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Pitt Was Always the Right Choice for New DT Francis Brewu

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Pitt defensive line commit Francis Brewu.

There’s a somewhat famous cartoon of two men sitting on a bus. They’re on either side of the aisle, both looking out the window. One is sad, frowning as he stares out at a steep rock wall. The other is happy, smiling as he looks out over a valley amid a beautiful sunrise.

There’s something to be said about having a choice. The cartoon’s creator originally uploaded the work with a caption that translates to, “Sometimes it just depends on us.” If you change your perspective, you might just be a little bit happier. As Francis Brewu sits on the bus every morning, on the way to the South Side facility bright and early, he always looks off toward the downtown skyline in the distance. He can’t help but smile.

“It’s a beautiful place to live, and that helps with your well-being — just being able to look around and enjoy where you’re at,” Brewu said last week at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

Brewu — a 6-foot, 275-pound defensive tackle early enrollee from Columbus, Ohio — has had a lot of choices in his recruiting process. And it all led to Pittsburgh.

He committed to Pitt in March over offers from Akron, Army, Ball State, Boston College, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Duke, Iowa State, Kent State, Miami (Oh.), Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio, Toledo and Western Michigan. But he was offered by Michigan State, Miami and Wisconsin after committing to Pitt, and that late interest was a factor until the very end.

Pitt.

Photo courtesy of Francis Brewu’s Twitter account.

Brewu took an official visit to Michigan State the weekend before National Signing Day in December, and even some of the Pitt coaches weren’t sure what Brewu would decide when he woke up on Dec. 20. He just wanted to make sure that he didn’t leave any stones unturned. If an opportunity felt good enough to go check out, he felt he earned that right. So, he did it and checked out East Lansing, Mich.

“But at the end of the day, Pitt just stayed true to everything they told me when they recruited me and just the core beliefs when I first committed to this program — the defense and the development are the No. 1 thing for me in college football,” Brewu said. “I want to play in a defense that’s aggressive and I can make plays in, and this is the best defense for that, and the development piece is huge for me.”

Charlie Partridge was a major factor in Brewu’s commitment, a major reason why he committed to Pitt, but it was the defense as a whole that intrigued him. It was the best fit for him schematically.

“Coach (Pat Narduzzi’s) defense was another huge factor, even though (Partridge is) gone, that defense is still here, so it’s a great defense to play in, sends a lot of defensive linemen to the league, and that’s my end goal,” Brewu said.

Narduzzi is at the center of it all. Literally. Narduzzi is a huge part of the defense, spending a lot of his time in meetings and in practice with the defenders, but he’s a huge part of Pitt football as a whole.

“He’s a high-energy guy, a funny guy, a guy you can just talk to for hours and you won’t get bored because he always says something interesting,” Brewu said. “The best thing about Duzz so far is he’s very involved here; he’s a part of everything we do here. He’s here every day, he’s here when we work out, here when we lift, we can always come up to his office and talk to him.”

Narduzzi has been a constant in Brewu’s time committed to Pitt, and since he signed in December and enrolled in January. So has someone like Ryan Manalac. Partridge left for the NFL, that was his choice, and Brewu is excited to get to work with new defensive line coach Tim Daoust. It’s still the same defense after all.

Brewu plays with aggression, and the Pitt defense gives him the freedom to do so.

“You’re not playing lateral, you’re playing vertical,” Brewu said. “So being able to get reach instead of trying to work sideways, you can get reach and make a play in the backfield instead of going backward.”

Brewu is an impactful defensive tackle. He’s not the tallest, but he doesn’t care. It didn’t stop him from racking up 28 tackles for loss and 10 sacks as a senior nose tackle at Thomas Worthington High.

“I think that stuff is really blown out of proportion because if you have a 6-5 guy, the thing that that coach is teaching him is to stay low,” Brewu said. “I’m 6-1, so I’m already low. It’s an advantage. I don’t look at it as a disadvantage because I know it’s an advantage to be able to stay low and get under guys.”

It will not be Brewu’s choice to play during his freshman season at Pitt, but it was his choice to enroll early to get a head start on his college career and have a chance to crack the lineup sooner rather than later. It was his choice to delve into the playbook, work as hard as possible and see what it brought him.

If there’s a spot defensively that is ripe for the taking, aside from maybe cornerback, it’s defensive tackle. It’s an inexperienced unit that lost all four starters from last season. The chance to come in and take early playing time is there.

All Brewu can do now is keep working. He chose Pitt, and he’ll see the city skyline just every morning as he tries to crack the lineup. It was the right fit then, and it’s the right fit now.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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