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Pitt gets commitment from RB McCoy

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Monday, Jan. 15, 2007

LeSean McCoy was considered a long shot for Pitt, as the highly touted tailback from Harrisburg was viewed by many as a virtual lock for Penn State.

That perception changed drastically over the weekend, when McCoy took an official visit to Pitt and was blown away by the reception the Oakland Zoo gave him upon his arrival at Petersen Events Center on Saturday night.

McCoy might have pandered to the students during the Pitt-Georgetown game by checking a box next to his name on a fan's handmade sign that listed other Pitt recruits, but he went a step further Sunday by telling Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt he was choosing the Panthers.

"The best thing is the players, how cool they are," McCoy told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Saturday night, adding that he felt some players showed resentment toward him on trips to other schools. "I know Coach Wannstedt's going to get the job done."

Verbal commitments, however, are nonbinding, and McCoy's has been met with skepticism. He could not be reached for comment by the Tribune-Review on Sunday, but told the Harrisburg Patriot-News that it wasn't a firm commitment and that he would formally announce his choice this week, likely Tuesday or Wednesday.

McCoy has a history of making surprising decisions. The former Bishop McDevitt High School star committed to Miami last February - choosing the Hurricanes over the likes of Alabama, Oklahoma, Penn State, Southern Cal, Tennessee and Virginia Tech - but only after enrolling at Milford Academy prep in New Berlin, N.Y., when he did not qualify academically for freshman eligibility.

"I'll believe it more when he steps on campus," recruiting analyst Bob Lichtenfels said. "When a kid commits during an official visit, sometimes you don't know if that's raw emotion. From everything I'd gotten, he was pretty much a done deal to Penn State. That was pretty much the general feeling from his coaches and teammates at Milford. They thought it was an uphill battle for Pitt."

McCoy is awaiting word from the NCAA Clearinghouse on whether he will be declared eligible or need another semester at Milford. McCoy also said Saturday that he didn't plan on taking any more official visits.

"I don't want to take an official visit to Penn State," McCoy told the Tribune-Review. "I've been there so many times."

The Pitt-Penn State recruiting battle is expected to continue until signing day on Feb. 7, not only for McCoy but also for Rochester receiver Derek Moye, who said yesterday he will decide between the two schools later this month.

At Bishop McDevitt, McCoy was on pace to become the state's all-time leading rusher when he suffered a compound fracture in his right ankle against Harrisburg High in September 2005. After rushing for more than 2,500 yards in both his sophomore and junior seasons, McCoy finished with 859 yards on 83 carries - a 10.3-yard average - and ended his career with 6,640 rushing yards and 75 touchdowns to rank ninth in state history.

Before the injury, McCoy was regarded by some scouting services as the nation's top tailback prospect. now ranks McCoy the nation's No. 8 tailback, while ranks him its No. 10 prep school prospect.

"He's been the best running back to come out of the state in a while," Lichtenfels said. "He's got that shiftiness, and he can cut on a dime. His cutting ability is just ridiculous. He's a good receiver out of the backfield. The thing he has to work on is his blocking.

"He's the type of kid for Pitt who's a program-changer."

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