Division I football recruiting in Westmoreland Co. hits fever pitch
By: Likitha Janga
Saturday, June 16, 2018 | 6:48 PM
Call them Westmoreland County's “Power 5” of high school football.
A talented crop of college prospects will add another layer of anticipation to a new season as they mull offers and build toward decision time.
Five incoming seniors with major college attention will lead their teams when training camps open in August. By then, they all could have universities attached to their identities.
Collectively, Latrobe's Trent Holler, Jeannette's Anthony Johnson and Marcus Barnes, and Jayvon Thrift and Gianni Rizzo of Norwin have been accumulating scholarship offers at a rapid rate over the past few months.
Holler might not win a 40-yard dash against his counterparts, but his story seems to be rising the fastest. He has vaulted onto the scene and last week picked up a brow-raising offer from Pitt.
An offer from West Virginia followed the next day.
The 6-foot-3, 290-pound Holler has 16 offers, including Connecticut, Maine, Delaware, Cincinnati, Ohio and more.
Pitt didn't hesitate in presenting a scholarship to Holler after its prospect camp last weekend.
“It's awesome having your hometown reach out and extend an offer to you,” Holler said. “Watching them as a kid and to have the chance to be a Panther now is pretty cool, man.”
Most schools like Holler as a center. He also plays defensive end for Latrobe. Decision time, he said, will happen after a constant flow of visits and research.
“I'll just know when I am done with these visits where everyone stands and where I feel most comfortable,” he said.
This appears to be one of the more talented classes the county has seen in recent years.
“I just think a lot of schools haven't seen us and now that they have, they liked what they saw,” Johnson said.
To the others:
• Johnson has pulled in offers from Syracuse, Maine, Delaware, UMass, Buffalo, Ball State and others. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound defensive end has only played one year of varsity football.
• Barnes is another player who helps make defending WPIAL and PIAA champion Jeannette the likely preseason No. 1 in Class A. The 6-4 wide receiver and defensive back's offers include Army, Navy, Air Force, Morgan State and Holy Cross.
“I feel we are the most diverse group,” Barnes said of the talent in this recruiting class. “We have skill in every position, from nose guard to quarterback, we are stacked. It makes it difficult for college coaches to recruit all of us.”
Barnes said he plans to commit during the season.
• Perhaps the area's most coveted prospect from the Class of 2019, Thrift began drawing interest as a sophomore when Pitt and West Virginia made offers. He added Syracuse, Indiana, Army and Buffalo, among others.
• Some of the schools pursuing Rizzo, a 6-2, 220-pound linebacker and receiver, are New Hampshire, Akron, Elon, Albany and Youngstown State.
“FBS and FCS schools are starting to really dive deep into the WPIAL and are starting to realize this is some of the best football around,” Rizzo said. “For Trent, Jayvon and I, we play 5A/6A ball, which only helps us in our recruiting, prepping us for the next level.”