This Wednesday is the final deadline for high school football players to sign their letters of intent and secure their spot in a college football program. There was an earlier signing day on Dec. 16, where recruits had the option to sign and even enroll early in some cases with their schools. While the early signing day is popular with some, many recruits still choose waiting in order to pursue other opportunities or take advantage of the robust national media coverage that comes with National Signing Day.
247Sports has Pitt’s 2021 recruiting class currently ranked at 23rd in the country, which is good enough for fourth in the ACC.
Back in December, the Panthers were fortunate, as 21 commits signed with them, and just two of those commits chose to forgo their option to sign and wait instead. Of the 21 players to sign, three of them are ranked among 247Sports’ top 300 recruits in the country.
Where the class stands now
Of the 21 commits, nine chose to enroll early at Pitt and are already here on campus, taking classes and working out with the football team.
One of the early enrollees, Trey Andersen, is not your typical first-year. Andersen graduated in 2019, and, rather than go play football, chose to join a two-year church mission that COVID-19 cut short. Andersen was also born into football. His father, Jason Andersen, was an NFL offensive lineman for four years with the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs.
Andersen is expected to play either tight end or offensive line for the Panthers. Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said he understands the value of a player who is older than the typical first-year.
“He won’t be just a 17- or 18-year-old high school player coming in,” Narduzzi said. “Very mature, and we’re excited about having him and his family out here.”
Another player of note is quarterback Nate Yarnell. Yarnell is a 6-foot-6 pro-style quarterback out of Texas. Yarnell enrolled early, and will get more time to learn under veteran starting quarterback Kenny Pickett, who chose to forgo the NFL draft and play another year for Pitt.
Once Pickett is gone, most likely either redshirt freshman transfer Joey Yellen or redshirt freshman Davis Beville will take over the starting role under center. For Pitt fans, the hope is that Yarnell can use this time to develop and eventually earn his playing time once he gets his shot.
Also among the early enrollees is one of Pitt’s top commits, Nahki Johnson. Johnson is a defensive end from nearby Homestead, where he attends West Mifflin Area High School and is one of the three prized recruits ranked in the top 300. According to 247Sports, Johnson is the third highest rated recruit in Pitt’s 2021 class.
Johnson is an explosive edge rusher, and was the first of the entire 2021 class to commit. With both of Pitt’s starting defensive ends — Rashad Weaver and Patrick Jones II — heading to the NFL Draft, Johnson couldn’t have joined Pitt at a better time. He will add valuable depth to a talented, but young, group of defensive ends.
Although he isn’t one of the early enrollees, Naquan Brown joins Johnson as an elite four-star on the defensive line who is headed to Pitt. Pitt’s second highest rated recruit, Brown is a fearless type of player who can explode off the edge and drop into coverage when necessary. He’s also capable of playing outside linebacker, and has the necessary room on his frame to add some muscle.
Brown and Johnson will join Pitt and develop under the same coaching and with the same facilities as former Panther standout edge rushers Jones and Weaver.
Pitt’s top recruit in the 2021 class is yet another defensive lineman. Elliot Donald, nephew of former Pitt football great and current NFL star Aaron Donald, is an elite defensive tackle from Pittsburgh out of Oakland’s own Central Catholic High School. Donald has very quick hands and great hips, just like his uncle.
Not being an early enrollee, Donald needs to get stronger, and joining Pitt for camp in the fall will be key to success at the beginning of his career. Pitt’s top three recruits bring incredible talent and depth to an already loaded defensive line system.
What to expect on Wednesday
There were two commits, both offensive linemen, who did not sign when given the opportunity in December, Brandon Honorable and Marco Fugar. It is not yet clear whether or not they will sign on Wednesday, given that Pitt has already had three offensive linemen sign in December along with Andersen.
Honorable is a 6-foot-7, 280-pound offensive tackle out of Detroit who shows quickness and the ability to move laterally on film. According to his Twitter bio, Honorable still plans to come to Pitt, as he has remained verbally committed since May 2020. If he does sign with the Panthers, he will need to work on his technique and need to get stronger in order to better utilize his size.
According to 247Sports’ Crystal Ball Predictions, all five experts who predicted where Honorable will go to school have said he will head to Pitt.
Fugar is a 6’4 offensive guard from Florida who committed to Pitt back in late April 2020. He shows potential in his power and his ability to get down field to make blocks. But, unlike Honorable, predicting Fugar’s decision is harder. The recruit has given no public indication of why he didn’t sign with the Panthers in December, despite committing during the spring.
The college football season just came to an official conclusion less than three weeks ago when Alabama dominated Ohio State 52-24 in the national championship game, but recruiting makes the sport a year-round game. On Wednesday morning, the Panthers will hope for two key wins in the battle for Fugar and Honorable to wrap up their offseason.
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