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Pitt Football Maintains Great Ties to the WPIAL Heading into the 2023 Season



Pitt football defensive lineman David Green, who also played for Pittsburgh Central Catholic in the WPIAL

Pitt football continues to scour the region to find the best WPIAL players to add to the program and has 30 players on the 2023 roster from Western Pennsylvania.

The Panthers have 17 scholarship players and 13 walk-ons that played in the WPIAL ahead of the upcoming season. These players range from close-by schools like Pittsburgh Central Catholic to far-ranging schools in outer counties, but nonetheless are true Western Pa. programs.

Year/Position/Name/WPIAL High School/Eligibility Remaining

Scholarship Players
Redshirt senior defensive lineman Devin Danielson-Thomas Jefferson-one year
Redshirt senior defensive lineman David Green-Pittsburgh Central Catholic-one year
Redshirt senior quarterback Phil Jurkovec-Pine-Richland (Notre Dame/Boston College)-one year
Redshirt senior offensive lineman Jake Kradel-Butler-one year
Redshirt senior offensive lineman Blake Zubovic-Belle Vernon-one year
Redshirt senior defensive back M.J. Devonshire-Aliquippa (Kentucky)-two years
Senior defensive lineman Dayon Hayes-Westinghouse (City League)-two years
Senior defensive lineman Todd Hill-Steel Valley (Duquesne)-one year
Junior defensive back Donovan McMillon-Peters Township (Florida)-two years
Junior running back Derrick Davis Jr.-Gateway (LSU)-two years
Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Elliot Donald-Pittsburgh Central Catholic-three years
Redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Dorien Ford-Baldwin-three years
Redshirt sophomore defensive back Stephon Hall-Central Valley-three years
Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman-Nakhi Johnson-West Mifflin-three years
Redshirt first-year Sean Fitzsimmons-Central Valley-four years
First-year defensive back Cruce Brookins-Steel Valley-four years
First-year linebacker Braylan Lovelace-Leechburg-four years

Walk-On Players 

Redshirt senior defensive back Dante Caputo-North Allegheny (Wisconsin)-one year (Walk-On)
Redshirt junior offensive lineman Matt Altsman-Pittsburgh Central Catholic-three years (Walk-On)
Redshirt junior punter Cam Guess-Belle Vernon-three years (Walk-On)
Redshirt sophomore tight end Trevor Faulkner-Avonworth (Air Force)-three years (Walk-On)
Redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Matt Metrosky-Greensburg Central Catholic-three years (Walk-On)
Redshirt first-year tight end Josh Altsman-Pittsburgh Central Catholic-four years (Walk-On)
Redshirt first-year linebacker Abe Ibrahim-Chartiers Valley-four years (Walk-On)
Redshirt first-year wide receiver Lorenzo Jenkins-Blackhawk-four years (Walk-On)
Redshirt first-year wide receiver Caden Smith-Franklin Regional-four years (Walk-On)
Redshirt first-year long snapper Brock Wilkins-Kiski Area-four years (Walk-On)
First-year wide receiver Devin Whitlock-Belle Vernon-four years (Walk-On)
First-year wide receiver Benny Haselrig-Hampton-four years (Preferred Walk-On)
First-year running back Caleb Williams-Montour-four years (Walk-On)

Pitt has added players from the WPIAL the traditional way, as a part of their annual recruiting classes. Some big-time recruits include four-stars in defensive linemen Dayon Hayes, who played for Westinghouse in the City League, in the Class of 2020 and Elliot Donald and Nakhi Johnson in the Class of 2021.

There has been a trend more recently for Pitt to go to the transfer portal to bring in players that played in the WPIAL but played elsewhere in college.

Redshirt senior quarterback Phil Jurkovec, who played previously at Notre Dame and Boston College, is the highlight of this and will start this season. Juniors in defensive back Donovan McMillon and running back Derrick Davis Jr. came from the SEC, Florida and LSU, respectively, while redshirt senior defensive back M.J. Devonshire started college at Kentucky before joining Pitt prior to the 2021 season.

Senior defensive lineman Todd Hill also transferred in from Duquesne for his final collegiate season and will fluctuate between the front four and also as a part of the linebacking core as well.

Most of the WPIAL scholarship players will feature as starters or accrue many snaps off the bench. Redshirt seniors in offensive lineman Jake Kradel and Blake Zubovic will start at center and guard, respectively, while defensive linemen David Green and Devin Danielson will also play a big role in the front four.

Hayes and Johnson are also likely to start with Danielson and Green to create an All-WPIAL front four. Expect Donald to get some important snaps next season, along with redshirt first-year Sean FitzSimmons, who coaches and teammates have raved about.

Devonshire will start at cornerback and now has a leadership role, with defensive backs Brandon Hill and Erick Hallett II off to the NFL. McMillon may start but will compete with junior defensive back Phillip O’Brien Jr. for that safety spot.

Redshirt sophomores in offensive lineman Dorien Ford and defensive back Stephon Hall will come off the bench next season. Ford will work at the guard, while Hall will play at safety.

First-years in defensive back Cruce Brookins and linebacker Braylan Lovelace, aside from a plethora of injuries to their position groups, should redshirt next season.

Of the walk-on players, the only ones likely to play are the special teams ones. Even then, redshirt junior punter Cam Guess is third on the depth chart behind Elon transfer and junior Jeff Yurk as well as redshirt sophomore Caleb Junko, and redshirt first-year long snapper Brock Wilkins is behind redshirt junior Byron Floyd and redshirt sophomore James Fineran.

Despite Pitt not landing the “best” WPIAL players, it’s clear that they are maintaining great ties with their region. It also doesn’t hurt having so many WPIAL players that will star on both sides of the ball, as Pitt tries to win the ACC title.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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