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2024 4-Star RB Yasin Willis Holds Pitt in Top 3 Following Spring Visit



Nick Patti is a few years older than Yasin Willis, but that St. Joseph Regional brotherhood runs deep. It’s a similar bond to the one he’s felt at Pitt.

Willis — a 6-foot-1, 220-pound four-star running back from St. Joseph in Montvale, New Jersey — certainly felt that the love in Pittsburgh last week as he made it out for a spring practice session.

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“I love the culture,” Willis told PSN. “It’s a real brotherhood over there, all the guys are real intuned with each other, in the sport but also outside of the sport. I got to talk with Nick Patti. He’s a St. Joe’s alumni, so it was cool talking to him.”

Willis, as he watched practice and spent some time with running backs coach Andre Powell, was also able to see how Pitt prepares its guys for the next level.

It was Willis’ second time at Pitt, his first since making the drive out for Pitt’s spring game last year, and he felt like his most recent trip picked up where it left off. He connected more with Pat Narduzzi, but it was also a business trip.

He spent most of his time with Powell, checking out how the running backs operate during a practice at Pitt and even getting coached up himself by Powell.

“I stuck with the running backs the whole day, just seeing how coach Powell was coaching them up, teaching them different techniques, when to use certain moves, I really took a lot from that,” Willis said. “I’m gonna go work on that, put that into my game and get better.”

The two watched some of Israel Abanikanda’s film, some of his own film and just really dove into all things running backs. Coverages, reading defenses, when and where to hit the hole.

Willis took a lot away from it. He’s taken a lot away from his relationship with Powell as a whole.

“He’s a cool guy, someone you can really go and talk to outside of football, and he’s a real good coach,” Willis said. “He likes to really make sure guys’ mentals are on point.

“That’s the biggest thing with him. He knows that guys are talented when they come to Pitt, but he just wants to make sure your mind is in the right space, make sure you learn the game.”

Willis has seen how Powell was able to help Israel Abanikanda learn the game, working with him mentally and physically, and he certainly watched Abanikanda play last season, too.

The Virginia Tech game, of course. It was the kind of performance (320 yards and six touchdowns) and atmosphere that Willis dreams about.

“Izzy, he’s a big guy, very explosive,” Willis said. “I like how he runs the ball. We kinda look the same, not gonna lie. They’ve been saying that I’m kinda built like him when he was coming in, I may be a little bigger than that.”

At 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, Willis is a bit bigger than Abanikanda — even current-day Abanikanda. Powell likes Willis’ vision right now, his ability to hit the hole and make defenders miss. Willis likes going through or over defenders, and he’s showcased that throughout his high school career.

Willis has racked up 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons at St. Joseph, putting together a 171-carry, 1,023-yard sophomore season and a 181-carry, 1,133-yard junior season. He’s scored 26 rushing touchdowns over th4 last two seasons.

247Sports rates him as the 317th-ranked recruit in the class (30th-ranked running back and the sixth-ranked recruit from New Jersey) while On3 rates him as the 439th-ranked recruit in the class (39th-ranked running back and ninth-ranked recruit from New Jersey).

Rivals is much higher on Willis, rating him as the 103rd-ranked recruit in the class (11th-ranked running back and the top-ranked recruit from New Jersey).

With offers from Boston College, Connecticut, Duke, Illinois, Kentuck, Louisville, Maryland, Massachusetts, Ole Miss, Nebraska, Penn State, Pitt, Rutgers, South Carolina, Syracuse, Temple, Toledo, Virginia Tech and West Virginia, Willis is in high demand.

He attended South Carolina’s spring game over the weekend, and he’s headed back to in-state Rutgers. There’s no timeline for a decision right now, just before his senior season kicks off.

As of right now, he’s taking official visits to Pitt, South Carolina and Rutgers — with dates yet to be determined. And he’ll decide upon two additional visits.

Pitt, on the heels of a very, very good visit, has certainly made an impression on Willis — one that he will remember going forward.

“They’re in the top three,” Willis said. “Just the fact that the coaching is amazing, they know how to take guys to the next level. They send you when you’re ready, they also keep it real with you. They tell you when you’re not ready. They teach you how to play the game in every aspect. Even outside of football, they prepare you for life.”

Pitt currently has a commitment from three-star running back Juelz Goff (York, Pennsylvania) in the class of 2024, and Willis would add another high-potential back to the class.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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