Pitt’s All-American DT Jaylen Twyman heading to NFL

Rob Rang

The list of college players opting out on the 2020 season and jumping directly to the NFL grew to six over the weekend with Pittsburgh’s All-American defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman announcing his plans on social media.

The 6-2, 290 pound Twyman is coming off of a breakout 2019 campaign in which he exploded for 10.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss to earn First Team All-ACC honors, as well as All-American recognition from multiple publications.

Those numbers, along with his relatively undersized frame and the fact that he wore the same No. 97 jersey which Pitt and Los Angeles Rams’ legend Aaron Donald made famous has helped earn Twyman plenty of comparisons to his Panthers’ predecessor.

While his production certainly was impressive last year, frankly, I was disappointed with his tape after reviewing it closely during NFLDraftScout.com’s summer series breaking down the top prospects from the top conferences.

Here is the full, updated scouting report from that article, which includes our ranking of Pitt’s top 10 NFL prospects.

Jaylen Twyman, DT, 6-2, 290, 5.0, rJR

While it certainly did not generate the buzz that fellow breakout star Joe Burrow enjoyed for the national champion LSU Tigers, Twyman’s emergence as one of the most productive interior pass rushers in college football was a key storyline for the 2019 season.

Twyman was expected to become a star after signing with Pitt as a four-star recruit out of the Washington D.C. area, but his ascent was delayed after redshirting his first season on campus. He played in all 13 games in 2018 but started just one, finishing the year with a total of 16 tackles, including 1.5 for loss and half a sack.

Twyman topped those numbers by the end of September last year, however, recording 5.5 sacks in his first four games, including a three sack blowout against Ohio and a career-high six stops (including 1.5 sacks) against rival Penn State a week later. Twyman wound up recording 41 tackles overall on the year with 10.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss, overall.

He led the team in sacks, becoming the first Panther interior defensive lineman since Donald did so in 2013 with 11 quarterback takedowns (among his 28.5 tackles for loss).

Twyman was well acknowledged for his role in Pitt’s dominant pass rush, earning recognition from the Outland Trophy as its National Defensive Player of the Month for September, as well as First Team All-ACC accolades and Second Team All-American honors from numerous publications.

Strengths: Good initial quickness off the snap to threaten gaps, with the core flexibility to “get skinny” to squeeze through. Effective pairing of his upper and lower, showing a powerful hand-slap and lower-body deke to swim his way through the line of scrimmage. Active hands with good grip and overall upper body strength to rip and release.

Effective bull rusher when he keeps his pads low and his legs driving. Locates the ball quickly and shows terrific effort laterally and downfield in pursuit.

Disproportionately long arms with good hand-eye coordination to trip up ballcarriers. No known injury or off-field concerns.

Weaknesses: Lacks an explosive element to his game. Overly reliant on his initial quickness to gain an advantage against blockers, too often getting caught in a stalemate at the point of attack. Lacks ideal bulk and gets pushed off the line too easily, struggling to anchor when teams run right at him. Can be collapsed by double-teams when he isn’t able to slither between them. Surprisingly heavy-footed when rushing the quarterback given his production, showing just average agility and closing speed for an “undersized” interior pass-rush specialist. Average height and ball awareness for passing lanes, tipping just two throws in 21 career games. Has zero forced fumbles (or fumble recoveries) during that time, as well.

NFL Player Comparison: Sheldon Day, Indianapolis Colts – Like Twywan, the 6-foot-1, 285 pound Day played at a big time program in Notre Dame, producing impressive numbers, including 141 tackles, 32.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks before the Jacksonville Jaguars made him the 104 overall selection of the 2016 draft. Day has spent two tours with the Jags and San Francisco 49ers since and is now on the Colts’ roster after recording 15 tackles and one sack for the NFC champions last year.

Current NFL Draft Projection: Third-Fourth Round