PITTSBURGH — Pat Narduzzi wrapped up Pitt’s first early National Letter of Intent signing day for football on Wednesday, as he talked in front of media members for about 30 minutes after the Panthers had signed 16 players as the first part of the recruiting Class of 2020.
Here are Narduzzi’s quick thoughts about the 16 players that have signed with the Panthers.
RB Israel Abanikanda | 5-11 195 | Brooklyn, New York (Abraham Lincoln)
Mid-year (Enroll in January)
“Will add immediate, breakaway speed to our backfield.”
Gatorade Player of the Year in New York.
WR Jaylon Barden | 5-11, 175 | Lizella, Georgia (Westside)
“Guy that’s passionate about the game. … He runs great routes and is very athletic.”
Barden would text Narduzzi every Friday night after his high school game and send him his highlights.
DL Emmanuel ‘JoJo’ Belgrave | 6-3, 235 | Miami, Florida (Miami Southridge Senior)
Defensive end. … He was molded and is in the position to play at Pitt because of his defensive coordinator in high school.
“A kid that is always facetiming me.”
ATH Solomon DeShields | 6-2 200 | Millville, New Jersey (Millville Senior)
“You could throw him in the receiver category. … I think he could play a lot of places on defense.”
Narduzzi says DeShields will start at the receiver position. Big, athletic target.
DL Dayon Hayes | 6-3 250 | Pittsburgh, PA (Westinghouse)
Narduzzi says he’s a guy who you have to see perform in person because the film on him doesn’t do his abilities justice. Hayes texts Narduzzi good morning and goodnight texts almost every night.
WR Aydin Henningham | 6-2 195 | Delray Beach, Florida (Deerfield Beach)
He went to the same high school as Pitt defensive lineman Deslin Alexandre.
Narduzzi says Henningham could be a two-way player.
“Great safety and could be a receiver.”
LB Bangally Kamara | 6-1 200 | Akron, Ohio (East)
“When you put on his high school tape, you go, ‘that guy could come right now and play for ya,”
Physical, athletic, and a great blitzer.
DB Buddy Mack | 6-1 185 | Duncan, South Carolina (Byrnes)
“Physical, physical guy. …We think he can be a heck of a strong safety. … Takes great angles on the ball and can hit you.”
TE Daniel Moraga | 6-3 185 | Oxnard, California (Pacifica H.S.)/Ventura College
Tight ends coach Tim Salem did a ton of recruiting on Moraga.
“Very athletic kid and runs great routes,”
Ranked as No. 5 junior college tight end by JCGridiron.com
LB AJ Roberts | 6-0 225 | Staten Island, New York (Tottenville)
Mid-year guy. “Very athletic guy, that can do it all. … A guy who athletically can play all three positions.”
His parents signed his signing day papers from Liberia.
DB Jahvante Royal | 6-3 185 | Miramar, Florida (St. Thomas Aquinas)
Narduzzi says Royal has, “Elite size for his position.”
A big athlete who can cover any type of receiver. Narduzzi said if they needed him on offense, he would be able to provide on that end as well. Royal played a ton of offense during his senior year of high school.
DB Hunter Sellers | 5-11 175 | Tyrone, Georgia (Woodward Academy)
“Very intelligent. … When you sit and talk with him, you feel like you’re talking to a third-year (in college) guy.”
Super athlete, who can play field and boundary corner.
OL Michael Statham | 6-7 370 | Smyrna, Delaware (St. Frances Academy)
Down to about 330 pounds now.
“Mountain of a man,”
The first player to ever commit in Narduzzi’s office at Heinz Field.
Narduzzi said Statham stayed committed late in the recruiting season when a lot of other schools were after him.
OL Branson Taylor | 6-5 320 | Lorain, Ohio (Elyria Catholic)
Was initially a basketball guy. He played two years of football in high school.
“Phenomenal, big athlete. … When this guy walks in the door, he looks like he’s supposed to,”
DL Samuel Williams | 6-3 210 | Pembroke Pines, Florida (Calvary Christian Academy)
“Really, really athletic guy. … Speed rush guy off the end. … A guy that we fell in love with (when he came on his visits).”
TE Lucas Krull | 6-6 255 | Shawnee, Kansas (University of Florida)
Mid-year. Transfer from UF. One year of eligibility remaining.
Narduzzi says he was looking for a place where he could be ‘the guy.’
Krull also wants to be a part of the special teams’ unit.