After a big weekend that thrust Pitt into the top 25 of Rivals’ 2020 national recruiting class rankings, Pat Narduzzi and the Panthers coaching staff maintained their momentum by landing the commitment of Israel Abanikanda on Monday afternoon. Abanikanda, a running back out of Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, New York, is Pitt’s 16th recruit of the 2020 cycle, and he announced his intent to join the Panthers via a video posted on Twitter.
“First and foremost, I would like to thank God and my family for guiding me through this journey,” Abanikanda said in a statement. “I would also like to thank my teachers, coaches, trainers and teammates that supported me through the process as well. ... I’ve been waiting for this time to come since I was five years old, but finally, the wait is over. I’m proud to announce that I’m committed to the University of Pittsburgh.”
Abanikanda is a consensus three-star recruit known for his speed and athleticism, and he posted a 4.50-second 40-yard dash and 4.28-second shuttle at The Opening on April 7. Both ESPN and 247Sports consider him one of the top 10 prospects in the state of New York in 2020, and over the course of his recruitment, he received 17 offers, including 11 from Power Five schools. Ultimately, Abanikanda chose Pitt over Boston College, California, Duke, Purdue, Rutgers, Syracuse, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.
The 5’11”, 196-pound has been an explosive rusher throughout his high school career, as he has averaged 7.8 yards per carry over the 29 games he has taken part in since 2016. However, in 2018, he enjoyed a breakout campaign at Lincoln, as he ran for 1,082 yards and 14 touchdowns on 139 carries. It was the first time he eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark as well as the first time he scored 10 or more touchdowns in a single season.
At Pitt, Abanikanda will join a loaded backfield consisting of Paris Brown Jr., Daniel Carter, V’Lique Carter, A.J. Davis, Vincent Davis, Henry Parrish, Mychale Salahuddin and Todd Sibley. While the New York recruit should face fierce competition for playing time, Pitt’s coaches expect him to distinguish himself with his speed. In any case, the Panthers appear to be well stocked at the position with both power backs and speedsters for the coming years.