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WPIAL/City League Stars to Bolster Pitt Football for Years to Come



Pitt defensive end Dayon Hayes.

There’s a good possibility that when the Pitt defensive line sets itself across from Wofford’s offensive line in Week 1, it will be an all WPIAL (and City League) defensive line configuration.

Dayon Hayes and Nahki Johnson lined up as the ends, and David Green and Devin Danielson filling the middle as the defensive tackles. And there are a lot of former WPIAL stars waiting in the wings, be it this season or next or even those arriving in the class of 2024.

Sean FitzSimmons (Central Valley), Elliot Donald (Central Catholic) and Todd Hill (Steel Valley) will all attempt to crack Pitt’s defensive line rotation this season, and verbal commit Ty Yuhas (Central Catholic) is waiting in the wings following his own senior season in Oakland.

Charlie Partridge doesn’t remember the last time Pitt had a defensive line completely comprised of former WPIAL (and City League) stars.

“I’d have to go back and look, but I don’t think so because I go back to the year with — you had (Greg) Romeus and Jabaal Sheard. … But I think it’s great,” Partridge said after Friday’s practice. “I think it’s a testament to the high school coaches here in Western Pennsylvania, and the great job they’re doing developing D-linemen. There’s been quite a few to recruit here in the last five or six years, so I tip my hard to the high school coaches in the area.”

But Pitt’s WPIAL infusion isn’t just limited to the defensive line. Just this offseason, former WPIAL stars in Phil Jurkovec (Pine-Richland), Derrick Davis Jr. (Gateway) and Donovan McMillon (Peters Township) all returned to Pittsburgh following stints at Boston College, LSU and Florida, respectively.

“I love Pittsburgh,” Jurkovec said at his first Pitt media appearance in January. “I love this city. It has everything you would like. It has everything to offer to recruits. I think all the WPIAL kids should stay home, all come to Pitt, that’s something that hasn’t happened in for a while, but I think having guys back, we would love for that to happen.

“You can do it at home. You can come here and win. The WPIAL doesn’t have the talent that it used to have in the past, there’s still a lot of talent but it’s not what it used to be, but I think it would be really cool if the guys in high school and younger came together and wanted to stay home and make the culture here really strong.”

The class of 2024 features commitments from four-star linebacker Cameron Lindsey (Aliquippa), three-star quarterback Julian Dugger (Penn Hills) and three-star defensive end Ty Yuhas. And both have of Pitt’s WPIAL commitments from the class of 2023 have already made early impressions.

Braylan Lovelace (Leechburg) is already in line to backup Bangally Kamara at Star linebacker this season, not even considered a freshman by Pat Narduzzi anymore, and Cruce Brookins (Steel Valley) is a young, athletic safety who is making waves since arriving this summer. Both could find playing time as early as this season.

Pitt’s WPIAL/City League connections run deep this season, with starters across the offensive and defensive side of the football. And the future is bright as young options continue to emerge across the lineup.

Davis is a potential lead back in the future, but Pitt’s defense is loaded with potential difference-makers. Donald, FitzSimmons, Lovelace, Hall and Brookins could all develop into eventual starters.

And the jury is out when it comes to Dugger, Yuhas and Lindsey (and the targets in the classes of 2025, 2026 and 2027), but Pitt’s WPIAL/City League future is bright.

Pitt’s 2023 WPIAL/City League players 

  • Devin Danielson — Thomas Jefferson, sixth-year defensive tackle
  • David Green — Central Catholic, sixth-year defensive tackle
  • Phil Jurkovec — Pine-Richland, sixth-year quarterback
  • Jake Kradel — Butler, sixth-year center
  • Blake Zubovic — Belle Vernon, sixth-year guard
  • M.J. Devonshire — Aliquippa, redshirt senior cornerback
  • Dayon Hayes — Westinghouse, senior defensive end
  • Todd Hill — Steel Valley, senior defensive end
  • Donovan McMillon — Peters Township, junior safety
  • Derrick Davis Jr. — Gateway, redshirt sophomore running back
  • Elliot Donald — Central Catholic, redshirt sophomore defensive tackle
  • Dorien Ford — Baldwin, redshirt sophomore guard
  • Stephon Hall — Central Valley, redshirt sophomore safety
  • Nahki Johnson — West Mifflin, redshirt sophomore defensive end
  • Sean FitzSimmons — Central Valley, redshirt freshman defensive tackle
  • Cruce Brookins — Steel Valley, freshman safety
  • Braylan Lovelace — Leechburg, freshman linebacker

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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1 month ago

It will be an exciting season watching all of the local kids in such key roles at Pitt this season. It will be great to see them reach a level of success that the core local athletes produced in the late 70’s and early 80’s. With this level of success I can’t imagine why even more would not stay home. I can’t find the exact Dave Wannstedt quote but he always would say that Pitt needed to build a wall around the WPIAL and keep the kids home. I love the Jurkovec quote “You can do it at home. You… Read more »

1 month ago

This positive trend is really good to see. The next step is for Pitt to also keep the highest-rated WPIAL athletes rather than allowing most of them to be poached by Penn State and Notre Dame. As Pitt’s program keeps rising and graduates making it to the NFL grow, this problem should get resolved. Exciting times.

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