Pitt football newcomers making big impact

Pitt football has seen success so far this season, and several newcomers have had a big impact. Pitt has seen a number of players who earned their first shot at playing this season making the most of their opportunities.


On the offensive side of the ball, freshman receiver Jordan Addison stepped in and filled the role of Maurice Ffrench, who is now signed to the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad. Ffrench led the Panthers in catches and yards last season with 96 catches for 850 yards and four touchdowns. This left a big hole to be filled, and Addison has done an excellent job stepping up and getting the job done. Addison currently leads Pitt in catches and yards with 169 yards on 21 receptions and two touchdowns. He also has carried the ball four times for 39 yards, providing a threat on the ground as well.

Another new face for the Panthers making big plays is fellow receiver, senior DJ Turner. Turner transferred from Maryland just weeks before Pitt’s season started, and he has proven to be a big pickup. Turner is second on the team in both catches and yards hauling in nine catches for 133 yards and a touchdown. He has provided much-needed depth at receiver and has proven to be one of quarterback Kenny Pickett’s favorite targets.

In the run game, freshman running back Israel Abanikanda showed he may be the best player in the Pitt backfield. While Abanikanda is currently in a running back by committee, many fans are calling for him to take over the top spot. He has the highest average yards per rush at 4.8 but has a small sample size with only 14 carries. Abanikanda showed his explosiveness with the ball and looks like the most talented of the Panthers’ backs. Given more opportunities, he may become the star running back Pitt is looking for.


On the opposite side of the ball, Pitt football saw some standout players on defense who are finally getting their shot, most notably redshirt freshman Calijah Kancey. Kancey was thrust into a starting spot on the defensive line when defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman announced that he would be sitting out the season, and he has done a lot with the opportunity. Kancey has four tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks and a pass defended so far this year. Joining a defensive line that was already stacked with talent, Kancey is showing he is another stud opposing offenses should fear.

Another defensive lineman, first-year defensive end Dayon Hayes showed he has what it takes to help the Panthers win. Due to Pitt’s defensive line already being loaded with talent, Hayes has only seen the field in a blowout against Austin Peay. Although he hasn’t had much playing time, Hayes made the most of it. He picked up two sacks in his only appearance. Hayes looks like he is ready to step in and continue hitting quarterbacks whenever the coaches call on him.

Pitt football relied on these players putting up numbers and positively impacting the game and will continue to rely on them going forward. It can be expected as they gain more experience at the college level for some and at Pitt for others, these players will look even better than they already do. They will become even more crucial to the Panthers’ success as the season goes on and the opponents get tougher.

Photo by Kaycee Orwig | The Pitt News