Pat Narduzzi and the Panthers coaching staff had plenty to celebrate on the Fourth of July, as it got word that Pitt was in good standing with Gi’Bran Payne, a standout running back out of La Salle High School in Cincinnati, and the program had made the recruit's top 10.
The top 10 was rounded out by Alabama, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan, Northwestern, Penn State, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Notably, no schools from Payne’s home state made the cut, despite offers from Akron and hometown school Cincinnati.
In total, Payne drew 21 offers but is no longer prioritizing Akron, Boston College, Cincinnati, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Purdue or Western Michigan. However, he noted his recruitment is still open, and he has given thought to recent outreach from new coaching staffs, as the Alabama, West Virginia and Wisconsin offers came in the last two months.
The 5’10”, 190-pound running back holds four-star ratings from 247Sports and Rivals, and the former ranks him as the No. 206 recruit in the 2022 class as well as the No. 24 running back in the country and the No. 8 Ohio prospect.
Last season at La Salle, Payne amassed 790 rush yards and nine rushing touchdowns on 77 carries. With that said, he came up with four additional scores, including three on receptions and one on an interception return, and he managed all that despite missing three games in the Lancers’ 13-2 campaign in 2019.
At Pitt, the addition of Payne could significantly improve the program's long-term outlook at the running back position. Currently, the Panthers have some promising up-and-comers at running back in Israel Abanikanda, Daniel Carter and Vincent Davis, but each of them will be upperclassmen by the time Payne enters college. So if Pitt is able to prevail over powerhouses Alabama and Michigan as well as historic rivals Penn State and West Virginia, it could have its running back of the future.
No front-runner has emerged in Payne's recruitment, and the prospect has yet to set a decision date. Considering the running back's status as a 2022 recruit, an announcement could come as late as 2021.