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Report: New York Jets Believe Former Pitt RB Izzy Abanikanda ‘Can Contribute Right Away’



Israel Abanikanda arrived at Pitt as an early enrollee and immediately flashed the kind of breakaway speed that made it nearly impossible to keep him off the field.

It appears that he’s showcasing a similar level of ability through the first couple of months in the NFL, as he’s competed in the New York Jets’ rookie minicamp and OTAs.

Abanikanda — who earned All-ACC and All-American honors at Pitt last season — was selected by the Jets in the fifth round of the 2023 NFL Draft, and he’s working to carve out a role in a somewhat crowded Jets’ backfield.

But The Athletic’s Zack Rosenblatt reported Monday that the Jets believe Abanikanda’s ability to contribute right away as a rookie.

Abanikanda joined a running backs room that features a potential star in Breece Hall, who is coming off ACL surgery last season, and Michael Carter Jr. Hall and Carter are a solid duo, but Abanikanda’s explosive ability offers a new dimension to an offense that is now led by Aaron Rodgers.

Abanikanda — a Brooklyn, New York native —  continues the rich history of Pitt running backs plying their trade in the NFL, joining the likes of Tony Dorsett, Craig Heyward, Curtis Martin, Kevan Barlow, LeSean McCoy, Dion Lews and James Conner.

He was an All-ACC, All-American running back in 2022, serving as perhaps the best all-purpose weapon in college football, finishing fourth in all-purpose yards (1,805 yards) and second in all-purpose yards per game (164 yards) in college football last season. And he led the nation in total touchdowns (21).

He rushed for 1,431 yards and 20 touchdowns, averaging six yards per attempt and added 146 receiving yards and 228 kickoff return yards. It was a campaign with few historical rivals. It ranks as the eighth-best single-season effort in Pitt history, and his 320 yards and six touchdowns against Virginia Tech broke and tied, respectively, single-game program records.

In his Pitt career, Abanikanda rushed 390 times for 2,177 yards and 28 touchdowns, caught 38 passes for 354 yards and three touchdowns and returned 19 kickoffs for 434 yards and a touchdown.

His 28 career touchdowns also rank eighth in team history, while he’s just one of four Pitt players to rush for at least 20 touchdowns in a single season.

And now he will look to feature in one of the rising offenses in the NFL, complementing the likes of Rodgers, Hall and Garrett Wilson in what should be a much-improved offense.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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2 months ago

I’m surprised he lasted ’til the 5th round.

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