When Evolve 2tenths went down to North Carolina for some 7v7 action against teams from all over the south, including both Carolinas and Florida, Von Madden was seriously impressed by a recruit just added to the team.
Leechburg’s Braylan Lovelace wasn’t exactly a high-profile WPIAL recruit, despite a jaw-dropping junior season with the Blue Devils, but after watching the way Lovelace (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) dominated across all levels of the defense as a big, fast linebacker, Madden knew that this was a kid Pitt needed to look into.
It took a little bit longer for that Pitt connection to build, but after a strong camp showing at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex Sunday, Lovelace finally picked up that hometown Pitt offer.
After a great camp and talk with @Coach_Manalac I am very blessed and honored to receive another ACC Division 1 offer from the University of Pittsburgh.@CoachDuzzPittFB @CoachBorbs @Evolve2tenths @210ths @CoachWalters07 pic.twitter.com/nouZvAdgeH
— Braylan Lovelace (@BraylanLovelace) June 13, 2022
As a WPIAL kid just about 30 miles away from the Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side, of course he’s familiar with Pitt. But it goes back way before he started playing at Leechburg. Lovelace grew up watching Pitt football, admittedly one of his two favorite teams growing up — along with Michigan — and his family still has Pitt season tickets.
“You know, I just watched them,” Lovelace told Pittsburgh Sports Now. “We have season tickets, so I only watched them at the games. At one point last year, I got invited to the Pitt/Clemson game, that was about it — and a camp last year.”
When Lovelace says he watched Pitt, that was it. The relationship, while being invited to camps and the Clemson game last season, wasn’t really there. Until recently. Offensive line coach Dave Borbely invited Lovelace out to camp Thursday, really kicking off the communication, and by Sunday, he was showing out on the field.
“It was a great experience to learn from the coaches and see firsthand basically what goes down at practice for linebackers at Pitt,” Lovelace said. “So, it was a great experience to see and learn from coach (Ryan) Manalac and the players.
“(Pitt) said that from the start of the camp, from the butt kicks, the high knees, from stretching through the whole way to the end of the camp, that I did very well,” Lovelace said. “Listening to directions and things like that.”
It took a day for Manalac and Pitt’s staff to go back and rewatch the camp film, and when Manalac talked with Lovelace Monday afternoon it was to officially extend that offer to a kid who grew up watching the team.
“It’s amazing (to pick up the offer),” Lovelace said. “I grew up as a little kid watching them and envisioning myself on the field, and now to have that chance is unbelievable.”
With the Pitt offer, joining his first Power Five offer from Virginia Tech (along with Ivy League offers from Army, Brown, Bucknell, Charlotte, Columbia, Pennsylvania and Toledo), Pitt has risen to the very top of his list of contenders. Enough to add Pitt to his list of official visits alongside Virginia Tech (June 24).
Pitt wanted Lovelace to make it back out again this week for an official visit, capitalizing off the momentum of the rapidly growing relationship, and that was something Lovelave was interested in. So, he’ll be making the short trip back to Pitt for the June 16-18 official visit.
“Really just to see how the coahing staff is, see what kind of energy they’re bring and see if it’s a fit for me,” Lovelace said. “And also, what the players are like, if some of them are there. Just things like that to make sure I fit there.”
As a do-it-all junior for Leechburg in 2021, Lovelace racked up 1,506 yards and 28 touchdowns on 171 carries and added 164 yards and a touchdown on 14 receptions. As a linebacker, he complied 81 tackles, seven tackles for loss and two interceptions.
247Sports rates Lovelace as the 80th-ranked linebacker and the 22nd-ranked recruit from Pennsylvania. While neither Rivals nor On3 has rated him yet, his meteoric rise will likely feature rankings from both.
With official visits to Virginia Tech and Pitt, and a planned visit to Charlotte in July, Lovelace isn’t in a rush to announce his commitment. He’d like to have it all ironed out by the start of his senior season at Leechburg.