In the world of recruiting, any time a school can land a commit from one of the top players in the state it’s a big deal.
It’s been said a thousand times in recruiting circles and it will be said a thousand times more: In-state recruiting is the life blood of a good college football program.
And just because it’s a phrase that’s said a lot, doesn’t mean it’s not true.
In order to compete at a competent to high level, schools have to lock down their borders and make sure that the best players in their state — the ones who presumably grew up watching their team play and have some sort of affinity to the team (not to mention proximity) — decide to make that commitment.
It’s a simple yet profound concept, and for West Virginia, it’s one that came to life recently with the commitment of three-star athlete Derek Pitts.
Pitts, who hails from Charleston, W.V. (South Charleston), committed to the Mountaineers this past Monday, becoming Dana Holgorsen’s 17th 2017 commitment in the process. Pitts is 6-foot-1 and 174 pounds and he’s ranked as an athlete, according to 247Sports. In fact, he’s ranked as one of the better athlete recruits in the nation.
The industry generated 247Sports Composite considers Pitts to be the No. 30 athlete in America. The 247Sports only rankings are a bit higher on him, slotting him at No. 27 at the designation.
While the national rankings are obviously a big deal for WVU and reason to be excited if you’re a fan of Mountaineers’ football, let’s go back to the in-state thing. According to the rankings, Pitts is the No. 2 recruit from the state of West Virginia, only behind three-star offensive tackle Billy Ross, who is committed to North Carolina.
There aren’t many top recruits in-state for West Virginia to pick up this cycle, which makes it even more important that WVU lands the recruits it targets. To that point, consider that the state of Georgia has 269 recruits who have been given star rankings in the 2017 class. Texas is even more impressive, with close to 400 recruits earning stars.
So for what they’re working with, Holgorsen and his staff are doing pretty good in-state. The No. 4 recruit from West Virginia, three-star inside linebacker Maverick Wolfley, is also committed to the Mountaineers as is the No. 7 player from the state: three-star defensive tackle Darius Stills.
Two of the top five and three of the top eight isn’t bad at all for WVU, though it’s worth noting that Louisville has landed two West Virginia recruits and even LSU was able to make its way East for a commitment. Again, especially when considering the smaller amount of ranked players from West Virginia, the Mountaineers would obviously like to land them all.
But what they’ve been able to do in 2017 is pretty good so far. In fact, it’s not bad at all, and Pitts is a big part of that.
When discussing Pitts’ commitment it’s worth mentioning that at one point he was actually committed to Penn State. He committed to the Nittany Lions in July of 2016, but WVU was able to steal him back just a few months later.
That’s a big deal and something worth celebrating for West Virginia football fans. Despite Penn State’s issues as of late, it is still one of the bigger college football brands in the country. Head coach James Franklin is also a great recruiter, so Holgorsen notching a recruiting win over him had to feel good — especially when it brought one of the top recruits from the state back into the fold.
Chris Anderson of 247Sports caught up with Pitts after his commitment and it did seem like West Virginia pride was a big reason he decided to make the decision in favor of the Mountianeers.
“I love my state and the coaching staff,” Pitts told EerSports on why he felt so highly about the Mountaineers.
In-state importance aside, one of the biggest things Pitts will bring to the table for WVU is defensive versatility. WVU employs a 3-3-5 defense, and Pitts is projected to be able to play any of the techniques needed in the safety-heavy scheme, according to Anderson. Pitts does play cornerback and strong safety for South Charleston, so the defensive base and raw talent is there.
In all, Pitts committed to WVU over 18 other offers. Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Louisville, Maryland, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, Tennessee and Virginia Tech join WVU and PSU on his offer list.
All the evidence points to him being a big commitment for the Mountianeers.