Football recruiting in Western Pennsylvania has been pretty quiet lately, but there was a lot of noise all at once this afternoon.
Pine-Richland quarterback Ben DiNucci announced on his Twitter account that he had backed out of his commitment to Pennsylvania of the Ivy League and decided to attend Pitt. DiNucci's decision to accept a scholarship gave new Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi his first WPIAL recruit. Pitt didn't start showing interest in DiNucci until Narduzzi became coach. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney watched DiNucci work out last Monday and Pitt offered him a scholarship Tuesday. DiNucci visited Pitt this weekend.
Meanwhile this afternoon, Pitt also lost a WPIAL recruit when Kittanning tight end Nick Bowers decided to attend Penn State. He committed to PSU while coach James Franklin visited him in Kittanning. Bowers had committed to Pitt during his junior year, but Penn State offered him a scholarship in September, the same day that the NCAA lifted scholarship sanctions against the Nittany Lions.
Bowers said he started to look seriously at Penn State when Pitt coach Paul Chryst and offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph left for Wisconsin.
DiNucci set a state record this past season when he threw for more than 4,000 yards and led Pine-Richland to a WPIAL Class AAAA championship. He finished as the third-leading passer in WPIAL history with 7,619 yards.
Here is what DiNucci, Bowers and their coaches had to about their decisions and a variety of other things:
About telling Penn that he was going to Pitt: "It was the hardest thing I ever had to do to make that call to the Penn coaches. But in the end, I had to do what was best for me."
About how he was still set on Penn when he went to visit to Pitt: "The visit changed everything. The biggest thing was how comfortable I felt with the coaches and to just have the opportunity to play big-time football. I am only 30 minutes from home so it's close enough where I can come home on a Sunday and eat dinner with my parents. But yet, it's still far enough way."
On how hard the past two days were. He left school early today and came home because he was so tired of hearing everyone's opinion on what he should do: "I can't even begin to tell you what it was like having so many people on Twitter, in the community, in school telling me to go here, go there, don't do this, don't do that, don't talk to this person and that person. I'm just glad it's over with and I think I made the right choice."
About when he decided on Pitt: "I talked to my parents a lot yesterday, but I went to bed and when I woke up [today], I kind of said, 'Oh man, I still have no idea what to do.' Then coach Narduzzi and coach Chaney called me on the way to school. I left school early because I just couldn't deal with everyone telling me what to do. I came home, talked to my Dad some more. Then I called my mom and told her to come home because I knew what I wanted to do."
On did he ever wonder why more major colleges didn't recruit him: "There was always a part of me wondering why bigger schools weren't contacting me. But it really wasn't a question I was concerned with because I was content with Penn - until Pitt came along."
On the knocks against his throwing motion and how he sometimes throws off his back foot: "The Pitt coaches have told me they're not going to change my motion at all. They said there might be a thing here or there, but coach Chaney said he likes the way I throw. That was a little surprising, the way some people talk about my motion [laugh]. But I try not to listen to people who say that or criticize. If anything, it makes me work harder."
On whether he can play at Pitt's level: "I do, yeah. If I didn't think I could play at that level, I wouldn't have made the call I did today [to Pitt]. I know it's not going to be easy and I'm going to have to work my tail off."
On what he is feeling tonight: "I'm extremely excited. Some of the guys who I was with on my visit or other recruits called me today, or got in touch with me to offer congratulations, like Jordan Whitehead, Dane Jackson and Tre Tipton."
On whether there was anything else he would like to say: "Hail to Pitt."
Pine-Richland coach Eric Kasperowicz
On how hard the past few days have been on DiNucci: "I'm happy for him. He made a good decision, I thought. He's content with it, and that's the key. He's at ease."
On DiNucci's mindset before he made his Pitt visit: "I think he was content with Penn, but I think he went down there to Pitt with an open mind and I think he was wowed by the situation and the opportunity in front of him. It was too good to pass up. The thing is that he was wanted at Pitt. A lot of kids commit to schools and choose schools, but are they really wanted? I think Pitt really wanted him. It means a lot to be wanted by a program."
Jokingly, on whether DiNucci would ever go from quarterback to linebacker at Pitt, like Kasperowicz did: "No [laugh]. One thing is for sure. He's a quarterback."
On whether DiNucci needs to change his throwing motion: "Look, I've worked with quarterbacks a long time. One thing I know for sure is you never mess with mechanics that much, if a kid has a good enough release, a quick enough release, and he's accurate. Then you're not going to screw with it. It's like basketball shooters. People think there is one way to shoot better than another way. Ben has a quick enough release and he's extremely accurate. He might be the most accurate quarterback in WPIAL history. As long as you are getting it out quick, that's what matters. Colleges and the NFL, that's what they care about."
On whether the departure of Chryst and Rudolph was the biggest reason he started to seriously consider Penn State: "I only knew the Pitt staff for maybe two weeks. Maybe if there was more time, it would be different. I just thought I had a good relationship with coach Franklin and the other Penn State coaches. I just thought that was the best fit for me."
On what he liked about Penn State: "I really liked Penn State's campus and how everything was together. But one of the major things was my education. I really like the outdoors and they have forestry at Penn State, and I might major in that."
On how much he likes to fish: "I really like fishing. It's pretty much what I did this summer."
About the depth Penn State has at tight end: "I know that. No matter where you go, it's about competition. If you're going to play anywhere, there is competition."
Kittanning coach Frank Fabian
On Bowers' relationship with the old Pitt coaching staff: "Nick's tie to Pitt was [assistant coach] Joe Rudolph. He was going to play for coach Rudolph and they developed a close relationship. I think with Pitt there just wasn't enough time with the new staff. Nick is the type of kid who takes a while to open up. Pitt came up last Thursday and there just wasn't enough time to establish a relationship. He was a little unsure, he took his visit to Penn State and I think he really enjoyed it."
On deciding quickly after his visit to Penn State this weekend: "He didn't want to hold up Pitt. I asked him if he was sure because he was coming off a wave of emotion after the Penn State visit. He said he was sure and he felt he owed the Pitt staff to tell them as soon as possible."
About the effect a change in a college coaching staff can have on recruiting: "I feel bad for kids because they develop a relationship with a staff and then they see them leave. I've seen a kid go through it now. In an instant, it was all taken away for Nick. He kind of restarted the whole recruiting process again."