Football and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, have gone hand in hand throughout history. The Steelers are tied for the most Super Bowls in NFL history with six. The Panthers, the college that shares Heinz Field with them, has at least six championships. The first-round buzz is a bit faint for the Panthers in the 2021 NFL Draft. However, there’s a slew of Day 2 Pitt prospects who will participate in Pitt’s 2021 Pro Day.
Pitt ended the 2020 season with a 6-5 record, going .500 in the ACC. Despite having a winning record, the university chose to sit out of a bowl berth due to health concerns. Luckily, the Panthers had just one game postponed this season on November 14 against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets due to health protocols.
When is Pitt’s Pro Day in 2021?
The pro day for the Pittsburgh Panthers will take place on March 17.
Top Pitt prospects working out at pro day
The 53rd-ranked player on Pro Football Network’s Chief Draft Analyst Tony Pauline’s 2021 draft prospect rankings and seventh among defensive ends, Patrick Jones did not field many offers from top-tier programs in the country. The three-star recruit received offers from North Carolina State, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, and California but ultimately accepted his offer from Pitt due to head coach Pat Narduzzi’s ability to develop defensive players.
Jones saw development through his first two seasons with the Panthers, followed by a fantastic two-year starting stint on the line. The DE started every game of the 2019 season, compiling 8.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss. He followed it up in 2020 with another 9.0 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss, also adding 3 pass deflections and a fumble recovery.
From PFN Draft Analyst Ian Cummings: “Jones’ pallet of traits is enticing, and his issues are mild and mostly correctable. Jones molds his game around borderline elite explosiveness and juice off the line, and he supplements that burst with excellent length, play strength, and urgency.” Jones is just one of the two Pitt DE prospects expected to be drafted in 2021 on Day 2.
Jaylen Twyman has been one of the fiercest pass rushers dating back to his days in high school. From the nation’s capital, the interior lineman helped propel HD Woodson High School on a string of DCIAA titles. He amassed 153 tackles over his final two seasons in high school, including an eye-popping 91 tackles during his senior season. Like Jones, Twyman made his way to Pitt due to the university’s defensive notoriety and his love for former Panthers DL and current Los Angeles Rams superstar Aaron Donald.
DT4 and ranked 73rd overall on Pauline’s big board, Twyman took the nation by storm during his redshirt sophomore season in 2019. Voted first-team All-ACC, the DT wracked up 10.5 sacks, 41 tackles, and 12 tackles for loss. Twyman became the first Pitt DT to lead the team in sacks since Donald. After receiving a second-round grade for the 2020 NFL Draft, he returned to Pitt for another season.
Unfortunately, due to the global health situation, Twyman opted out of the 2020 season, citing family reasons, and declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Per PFN Draft Analyst Oliver Hodgkinson: “…[Twyman’s] explosion allows him to win at the line of scrimmage. In addition to this, he flashes impressive hand placement, speed, and strength.” However, “In losing roughly 30 pounds at the start of his Pittsburgh career, he is now somewhat undersized compared to existing NFL defensive tackles. That lack of size is telling in the run game.”
Due to opting out, this pro day will be the first time seeing Twyman since the 2019 season concluded. While others amongst the class have surpassed him, Pitt’s 2021 Pro Day is the best chance for the prospect to re-elevate his draft stock.
While the Panthers have not been in the college football spotlight consistently as of late, their imprint is all over the NFL. They’ve consistently produced high-quality NFL talent all over the field. As previously mentioned, this drives some players to turn down offers from national powerhouses to join the defensive tradition at Pitt. Panthers safety Paris Ford followed this path like many others.
After dazzling in western Pennsylvania sports powerhouse Seton LaSalle, the S received offers from Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, and others. Paris Ford denied all the top schools and committed to his hometown school of Pitt.
Ford emerged in 2019
Ford made his name known during the 2019 season.
In Pitt’s third game against Penn State in Happy Valley, the safety compiled 11 tackles. He followed this performance up three weeks later with 2 interceptions (one was a pick-six) against Duke. However, despite these performances and a 28-0 loss, Ford’s tape against the Virginia Tech Hokies on November 23, 2019, solidified his name amongst the top safety talents in the 2021 NFL Draft. Despite starting the 2020 season, Ford opted out with four games left to prepare for the draft.
From PFN Draft Analyst Nick Farabaugh:
“He is no longer just viewed as a box safety that can come downhill and make big tackles. On the contrary, Ford has shown he is capable in that role, in the slot, and as a deep safety in both Cover 1 and Cover 2 schemes. That versatility will be viewed as a huge plus among NFL teams.”
His testing at Pitt’s 2021 Pro Day can raise Ford’s draft stock significantly. According to Pauline, he ranks as the 115th overall player and is tied for seventh in the safety group. Ford should be one of four Pitt prospects drafted on the second day of the 2021 NFL Draft.