Jason Cabinda and Joe Vitiello had varying challenges on the way to Wednesday’s National Letter of Intent Day.
Cabinda, Hunterdon Central’s super back/linebacker, de-committed from Syracuse in the fall, making a non-binding commitment to Penn State. Then, Penn State coach Bill O’Brien left in early January to become head coach of the NFL Houston Texans. Immaculata’s Vitiello was sold on Boston College last February on his first visit and made a non-binding commitment in June, but a nagging hamstring strain forced him to miss most of his senior year.
“Everything seemed like it just fit for me at BC, just like the guys were very welcoming, the coaching staff was very excited to see me there, I just felt like this was the place I wanted to be at,” said Vitiello, who lives in Bridgewater.
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound tight end/defensive end just couldn’t shake the hamstring injury suffered in a camp at the University of Miami (Fla). That forced him to miss virtually all of his senior season before playing most of the Spartans’ Non-Public III loss at Red Bank Catholic.
Cabinda, Vitiello, Franklin defensive end/tight end Jameer Outsey (Iowa), Bridgewater-Raritan tight end/defensive end Chris Carter (University of Massachusetts) and Hillsborough quarterback Robert Nittolo (James Madison) all put pen to paper Wednesday. The strong-armed Nittolo is already enrolled at James Madison, taking classes and will participate in spring drills.
Scout.com Northeast recruiting analyst Brian Dohn said Outsey is seen as a “very good athlete who is still learning how to play. He has the athleticism to drop into coverage and also can chase a play down from behind. He needs to get stronger but that should come in time. He is also unselfish, which is key to the team dynamic.”
Cabinda, who had 22 total offers, said he fielded calls from several colleges in the early days of January, asking if he had changed course since O’Brien was leaving. O’Brien and several assistants had watched Cabinda from a room in the press box at High Point Solutions Stadium at Rutgers on Dec. 8 as he scored two touchdowns to help Hunterdon Central beat Manalapan 21-0 in the Central Group V title game. The coaches also saw Manalapan wide receiver Saeed Blacknall, who soon de-commited from Rutgers to make a non-binding commitment to Penn State.
“Basically most of the schools who had previously recruited me all contacted me to see where my head was at, so it was hard; I just sat tight,” said Cabinda, the Courier News Area Defensive Player of the Year last season.
Dohn said of Cabinda: “He plays downhill and is physical. He reads plays well and can shed blocks and make tackles. He plays with high energy, but he needs to improve his lateral speed and ability to play sideline-to-sideline.”
Cabinda said he learned about the recruiting process and saw things that weren’t really appealing. That lesson has helped the future finance major.
“There was definitely a thought of being up in the air and keeping all options open, but it was more of a sit around and wait and see what happens before thinking about making any kinds of moves,” Cabinda said. “Also, I committed to a university, not a coach, so his leaving didn’t have a huge impact on me. I was more concerned about keeping our class of commits together than anything and we managed to do that pretty well losing only two commits.”
Vitiello said he was offered scholarships from nine schools, but he really never wavered on Boston College. He did visit other colleges after that first visit to BC.
“BC was by far the place where I wanted to be, where I wanted to be for the next four years,” Vitiello said. “Their staff made me feel confident in what I could contribute to their team.”
Dohn said he thinks Vitiello projects best as a defensive tackle.
“He is strong and plays with a low pad level, but he needs to do a better job of disengaging from the offensive lineman when he is blocked,” Dohn said.