By Matt Popchock
Well, so much for putting a local spin on the Backyard Brawl; Penn Hills’ Chazz Whittaker and Corey Jones decommitted from WVU and Pitt, respectively, this week, and will sign with Toledo instead. But the Pitt-Penn State rivalry has certainly taken an interesting turn.
Shaler tight end/linebacker J.P. Holtz (6’4″, 240 lbs.) was sold on the Nittany Lions last year, but, like several other high school prospects, reneged on his commitment to Penn State when the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke. Wednesday night on KDKA-TV Holtz declared his new allegiance, to the University of Pittsburgh.
In case you missed it, here’s what he had to say to our own Bob Pompeani about choosing Pitt over Michigan State, among other major Division I programs, and about playing under new coach Paul Chryst, during the 6:00 P.M. newscast:
Although Shaler’s 2011 campaign ended in disappointment, Holtz had an exceptional senior year. He scored 15 total TD’s for the Titans, registering 332 receiving yards on 17 catches. He also ran for a symmetrical 337 yards, averaging nearly five per carry. Meanwhile, he made the Post-Gazette’s 2011 Fabulous 22 team, and also made all-conference as a linebacker.
“J.P. impresses you with his hard charging style showing good footwork, surprising quickness and speed, and explosive moves between the tackles,” CBS Sports recruiting expert Tom Lemming said to brother website MaxPreps. “He has decent acceleration and is a straight ahead runner who keeps his pads low, and has proven to be a punishing runner.”
That site ranked him among the top 50 tight ends nationally.
Holtz reportedly wanted to follow former Joe Paterno right-hand man Tom Bradley, but expressed enthusiasm about Pitt if Bradley didn’t get hired anywhere else, and if he was satisfied with Chryst.
His verbal commitment makes Chryst’s 2012 recruiting class, unofficially, 19 players deep. National Signing Day is next Wednesday, Feb. 1.
Holtz will represent Pennsylvania as a tight end in the annual Big 33 Classic at Hersheypark Stadium June 16. We’ll have more on that event in the “Mr. High School Sports” blog later.
One of Holtz’s contemporaries, Jeannette safety Demetrius Cox (6’1″, 185 lbs.), is expected to announce his decision soon. He, like Holtz, is an all-conference honoree and Post-Gazette Fabulous 22 selection who has been courted by Penn State, having just visited the campus recently. Check back here for more on that as well.
(Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mpopchock)