Pitt getting back on track with latest recruiting cycle

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Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Men’s basketball coach Jeff Capel added five-star combo guard Jalen Hood-Schifino in late December. Capel is looking to score the highest ranked class of his tenure at Pitt.

By Tyler Moran, Staff Writer

The latest Pitt recruiting cycle has been unusually generous. For Pitt men’s basketball, the highest-rated prospect in the Capel era decided to stay home and play for the Panthers. Meanwhile, Pitt football strengthened its class of 2021 and brought in a transfer prospect with the potential to make an enormous impact. 

Men’s basketball

Pitt added program-altering talent to its class of 2022 by landing five-star combo guard Jalen Hood-Schifino on Dec. 29, 2019. A Pittsburgh native who now plays at Combine Academy in North Carolina, his commitment seemingly came out of nowhere and was a welcome surprise for Pitt supporters.

Seeing that he already stands at 6-foot-4 as a high school sophomore, it’s a safe bet to say that Hood-Schifino isn’t done growing yet. Growing an additional one to two inches wouldn’t be an impossible feat. If that growth comes to fruition, this kid will be lethal.

Hood-Schifino is currently the 25th-ranked player in the class of 2022 and the second-ranked combo guard. He possesses elite dribbling ability and court vision, often making the difficult passes look simple. He also has a smooth touch around the rim to accompany his game, along with a smooth pull-up jumper. Hood-Schifino is the epitome of a floor general and will make those around him better.

Hood-Schifino is the only player in his class to commit this early, putting the Panthers alone and, well, on top of the current national rankings for the class of 2022. His decision to play for head coach Jeff Capel will almost definitely start a ripple effect, causing other top recruits to follow suit.

Despite his talent, Hood-Schifino is still three years away from donning the blue and gold. Small forward William Jeffress, on the other hand, is a blue-chip prospect on Pitt’s radar with the potential to make an immediate impact.

The four-star Pennsylvania native out of McDowell High School is currently a part of the class of 2021, but could potentially reclassify to the class of 2020. Bringing in Jeffress would be huge for the Panthers, no matter what year he commits. It’s a likely possibility — all three crystal ball predictions on 247Sports.com have the junior coming to Pitt.

Jeffress’ skill set is dynamic and an archetype that Capel would love to have at his disposal. He stands at 6-foot-6 and 190 pounds, and with a strong frame that implies room to add muscle. He shoots efficiently and finishes at the basket well. Jeffress is also an athletic defender with the quickness and length to punish the opposition.

If he stays in his current class, the 44th-ranked player would be Pitt’s first commit of its 2021 class. If Jeffress reclassifies to 2020, he’ll join John Hugley, Max Amadasun and Noah Collier in the highest-ranked class of Capel’s tenure. 

Football

The football side of the recruiting trail for Pitt yields all positives as the program is on track to tremendously strengthen its class of 2021.

The Panthers landed a four-star transfer quarterback in Joey Yellen. The former Arizona State Sun Devil will sit out the 2020-21 season, unless his transfer waiver is approved by the NCAA. It’s unlikely that his waiver is approved, so it’s likely we will see Yellen suit up for the 2021-22 season.

When this time comes, Yellen is set to battle for the starting quarterback gig against current backups Davis Beville and Nick Patti. My money is on Yellen to win this position battle and become Pitt’s next starting quarterback, following the footsteps of current starter Kenny Pickett.

Yellen has a cannon for an arm and shows great poise in the pocket. These traits were on full display last season when he started one game against the USC Trojans, throwing for four touchdowns and 292 yards while completing 63.6% of his passes. Yellen has the potential to be something special for the Panthers once he gets comfortable with the offense.

Pitt won the recruiting battle for three-star safety Javon McIntyre from Philadelphia. The program lured the speedy safety away from rival schools Penn State and West Virginia. Head coach Pat Narduzzi’s class of 2021 jumped up to 22nd following McIntyre’s commitment. 

McIntyre has elite speed that will greatly benefit Pitt’s defense. Due to the depth at safety, he’ll likely wait a year or two to get an opportunity to showcase his skills. When he reaches his potential, he could be one of the better safeties in the ACC.

The class of 2021 has the potential to be the best recruiting class for the Panthers in years if they manage to land four-star defensive end Elliot Donald. There are a multitude of reasons why Pitt must make the cousin of former Panther legend Aaron Donald a top priority.

Donald attends Central Catholic High School, located right in Pitt’s backyard. The Panthers have struggled in recent years to get the top players from the area to commit to the program. Bringing in Donald would change that narrative for good.

Other schools competing for Donald include powerhouses such as Notre Dame, Ohio State and Penn State. The 84th-ranked player in his class would instantly become Pitt’s best recruit in its 2021 class.

Donald has elite pash-rushing ability and has the potential to wreak havoc on opponents’ offensive lines as his older cousin does in the NFL. He would be a day-one starter with the potential to leave college football as one of the best defensive ends in the nation.

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