The 3-2-1 Column: A basketball commit, football recruiting, and more
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In this week’s 3-2-1 Column, we talk about the newest addition to the basketball team, and where do they go from here in order to fill out the roster. It has also been a busy month for the Pitt football coaches on the road, and we touch on all things recruiting. Also, the Jordan Addison saga has ended officially. Has anything changed there, or are the feelings still the same?
Plenty to discuss this week, as usual.
THREE THINGS WE KNOW
The basketball roster takes shape
Jeff Capel secured a commitment earlier this week from Greg Elliott, a 6’3” graduate transfer guard from Marquette. Elliott has played four seasons with the Golden Eagles and will have one year of eligibility remaining at Pitt. In those four years, Elliott appeared in 114 games. He averaged 7 points per game this past season on a team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament. He is a career 40% three-point shooter and made a career-high 34 from behind the arc in the 2022 season.
Elliott was quiet during the Golden Eagles postseason run, but at times throughout the season came up big for his team. He scored 22 points in 25 minutes against UCLA back in December, and followed that with a 18-point showing against Xavier in the next game. Elliott also had a 25-point performance in a win over DePaul in January.
Pitt landed an important need in securing Elliott’s commitment. He provides a much needed outside shooting presence the team did not previously have. The Detroit native has also played a lot of basketball in his career and played on a tournament team this past season. He will provide a scoring punch for sure, while also helping to create a winning mindset that this program desperately needs.
Pitt now has 11 scholarship players for this upcoming season, meaning there are two spots available. Jeff Capel only returned five players off of last year’s team, so the newcomers (6) outnumber the returning players. It will be a retooled roster for certain, but maybe a more stable one than in previous years.
I do have concerns about Pitt’s top-end talent outside of John Hugley. The junior big man can legitimately challenge for first team All-ACC this upcoming season, but I’m not sure if they have another player capable of making that claim. Top to bottom, the overall roster depth appears better than the previous five or so seasons for Pitt basketball. The distribution between guards and post players is more balanced than it has been as well.
I think there are good pieces around the program, and adding veteran guards from winning teams like Elliott and Nelly Cummings are net positives. I still wonder how they will replace Mo Gueye’s production from the four spot, however, as that was never really addressed this offseason.
With two spots remaining, Pitt hosted Weber State guard Seikou Sisoho Jawara during the week. The 6’3” guard would have two years of eligibility remaining. This past season as a sophomore, he averaged 12.2 points and 3 assists per game for Weber State. He connected on 66 three-pointers with a 42.6% average for the year.
Sisoho Jawara is a native of Spain, and has a connection with current Pitt commits Guillermo and Jorge Diaz Graham. He also visited George Washington during the process, but Pitt seems to be in at least a good spot here.
Landing Sisoho Jawara would be another big addition to the backcourt. It would allow Pitt to mix and match with plenty of three guard lineups with Elliott and Cummings, along with Nike Sibande and Jamarius Burton.
It remains to be seen who else the staff will pursue with these final two spots beyond Sisoho Jawara, but the commitment of Elliott helps paint a better picture of what the team will look like this upcoming season. The roster is taking shape, but there are still questions and concerns about it as we inch closer to next season.
Jordan Addison lands at USC
Last evening, former Pitt wide receiver Jordan Addison announced he would transfer to USC. This decision comes three weeks after rumors started to swirl that the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner would be leaving Pitt to head to play for the Trojans prior to his name officially appearing in the transfer portal.
The story caused a national stir of course. After all it was a high-profile player heading to play across the country at the transfer portal deadline with reported high stakes NIL money involved. How couldn’t it draw national attention? Then of course, there were the storylines that followed, that made the whole scenario even juicier.
There was an alleged call from Pat Narduzzi to USC coach Lincoln Riley voicing his displeasure at the thought of alleged tampering. There was a delay from the start of the rumor to when Addison’s name officially appeared in the portal five days later, which caused some questions. There were also reported efforts from Pitt to keep its star player. The national media wrote stories and the NCAA rushed to talk about what happened. It was a whirlwind.
In the end, it played out exactly as it was expected: Jordan Addison is going to play for USC next season. There were no surprises in all of this, but has anything changed in the days and weeks that have followed from when this story broke?
College football still feels vulnerable to losing its way more than it already has. This Addison scenario not only seems like it can happen in the future, but will likely happen on a wider scale. The NCAA opened the doors with one-time free transfers and NIL all at once, and this is predictably where it was heading all along, and maybe it got here sooner than expected.
Addison did eventually enter the portal, which is typical protocol. He did visit other schools, Texas for one, but in the end the suspected destination from the start proved to be the final one.
Everyone always knew he was going to USC.
Now that this is ‘over’, I’m sure Pitt fans still feel like this whole scenario was a bit off from the beginning. Pitt lost its star player moments before the transfer portal closed for athletes to play the following season. He ended up at a school that seemingly had an NIL deal for him in place before he was even in the portal. It has never added up from the start, but I guess we have to assume that is just how the sport works now.
In the end Pitt, should still field a very good team for the 2022 season, likely one that will be preseason ranked. The bulk of the starters from Pitt’s ACC Championship team a year ago are still around, but it will absolutely hurt the team losing a piece like Addison. Is that to be expected from here on out? Can you count on building a team each year, or will there always be a setback like this?
USC gained a star player in all this, Pitt lost one, and the NCAA created a new headache through it all and one they don’t have a solution for either.
What these new scholarship offers are all about
The Pitt coaching staff has spent the first few weeks of May on the road. Really since spring football ended, the coaches have been out recruiting and getting Pitt’s name out there to recruits all over the country. Of course, they have more to sell than usual on the recruiting trail, as they are coming off the school’s first-ever ACC Championship.
Like the usual routine in the spring, the Pitt coaches issued a ton of offers to underclassmen players in the classes of 2024 and 2025, along with a few more new ones for the current recruiting class of 2023. We’re not just talking a few offers, either, more like well over 100 in the past month alone. It has been a lot to take in, with new prospects tweeting out offers almost every hour on certain days.
So what does all that mean? What does offering a prospect really do? Well, look at it this way. In a typical recruiting cycle, we’ll generally have Pitt down for 300 or so offered prospects in the Rivals.com database, and that has been a pretty consistent number under the Pat Narduzzi regime. A typical recruiting class is around the 20-25 signees each year. So needless to say, offers are thrown out quite generously each year, but as time passes, the staff zeros in on certain players and they try to bring them on campus for official visits.
From our perspective here at Panther-Lair.com, it’s a long process to whittle down 300 or so prospects down to who we believe are Pitt’s top targets. That’s why we try to interview as many as we can as the offers roll in each day. You never know which recruit likes Pitt more than others, or if they have a great relationship with a coach, or if there was a visit in the works already, or if they have family a connection to the team…basically we are trying to find out what we can and what made Pitt offer them in the first place.
In the past few weeks, it is notable the coaching staff appears to be aiming higher than in previous years. Just on the prospects we have interviewed alone, there are more four and five stars talking about Pitt than in any recent offseason.
In the class of 2024, Pitt has offers out to 87 four-star prospects and three five stars already. Of course, that class is under way with one of those highly rated players when Jahsear Whittington, a four-star defensive linemen from Philadelphia, committed to Pitt a month ago.
We talk all the time about what that specific 2021 ACC Championship season did for Pitt on the recruiting trail. Many wonder if this current 2023 recruiting class would be a big breakthrough class, and perhaps it still might be, though it is off to a slow start with only two commitments to date. The crop of June visitors is another strong one, and should help fill up Pitt’s class in a hurry.
But, you have to wonder, though, if the 2024 can be a bigger deal for Pitt working off of this recent run of success. As these offers go out to 2024 and 2025 recruits, they are the recruiting classes seeing Pitt coaches walk into their school with ACC Championship rings. This group of prospects will have the entire year or so to build a bond with Pitt. They are going to hear about the ACC Championship and Kenny Pickett getting drafted by their next door neighbors. That is what this staff has to sell at the moment, and that is exactly the approach they are taking, and if Whittington is any indication, it is resonating with this group as well.
There has been a lot to track on the recruiting trail lately. Pitt is working on finishing its list of official visitors for next month for the class of 2023. The offering spree going along with it for the underclassmen has been extensive as well. There’s a lot of buzz going on, and as we head into June it will only get a little crazier.
TWO QUESTIONS WE HAVE
Does Pitt have a real chance with Hykeem Williams?
“H2P!!! A couple different meanings”
What exactly is Pat Narduzzi saying in this tweet? In the world of recruiting, coaches sometimes have to play games with top recruits and that is exactly what you are seeing here. H2P of course refers to Hail to Pitt, but that second meaning? I think it’s safe to say it means, “Hykeem to Pitt”.
That is in reference to Hykeem Williams, the highest ranked prospect on Pitt’s recruiting board for the class of 2023. We talked how the 2024 class could be special, but let’s not sleep on the class of 2023, as the staff is in the mix for some very talented prospects, like Williams.
Williams is a 6’4” and 205-pound wide receiver from Florida. He checks in as the No. 36 overall prospect in the country according to Rivals. The four-star receiver has an extensive offer sheet that includes Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, Miami, Ohio State, Texas A&M, USC, and more. He is a highly coveted player with all the usual programs hot on his trail, but Pitt finds itself in the middle of it all.
Williams visited Pitt back in March. He will be back in the city on June 24th for an official visit. You can expect Pitt will pull out all the stops to try to secure a big recruiting upset win here.
The Panthers are in the mix thanks to Tiquan Underwood, the new wide receivers coach that was previously at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights were once heavily considered by Williams and thanks to Underwood that relationship has carried over to Pitt.
“I started becoming interested in Pitt when Coach Underwood got there,” he told Rivals.com in April. “He was at Rutgers recruiting me. I had high interest in Rutgers, but now he is at Pitt. That has kind of flipped the script.”
In that same interview with Adam Gorney, he described a positive experience on his unofficial visit to Pitt.
“Pitt was amazing; Pitt is beautiful,” he explained. "It is beautiful up there. I like it. I like it. They have a lot of talent there and a lot of great coaches there. The environment there is amazing. I like it.”
Texas A&M, Georgia, and Alabama sort of feel like the main competition here. In fairness, not a circle Pitt usually runs in for recruits, but they are in the race and are getting one of his official visits. That shouldn’t be understated — that is a big deal.
Those other three programs will generate buzz in this recruitment based on how they normally finish in the recruiting rankings, but Pitt is an actual player here. It will be a long time until signing day however it works out, but Pitt has a chance to secure one of its biggest recruiting wins ever in the Rivals.com era with Williams. That weekend in June will be a highly anticipated one with Antonio Robinson, another four-star from Florida also expected to be in town. Pitt doesn’t always get in recruitments like this one, but it will be an interesting one to track.
Where does Pitt get its players, and where are they looking?
It has been a big recruiting themed article, might as well keep it going. As we see new offers go out left and right by the Pitt coaches, I thought it would be interesting to look at where the current roster came from, and where the new offers are going. Here are the five states that have produced the most current Panthers, and we’ll look at the five states the staff is currently most active in on the recruiting trail.
On the Roster
Pennsylvania - 18 players
Gone are the days where you can build a wall around the WPIAL and form a strong football team, but at its core Pitt is still very reliant on its own backyard. Of the 81 players projected to be on scholarship for next season, 18 are from the Keystone State.
WPIAL alums like Jake Kradel, Gabe Houy, and Devin Danielson are all mainstays in the trenches. Some of the best young talent on the team is from the WPIAL like Elliot Donald, Nahki Johnson, and Sean FitzSimmons. A couple of breakout candidates for this year’s team like Dayon Hayes and MJ Devonshire are also from right in Pitt’s backyard. Gavin Bartholomew is probably the most prominent player on the roster from PA outside of WPIAL, as Pitt continues to try to make in-roads in the Harrisburg and Philadelphia regions.
Florida - 14 players
It should come as no surprise that Florida comprises the second most players on the roster. Pitt has traditionally recruited Florida, and that has been a continued approach, especially with assistant coach Charlie Partridge leading the charge. He has three of his four starting defensive linemen out of Florida: Calijah Kancey, Deslin Alexandre, and Habakkuk Baldondo, who is a native of Italy but played high school football in Florida. That same school also produced wide receiver Jared Wayne, a Canadian, but made his way to Florida for more exposure.
Partridge, the former head coach of Florida Atlantic, has ties beyond just his position group. He has also netted key contributors like Marquis Williams, Vincent Davis, PJ O’Brien, and Daniel Carter all out of South Florida.
But Florida is much more than just Miami, and Pitt has had some luck in other parts of the state, like grabbing starting safety Brandon Hill out of the Orlando area. Aside from Partridge, Pitt also has Tim Salem, Cory Sanders, and Tiquan Underwood working in the state.
New Jersey - 8 players
Pitt had a pretty good one from New Jersey just graduate after this past season, but there is still plenty of talent from the Garden State on the roster. Nick Patti is vying for the starting quarterback job. Carter Warren and Owen Drexel are a pair of returning starters on the offensive line. Solomon DeShields and Notre Dame transfer and NJ native Shayne Simon are competing for snaps at linebacker. Cory Sanders has been active in Southern New Jersey, while Tim Salem has remained a constant presence near New York City.
Ohio - 8 players
Pitt had some initial troubles with landing players from Ohio when it joined the ACC, but that has seemingly gone away as the Panthers have had better traction here of late. Bangally Kamara is from Akron and is projected to be a starter at linebacker. Tyler Bentley has been a contributor on the defensive line for a few years now. Ryan Baer was arguably the top recruit in Pitt’s incoming 2022 class. Branson Taylor and Terrence Moore were also nice recruiting wins. Ohio has been kind to Pitt of late with Archie Collins and Randy Bates leading the charge, and now an added boost from Ryan Manalac.
Maryland - 7 players
Pitt has been able to cross the Mason-Dixon Line with some success in recent years. Marcus Minor is a Maryland native and transferred from the University of Maryland to Pitt. He’s been a big addition up front. John Morgan has been a consistent presence in Pitt’s defensive line through the years and is a team leader. AJ Woods is battling for a starting cornerback spot, while Jaden Bradley could be a breakout candidate on offense. Andre Powell is the main point of contact here for Pitt.
2023 official visitors
Pitt has 23 players scheduled to take official visits next month, and that list will only grow as it gets closer. For now, Pitt will host prospects from eight different states in June. Florida represents the biggest fraction there with 10 visitors expected to be there. Four players from Georgia will be there, along with two each from Maryland, New Jersey, and Ohio. Kenny Johnson is the lone in-state prospect expected to be there. Current commit Kenny Minchey will represent Tennessee, while Collin Dunn will be here from Alabama.
On the recruiting trail
In the class of 2024, Pitt has already offered over 200 prospects and it’s interesting to see where those offers are going, as there is a bit of shift from how it looks on the current roster. Pitt has six players from the state of Georgia currently, but that number could grow in the future. The Pitt coaches have offered 28 players from Georgia in 2024, with Collins and Manalac leading the efforts.
Florida remains a constant presence for the Pitt coaches, as 58 players have netted offers from the staff in the Sunshine State. Pitt has also offered 19 players from Pennsylvania in this class. Of course, Whittington is already committed, and players like Quinton Martin, Anthony Speca, and Cameron Lindsey highlight the local talent in this class.
The Pitt staff has offered 13 players from New Jersey and Ohio each, and also 13 players from Texas, which is a bit of a new trend.
Overall Pitt stays true to its regional roots with emphasizing Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, and Maryland a good bit, and New York for that matter. Florida has and will continue to be an area that commands a lot of attention. The new trend recently seems to be with Georgia, and that has been building for a few years now. Not only has Pitt spent more time there, the state of Georgia continues to produce more and more talent overall. It’s no secret why Pitt and a lot of other schools have found their way there.
Pitt lands 10 commitments in June
The COVID-19 pandemic affected everything about our daily lives, including right down to Pitt football recruiting, if you can even believe it. In the 2021 recruiting class, Pitt was unable to host prospects on campus for official visits in June of 2020, and that led to only three commitments in the month.
Now let’s take it to the class class of 2022, Pitt only had a few scholarship spots to use, because of the COVID free year. The NCAA granted an extra year, and many Pitt players opted to use it, and put the staff in a numbers crunch. Only six 2022 prospects committed to Pitt in June of 2021.
I think that all changes this year...or at least goes back to the way things were.
Let’s rewind to June of 2018, Pitt snagged commitments from 14 players in the class of 2019 (though only 11 signed with Pitt). In June of 2019, Pitt landed 10 members of its 2020 class during that month.
Before COVID, June was the month for Pitt football recruiting, and my prediction is that we see that again this year. Pitt is already slated to host 23 prospects, and I suspect that number will get to around 30 total before it is all said and done.
I project Pitt will land at least 10 commitments next month. The coaching staff is bringing in 10 defensive backs next month alone, and it’s safe to assume a few players may be interested in securing a spot right then and there. Pitt also has four defensive linemen coming to town, with more perhaps being added to that list. That’s another spot where space could become competitive, which can tend to lead to commitments.
Pitt has done a nice job of running out the red carpet on its June official visits through the years, and this year things should be back to normal finally, and I believe the staff will capitalize with at least 10 commitments.