While the season may not be going the way everyone envisioned at the start of the year, there are still Pittsburgh Panthers being recognized at the national level. Israel Abanikanda, Calijah Kancey, Deslin Alexandre, and SirVocea Dennis have all been named semi-finalists for national awards, joining Erick Hallett II who was named last week. Let’s take a look at each of these players and the impact they are having so far on the season.
Abanikanda is a semifinalist for the Maxwell Award, presented to the college player of the year. He leads the country in all-purpose yards (177.88 per game), rushing touchdowns (16), total touchdowns (17), scoring per game (12.8), and total points (102). Abanikanda is also third nationally in total rushing yards with 1,086. Abanikanda has carried this struggling Panthers offense and even with teams selling out to stop the run, has still been able to produce as one of the premier backs in the country.
Kancey is one of college football’s elite pass rushers and is being recognized for his success. Kancey is a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, given to the college defensive player of the year. Kancey has been a force on opposing offenses, compiling 22 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, and seven quarterback hurries. Kancey has racked up recognition recently being named to five prestigious Midseason All-America teams including Athlon, CBS Sports, ESPN, The Athletic, and Pro Football Focus. Kancey has commanded double teams regularly, which has helped free up other players and helped another player earn honors as well.
Dennis has been named a semifinalist for the Butkus Award, annually presented to the nation’s best linebacker. Dennis is no stranger to the awards process taking home All-ACC honors the past two seasons and no is getting recognition on the national stage. The team captain has been all over the field for the Panthers and filled up the stat sheet. Dennis has racked up 58 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, and 5 sacks while being the emotional leader for the Pitt defense.
Alexandre is being recognized for his contributions off the field. The senior is a semifinalist for the Wuerffel Trophy, regarded as college football’s premier award for community service. This is the second national recognition Alexandre has received for his dedication to helping others, being named to the 2022 Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team. Per the Pittsburgh Panthers press release, Alexandre has been a huge boost to the community.
“When it comes to community service, Alexandre is a pacesetter for Pitt’s entire athletic department. His efforts include service to veterans, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, literacy promotion and voter registration.
Alexandre has become a fixture at Divine Mercy Parish, a Catholic church located in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh. He works specifically with “The Red Door” program, which the parish began during the Great Depression to provide relief for those in need. This includes providing meals and clothing as well as encouragement for the homeless.
Alexandre is now expanding his impact beyond America’s borders.
Inspired by his own heritage, he is working to help the children of Haiti. (The impoverished country is estimated to have 1.2 million orphans and vulnerable children.) He hopes to build awareness and mobilize resources for education, healthcare and nutrition in the nation where he was born.”
Congratulations to all the Panthers nominated as semi-finalists for all these awards. These five players in total will be names to keep an eye on as the award process unfolds.