Even though the college football season has come to a close there are still a few Pittsburgh Panthers receiving national attention. Pro Football Focus recently came out with their 101 best players in college football rankings and it is no surprise that a few Panthers made the cut. Defensive tackle Calijah Kancey, running back Israel Abanikanda, and linebacker SirVocea Dennis all made the list. The three representations on the list tied with Florida State as the school with the most players making the list.
It is of no surprise to see Calijah Kancey on the list though I’m sure there could be arguments made on where he falls in the rankings. Kancey, a consensus All-American who has now projected to be a top 10 pick according to Mel Kiper Jr, is the highest-ranked Panther at 48 overall. PFF credited Kancey with 47 total pressures on the year and also gave him credit for 8 sacks. After racking up 14.5 tackles for loss, Kancey was a menace in the opponent’s backfield with regularity. His 92.4 grade was one of the best in the nation and was one of the best pass-rushing interior defenders in college football. Kancey ended up as the 4th ranked interior defender on the list.
Pitt DT Calijah Kancey is an absolute gamewrecker...Great pass rush technique, Explosive first step, and can hold his own vs the run. If a team needs a DT who is Elite in pass rushing, I'm taking him. He sure looks like a Top 10 pick in the #NFLDraft2023. pic.twitter.com/qnygf2E8hr— Sanjit T. (@Sanjit__T) January 26, 2023
Israel Abanikanda was next on the list coming in at 80 and was a consistent presence in an inconsistent offense. Being named to multiple All-American teams, Abanikanda finished the season with 1,431 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns. The breakout running back had his name etched into the record books as well recording six rushing touchdowns against the Virginia Tech Hokies. Abanikanda was 8th in rushes that gained 10 or more yards finishing with 38. After getting an invite to the NFL combine, the former Pitt star will look to showcase the tools that helped deliver that big play ability for scouts at the next level.
Israel Abanikanda is probably too low in our rankings. He has been very fun to watch.— Jeremy (@PopesFFH) January 3, 2023
Great all-around skill set with excellent speed and vision.
Do yourself a favor and peak some of his highlights. #FantasyFootball pic.twitter.com/W756cjUYBb
Linebacker SirVocea Dennis rounds out the Panthers on the list coming in at number 90 overall. A defensive captain and the heart of a stout Pittsburgh defense was a force for the Panthers that impacted the game in a multitude of ways. Dennis was a force in the run game according to PFF compiling a 92.1 run defense grade. The PFF All-American had his versatility shine during this 2022 season. The defensive captain led the team with 74 tackles on the year, along with 9.5 tackles for loss, 29 pressures, six sacks, three pass breakups, and forced a fumble.
SirVocea Dennis with an INT and takes it the other way for 67 yards pic.twitter.com/Jzh5v6G4p2— RanDynasty (@ran_dynasty) November 27, 2022
These three players shined in 2023 and now will have a case to showcase their talents to pro football clubs over the next few months during the pre-draft process. The next step in each of their careers will be moving to their new city where they will get ready to start their careers playing on Sundays.