith told Pittsburgh Sports Now. “It was some great food, was able to have a chance just to catch up with coach Wood, see how he was doing. The next day, just had even more fun. Got to visit with coach P, and everybody else and it was amazing. I had a meeting with coach P and had a meeting with coach Narduzzi. Got to meet with all of them right when I got there, so I definitely enjoyed it.”
Smith, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound defensive end from Melissa High School in Texas, is one of the very best recruits in the class of 2024. With offers from Alabama, Arkansas, Baylor, Florida State, Kansas, LSU, Miami, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Texas, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Pitt, Rutgers, SMU, TCU, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Tulsa, USC, Utah State, UTSA and Prairie View A&M, he has his pick of basically any school in the country already. And with his unofficial visit to Pitt, it went above and beyond any expectations.
“It went beyond my expectations, to be honest,” Smith told Pittsburgh Sports Now. “It was a great time, had fun being able to meet everyone. Just looking forward to furthering that relationship.”
Underwood was able to tell Smith about the excellent weekend of Pitt football, hosting just over a dozen of 2023 recruits, securing commitments from about half of them, and boosting Pitt’s 2023 class inside the Top-25. But it wasn’t just Underwood that made an impression upon Smith this weekend.
“I already was in pretty well with coach Wood, and I think it was just great to be able to catch up with him, be around him a little more,” Smith said. “Coach P was awesome to just be able to find out his coaching style and watch that whole camp and how he was. See coach Narduzzi walking around, being active and saying hi to everyone. Stuff like that, I was just watching everything.”
Pitt laid out the red carpet for Smith, with Underwood, head coach Pat Narduzzi and defensive line coach Charlie Partridge spending extensive time with him during his unofficial, and Partridge himself was able to make a strong impression upon a potential future position player.
“Definitely love (Partridge’s) style,” Smith said. “His coaching is upfront, he’s not gonna BS you, he’s not gonna lie, he’s not gonna make it seem like you’re the best in the world. He’s just gonna be real, genuine. I love that. I love their defense, the 4-3. Just the way he coaches, a lot of his coaching points like getting rid of knees and just some other things like that, doing your job. That’s what I love.”
Smith was familiar with Pitt’s defense, having done his research since picking up his official offer on March 23, and the idea of playing in Pitt’s defense isn’t a foreign concept to Smith anymore.
“At my high school right now, we just switched to a two-gap, not the most fun thing ever, but they just want you to play ball at Pitt,” Smith said. “You hold your gap, you get reach and you go make a play in the backfield. Like, they want you to be able to do whatever you want, you’re gonna make plays. They were leading in sacks, TFLs the last three years, No. 1 in all of it combined for the last three years — stats don’t lie. Coach Partridge explained to me a lot of that stuff. He’s a great guy, he explained to me a lot about their defense when I was up there and I think I learned a lot about how I think I would fit in that defense.”
As a sophomore in Melissa’s defense in 2021, Smith racked up 66 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, three forced fumbles and two recoveries on a squad that advanced to the Texas 4A D1 state quarterfinals.
247Sports rates Smith as the 37th-ranked recruit in the class (fourth-ranked defensive lineman and the fifth-ranked recruit from Texas) while Rivals rates him as the 50th-ranked recruit in the class (third-ranked strongside defensive end and the seventh-ranked recruit from Texas).
It’s not exactly a foreign concept for Pitt to host one of the very best recruits in the class on a visit, with 2023 five-star wide receiver Hykeem Williams making an official visit to Pitt later this month, but Underwood especially has been the connector between Pitt and the top-ranked ranked recruits.
And Pittsburgh, for its part, made a strong impression upon Smith. Yes, Pittsburgh the city. As a native of Texas, living without the sight of water, the rivers in Pittsburgh stood out to Smith. As did the beautiful weather on a June afternoon, the views around the city and trees, mountains and city lift blending together — it was a sight that wasn’t familiar to Smith.
Of course, Pittsburgh the city wasn’t enough to stand out for Smith though. He acknowledged that Pitt is a winning team, but he had no idea how the coaching staff at Pitt would be. You never really know, he said, since all coaches are different. But Pitt went above and beyond.
“It feels like a team that’s on the come-up,” Smith said. “They established a winning atmosphere, all the guys around there are great guys — just being able to talk to a couple of them — they all seem like great dudes. They really are on the come-up. They won the ACC championship last year, and I think if they keep getting dudes, who knows what they could be in the future.
“It definitely blew off the doors with the expectations, and I really enjoyed myself,” Smith said. “I don’t have any rankings of what my favorite colleges are yet, but I definitely enjoyed my time there. I will be back for a game next season, and we’ll pretty much go from there.”
While Smith plans to make it back out to Pitt in the fall for a game, a game which he hasn’t been able to nail down yet, he’s going to be very, very busy this summer.
Smith left Pittsburgh for Columbus, Ohio. He’ll be spending time at Ohio State, Oklahoma, Alabama and Miami in the coming weeks, and it’ll only pick up from there. But Pitt has managed to jump in and make a strong early impression. And sometimes, that early impression makes all the difference.