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Central Catholic's Hamlin commits to Pitt

| Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, 6:51 p.m.

Central Catholic defensive back Damar Hamlin made a verbal commitment to Pitt on Monday night, but he didn't do it without putting coach Pat Narduzzi on the spot.

“They're making changes for the better,” said Hamlin, rated the No. 4 player in Pennsylvania by Rivals.com. “I talked with coach Narduzzi and asked him the tough questions, and he told me he's here to stay.

“If he's committed to doing it, I'm committed to doing it. I've been growing up a fan watching them. I always wanted to play there.”

Hamlin, who helped Central (15-1) win WPIAL and PIAA titles, chose Pitt among 25 offers, including Penn State, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan and Michigan State. Pitt, Penn State and Ohio State were his final three.

He said the decision wasn't easy.

“I have so many relationships with Penn State and Ohio State,” he said. “To not choose Penn State, you've got to feel like you've got something special.”

Hamlin (6-foot-1, 179 pounds) is ranked the No. 1 defensive player in the state by Rivals.com, which lists him as the seventh safety in the nation (the top six are from California, Texas, Georgia and Florida).

Hamlin could help Pitt fill a need created when four-year starting cornerback Lafayette Pitts graduated.

“Damar is a tough, hard-nosed, downhill guy who can play corner or safety,” said Joe Butler of Metro Scouting Index. “He'll come up and hit you.

“He has good ball skills, and he's smart. He knows how to play the position. He understands the complexities of the defensive scheme. He was well-coached at Central. He has been prepared (for college) properly. He can come in and help people out (as a freshman).”

Narduzzi has stressed the need to improve his defense, and Hamlin is the 14th defensive player in Pitt's 22-man Class of 2016. He joins Central teammates Rashad Wheeler, a defensive tackle, and defensive back Bricen Garner.

“You need corners,” Butler said, speaking in general terms. “If you're not good, you can get beat up the sideline easily.”

Pitt has verbal commitments from seven of the top 21 players in the state, according to Rivals' rankings. They include Hamlin (No. 4), Aliquippa linebacker Kaezon Pugh (No. 7), Brashear cornerback Therran Coleman (No. 11), Clairton wide receiver Aaron Mathews (No. 14), Wheeler (No. 18), Upper St. Clair offensive lineman Brandon Ford (No. 19) and Garner (No. 21).

Pitt has five four-star recruits in its class after gaining Hamlin and losing Juwann Winfree, a wide receiver from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College. Winfree said Monday he decommitted from Pitt.

With the additions of Hamlin and Mathews, Pitt's class ranking jumped from 38th to 27th in the nation, according to Rivals.

Staff writer Kevin Gorman contributed. Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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