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A Strong Culture Stands Out During 2024 3-Star TE Benjamin Blackburn’s First Pitt Visit



Benjamin Blackburn has racked up 30 offers, including Boston College, Duke, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa State, Louisville, Minnesota, Pitt, Rutgers, Syracuse, UCF, Virginia and West Virginia, but he’s winding down in his recruiting chase.

So, Blackburn — a 6-foot-6, 230-pound three-star tight end from Columbus High in Miami, Florida — is checking out the schools that will contend for his signature.

That led him to Pitt for Thursday’s spring practice — his fist experience in Pittsburgh.

“I came in with pretty high expectations for Pitt knowing that it’s a well-established program and a winning program, and I think what I saw today really met my expectations,” Blackburn told PSN. “From practice, the intensity and the energy. The facilities were really outstanding, state of the art. And the coaching staff, I can tell they do a really good job developing the players not just as players but as men, too.”

Pitt has been in on Blackburn since extending an offer back on Jan. 17, getting the jump on a rather large contingent of Power Five schools that rolled soon after. The relationship has grown consistently — with Tim Salem and Pat Narduzzi leading the way.

Of course, he had to get out for a practice Thursday to get his first look at the program.

“I had a great visit,” Blackburn said. “It’s always great to see coach Narduzzi, coach Salem and the coaching staff. Be able to get out for practice, see how they practice — the intensity and energy. And just see how the players have fun when they’re out there.”

He was able to get a good feel for how Pitt conducts itself Thursday, enjoying a high-energy session. The offense made plays, the defense made plays and he was able to watch the tight ends up close.

He was able to watch how Salem coaches up the tight ends group, too. “I actually really like the way he coaches,” Blackburn said. “He brings a lot of energy, not just on the field but also in the meeting room.” He was able to see how Salem loves what he does.

Blackburn sat down with Salem after practice to check out some film and just to talk. About the tight ends room at Pitt and where he’d fit in but also about what Pitt would be able to do for him as a player and a person. Growth as a man, socially and spiritually, on and off the field, is important, and he feels like Pitt is a place he’d be able to do so.

“I think I’d fit well,” Blackburn said. “A lot of the schemes that they run are similar to my schemes at my high school, and in that aspect, I think I fit well. They do a lot of both blocking and catch, which I love to do.

“Coach Salem and coach Narduzzi said they really love my ability to be both a blocker when I need to be, but then a mismatch when they put me out and they flex me out as a right end.”

Pitt’s coaching staff loves the physicality in Blackburn’s game, a legitimate load in a 6-foot-6 frame, able to serve as an extra offensive lineman down the line, but he does that easy, fluid movement that flashes in his ability to shake safeties and linebackers.

As a junior at Columbus, helping to lead the Explorers to a Florida 4M championship, Blackburn was a physical presence. He thrived as a blocker at the end of the line, and he racked up 10 receptions for 185 yards (18.5 yards per reception).

247Sports rates him as the 1,132nd-ranked recruit in the class (52nd-ranked tight end and the 142nd-ranked recruit from Florida). Neither Rivals nor On3 have ranked Blackburn yet, but he does hold a 5.5 Rivals Rating.

Blackburn will be visiting West Virginia Friday before hitting it hard next week with Duke, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt on the schedule.

He doesn’t have a timeline when it comes to making an eventual commitment, just at some point over the summer, but the rest of the spring will determine whether he feels the need to schedule official visits or not.

And after a visit to Pitt, the Panthers are firmly in the mix, in large part because of the culture he was able to see for himself firsthand.

“You can tell especially from watching practice and watching how a lot of the players have fun while at practice,” Blackburn said. “It’s surrounded around family, toughness, knowledge, intelligence and you can tell just based off the players and their attitudes toward the program, you can tell how the culture is really great.

“I really liked what I saw today from Pitt, and coach Salem and I and coach Narduzzi and I have a great relationship. So, when I do narrow my schools down, I would expect Pitt to be in those schools.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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