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Pitt FB Recruiting

Looking Back, Pitt’s Class of 2017 Looks Pretty Good



Pitt football helmets. Ryan Jacoby

The quality of Pat Narduzzi’s annual recruiting classes is something that’s discussed on a yearly basis.

Instead of waiting a couple of years to see how players in the class develop, people instantly make an opinion after seeing what grade the class is given by national recruiting services. A lot of times, the grade that it’s given on National Signing Day isn’t indicative of how good or in some cases, how overrated the class actually is.

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A good example of that is Pitt’s Class of 2017, which was Narduzzi’s second real recruiting class with Pitt. In that particular class, the Panthers received 24 commitments and were ranked 38th by Rivals after getting a late boast by the surprise signing of four-star running back A.J. Davis.

Aside from Davis and Paris Ford, the general feeling was that the overall class was average and nothing special. Looking back two years later, Pitt’s Class of 2017 actually looks to be a lot better than average.


•Jaylen Twyman, DT, Washington, D.C: Twyman was a three-star recruit that made his decision to commit to the Panthers on National Signing Day. In his first year as a starter, Twyman has turned into Pitt’s best defensive lineman and has NFL prospect/talent written all over him.

Jaylen Twyman (97) leads the band September 7, 2019 Photo By David Hague/PSN

*Jason Pinnock, CB, Windsor, Conn: Pitt’s secondary has been fantastic and so has been the play of this junior. Because he’s playing opposite Dane Jackson, Pinnock has been challenged a lot and for the most part has been up to the challenge. This was a diamond in the rough Pitt landed as Pinnock only had one other Power Five offer (Boston College) when he committed to Pitt. No doubt that Pinnock has a future in the NFL.

*Damarri Mathis, CB, Lakeland, Fla: Like Pinnock, Mathis has been outstanding in 2019. The trio of Mathis, Pinnock and Jackson are as solid a trio of cornerbacks in the ACC. Mathis was a three-star recruit and held offers from Louisville, Minnesota, Ole Miss, South Carolina and UCF. It’s early but like many players in Pitt’s secondary (Pinnock, Jackson, Paris Ford, Damar Hamlin) Mathis has the look of an NFL player. I’m not sure anybody would’ve predicted back on 2017 Signing Day that Pinnock and Mathis would be NFL prospects and that’s a credit to them and the Pitt coaching staff for their development.

Damarri Mathis (21) — August 31, 2019 Photo By David Hague/PSN

*Deslin Alexandre, DE, Deerfield Beach, Fla: When it was announced that Rashad Weaver would miss the season due to a knee injury, many people worried that Pitt didn’t have the depth to replace him and that the defensive line would struggle. Four games into the season, that hasn’t been the case and Alexandre has performed better than anyone could’ve predicted. Alexandre has done a great of getting after the quarterback and stuffing the run. The development of Alexandre is another feather in the camp for the Pitt coaches because he wasn’t a “big get” with his biggest offers coming from NC State, Syracuse and Central Florida.

Deslin Alexandre (5) September 21, 2019 — David Hague/PSN

*Kenny Pickett, QB, Oakhurst, N.J: Up until this year, Pickett wouldn’t have been considered a good recruiting get but that’s changed with the addition of Mark Whipple as offensive coordinator. Pickett now is playing in an offensive system in which highlights his talents and for a coach that is properly developing him. Pickett is now someone that Panther fans have already witnessed can win a game by himself. The exciting part is that Pickett is only a junior and the talent around him is getting better.

Kenny Pickett (8) September 21, 2019 — David Hague/PSN

*Paris Ford, S, Munhall, Pa: After waiting for two years to get on the field, Ford has lived up to all the hype that was placed on him as he’s an extremely talented player-maker that has as high a ceiling as anyone on the Pitt roster. It sure seems like it’s not a matter of if but when Ford will be playing in the NFL.

It’s still too early to make a definitive determination on how good these players will become but we’re listing them because they have a chance to become good, solid players at Pitt.

A.J. Davis, RB, Lakeland, Fla: Former four-star recruit has yet to be a difference-maker in his first year as a starter, but still has room to grow.
Jerry Drake, OT, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla: A huge get for Pitt that’s working with the second team.
Carter Warren, OT, Wayne, N.J: A player that O-line coach Dave Borbely says is as talented as anyone on the team. Starting at left tackle as a redshirt sophomore means he could have two more years to cement his status as a top lineman.
Dontavius Butler-Jenkins, WR, Plantation, Fla: With the season-ending injury to Tre Tipton, Butler-Jenkins will have a chance to shine.
Cam Bright, LB, Montgomery, Ala: Getting his first year of real playing time, Bright seems to be a player that’s always around the ball and making plays.
Gabe Houy, OL, Pittsburgh: Another player starting as a redshirt sophomore that could prove better than anticipated.

No program hits on all recruits and Pitt missed on players such as Charles Reeves and Kam Carter, who both came with red-flags when they committed. They’ve also had Darian Street and Tyler Sear transfer and a couple other players not develop to this point but for the most part, this class is on its way to being better than most people thought it would be.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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