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A never ending topic of conversation when it comes to Pitt football recruiting is the talent they’re able to land from their backyard.
Since we’re a few days away from the end of the decade, we figured it was a good time to look back at the top talent the Pitt football program was able to sign from Western Pennsylvania. This is obviously just an opinion and certainly isn’t an exact science but it’s surely something that can be discussed and debated.
Here are Pittsburgh Sports Now’s list of Top 10 WPIAL players that Pitt has signed in the last decade. In other words, these players were members of a Pitt recruiting class from 2010 to 2019. Keep in mind, this is solely based on these players performance while playing at Pitt and nothing to do with their success in the NFL.
10) Damar Hamlin, safety, Central Catholic High School: Hamlin was Pat Narduzzi’s first big get after taking over as Panthers head coach. Hamlin’s Pitt career got off to a slow start due to injuries but over the last two years, he became one of Narduzzi’s most productive and dependable players. In four seasons, Hamlin finished with 136 solo tackles and three interceptions. Hamlin selecting Pitt was a major recruiting win for Narduzzi and is still having a positive impact.
Tie 9) Dane Jackson, cornerback, Quaker Valley High School: Jackson signed with Pitt as a two-sport star in high school and ended his career as one of Pitt’s most consistent defensive backs. After redshirting his first year, Jackson played in 12 games, making three starts as a redshirt freshman and then went on to start the next three seasons. Jackson finished his career with four interceptions, 111 solo tackles and finished this season as 2nd team All-ACC.
Tied 9) Lafayette Pitts, cornerback, Woodland Hills High School: Pitts was a very productive Pitt defensive back as he was a 4-year starter from 2012 until 2015. In those four seasons, Pitts collected 111 solo tackles and four interceptions. Pitts has went on to play with the Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars and the Buffalo Bills.
8) J.P. Holtz, tight end, Shaler High School: Holtz was one of the more underrated players during his time at Pitt. While he wasn’t flashy, Holtz was productive and a very reliable player for the Panthers. Holtz was an all-around tight end that was devastating as a blocker but also productive in the passing game, catching 81 passes for 931 yards and 11 touchdowns. Holtz signed with Washington was a free agent out of Pitt and is now playing for the Chicago Bears.
7) Paris Ford, safety, Steel Valley: Although he’s only started one season for the Panthers, Ford was the star of this season’s highly rated defense. From game one, it was obvious that Ford had the potential to be a player-maker and difference-maker in the secondary. After finishing the season with 86 stops, three interceptions and 14 passes defended, Ford was named first-team All-ACC, and was recently named to Phil Steele’s All-American Team.
6) Adam Bisnowaty, offensive tackle, Fox Chapel High School: Bisnowaty was a four-year starter and a first team All-ACC conference player his last two seasons. Aside from being a standout on the field, Bisnowaty was also a four-year member of the All-ACC Academic team. In his career at Pitt, Bisnowaty, started 43 of 45 games. Bisnowaty was a 6th round pick of the NY Giants.
5) Ejuan Price, defensive end, Woodland Hills High School: After transferring to Pitt from Ohio State, Price finished his college career as one of the most productive defensive players in the country. Price was named first team All-ACC following the 2015 and 2016 seasons as he collected a total of 24.5 sacks, 42.5 tackle for losses and 63 solo tackles. Price was a 7th round pick of the Los Angeles Rams.
4) Jordan Whitehead, safety, Central Valley High School: Whitehead played only three seasons at Pitt before leaving early for the NFL but he made an impact with the Panthers from day one. In 2015, he was named the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year along with being named to the USA Today All-American Team. During his freshman season, Whitehead recorded 108 tackles, six pass deflections and one interception while also having an impact on Pitt’s offense carrying the ball 12 times for 122 yards and two touchdowns. Whitehead went on to start nine games each the next two seasons before leaving for the NFL. Whitehead was drafted in the 4th round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
3) Dorian Johnson, offensive guard, Belle Vernon High School: Johnson was a 5-star recruit and left Pitt as one of their most productive lineman of the last couple decades. Johnson was a four-year starter and earned first team All-American and All-ACC honors in 2016. Johnson was eventually drafted in the 4th round by the Arizona Cardinals.
2) Tyler Boyd, wide receiver, Clairton High School: Boyd was an impact player for Pitt the day he arrived on campus and was the nation’s most productive freshman receiver, breaking Pitt freshman records set by Larry Fitzgerald with 85 catches for 1,174 yards. For that effort, Boyd was named All-ACC Second Team and placed on the All-American Freshman team. Boyd went on to produce the same type of numbers during his sophomore and junior seasons catching 163 passes for 2,187 yards and 14 touchdowns. Boyd was drafted in the 2nd round by the Cincinnati Bengals.
1) Aaron Donald, defensive tackle, Penn Hills High School: This should come as no surprise as Donald was one of the most decorated players in college football. During his senior season, Donald was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year along with being named a first team All-American. The Penn Hills native won the Lombardi Award, Bronko Nagurski Award, Chuck Bednarik Award and the Outland Trophy. Donald was drafted in the 1st round by the Los Angeles Rams.
Honorable Mentions: Todd Thomas, Alex Bookser, Scott Orndoff, Tyrique Jarrett, Mike Caprara, Quintin Wirginis.