The Pitt coaches added another recruit Wednesday when North Allegheny athlete Elijah Zeise announced that he had committed to the Panthers.
"I'm officially committed to Pitt," Zeise told Panther-Lair.com Wednesday morning. "Pitt's big-time football and it's where I've been my whole life; it's the right fit.
"The coaching staff is unbelievable. They're a great group of guys, family-oriented guys who really genuinely care about you, and I really like that."
Zeise has been on Pitt's campus plenty of times over the last few years, but he took another visit in June that helped solidify his decision.
"It's an urban campus, and that's what I've been looking for; it's a pretty sweet campus," he said. "When I visited two weeks ago, I saw the engineering school and I thought that was unbelievable."
Zeise, 6'2" 185, picked Pitt over offers from Arizona, West Virginia and Temple, and he was hearing interest from Duke, Cincinnati, Purdue and others. Pitt was the first school to offer him a scholarship and also the first to project him as a receiver. Since he didn't play much offense as a sophomore, most college coaches saw him as a safety. But after a few standout performances early in his junior season, the Pitt coaches told him he could line up on offense.
That ended up being a key factor in his recruitment.
"I liked the other schools, but it really came down what schools would give me the chance to play offense, and that was really just Pitt and Temple, so that's really what it came down to," he said. "I appreciated everything the Temple coaches did and I really liked Temple, but Pitt was the right fit for me."
So on Wednesday morning he made the call to Pitt offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph and delivered the news. Rudolph then passes the phone to linebackers coach Chris Haering and receivers coach Bobby Engram.
"They were all really happy," Zeise said. "They were all talking about how their Fourth of July is going to be great now and how they're all really excited to have me come in and start teaching me and start helping me get better."
In his first year as a starting receiver for North Allegheny, Zeise caught 23 passes for 677 yards and four touchdowns, averaging nearly 30 yards per reception. He opened the 2012 season with four catches for 78 yards against Mt. Lebanon, and then flashed his big-play ability with a 94-yard touchdown reception against Butler three weeks later.
He had another one-catch/one-touchdown performance against Altoona when his lone reception was a 78-yard score, and the next week he caught two passes for 127 yards - one catch for 64 yards and one for 63 - against Seneca Valley.
"I think I'm a deep threat," he said. "I think I can get behind the defense. A lot of people see my height and long strides and it seems like I'm going slower than I am, but I think I've got some good speed."
At the same time, Zeise continued to be a lockdown defensive back for the Tigers. He recorded 41 tackles and three interceptions last season and had a pick-six in the playoffs against Erie McDowell. North Allegheny finished the season with a perfect 16-0 record and a PIAA Class AAAA state championship.
Zeise is the 14th recruit to commit to Pitt in the class of 2014. He joins Bethel Park offensive lineman Mike Grimm, Shady Side Academy athlete Dennis Briggs, Fox Chapel linebacker Quintin Wirginis, West Catholic athlete Patrick Amara, Maria Stein (Oh.) Marion quarterback Adam Bertke, Wallingford (Conn.) Choate Rosemary Hall defensive tackle Connor Dintino, Davie (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas quarterback Wade Freebeck, Traverse City (Mich.) offensive lineman Connor Hayes, Staunton (Va.) Riverheads defensive tackle Mike Herndon, Detroit (Mich.) Martin Luther King cornerback Avonte Maddox, Wilmington (Del.) Salesianum School tight end Brian O'Neill, Cincinnati (Oh.) Reading Community defensive end Shane Roy, and Newburgh (NY) Free Academy safety Jalen Williams.
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