Zakee Wheatley, a blue-chip wide receiver out of Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn, Maryland, released his top eight on Wednesday morning, and Pitt made the cut along with one of its most notable rivals.
”First of all, I want to thank all the schools and coaches that have recruited me,” Wheatley wrote in a message posted on Twitter. “It has always been my dream to play D1 football, and I am thankful to God for the opportunity. Obviously, I cannot go to all the schools that offered me, and to be fair, so that schools can focus on other athletes they are pursuing, I want to post the top eight schools my family and I are focusing on right now. This has been an interesting journey so far, and I have met some great coaches and people along the way. God bless you, and I hope our paths cross again in the future.”
Aside from Pitt, Wheatley’s top eight consisted of Maryland, Michigan State, Northwestern, Penn State, Vanderbilt, Virginia and Wisconsin. The eight-school list was trimmed down from an offer sheet that included more than 20 programs. Wheatley’s most notable cuts included Boston College, Cincinnati, Duke, Indiana, Louisville, Rutgers, Syracuse, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and West Virginia.
The 6’2”, 180-pound athlete holds four-star ratings from Rivals and ESPN, but 247Sports considers him a three-star recruit. Each of the three recruiting sites lists him at a different position, as Rivals has him at safety, ESPN has him at wide receiver and 247Sports has him at athlete. However, they all rank him among the best at his position, with Rivals placing him 11th among 2021 safeties, ESPN ranking him 52nd at receiver and 247Sports putting him at 35th among athletes in the class.
Last season at Archbishop Spalding, Wheatley accrued 803 yards and seven touchdowns on 56 receptions. And on the other side of the ball, he came up with three interceptions and 28 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for losses in a span of 11 games during his junior season. Wheatley improved every facet of his game after a promising sophomore season in which he amassed 366 receiving yards and four touchdowns on 20 catches while coming up with 11 tackles and one interception in the course of his work as a defender.
Pat Narduzzi and his staff can always use recruits as versatile as Wheatley, and if he does decide on Pitt, he could play a key role in helping the Panthers build on their recent progress. The passing game has been in dire need of playmakers for years, and if Wheatley was placed in the defensive backfield, he could pick up the mantle of Damar Hamlin or Paris Ford. Both have had major success at safety.