Brian O’Neill cast his eyes on BCS-level programs as he embarked on the college football recruiting process.
With that in mind, the rising Salesianum School senior planned to attend camps later this summer at Maryland and North Carolina.
A June trip to Pittsburgh, however, means he doesn’t have to.
O’Neill, a 6-foot-6, 240-pound two-way end, impressed Pitt coaches during a one-day camp and was offered a scholarship. Back at Pitt, ironically, for a Salesianum team basketball camp two weeks later, O’Neill accepted. He can sign an official NCAA Letter of Intent in February.
“That was my goal all along,” the Wilmington resident said, “to play at the highest level possible, defense or offense, whatever it was. That’s always been my dream.”
Pitt coaches put O’Neill through various drills that convinced them tight end would likely be his spot with the Panthers, even though O’Neill has caught very few passes in Sallies’ run-based offense.
The fact that Pitt makes good use of its tight ends, lining up two on some downs and playing as many as four, was also appealing.
Pitt is playing its first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference this year. The Panthers are scheduled to host Delaware to open the 2014 season.
“The whole weekend was a great experience,” O’Neill said of his visit to Pitt that included the camp. “I really got to see what it would be like to go there, and I was thoroughly impressed, not only with the city and the facilities, but the coaches and all the people I met.”
O’Neill is the fourth member of Delaware’s Class of 2014 to verbally commit to an FBS school.
Teammate Troy Reeder, a linebacker, is bound for Penn State, as is Middletown wide receiver Chris Godwin. Middletown quarterback Darius Wade committed to Boston College.
Milford offensive lineman Andrew Marshall and Archmere tight end/defensive end Conor Furey are also likely to earn FBS or FCS scholarships.
“He was offered by a number of schools in the spring. He’s a hot commodity,” Salesianum coach Bill DiNardo said of O’Neill.
“He’s gotten even bigger in this summer,” added DiNardo, referring to O’Neill’s size as well as his popularity among recruiters. “But he loved Pitt.”
Other schools to offer scholarships were FBS programs Tulane and Old Dominion and FCS programs Youngstown State, Coastal Carolina, Colgate, William & Mary, Fordham and Monmouth.
O’Neill has started on defense since the second game of his sophomore year and on offense since the beginning of last year. He also started last year for Sallies’ basketball team.
The Sals open their 2013 season Sept. 7 against Caesar Rodney at Baynard Stadium.
“He’s an athlete, and he’s a big kid,” DiNardo said. “It was interesting with the people coming through. Some offered him as a tight end. Some offered him as a defensive end. They saw the size, his frame, the athletic ability and thought he could play standing up or with his hand in the dirt. The fact he’s a really good basketball player also impressed a lot of recruiters.”