Many in recruiting circles consider it a foregone conclusion that Lucas Nix will pick Pitt, especially with Thomas Jefferson High School’s connections to the Panthers.
Jaguars coach Bill Cherpak was a Pitt offensive lineman from 1985-89. Nix’s brother, Nate, is a redshirt freshman linebacker for the Panthers, and one of their best friends, Dom DeCicco, will be a freshman safety this fall.
In that case, this question lingers: If Nix is so sure of where he will play college football, why hasn’t he made a verbal commitment? That is where his recruitment – and all of the variables involved with it – gets interesting.
At 6-foot-6 1/2, 295 pounds, Nix has grown into one of the most heavily recruited linemen in the country. Rivals.com recently gave him five-star status and ranked him the No. 26 prospect nationally. Nix is waiting for another accolade. He wants to be selected to play in the 2008 U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.
If Nix picks Pitt, as expected, he likely will be its highest-rated prospect in years and could have a major impact on how the Panthers fare in recruiting rankings.
Nix is the most highly touted player at TJ since Tyler Reed, another offensive lineman who now plays for the Chicago Bears. Cherpak knows the recruiting game enough to use it to his advantage, as dozens of college coaches have visited TJ’s campus. Nix has received scholarship offers from nearly every high-profile program.
“I’d have to say a school like Alabama or Florida, that I would get an offer from them – because it’s unusual for them to offer people up North – impressed me and gave me a little more confidence in what I’m trying to do,” Nix said. “I guess I enjoyed that all the schools wanted me to come to their school, but I’m trying to keep my head out of all this recruiting stuff.”
It’s to the point where Nix is cutting off phone calls if the prefix doesn’t begin with 412.
“I wouldn’t have answered your phone call if it was an out-of-town area code,” Nix told me Wednesday night. “I get 10 calls a night. I’d spend 45 minutes to an hour or so talking on the phone to coaches.”
Nix can play on either side of the ball – he has started at defensive tackle since his freshman year – but is projected as an offensive tackle because of his footwork and long arms. He hit the weights hard in the off-season, increasing his maximum bench press to 315 pounds. There’s still plenty of room for improvement.
“By far, my feet as an offensive linemen have improved beyond where I thought I would be,” Nix said. “And, actually, seeing how strong I’ve gotten since last year. My bench press probably went up close to 100 pounds. I’m starting to fill out a little bit and not look so lanky for how tall I am.”
Now, the challenge is to keep Nix productive in preparing for his senior season. If anyone knows how to play the offensive line – as well as the recruiting game – it’s Cherpak.
It’s no wonder his next prodigy appears Pitt-bound.