Panther-lair - Jerry Drake on Pitt: "I knew I couldn't pass it up"
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Jerry Drake on Pitt: "I knew I couldn't pass it up"

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Pitt’s biggest official visitor from the weekend became the first one to commit to the Panthers, as 6’6” 310-pound offensive lineman Jerry Drake announced his verbal pledge on Thursday.

Drake, from Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.), made the commitment this week because he is planning to enroll in January. He previously took official visits to Oklahoma, Tennessee and South Carolina, but a combination of factors made Pitt stand out.

“After seeing the academics and being around the players, I knew I couldn’t pass it up,” Drake told Panther-Lair.com. “It took a few days to be sure but I had a good idea of where I was going to go after the visit. It was really the academics and the football program, because they had a need for me.”

Pitt’s need for offensive linemen was important to Drake and a selling point from the coaching staff, but the University’s engineering program had just as much of an impact on his decision.

“Being an academic kid, I looked for the engineering program and after getting a tour of the academics, I could tell it was something I couldn’t pass up,” he said. “That was a big part of the visit for me. We toured the whole engineering building and saw every level.

“They have a lot of stuff and a lot of different groups. Like, one group is working on robots, one group is building cars. Some of the students built a robot that folds clothes. That was pretty cool. I like building stuff and I like fixing stuff, and I really liked what they have to offer.”

Drake added praise for urban area (“The city is beautiful”) and also remarked on the proximity of Pitt’s practice facilities to those of an NFL team (“You take two steps and there’s the Steelers”). He was hosted on his visit by freshman offensive lineman Bryce Hargrove, who gave him a lot of insight into the coaching staff, particularly offensive line coach John Peterson.

Hargrove’s input was helpful, but Drake also has a relationship with Peterson, who has been one of his primary contacts at Pitt.

“He knows what he’s talking about and he has a lot of history with linemen,” Drake said. “Me and Coach Peterson are good; he’s really chill. He’ll yell when he needs to but he’s not one of those coaches that are going to sit there and yell for no reason.

“He said I’d play tackle for them but he didn’t really say too much about what I’d do beyond that. Just block. And score touchdowns, I guess; tackles score touchdowns on this team.”

Drake added that he was impressed by the time he spent with head coach Pat Narduzzi.

“He has a lot of energy and he’s very enthusiastic about what he does,” Drake said. “He said they need me there and I’d be a great fit for Pitt. I thought so, too.

“Pitt is losing a lot of linemen, so they have a need for me and that was a big thing for me.”

Drake is the fourth offensive lineman to commit to Pitt’s 2017 recruiting class, joining Upper St. Clair tackle Gabe Houy, Wayne (NJ) Passaic County Technical Institute tackle Carter Warren and Montclair (NJ) guard Owen Drexel.

Drake is also the third recruit from the state of Florida to commit to Pitt this year, along with St. Thomas Aquinas linebacker Albert Tucker and American Heritage receiver Dontavius Butler. In total, Pitt has 17 commitments in the class of 2017.