ACC Recruiting Breakdowns: Pittsburgh Panthers

Installment 3 sees us go to the steel city of Pittsburgh. I've heard great things about the city, but I've never been. Mostly because I was born a Hokie and grew up a Cleveland fan. I'm wearing a Browns sweatshirt while I'm writing this. The idea of french fries on a sandwich is too much. And why would you ever want to be called a "Yinzer"? I was basically built to have disdain for the city of Pittsburgh. That being said, would still love a game at PNC Park.

Pittsburgh is in the interesting situation where they sit on a recruiting hotbed that somehow 247Sports is still yet to realize exists. Even still, They have maybe the toughest local recruiting competition of any ACC team for in state players with Penn State and Ohio State.

2020 Class:
ACC Rank: 8
National Rank: 44
# of Signees: 21
Average Recruit Rating: 0.8607
Top Recruit: Jordan Addison, ATH, Frederick MD (0.9045)

Biggest Need: Running Back / Slot WR Hybrid
The good ole days of Pitt lining up in a one-back formation with James Conner, LeSean McCoy, Curtis Martin, or Tony Dorsett are all but over. The Panthers last season moved on to a spread, almost air-raid system. The key to this system is keeping the defense on their toes by giving the illusion that you could run on any play even though 60-70% of plays will be passes. To do that, you need a running back that can also be a pass catching threat to capitalize on man coverage matchups.

Last season, this was Maurice Ffrench. He was the guy that defenses had to key in on, which opened up matchups for Kenny Picket all over the field. When you don't have that electric guy, however, the offense becomes pretty easy to defend for an athletic defense. Ffrench was banged up for the Hokies's matchup with the panthers last season and were able to stifle Pickett in a shut-out win.

Jordan Addison played WR and DB in high school, but projects to a slot WR in college. He has many of the attributes that make Ffrench such a nightmare. He has speed, versatility, quickness, and vision. The four-star prospect can contribute in the fall for this offense.

Most Exciting Recruit: Dayon Hayes (0.8967), Edge, Pittsburgh PA
A hometown kid is always exciting. But, add in that he's a dominant d-lineman and you really have the attention of Pitt fans. Pitt has an uncanny ability to develop d-line talent. Hayes brings good frame at 6'3", 250lbs. and plays with the speed of an outside linebacker. He's a great asset to counteract the outside running games that come with the spread offense. Don't be surprised to see Hayes on an all-ACC team in a couple years. He has all the tools, and you can't coach his kind of athleticism. Pitt might have another NFL D-lineman coming to town.

Early Contributor: Israel Abanikanda (0.8847), RB, Brooklyn NY
Pitt was abysmal running the ball last year, only averaging 119 yards per game. A.J. Davis is the team's leading returning rusher at 530 yards last season, but didn't get the lion share of the carries in Pitt's bowl game against Eastern Michigan. Yes, Pitt's offensive line was very bad last year, but it will be hard to justify not giving someone else a shot in the backfield.

Israel Abanikanda is a spread back with really good speed. At 5'11" 197lbs, he's deceptively tough to bring down. He was named Gatorade New York Player of the Year last season but flew under the radar for the most part in recruiting.

Davis will most likely remain the starting running back to start the season off against Miami (OH), and rising sophomore Vincent Davis came on late in the season to take some carries. However, as the season wears on I wouldn't be shocked to see Abanikanda have a role very similar to what Tech did with Keshawn King. Limited carries but using him in ways that he's featured heavily in the offense.

Transfer Portal:
I don't usually highlight this separately, but Pitt made a big splash in the transfer portal this year. The panthers picked up Arizona State transfer QB Joey Yellen, whose waiver to play this season is pending. He could be the heir to Kenny Pickett.

Pitt also grabbed Florida TE Lucas Krull, who can add depth to that position. Thirdly, Pitt brought safety John Petrishen over from the dark side (Penn State) to add to their special teams' squad, presumably.

Sam's Grade: B+
While Pitt didn't hit it off with too many top recruits, they put together a solid class and did well to land a coveted transfer QB in Joey Yellen. Israel Abanikanda can be a great steal for them out of Brooklyn.

Where the Panthers are going to struggle is in sustaining the playmakers and depth needed to run the air attack offense that they employed last season. Kenny Pickett threw the ball 469 times last season. That's over 39 attempts per game, the most in the ACC. For reference, Trevor Lawrence threw just over 27 times per game and he's basically the best NFL quarterback prospect in college football history. If Pitt is going to keep that nonsense up, they'll have to dig in on skill player recruiting.

Pitt will never recruit in the upper echelons of the ACC, and you can thank Penn State and Ohio State for that. Middle of the pack with some big hits here and there in a class is what this program should strive for. They just missed the high water mark this cycle, but an overall success for the Panthers.

ACC Grades:
Syracuse – C
Boston College – B
Pittsburgh – B+

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I admire your restraint in not using Shittsburgh once in that article. I agree that Pitt does seem to make the most of Penn St and Ohio St's scraps. I also would not be upset for Pitt to miss on all their recruits and go 2-9 next year.

Whatever. It was one bad year.

Seasonal Brew means High ABV for football season and standard the rest of the year.

Again, nothing against the city personally. It just seems like god put me on this earth to despise Western PA.

I am right there with ya.

Whatever. It was one bad year.

Seasonal Brew means High ABV for football season and standard the rest of the year.

Fries in a sandwich never excited me, either. Fries in a salad with steak or grilled chicken, sliced boiled egg and cheese is another story. PNC Park is an easy ticket; nobody goes to Pirate games and no one will until they get new ownership.

Nobody goes to Pitt football either. I think lack of enthusiasm from the fan base is one reason Pitt will continue to be a lower tier ACC school. That and the fact that Narduzzi is a douchebag.

These write ups are great. Thanks for putting in the effort.

Doesn't matter if it's cake or pie as long as it's chocolate.

Thank you! I enjoy doing them and they help me get a better idea of the recruiting landscape in the area.

PNC Park is gorgeous, would love to watch a game there.

I think Pitt really needs to look into a 40-50k stadium for their team. I get not wanting to fork over the money but it's just such a stain on their program. No university is really successful in building a culture while sharing a stadium. The only reason Miami can do it is because the Orange Bowl was a Mecca and Hard Rock is one of the better sporting venues in America for any sport.

It's not that there isn't an interest in an on campus stadium at Pitt, but there is no room in Oakland for it. Old Pitt Stadium was demolished for their basketball arena and more student housing (which is worth its own post as the Peterson Events Center was fast tracked, massively over-budget, and a pain in the ass for many).

Got it. I understand that the logistics may not be worth the return at this point. Just curious if when that ACC Network money hits, will there be a bigger push for a new stadium?

There will never be enough money to buy the land around Pitt to build a stadium. The only possibility would be if Pitt decided to take down some existing buildings and there is no way that makes sense. Pitt is in the middle of a well-developed area with many stores, etc.

Carnegie Mellon is only a couple of blocks away. I guess there might be a possibility of working with CMU to do something on their campus with a shared stadium; but CMU does not need a bigger stadium. So Pitt would have to bear all the costs, which would probably still be too expensive to make economic sense. Pitt never filled a stadium when it was on campus.

Doesn't matter if it's cake or pie as long as it's chocolate.

Valid points. Sucks for Pitt.

I'm a grad student at Carnegie Mellon and I can't see for the life of me the two schools partnering for a stadium.

I would be less surprised by CMU putting up a Sugar Bowl banner from the 1920s than ever expanding Geisling Field.

I agree. Nothing in it for CMU. It was just the only place I could think of that might have the space.

Doesn't matter if it's cake or pie as long as it's chocolate.

I'm a grad student at Carnegie Mellon

Nice humble brag hahaha. But yeah, seems to be the consensus that a partnership wouldn't work.

Humble? Baby, I'm telling everybody! But seriously there are like 3 or 4 Hokies in my tiny program alone.

Pittsburgh seems to have one of those things where producing running backs and DL seems to transcend coaches, scheme, etc. I fully expect Dayon Hayes to become a household name there, and for some RB to emerge.

A hindsight that few Pittsburgh fans would like to see brought up now is all the preseason talk last year that despite losing basically their entire OL that they would actually have a better OL... that did not play out as they hoped.

They had an entirely new OL last season, I'd expect them to be better. Problem is they're losing a lot of playmakers on defense. They'll be good not great on both sides of the ball.

And oddly...seem to be a juggernaut against Virginia Tech. Although that four-down goal line defense is the stuff of Hokies Legend, Virginia Tech seem to struggle against Pittsburgh and that's really a head scratcher to me.

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Fuck Pat Narduzzi

someone had to say it

i was surprised to see that it took this long. In all seriousness, good article though!

Thank you! Louisville breakdown should be coming late this week/weekend