February 01, 2017

PITTSBURGH (AP) Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi figures he started recruiting defensive back Paris Ford since Narduzzi ''walked in the door'' to take over the Panthers two years ago.

Narduzzi loved Ford's raw ability, but also his unmistakable confidence, an element missing from a pass defense that finished next-to-last in the country in yards allowed in 2016.

Help is on the way. Ford officially signed his letter of intent Wednesday, the highlight of the 26-player haul that Narduzzi hopes will eventually boost Pitt out of the ACC's middle class. The Panthers are coming off consecutive 8-5 seasons.

''I think the sky's the limit for him once he gets in the weight room and is with us 24/7,'' Narduzzi said. ''I don't think we have a guy in the secondary that has the attitude he has.''

Other things to know about Narduzzi's second full class with the Panthers:

Top 25 Class: No

Best in class: Ford. The 6-foot, 175-pound Ford scored a combined 22 touchdowns during his senior year at Steel Valley High in suburban Pittsburgh, including six Pick 6s.

Best of the rest: TE Charles Reeves, Steubenville (Ohio) HS. The massive 6-foot-5, 280-pound Reeves caught 47 passes for 750 yards and eight touchdowns during his senior year.

Late addition: A.J. Davis, RB, Lakeland (Florida) HS. Davis made the Panthers wait until the last minute, announcing his signing on national television on Wednesday afternoon. The Panthers will take all the bodies they can get to replace James Conner, who is heading to the NFL.

One that got away: Lamont Wade, CB, Clairton (Pennsylvania). Pitt and rival Penn State were the finalists for the talented Wade, considered the top prep prospect in Pennsylvania. Wade ultimately committed to the Nittany Lions in December and enrolled last month.

How they'll fit in: Expect Ford to be given every opportunity to get into the lineup right away, though things don't always work out as planned. Cornerback Damar Hamlin, a four-star recruit for the Panthers in 2016, saw action in just two games even as Pitt struggled against the pass. Reeves could be a bit of a project but the Panthers love big tight ends. There will be plenty of competition in the backfield but Davis - who averaged 8 yards per carry as a senior - is durable and explosive.

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For the full list: http://www.pittsburghpanthers.com

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More AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25 .

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