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Gorman: Pitt takes advantage of Notre Dame atmosphere

| Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, 10:58 p.m.

An hour before kickoff at the Pitt-Notre Dame game Saturday, there was no better place for a prospect to be than on the home sideline at Heinz Field.

High school football players started arriving early just for that opportunity to feel the grass beneath their feet and watch both teams during warmups.

They got to see what it was like to be on the field at a 65,000-seat stadium that serves as home for the Steelers and Panthers, and wonder what it would be like to play there in a nationally televised game against a ranked opponent.

Some stood wide-eyed, taking in the atmosphere as the student section filled up. Others chatted with players who were opponents in WPIAL playoff games a night earlier.

Almost all of them had to look skyward at one point or another.

That's because 7-footer David Robinson, the former NBA great, was posing for photos nearby. The Admiral played at Navy, but his son, Corey, is a freshman receiver for the Fighting Irish.

Where games like these used to be so vital to Pitt's recruiting efforts — and the Panthers took advantage by inviting more than five dozen prospects — it isn't the make-or-break moment it was when they were in the Big East.

For one, this was neither the best opponent nor biggest game on Pitt's schedule. Not when the Panthers opened the season by hosting Florida State and will close it with a home game against Miami on Nov. 29.

So, Pitt fans shouldn't fret that Aliquippa star Dravon Henry chose to attend the Texas-West Virginia game instead.

At this time last year, Pitt hardly was on the radar of Tyler Boyd. On Saturday night, the former Clairton star was starting at wide receiver for the Panthers.

Not only did Pitt play host to many of its verbally committed recruits but several of its top targets from the Class of 2014. Mt. Lebanon offensive tackle Alex Bookser and Gateway receiver-defensive back Montae Nicholson were in attendance.

And Adonis Jennings, a four-star receiver from Sicklerville, N.J., who is committed to Rutgers, was surprise visitor.

Pitt also hosted underclassmen. Coach Paul Chryst was seen talking with Elijah Deveaux, a sophomore running back from Charlotte whose father, Glenn, played for the Panthers.

Canon-McMillan lineman Alex Paulina, South Fayette quarterback Brett Brumbaugh and Clairton athletes Aaron Matthews and Lamont Wade, to name a few, were at the game.

An hour before kickoff, they were rubbing shoulders with Pitt coaches and players on the sidelines at Heinz Field.

For now, that's close enough.

Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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