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Harlan on recruiting: East Allegheny's Banks nearing decision on college

Chris Harlan
| Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, 5:15 p.m.
East Allegheny's TJ Banks
East Allegheny's TJ Banks

East Allegheny's T.J. Banks isn't wearing around a Mountaineers hat, Owls shirt or Illini shorts, no outward hints about his future school. But it's likely he already has made his choice.

“I think so, but he hasn't told me,” EA coach Dom Pecora said. “Put it this way, I think he has a lean.”

The four-star recruit will commit Wednesday. The perceived favorites are West Virginia, Illinois and Temple, but Banks also visited Central Florida two weeks ago, and has mentioned Maryland as an option.

The 6-foot-5, 240-pound tight end received 17 scholarship offers, a list he and his family officially will narrow to one in the next few days. He's finished with his visits.

“Now it's about making the right decision,” Pecora said. “He's very tight-lipped. I don't think he's going to be fielding too many more calls. I think he knows what he needs to know.”

Coaches from Illinois and West Virginia attended East Allegheny's games the past two weeks. Banks scored four times in those two games with a 36-yard fumble-return touchdown included.

Rivals ranks him as 15th-best tight end in the country.

“I think wherever he goes, he's going to make an impact early, I really do,” Pecora said. “I think he wants to make an impact early. Schools where he can go and help them win (immediately) were the ones he was always leaning toward.”

WVU and Temple recruit Western Pennsylvania routinely, but Illinois is somewhat of an outlier. The connection is McKees Rocks native Bob Ligashesky, who coaches the tight ends there. Ligashesky is a former Steelers assistant.

Lovie Smith, a former NFL head coach, is in his first season as Illinois' coach. His staff includes former Steelers linebacker Hardy Nickerson.

“You have to take them serious when they come in,” Pecora said. “They're not in our neck of the woods very often, but they've done an awesome job of recruiting him.”

Still, it's at least a three-horse race. Pecora also complimented the recruiting effort made by Dana Holgorsen's staff at WVU.

Pitt isn't an option, however, even if Panthers coaches rekindled their interested after tight end recruit Jay Symonds flipped his commitment to Stanford this week. Pitt offered Banks a scholarship in September 2016, but communication with the Panthers' staff ended in May.

Pitt “moved on,” Pecora said, and so did Banks.

Among the three favorites, WVU and Temple each have two tight ends already committed for 2018, but none is rated higher than a three-star prospect. Illinois has just one committed, a three-star recruit from Florida.

Advice from Banks' family will impact his decision most, but Pecora also has given him guidance throughout a process that started two summers ago with an offer from Toledo.

One thought from his coach: Choose a school that provides a path to the NFL.

“I personally think he's a Sunday player,” Pecora said, “so I want him to go somewhere they can get him to Sunday.”

Decision date for Raines

Aliquippa senior Kwantel Raines announced Oct. 30 as his commitment date. The four-star safety has Pitt, Penn State and West Virginia among his finalists. Raines (6-2, 220) is rated as the 19th-best safety prospect by Rivals and No. 224 overall among all 2018 recruits.

Pitt's line of the future

Three Pitt recruits will crowd around the line of scrimmage Friday when Thomas Jefferson visits Belle Vernon. The Panthers have verbal commitments from TJ linemen Devin Danielson and Noah Palmer as well as Belle Vernon tackle Blake Zubovic.

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

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