Recruiting comes in pairs at Norwin, Jeannette, Latrobe

Saturday, May 5, 2018 | 3:18 PM

Jayvon Thrift said opponents rarely try to attack certain areas of Norwin's football defense when he and teammate Gianni Rizzo are occupying space there.

“He's on my side when we play, so most of the time teams don't even run or throw to our side,” said Thrift, a junior safety.

Rizzo is a junior linebacker. Thrift and Rizzo can thwart runs and passes that come their way. But they also are tackling the recruiting process together.

Both are drawing heavy Division I interest and though their scholarship offers are from different schools, they are sharing their exploits and advice as decision time nears.

“We have different experiences to tell each other about,” Thrift said. “This is gonna be a good year.”

Recruiting also has become a joint venture for two other pairs of area college prospects — cue Queen's “You're My Best Friend.”

Jeannette juniors Marcus Barnes and Anthony Johnson are seeing interest from the same colleges for football, and Latrobe's junior basketball duo of Reed Fenton and Bryce Butler also have Division I interest and are peeling back the layers of the process together.

Thrift (5-foot-10, 180 pounds) is among the top recruits in the WPIAL for the class of 2019. He has high-level offers from Pitt, West Virginia, Indiana, Syracuse, Buffalo, Toledo, Army and Temple. He also plays running back.

Rizzo's stock has risen substantially in the last few months. Dozens of FCS schools have offered, including Duquesne, Youngstown State, Holy Cross, Albany, Eastern Kentucky, Robert Morris, Yale, Bucknell, Fordham, Furman and The Citadel.

“Jayvon having such great interest has only helped me in my recruiting process,” said Rizzo (6-2, 215), who also plays receiver. “He and I talk every day about which schools he likes and which schools I like. Hopefully, I can get some of the same offers he has to keep us to together for four more years.”

Michigan State also likes Thrift, and he plans to visit the school soon, as well as returning to see Indiana again.

One day last week, Michigan State and Ball State came to Jeannette to see Barnes and Johnson work out. Holy Cross offered both scholarships.

Barnes, a 6-3, 180-pound receiver and defensive back, has offers from Army, Navy, Air Force, Robert Morris and Howard.

Johnson (6-5, 220), a feisty rush end who only played defense last year, was offered by Syracuse.

Ball State, Holy Cross, Robert Morris, Howard and Central Michigan also want him. Johnson nearly chose not to play football last season, but Barnes played recruiter as he helped convince Johnson to play. Jeannette won WPIAL and PIAA Class A championships.

“It's fun knowing that someone is going through the same thing,” Barnes said of Johnson and the college search.

Johnson is glad to have Barnes by his side as he wades through the oft-confusing and stress-polluted waters of recruiting.

“It's been fun getting recruited by some of the same schools,” Johnson said. “He works hard and has a high ceiling, so he deserves it.”

Fenton and Butler expect to see offers come in soon after playing AAU together with the PK Flash. Both are 6-4, rangy swing guards. They formed one of the top one-two scoring tandems in the WPIAL last season.

Fenton has made an unofficial visit to LSU and plans to do the same at Iowa next month. He said he talked to Harvard, Dartmouth and American.

Butler has interest from Lafayette, Dartmouth, Princeton and Columbia.

“It's really cool and humbling,” Fenton said of being recruited alongside Butler. “Being able to share success and achievements like these with one of my best friends is awesome.”

Fenton can always get advice from his father, Neil, who played at Lehigh, or uncle, Keith, who played at Bucknell.

Butler can lean on his brother, Austin, for recruiting advice. Austin just completed his freshman season at Holy Cross.

Bryce Butler also recognizes the significance of having a friend and teammate go through the process with him.

“It's definitely a little stressful but it's nice because a lot of the same schools are kind of showing interest in both of us,” he said. “Hopefully we'll both be able to make a decision by the end of summer.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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