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Saddler picks Pitt

Gateway senior multi-purpose back Cameron Saddler has given a verbal commitment to play football for the Pitt Panthers.

Saddler’s commitment comes as a surprise, considering he was heavily favoring Virginia throughout much of the recruiting process. But Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt, riding the wave of Saturday’s 13-9 victory at No. 2 West Virginia, made a strong impression during a visit to Saddler’s home Tuesday night and swayed him.

Saddler’s choice could have a domino effect on Pitt’s Western Pennsylvania recruiting, as the charismatic playmaker is well-liked and could work on bringing top WPIAL prospects with him.

Saddler, by the way, is the uncle of Pitt freshman basketball star DeJuan Blair. (Saddler’s older sister, Shari, is Blair’s mother).

Here’s more from Trib high school writer Tricia Lafferty:

The 5-foot-6, 157-pound Saddler chose the Panthers over Virginia and West Virginia. Saddler is the eighth member of Pitt’s 2008 recruiting class and the fourth player from the WPIAL to commit to the Panthers, joining Thomas Jefferson lineman Lucas Nix, Clairton linebacker Manny Williams and Hopewell lineman Ryan Turnley.

Saddler, whose prospect status was recently upgraded from three-star to four-star by rivals.com and scout.com, was a three-year starter at Gateway, playing running back, defensive back and returning kickoffs and punts for the WPIAL Class AAAA runner-up Gators.

Saddler rushed for 1,695 yards and 24 touchdowns on 236 carries and returned two punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns this season. His eight career kickoff returns for scores fell one short of the national record.

Saddler helped the Gators rally for a victory against North Allegheny in the WPIAL semifinals. He rushed for 128 yards and three touchdowns in the WPIAL championship loss to Central Catholic. He scored on the dramatic hook-and-lateral play that sent the Central Catholic game into overtime and was named ESPN’s play of the month for November.

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