Pitt Shows Ability to Secure Top Talent From the WPIAL in Unconventional Ways
Pitt received a big hometown transfer in senior linebacker Todd Hill on Thursday to bolster the unit going into next season.
Hill played for Duquesne his first four seasons and had a stellar career at local Steel Valley High School in Munhall, Pa. He represents a consistent trend this offseason, and even years prior, of WPIAL players who start their collegiate career somewhere else and come back to play at Pitt to finish out their collegiate career.
Redshirt senior quarterback Phil Jurkovec, who starred for Pine-Richland in high school and then played for both Notre Dame and Boston College in college, headlines the WPIAL players coming back in 2023, as he is the starting signal-caller for next season.
Juniors in defensive back Donovan McMillon and running back Derrick Davis Jr. had great careers at Peters Township and Gateway, respectively, and also joined this offseason. McMillon played for Florida and Davis played for LSU as a defensive back initially, but transitioned to running back where he will also play for Pitt.
Pitt is establishing itself as a home for top WPIAL players, albeit, not once they start their career, but transferring back into the program later on.
Pittsburgh Central Catholic linebacker John Petrishen is the first player to really embody this trend, as he spent four seasons with Penn State before joining Pitt in 2019. Petrishen increased his snap count and improved upon his play over his three seasons at Pitt.
He would end up playing a significant role for the 2021 ACC Championship team, as he played all 14 games and started six at star linebacker. Petrishen had a team-high three interceptions along with defensive back Erick Hallett II, finished third with 74 tackles for the Panthers and earned Honorable Mention All-ACC honors.
Redshirt senior defensive back M.J. Devonshire is another great example of a player joining Pitt and improving during their time with the program. Devonshire starred for Aliquippa and then spent two seasons with Kentucky before coming back in 2021.
Like Petrishen, he improved from playing as a reserve in 2021 to playing all 13 games and starting nine of them at cornerback last season. Devonshire also served as the punt returner for Pitt in 2022, returning a punt for a touchdown in the win against Rhode Island, while also leading the ACC and finishing No. 12 in the nation with an average of 9.7 yards per punt return. He finished last season with All-ACC Second Team honors as a return specialist and Honorable Mention All-ACC honors at cornerback.
The development of Petrishen and Devonshire should demonstrate to potential WPIAL recruits that you can play for the “hometown” team and see great success. Instead of doing so later in your career, why not just join early on?
Pitt still falls behind Penn State when it comes to recruiting in Pennsylvania and even in the WPIAL. The Class of 2024 commitments in four-star Belle Vernon athlete Quinton Martin, the highest rated player in the state, and three-star linebacker Anthony Speca out of Pittsburgh Central Catholic show that continued dominance.
It also makes things difficult when big time programs come in and put in great recruiting efforts to bring players from the vaulted WPIAL to their programs. McMillon and Davis both had big time schools offer them and it wasn’t surprising to see them try to succeed at big time SEC programs.
For Pitt, keeping a strategy of developing players long-term, particularly WPIAL players who are looking to rejuvenate their careers, is one that has brought them success. Hill joining from Duquesne also presents a new benefit for the program, as players that might not have made it onto the team in high school, now have the opportunity to succeed at a smaller school and join Pitt in the future.
Head coach Pat Narduzzi and his staff have developed a talented squad with players across the country, leading to two straight top 25 finishes for the first time in over four decades.
The program continues to improve and for Pitt fans, they can only hope to see more Western Pa. players starting out with the program, developing and leading the team to even greater success in the future.
WPIAL Players on the 2023 Pitt Roster
Year/Position/Name/WPIAL High School/Eligibility Remaining
Graduate linebacker Todd Hill-Steel Valley (Duquesne)-one year
- Redshirt senior defensive back Dante Caputo-North Allegheny (Wisconsin)-one year (Walk-On)
- Redshirt senior defensive lineman Devin Danielson-Thomas Jefferson-one year
- Redshirt senior defensive lineman David Green-Pittsburgh Central Catholic-one year
- Redshirt senior quarterback Phil Jurkovec-Pine-Richland (Notre Dame/Boston College)-one year
- Redshirt senior offensive lineman Jake Kradel-Butler-one year
- Redshirt senior offensive lineman Blake Zubovic-Belle Vernon-one year
- Redshirt senior defensive back M.J. Devonshire-Aliquippa (Kentucky)-Two years
- Redshirt senior quarterback Eli Kosanovich-Aliquippa-Two Years (Walk-On)
- Senior defensive lineman Dayon Hayes-Westinghouse (City League)-two years
- Redshirt junior offensive lineman Matt Altsman-Pittsburgh Central Catholic-three years (Walk-On)
- Redshirt junior punter Cam Guess-Belle Vernon-three years (Walk-On)
- Junior defensive back Donovan McMillon-Peters Township (Florida)-two years
- Junior running back Derrick Davis Jr.-Gateway (LSU)-two years
- Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Elliot Donald-Pittsburgh Central Catholic-three years
- Redshirt sophomore tight end Trevor Faulkner-Avonworth (Air Force)-three years (Walk-On)
- Redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Dorien Ford-Baldwin-three years
- Redshirt sophomore defensive back Stephon Hall-Central Valley-three years
- Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman-Nakhi Johnson-West Mifflin-three years
- Redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Matt Metrosky-Greensburg Central Catholic-three years (Walk-On)
- Redshirt first-year tight end Josh Altsman-Pittsburgh Central Catholic-four years (Walk-On)
- Redshirt first-year Sean Fitzsimmons-Central Valley-four years
- Redshirt first-year linebacker Abe Ibrahim-Chartiers Valley-four years (Walk-On)
- Redshirt first-year wide receiver Lorenzo Jenkins-Beaver Falls-four years (Walk-On)
- Redshirt first-year wide receiver Caden Smith-Franklin Regional-four years (Walk-On)
- First-year defensive back Cruce Brookins-Steel Valley-four years
- First-year linebacker Braylan Lovelace-Leechburg-four years
- First-year wide receiver Devin Whitlock-Belle Vernon-four years (Walk-On)
- First-year running back Caleb Williams-Montour-four years (Walk-On)