Coach Speak: Kevin Givens

It wasn't just his star player that was impressed with Pitt. Altoona head coach John Franco liked everything about the way Paul Chryst and his staff recruited Kevin Givens.

Altoona head coach John Franco couldn't be happier for his star linebacker Kevin Givens, who committed to Pittsburgh on Tuesday, nor could he be prouder.

He expected Givens to commit to Pitt, though he admits he was surprised--pleasantly--he did it as early as Tuesday.

What's funny is he didn't tell me he was going to do it [Tuesday]," Franco said. We had talked about it. I hoped he would. He said he wanted to wait and get his Penn State visit out of the way."

Unfortunately, for Penn State, that visit never happened. Givens was supposed to head to State College over the weekend for Junior Day. Due to the snow, Givens wasn't able to make the trip.

Givens tentatively reset the visit for this coming weekend. Instead, he opted to commit to Pitt on Tuesday.

"We had talked about committing to Pitt last week," Franco said. "I told him if he's sure it's where he wanted to be, then go ahead. If not, then wait. That as Friday. Saturday, our trip was cancelled because of the snow. He didn't say anything more about Pitt. If he did, I'm really happy and excited."

But what was it about Pitt that made Givens pick the Panthers this early? He could have easily--as Franco said--rescheduled and visited Penn State this weekend or some other time, given the proximity to Givens' home from State College. For starters, Franco talked about the coaching staff.

"The thing I liked about Pitt is they came in and saw him as a sophomore," Franco said. "They saw him when he played against gateway. They noticed him on tape and wanted to see him. When they came in it was (linebackers coach) Chris Haering, Chris did the bulk of the work with him. Chris liked his size, how he presented himself."

Pitt didn't offer Givens until early December. Even when they did, they seemed to make quite an impression on Givens. That, along with head coach Paul Chryst stopping by the school.

"When they offered, we were all really excited about it," Franco said. "Kevin is a kid that needs to be around home, and this gives him a great opportunity. It's close to home, yet far enough away. I think Kevin felt very much at home on his visits."

"The coaching staff was the clincher because they are so down to earth. Paul Chryst is down to earth, he's a guy that makes you feel good about everything. Paul just has a way of making a kid feel comfortable. He backed that up to a T. Kevin just felt comfortable with them. They presented the school so well. This is your opportunity to get an education from one of the best schools in the county, you don't put a price tag on that, and now you really don't worry about it because it's free."

Football abilities aside, Pitt focused on academics in Givens' recruiting. That was also a selling point.

"He does very well in school, he's a very good student," Franco added. "He has become a responsible kid. Nobody will outwork him. He's got all the intangibles. Pitt was a perfect fit for them."

They've even looked ahead, almost willingly knowing Givens is heading for a redshirt. Typically, early playing time is talked about on either side. In Givens' recruitment, both Pitt and Givens are both in favor of redshirting in 2015.

"Kevin is a project; they're going to redshirt him, and Kevin knows that," Franco said. "He doesn't worry about that. He wants to develop into as a good a football player as he can be."

Part of that is Givens' age. He's still 16--making his physical presence all the more impressive. At the same time, scary to think how much more growing Givens is going to be able to do in one more year of high school football, let alone a redshirt year.

"I told Paul, I thought he was athletically immature--meaning he hasn't even grown into his body yet," Franco said. "He doesn't realize how good he can be. They're obviously a lot smarter than I am. Right now, he's 6-3 235. He should be able to play at 235 for us next year. They should be able to put some good weight on him at Pitt. His best days are ahead. I'm happy he made the choice."


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