Central Catholic’s A.J. Beatty grows along with expectations

Thursday, June 27, 2019 | 6:33 PM

The Tribune-Review and the TribLive High School Sports Network are profiling each member of the 25-player Trib HSSN Preseason Football All-Star team. The players will be recognized July 23 during HSSN Media Day at Kennywood Park.

When A.J. Beatty arrived at Central Catholic last summer, defensive coordinator Dave Fleming saw a kid who was “a little bit thin” to play defensive end.

“He was tall and thin but ends up putting on 45 pounds,” Fleming said. “Now he’s 6-foot-5, 255 as opposed to playing last year at 212. We feel like he’ll be hard to deal with coming off that edge.”

As Beatty grew, so did his expectations.

The rising senior received more than 40 Division I FBS or FCS offers before committing this month to North Carolina. Along with Pitt and West Virginia, he also drew offers from Central Florida, Purdue, South Carolina and others. Rivals ranks him as the fourth-best prospect in Pennsylvania for 2020.

After transferring from Bethel Park, Beatty became a two-way starter early in his junior season and earned second-team all-conference honors. But now a year older and with another year of experience, Beatty said he enters this season “not even close” to the player he was.

“I’m totally different,” he said. “I’ve gotten a lot stronger, a lot faster and I’ve put on a lot more weight.”

His changes weren’t only physical, said Fleming, adding it often takes time for transfers to integrate into a new program.

“A lot of times when we get kids that come in here as a 10th-grader and they weren’t in here from the very beginning, it takes them a year to really feel comfortable and fit in with these guys,” Fleming said.

Beatty has reached that point.

Nowadays, he’s working to become a run-stopper as well as a pass-rusher. He watches film daily and studies opposing linemen. He appreciates the technical aspect of the position, and his quick hands are his strength.

“Some (defensive ends) use their speed and run around the tackle,” Beatty said. “I’m using hands and moves to get around them.”

He tested himself each week against Division I linemen at North Allegheny, Pine-Richland and Seneca Valley. Now that he’s a major-college recruit, he’s prepared for others to do the same.

However, Beatty is only one part of a stout Central Catholic defensive line that has four future Division I players.

“I think there will be more eyes on him,” Fleming said, “but with the depth across the front, I feel it’s going to be hard to single him out. You’ve got guys like Elliot Donald and A’meer and A’maar Allen who are stalwarts. So it’s not like they can just walk up and identify who he is every single time.”

Beatty’s recruiting process started to wind down in mid-May when he announced a top seven. Three weeks later he committed to North Carolina. He liked the coaches and the campus, but also liked the confidence the head coach wouldn’t be leaving.

The Tar Heels hired coach Mack Brown in November.

“Coach Brown being there was a really big part,” Beatty said. “I knew that he was going to be there whenever I go there. Every other day a lot of these head coaches and (assistant) coaches move to another school. I knew with his past and his winning history, he wasn’t going to be gone in one or two years.”

Once he decided North Carolina was his choice, there was no reason to wait, he said.

“Now I can just focus on my team,” Beatty said, “and focus on winning.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .


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