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Pitt’s Israel Abanikanda leads list of 5 players that have declared for the NFL draft

Each of these Pitt Panthers will skip the Sun Bowl and start preparing for their next chapter

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 26 Pitt at Miami Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The best possible outcome for each player that steps onto campus is to grow enough to be able to play football on Sundays. Today, five more Pittsburgh Panthers will take that next step to see their football dreams come true.

Running back Israel Abanikanda, offensive linemen Gabe Houy and Warren Carter, defensive end Deslin Alexandre, and linebacker Dennis Sirvocea will all miss the Panthers’ bowl game and instead begin preparing for the NFL Draft. Each player made an announcement on Twitter to opt-out of the bowl game and get themselves ready for the draft. They will join Brandon Hill of players that will do everything to get ready to hear their name called on draft night.

“I want to thank god my family, close friends, personal trainers the University of Pittsburgh, Coach Narduzzi along with Coach Powell and the entire coaching staff for making me into the man I have become over the years,” Abanikanda said in his Twitter post. “To my teammates, thank you for being my brothers, from the jokes in the locker room to the temp runs on the field. I can say we grew an unbreakable bond over the years.”

Abanikanda out of Brooklyn, New York was the catalyst for the Pittsburgh Panther’s offense and finished as one of the top running backs in the country. Abanikanda finished the season with 1,431 yards and 20 touchdowns, breaking Pitt’s single-game rushing yards record formerly held by Tony Dorsett in the game against Virginia Tech. The running back also finished with All-ACC honors and All-American honors.

SirVocea Dennis was another crucial member of the Pittsburgh program. Coming in as a two-star recruit, Dennis was an example of hard work paying off. With 94 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, seven sacks, an interception, and two forced fumbles, Dennis put together a complete season in 2022. The linebacker also took home All-ACC honors

“To my teammates,” Dennis said in his tweet, “you put it all on the line with me every single day. I’m so thankful for the irreplaceable brotherhood that we built. You will forever be my family. To coach Manalac, you’ve helped me grow as a player and a man. I am grateful for you and the impact you made on our team culture. To Coach Narduzzi, thank you for taking a chance on a kid from Syracuse and believing in my potential.”

Deslin Alexandre has been a shining example of everything you can want from a player on and off the field. Alexandre had 41 tackles and 5.5 sacks on the season while being named to the All-ACC honorable mention team. Though it was his impact on the field that made an even bigger impression. The redshirt senior launched his Fifth Down campaign in August to raise $50,000 for youth in Haiti and on December 5th that goal had been met.

“Thank you to coach Narduzzi and the entire staff for providing me the opportunity to play football at Pitt,” Alexandre stated in his post, “Thank you Panther Nation! Thank you for all your support throughout my career and with Fifth Down for Haiti. Lastly, thank you to my teammates. We’ve created memories and bonds that will last forever.”

Carter Warren had his season cut short due to injury but has been a consistent presence along the Panther’s offense line over the last few seasons. Carter earned All-ACC honors last season and has been a consistent starter since 2019. Gabe Houy also earned All-ACC honors last season for the Panthers and both players have been instrumental in the success of the Pitt rushing attack.

Now we wait until Saturday, April 29th the day the final round ends to see where each of those players will possibly call home.