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Harlan: Offers roll in for Butler's Kradel

| Monday, Feb. 27, 2017, 6:42 p.m.
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Butler's Jake Kradel

When Butler junior Jake Kradel reached February with only a handful of scholarship offers, the lineman assumed most of his spring weekends would be free.

But this month, his calendar filled up.

“When the offers start rolling in, all the coaches want you to come out and see (the campus),” said Kradel, who has received 14 college offers since Feb. 1.

“It's like, man, I can only do so much,” he said, laughing.

On Saturday, Pitt became the latest to offer a scholarship to the 6-foot-4, 285-pound two-way lineman.

Kradel visited the Oakland campus last weekend optimistic that the Panthers would offer. His father is a Pitt football ticketholder, so Kradel has watched many Pitt games over the years. He considered a Pitt offer “pretty special from the hometown team,” but that doesn't make him a lock for coach Pat Narduzzi.

With his recent surge in interest, his scholarship list stands at 19, and Kradel plans to visit many of them.

In the past three weeks, Kradel used Twitter (@JakeKradel) to announce offers from Buffalo, Rutgers, Minnesota, Boston College, Temple, Iowa State, West Virginia, Western Michigan, Marshall, Maryland, Connecticut, Wake Forest, Purdue and Pitt.

Kradel's profile rose after an early-January trip to San Antonio for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl national combine, an invitational event for high school juniors.

“When I had about five offers, I thought: ‘I'm going to try to commit by the end of April or early May,' ” Kradel said. “But now, I want to get a feel for all of these schools. I'm still thinking mid-May, maybe early summer. I want to do it before the season.”

Kradel was a two-way tackle last season for Butler and earned all-conference honors on defense. He held his own in a lineman-heavy Class 6A conference with two Notre Dame recruits (Central Catholic senior Kurt Hinish and North Allegheny senior Josh Lugg) and a Penn State recruit (Central Catholic senior C.J. Thorpe).

“He looked at it as a challenge, and he was pretty successful every game,” Butler coach Rob Densmore said. “He's right up there with those guys. … When the college coaches are looking, they want to see you going against the best of the best.”

Kradel will switch this season to an interior spot on the offensive line, either at guard or center. Colleges project him on the interior, so he wants to learn those positions now.

“I'm 6-3½ or 6-4, and most interior linemen at the next level or even the pros are about that (size),” Kradel said. “... I'm going to dedicate my whole offseason to work on footwork and everything that an interior lineman needs to do to reach my potential.”

His workouts include 6 a.m. sessions each Wednesday, where he and a few teammates focus on agility drills before school.

“He's a good size kid and has really good feet,” Densmore said. “Mostly, (college coaches) talk about his athleticism and how aggressive he is on the field.”

Over Presidents Day weekend, he and his parents visited Maryland, Rutgers and Temple.

His calendar for March has visits scheduled to Penn State and West Virginia. He wants to fulfill an invitation to Ohio State, and has a southern trip planned to N.C. State, North Carolina, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest. He'll also squeeze in a road trip to Boston College and Syracuse.

“It's a great experience,” Kradel said. “It gets stressful, but it's a good stress.”

Sophomore spotlight

Norwin's Jayvon Thrift and Central Catholic's Corey Thomas, two sophomore safeties in the 2019 class, added their first Division I offers this month. Thomas, a 6-3, 180-pound defensive back and receiver, announced a Buffalo offer Saturday. Thrift (5-11, 180) announced his first Feb. 11 from West Virginia.

Switching sports

Two of the top 2018 football recruits, Pine-Richland's Phil Jurkovec and New Castle's Marcus Hooker, have their basketball teams in the WPIAL semifinals.

Hooker, who surpassed the 1,000-point mark Saturday, is a defensive back with West Virginia and Rutgers among his eight scholarship offers. New Castle (21-2), the No. 1 seed in Class 4A, faces Central Valley on Wednesday at Ambridge.

Jurkovec, a Notre Dame quarterback recruit, stars for Pine-Richland (22-1), the No. 1 seed in Class 6A. The Rams play North Hills on Wednesday at North Allegheny.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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