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Recruiting Tracker: Meet Pitt’s 2020 recruiting class

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Pitt netted 16 signees on the first day of the early signing period and secured another signature on Thursday

NCAA Football: Ohio at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday marked the beginning of college football’s early signing period, and there were no surprises for Pat Narduzzi and the Pitt coaching staff, as 16 of their 18 verbally committed recruits faxed in their national letters of intent by close of business. The other two recruits, Jordan Addison and Timothy Brown, were also accounted for, as Addison had plans to sign on Thursday and Brown was awaiting a resolution to a legal situation.

The letters of intent began to flow in on Wednesday at 7:05 a.m., when Sam Williams, a defensive end out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the first recruit to commit to Pitt in the 2020 cycle, sent his into Pitt’s staff. Lucas Krull, the Florida graduate transfer tight end who verbally committed on Tuesday, was the last Day 1 signee, as his letter of intent came in at 1:55 p.m. And on Thursday morning, Addison officially signed with the program, ending speculation of a potential flip to Maryland after a late visit to the school.

With additional spots open in the class, more developments are possible on Thursday and Friday. For a full breakdown of Pitt’s verbal commits and signees, read on:

Israel Abanikanda (Running Back)
Lincoln High School (Brooklyn, NY)
247Sports: **** / Rivals: *** / ESPN: ***
Status: Signed

Israel Abanikanda rushed for 1,350 yards and 20 touchdowns on 136 rushing attempts in 2019. The 5’11”, 197-pound running back also had 13 receptions for 182 yards and three additional touchdowns through the air. As a contributor on special teams, he averaged 36.3 yards per kick return. He also came up with 30 tackles and two interceptions as a defensive back and won Gatorade Player of the Year in New York after his standout senior season.

Jordan Addison (Wide Receiver)
Tuscarora High School (Frederick, MD)
247Sports: **** / Rivals: *** / ESPN: ****
Status: Signed

Jordan Addison is one of Pitt’s top recruits in the 2020 cycle, and he played at wide receiver, cornerback, and quarterback in high school. He is known for his ability to make plays and his speed, as he ran a 4.51 40-yard dash in May and has since posted faster times in other competitions. 247Sports national recruiting analyst Brian Dohn has compared Addison to former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders, describing him as a multi-year starter at a top-15 program with the potential to get selected in the second day of the NFL draft.

Jaylon Barden (Wide Receiver)
Westside High School (Macon, GA)
247Sports: **** / Rivals: *** / ESPN: ***
Status: Signed

In 2019, Jaylon Barden put on the best performance of his high school career by reeling in 68 receptions for 1,234 yards and 15 touchdowns in a span of 11 games. The 6’0”, 175-pound receiver also ran a 4.65 40-yard dash and established himself as an outstanding prospect at The Opening earlier this year. Barden was seen as a three-star recruit upon committing to Pitt but has since earned a fourth star from 247Sports. He should fit well in Pitt offensive coordinator Mark Whipple’s pass-heavy system.

Emmanuel Belgrave (Defensive End)
Southridge High School (Miami, FL)
247Sports: *** / Rivals: *** / ESPN: ***
Status: Signed

Emmanuel Belgrave piqued the interest of Pat Narduzzi and the Pitt coaching staff after a junior season in which he racked up 40 tackles, 8.5 sacks, three fumble recoveries, one forced fumble and two defensive touchdowns. The 6’3”, 225-pound defensive lineman largely flew under the radar before Pitt picked him up, as the team's biggest competitors for him were Nebraska, Rutgers and South Florida. With that said, Pitt has a solid track record of striking gold with unheralded recruits out of Florida. Former two-star recruit Rashad Weaver and one-time three-star prospect Habakkuk Baldonado are prime examples.

Timothy Brown (Defensive End)
Palm Beach Gardens High School (Palm Beach Gardens, FL)
247Sports: *** / Rivals: *** / ESPN: ***
Status: Verbally Committed

Although Timothy Brown is a consensus three-star recruit, Pitt had to beat out some heavy-hitters to secure his commitment, as Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Ole Miss, Penn State and West Virginia were in the mix for his services. However, after locking down the 6’4”, 260-pound recruit, Pitt and Brown’s relationship was complicated by Brown’s arrest in October. With that situation unresolved, it is unclear if Brown’s offer from Pitt stands and, if it does, when Brown might sign with the team.

Solomon DeShields (Linebacker)
Millville High School (Millville, NJ)
247Sports: *** / Rivals: *** / ESPN: ***
Status: Signed

Solomon DeShields is a 6’1”, 210-pound athlete who wore multiple hats during his time at Millville High School. In addition to linebacker, DeShields played as a running back, defensive back, return specialist and wide receiver and found some success in each role. On the defensive side of the ball, he came up with 31 tackles, including three sacks and nine tackles for losses, in his junior year. DeShields also broke up four passes, blocked a punt, forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and returned a kick 90 yards for a touchdown. Given his versatility, special-teams experience and playmaking ability, he could see early action at Pitt.

Dayon Hayes (Defensive End)
Westinghouse High School (Pittsburgh, PA)
247Sports: **** / Rivals: **** / ESPN: ***
Status: Signed

Dayon Hayes is the centerpiece of Pitt’s 2020 class. The Westinghouse High School defensive end was an absolute wrecking ball in Pittsburgh's City League over the past two years, as he amassed 49 ½ sacks over the course of his junior and senior seasons, and he capped off his high school career by leading the Bulldogs to their first City League title since 1996. As a result, he had elite programs from across the country knocking on his door. But instead of choosing Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech or West Virginia, he opted to stay home and could inspire other elite local recruits to follow suit.

Aydin Henningham (Wide Receiver)
Deerfield Beach High School (Deerfield Beach, FL)
247Sports: *** / Rivals: *** / ESPN: ***
Status: Signed

Aydin Henningham initially held a four-star rating from Rivals but saw his stock fall in his senior year. At this point, the 6’1”, 200-pound receiver is a consensus three-star prospect. With that said, Henningham still put together an impressive offer sheet, with Auburn, Kentucky, Louisville, Minnesota, Nebraska, NC State, Ohio State, South Carolina and Tennessee all interested in his services.

Bangally Kamara (Linebacker)
East High School (Akron, OH)
247Sports: **** / Rivals: *** / ESPN: ***
Status: Signed

The arrival of Bangally Kamara’s signed letter of intent on Wednesday morning prompted Pat Narduzzi to tweet out, “Bad day for QBs in the ACC,” and the Akron standout’s stats suggest that is, in fact, the case. As a senior, Kamara racked up 99 tackles, including 21 tackles for losses and four sacks. Kamara also forced two fumbles and returned one for a touchdown. All that came after a junior season in which he had 78 tackles, including 17 tackles for losses and six sacks; two interceptions, including a pick-six; three forced fumbles; and one fumble recovery touchdown.

Lucas Krull (Tight End)
University of Florida / Mill Valley High School (Shawnee, KS)
247Sports: **** / Rivals: -- / ESPN: --
Status: Signed

Lucas Krull comes to Pitt as a graduate transfer from Florida, where he played a minor role in 2018 and 2019 despite 247Sports evaluating him as the No. 1 JUCO tight end in the 2018 recruiting cycle. The 6’6”, 257-pound tight end was a standout at Mill Valley High School in Shawnee, Kansas, and as a senior, he played in 12 games, helping his team to a 12-1 record and a state title. During that span, Krull amassed 745 yards and 13 touchdowns on 52 receptions.

Buddy Mack (Safety)
Byrnes High School (Duncan, SC)
247Sports: *** / Rivals: *** / ESPN: ***
Status: Signed

Buddy Mack was part of the most recent wave of Pitt recruits to commit to the program, along with Lucas Krull and Daniel Moraga, and his commitment represents a bit of a coup for Pitt, as he flipped from Charlotte to join a Power Five roster. Mack was a playmaker at Byrnes High School, where he has logged at least one pick and at least 20 tackles every season since his sophomore campaign. As a senior, he put on his best performance to date, amassing 40 tackles, two picks, four bass breakups, nine tackles for losses, two sacks and two touchdowns in 11 games.

Daniel Moraga (Tight End)
Ventura College / Pacifica High School (Oxnard, CA)
247Sports: *** / Rivals: *** / ESPN: ***
Status: Signed

Like Lucas Krull and Buddy Mack, Daniel Moraga is a newcomer to the class, as he verbally committed just two days before the start of the early signing period. Like Krull, Moraga addresses a position of need for Pitt as a tight end, and his most notable experience came at the high school level. At Pacifica High School, The 6’4”, 240-pound tight end amassed 1,087 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns on 60 receptions. Moraga then concluded his JUCO career with a 119-yard, one-touchdown performance in a bowl game.

A.J. Roberts (Linebacker)
Tottenville High School (Staten Island, NY)
247Sports: *** / Rivals: *** / ESPN: ***
Status: Signed

A.J. Roberts committed to Pitt in June along with the majority of the 2020 class, and he chose Pat Narduzzi’s program over comparable ones largely centered in the Northeast, including Boston College, Rutgers, Syracuse and Temple. The 6’1”, 210-pound linebacker was a solid defensive contributor at Tottenville High School, with 25 tackles, two quarterback hurries, one tackle for a loss, three pass breakups, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and a field-goal block in his senior year. As a junior, he had 33 tackles and a pick to go with another field-goal block.

Jahvante Royal (Safety)
St. Thomas Aquinas High School (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
247Sports: *** / Rivals: **** / ESPN: ****
Status: Signed

At the time of his commitment, Jahvante Royal was the first consensus four-star recruit to commit to Pitt since Damar Hamlin on Feb. 2, 2016, and every major recruiting site considered him one of the top 30 safeties in the nation. However, 247Sports changed its tune on Royal and downgraded him to a three-star prospect just outside the top 100 safeties in the nation. With that said, ESPN has him at No. 26 at his position, while Rivals considers him the No. 19 safety in the 2020 class.

Hunter Sellers (Cornerback)
Woodward Academy (College Park, GA)
247Sports: *** / Rivals: *** / ESPN: ***
Status: Signed

Hunter Sellers has had an up-and-down career at Woodward Academy, as he had a highly productive sophomore campaign in 2017 but saw his production dip in his junior year. In 2017, he had 67 tackles, two interceptions, five pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. That plunged to 21 tackles and one pass breakup in 2018, but this year, the 6’0”, 180-pound safety rebounded somewhat. Specifically, he rediscovered his nose for the ball, coming up with two picks, five pass breakups and two fumble recoveries. He also brought his tackle total up to 38 and helped his team to a 13-1 record.

Michael Statham (Offensive Lineman)
St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, MD)
247Sports: *** / Rivals: *** / ESPN: ***
Status: Signed

Upon his arrival in Pittsburgh, Michael Statham, who comes in at 6’7” and 340 pounds, will be the largest member of the Panthers offensive line. Only Liam Dick matches him in height, but Statham outweighs Dick by 40 pounds. In terms of weight, the only Pitt player even close to Statham is Kenny Rainey, who checks in at 325 pounds. Statham also happens to be bigger than eight of the nine offensive linemen on the roster of the Baltimore Ravens in his current city. The lone exception is Orlando Brown Jr., who stands at 6’8” and weighs 345 pounds. Given the challenges he presents opposing linemen, Statham could see the field early in his collegiate career, as Pitt struggled to fend off pass-rushers in 2019.

Branson Taylor (Offensive Lineman)
Elyria Catholic High School (Elyria, OH)
247Sports: **** / Rivals: *** / ESPN: ***
Status: Signed

Branson Taylor should already be a hero in Pittsburgh, as he dealt West Virginia a loss on the recruiting trail by pledging his services to Pitt back in August. In addition, he holds a four-star rating from 247Sports and comes in at 6’7” and 285 pounds. His size should be highly beneficial to a Pitt line that gave up 27 sacks in the regular season in 2019, and the fact that he will likely take the field alongside fellow goliath Michael Statham at some point bodes well for a Pitt team attempting to a adopt a pass-heavy approach under second-year Pitt offensive coordinator Mark Whipple.

Sam Williams (Defensive End)
Calvary Christian Academy (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
247Sports: *** / Rivals: *** / ESPN: ***
Status: Signed

The first piece of Pitt’s 2020 recruiting class fell into place on April 6, when Sam Williams committed to the program. Although the 6’4”, 210-pound recruit has flown quietly under the radar, he had the best season of his career in 2019, as he tallied 63 tackles, including six sacks and 20 tackles for losses. Those figures were up from 33 tackles, half a sack and four tackles for losses in 2018. In addition, Williams forced one fumble, recovered another and blocked a punt as a senior as Calvary Christian played to a 10-2 record.