Being able to land and keep top recruits from your area home is a goal of all college football programs.
During his tenure as Pitt head coach, Dave Wannstedt wanted to “build a brick wall” around the WPIAL for its top players. While that has become less of a emphasis because of the decrease in top level Power 5 level talent and the shift in Pitt’s recruiting map, Pat Narduzzi still has emphasized landing elite local talent.
The Panthers scored a big win last year when the areas top defensive player Westinghouse 4-star defensive end Dayon Hayes choose Pitt over offers from programs such as Penn State, Ohio State, Texas A&M and West Virginia.
That momentum has carried over to this year as two elite WPIAL players have joined Pitt’s Class of 2021: West Mifflin 4-star DE Nahki Johnson and Central Catholic 4-star defensive tackle Elliot Donald. Johnson committed to Narduzzi back in June of 2019 but has continued to get recruited by programs like Penn State and recently picked up an offer from the defending national champion LSU Tigers. In terms of Donald, he ended up choosing his hometown school over James Franklin and Penn State.
The bottom line is that these are major recruiting wins for Narduzzi and his staff in order to land three national recruits, who happen to be from Western Pennsylvania.
How big was landing Donald and where does it rank in terms of WPIAL recruiting battles for Pitt in recent memory? We went back over the last decade to remember some of Pitt’s recruiting battles and who they went up against to come out on top.
Damar Hamlin (Class of 2016): 4-star safety, #4 ranked player in Pennsylvania and #126 Nationally. Offers from programs such as Auburn, Clemson, Miami, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, WVU and Wisconsin.
Jordan Whitehead (Class of 2015: 4-star cornerback, #1 ranked player in Pennsylvania and #75 Nationally. Offers from Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Tennessee and WVU.
Alex Bookser (Class of 2014): 4-star offensive tackle, #4 ranked player in Pennsylvania and #249 Nationally. Offers from Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, Ohio State, Penn State, Tennessee, USC and WVU.
Tyler Boyd (Class of 2013): 4-star wide receiver, #6 ranked player in Pennsylvania and #103 Nationally. Offers from Michigan State, Ole Miss, Notre Dame, Penn State, Tennessee, VA Tech, WVU and Wisconsin.
Dorian Johnson (Class of 2013): 5-star offensive tackle, #2 ranked player in Pennsylvania and #31 Nationally. Offers from Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Tennessee, VA Tech, WVU and Wisconsin.
Rushel Shell (Class of 2012): 4-star running back, #2 ranked player in Pennsylvania and #55 Nationally. Offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Ohio State, Penn State, Tennessee, UCLA and WVU.