A Look Back at Some Pitt Recruits

During the offseason we fans tend to look backward over the history of Pitt football and start talking about teams and players we were familiar with.  Some of them we liked, some disappointed.  A few months ago I compiled a list of 2* and 3* recruits (Rivals.com) whom I though played above those star ratings.

It encompasses the last 13 years and there are some names on there that shocked me to see that they were rated so low coming out of high school.  Here is the list:

YR Player Position Stars
‘03 G. Lee  @Pitt
WR 2*
‘03 Clermond LB 2*
Session OLB 3*
McGlynn OL 3*
‘04 Strong TE 2*
Kinder WR 2*
  Revis  @Pitt
DB 3*
‘05 Mustakas DL 2*
CJ Davis OL 2*
‘06 Romeus  @Pitt
DE 2*
  Pinkston  @Pitt
OL 3*
Wright DB 2*
‘07 Gruder ILB 2*
  Hynoski*  @Pitt
FB 3*
 ’08  Dion  Lewis  @Pitt  RB  3*
Taglianetti DB 2*
Turnley OL 2*
‘09 Street  @Pitt
WR 2*
Hendricks DB 2*
‘10 Mosley-Smith DL 3*
S. Johnson OL 3*
‘11 Bennett RB 2*
‘12 Caprara LB 2*
  Holtz  @Pitt
TE 3*
‘13 Blewitt K 2*
Webb DB 2*
‘14 Wirginis LB 2*
Blair DE 2*
Ollison  @Pitt
RB 3*

The kids didn’t elicit this sort of reaction from the college’s Recruiting War Rooms – the 4* and 5* “gets” do that.  But you can bet that a lot of these 2*-3* kids were very much wanted by their prospective teams because the truth is that college football staffs don’t care a bit about recruiting starts.  But we fans do because that’s mostly what we look at to debate the merits of the recruits.

From this we can see that although these players were not highly rated recruits as far as the  “star system” goes almost all of them came to Pitt and became eventual starters.  Not an easy thing to do and sounds great, yeah?

But hold on… The real meat of the matter is what quality of Pitt teams did these young men become starters for?  I’ve highlighted in red which players I think could have started for Top 25 teams. But most of those players would have had a tough time starting for the better Power 5 conference programs.

And some of the earlier and later recruits would have had a tough time being starters in the years 2008-2010 when we were having the better winning seasons under Dave Wannstedt.

This leads me to something I have wondered for some time – which lowly ranked Pitt recruit went on to have the best career at Pitt in your opinion?  You’ll have to rely on your memories as the recruiting sites only keep records back to around 2003 or so.

Some of you older guys can probably chip in with local players who were somewhat overlooked but came to Pitt and blossomed.  I was overseas for much of the time in the years 1978 to1998 so I don’t have that memory database since it was before the Internet

Here is a poll to see which player in the above listing do you feel was the most underrated going into their freshman year at Pitt.

Here is an interesting take on the prospective movement of head coaches at one school fleeting up to bigger and better programs. This guy, Rich Cirminiello of Campus Insiders thinks that three major coaching changes, where the HCs will move to bigger programs will take place after this season.  The first HC he talks about is Pitt’s Pat Narduzzi as you can see in the video here.

Before you panic understand anyone can say anything they want on the Internet (I know! Weird huh?)  and because we are reading, or seeing the content in the ‘media’ we tend to take it more seriously than if a guy slid up to the urinal next to us at Bettis’ Bar before the Villanova game and whispered :”Hey, between you and me –  Narduzzi to Nebraska – take that to the bank” then disappeared.

In other words, take it with a grain of salt. But I’ll say this; I have a draft piece in the works that addresses just this issue of retaining Narduzzi and will publish that soon.  I don’t think this guy is a nut case by any means.

Note in that video the shot of Narduzzi screaming at Jim Chaney. No love lost between those two by the end of last season.

BTW – for our new readers here on Pitt POV be advised that I always use Rivals.com as the baseline when discussing recruiting ratings and rankings.  I do that not because they are the most accurate but because I want us all to be using the same info when we talk about this aspect of Pitt football.

That said I just got an idea for another article – which site has been most on target with recruiting stars (*) and points awarded? Stay tuned for that.

Who wrote it?

“I saw the best players of my generation destroyed by the no-huddle, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the Southside streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,

helmeted athletes burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the dynamo offense in the machinery of practice,

who bared their brains to PITT across Panther Hollow and saw soot covered freshman angels staggering on dormitory roofs illuminated,

who passed through university with radiant eyes hallucinating Wannstedt’s and Graham’s -light tragedy among the traditions of PITT,

who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes on the windows of the Dirty O and on plate glass doors

who cowered unshaven in lockers rooms in underwear because of missed assignments and listening to the coaches’ frenzy through the wall,

and incomparable fields of shuddering cloud and lightning in the mind leaping towards the end zones of Fifth and Forbes, illuminating all the motionless world of Football… frozen.”

Editors Note: The Pitt POV has almost reached the level of viewership that the Pitt Blather has been averaging over the last year. The Blather is still the most popular but the fact that this site has been so warmly received makes me very happy that I did it.

You’ll be seeing advertisements on here – some are already showing up.  As I mentioned earlier one of the reasons I started The Pitt POV is to raise money for charity and to do that I have to advertise. I don’t think they intrude much so I’m OK with the arrangement so far.

 

32 thoughts on “A Look Back at Some Pitt Recruits

  1. Hi Reed! Nice looking site and congratulations on your new journey!
    I’m looking forward to regularly visiting.

    Comment on the prior post regarding beer….I think its an enlightened move by the Administration and fair for those of us who cannot or do not choose to sit in the club level. Whether it helps attract more fans or not can be debated, but Pitt can use any edge it can get in a town with so many other competing activities.

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  2. Thanks JoeL and welcome aboard.

    Regardless of the reasoning behind the beer sales I personally like it. I drive 4.5 hours to get to the games and want to maximize my pleasure before I have to make that 4.5 hour drive back the next day. I don’t drink hardly at all in Maryland where I live so each visit up to PGH really is like a mini-vacation for me.

    Tailgating with friends will be better because I will drink beer then and continue on through the first 3 quarters – I believe they will shut sales down at the end or the third. I know a lot of tailgaters who drink the hard stuff to get more of a buzz on so that ‘it will last three hours’.

    Pass the site link to your friends – the more the merrier and better the Pitt talk.

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  3. A thought …. not only were Mustakas and CJ Davis 2-stars, they both started as natural freshmen which may hint at what the state of the line was at that time. Yes, both of them proved to be worthier than their ratings, but starting your first year on the line is not common even for a 3 or 4 star.

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  4. Regarding your last topic today…Duzz aint going anywhere, even if he goes 10-2 this season. Pitt will pony up to keep him the way the previous admin used to do it with Dixon.

    This administration recognizes that football drives the train. It is their priority.

    Plus, Duzz didnt just jump at the latest opening before coming to Pitt..this was a perfect fit. Even if the MSU job were to open up, I believe he would stay and feels that he can grow Pitt into a powerhouse like the glory days.

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    1. I like the way you think. Narduzzi and Pittsburgh, a good match. Maybe not a high profile elite program to stoke up a narcissistic personality of certain coaches who shall remain nameless, but Narduzzi and Pittsburgh both know football and I feel that Narduzzi equates the Burgh as home for him and his family. If this administration doesn’t alienate Narduzzi with some $hithead administrative disaster, Narduzzi will build Pitt’s program into a force to be reckoned with in the ACC, sooner rather than later.

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  5. Session, McGlynn, and Davis easily could’ve been multiple year starters @ top 25 and even top 5-10 programs. You don’t last in the NFL and get some burn in the process if you aren’t of that caliber. Otherwise, nice list and viewpoint.

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  6. Guys on that list who played above their star ranking and not listed in red:

    Clermond (10 sacks in 2007)
    Kinder
    CJ Davis
    Mustakas
    Hendricks

    Since I’m somewhat of an old timer, a guy who had a solid career on the O-line years ago and is never remembered was Gary Gorajewski, in 1990 and ’91. I think he was from North Hills.

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  7. There are fans that think Pitt means we are a college version of the Steelers and have this great name recognition/Draw, they think that is what we are and can achieve. Then there is me as a general non alum fan that just wants someone to make serious runs every couple of years. Even while being in “Power 5” I look at 2 models I would rather be as a sports fan. Our rival has done it for years! WVU. They get the “lesser” recruits like the ones above who have panned out for us and arguably supplement that with kids that are seen as falling through academic “loopholes”. That mix imho has resulted in a program that every 2-3 (4th year really high rank) years generates special runs that captivates the fan base on a far more consistent level. I don’t think the Pat Whites or Slaton’s were super high recruits. There was probably others that may not have been strong “academically” or even character, i.e. Pac Man :/ … but they “put up” with it and won. Pitt may have a “higher” standard but I am so tired of banking my hopes on the once in 5-6 year teams that seem to falter anyways. Coach seems to be building something but for me its hear today gone tomorrow. Pat is not sticking around if greener pastures appear…then we are right back in the same place. Years of trying to build a “pro” program chalk full of 4-5 star guys that can just bully less talented teams man for man…Which brings me to the other example, Toledo. The have a similar program in place to a WVU, they are chalk full of 2-3 star guys from the greater Pittsburgh area, along with Ohio recruits. A spread em out gimmicky style that schools not name Bama, ND, LSU etc. have to do to supplement in certain areas. They again like WVU with less respect, become that MAC team capable of beating 90% of power five teams when that group of players matures every 3rd or 4th year. In a vague summarization:

    1. If you want to call Pitt as a greater “standards” team/school, Great- Not all athletically gifted people are talented in all academic/social facets. Lets take a few more that may not do well in aptitude test, but have shown they have an academic pulse. Many of these kids do finish up with an education and more often help a program become better. less dependency of hit or miss or trying to obtain and maintain an unfair abundance of 4-5 star kids.

    2. I would rather have teams on a bi annual basis that put legitimate scares/runs that gain national recognition, than my current Pitt that plods through each year with midline records and why?

    3…Because we think we are the late 70’s early 80’s Pitt. Essentially what Bama, ND Michigan most decades, heck even PSU up until, well you know, type schools are now and have always been. Great plush campuses, larger state alumni bases, big name recognition etc. Pitt had that for a fleeting moment in our “modern” history. We are not going to have recruiting classes that result in 22 starters with 11-15 as high draft picks with the others and back ups getting a shot in camp. We are not that school, that essentially are pro teams. they don’t need spread offenses or gimmicks. they just run at and through you. with statue QB’s that throw to minimum height 6’2 , 4.5 minimum speed, receivers.

    …Lets be the Conference USA, AAC team that runs up a 1-2 loss season every couple of years, and hope maybe we get lucky and change the 1-2 losses to wins and get in the tourney. I think the most fun I had over the past 15 years as a Pitt fan was with Walt, who’s programs really exemplified the closest to what I am talking about. High flying, Not super highly recruited guys, a little short, not fast enough, JUCO etc. But they were fun and I think he maintained 2-3 more wins a year than his successors.

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    1. I reread your post above twice and I still have no idea of what you’re attempting to convey?
      Putting out WVU as an example of a successful football program over the last few years is equally perplexing. Since joining the Big 12 WVU is at 26-25 and sits at 15-21 in conference W&Ls. SMH.

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    1. @ Bill Hale, Donald was a consensus three star when all was said and done with his HS career. He would still be my pick however. His accomplishments with the Panthers was nothing short of miraculous. As a senior he played like a five star recruit and the post season awards rained down on him accordingly.
      Currently he continues to demonstrate that he is a future HOF player in the NFL. Rookie of the year, Pro Bowler all the while earning the respect of OL guys across the League that just absolutely hate lining up against him.
      Hands down, massive overachiever at any & all levels. Make room for one more retired Pitt Jersey soon enough.

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  8. Excellent timing on this article. I hear and read a lot of complaints on how the new coaching staff is “just bringing in the same old type of star recruit”. I don’t think that’s true and even if it was, thanks for pointing out that it may not be all that bad of a job recruiting with your blog, how can anyone see into the future how recruit A or B may turn out or what type of genes one may have in the family. Most of the time I will defer to the head coach on most decisions. Although it is fun to discuss.

    Also, I would hope like heck that PITT will continue to step up to keep not only the head coach but all the asst coaches they can each coming year. Continuity is so important to the PITT football program right now.

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  9. The vast majority of college football players are 3 star, so naturally some of them will mature and excel.
    If you look at the perennial top ten teams.you will see that they get more 4 and 5 star guys.

    While I think Narduzzi is bringing in better players (they have better competing offers), he has not jumped recruiting up to the standards of the top twenty type teams. It remains to be seen how well his current bunch will do, but it is pretty obvious what guys like Whitehead and Boyd can do for a team.

    Also as Reed mentions, even though some of these guys turned out great, not enough of them did to make a big difference, they played on average teams, some a little above, some a little below.

    We need our share of 4 star guys if we want to get consistently in the top twenty with a top ten every few years. Very few teams have done it without them.

    Football is still a game of stars (pun intended) you need way more than a few to play at a championship level.

    Case in point the two best teams in the ACC,, FSU and Clemson, consistently have the best ranked recruiting classes. Lots of four star guys at these and schools like tOSU, Alabama etc.

    That is why it hurts when Pitt loses top WPIAL guys like Miles Sanders, and Jurkovec. Guys like Terrelle Pryor are huge difference makers.

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  10. I mostly agree with Mike H; in fact, I’ve made many of the same points for years. We still have great players … Fitz, Revis, McCoy, Donald, etc … but we cannot surround them with the talent that we surrounded Dorsett and Marino with. Florida, Texas, Calif, and even NJ and OH have long surpassed W Pa with quality/quantity high school recruits.

    And that’s just the beginning … Pitt is in a pro football city where the NFL team is revered, and we don’t have nearly the alumni base that the biggies have.

    I cannot see Pitt ever coming close to what it was in late 70s … competing annually for the Coastal is the best we can hope for.

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  11. It will be interesting to see if Duzz is indeed becoming a “Pitt man” or is this just a stepping stone for him. He has said several times he is a guy that doesn’t like to move around a lot and he definitely could have had other jobs before he chose to accept the Pitt gig.

    If this new administration is serious about being a big time program they have to realize if Narduzzi has success they will have to pay above the 2 million or so he is making now. If they are not willing to pay in the 3-4 million range annually you will never keep a successful coach.

    I think Narduzzi is a good fit here and his blue collar defensive style is perfect for western Pa. What worries me is that if local kids continue to pick other schools and attendance does not improve, Narduzzi may get frustrated and look to move on. If Pitt starts winning and Heinz starts filling up and the administration is willing to pay, I can see Duzz being here for the long haul.

    Let’s start winning some big games and get to an ACC Championship first, before we get ahead of ourselves. It will be interesting however to see if he does start having some real success if he is ready to call Pittsburgh home or just using Pitt as a springboard to a bigger gig like other coaches have here in the past…

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  12. wwb, formerly known as wbb,

    While my head agrees with your supposition that we will never win another NC, My heart says that if the Pitt Admin has the will, we could be another top twenty team with top tens once in a while. All it really takes is money. It is more of an uphill battle since there are fewer local players and we do have fewer fans.

    Unfortunately I think Pitt Admin will always opt for fiscal prudence, and since there are other great sports teams in the region, the fans will never push them to do more.

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  13. gc, I like to shake things up a little bit.

    Pitt’s history is a period of prioritizing / financing athletics followed by an even longer period of not doing so, and there is no reason to believe this pattern will not continue.

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  14. Chris Peak ‏@PantherLair 17h hours ago
    #Pitt target Connor Heyward says his brother Cam “only trusts a couple college coaches and Coach Narduzzi is one of them.”

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  15. Wow – what a great and thoughtful comment string.

    I agree with both gc and wwb (I hardly recognized you) that until we see a sustained outpouring of $$$ in both good and bad years then I have to assume we are riding a bit of a high right now.

    What Pitt needs is to have 2-3 winning seasons in a row and get into the mindset that winning seasons is the norm and the gold… not just avoiding non-winning years. Do that, fund for the long run and we may see this program get to the Top 25 annually., or at least most seasons.

    A National Championship? Could happen but it will be a lightning in a bottle year – I don’t see us being a perennial NC contender every year as some other, bigger programs are.

    I have a draft article about Narduzzi and what the next 3-5 years might hold for both him and Pitt. Either way that is in the future and I really don’t think we have to worry about it until after the 2017 season … unless Narduzzi wins 9+ wins this season with that tough schedule.

    Anyway – that will Narduzzi article will be posted in the beginning of next week for your reading pleasure…

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  16. I will take a somewhat different view. Being in the ACC gives Pitt access to a national championship game if we take care of our coastal business. I see us very similarly as I do MSU. OSU or Mich typically had their division wrapped up. MSU was always poking around the door and as soon as Michigan faltered, MSU stepped into their shoes. If you win your division, and follow that with a championship game victory, you are right in the mix. That is a value proposition which should be appealing to local athletes as the dairy college needs too many teams (OSU, Mich and MSU) to falter before they have a chance at a championship.

    For that reason, I am probably in the minority in my belief that Narduzzi stays for a longtime, regardless of his success at Pitt. Obviously, if he goes 2-10 for a couple years in a row, he will most likely be terminated. Every year that goes by gets him closer to staying. At 4 years, MSU becomes a distant memory and he starts approaching 55 years old. He knows more than anyone that his path to a championship game is most easily accomplished at Pitt. Pitt just needs to understand this and make a commitment to winning. We are on the right path, but much more is needed.

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  17. Huff, while I agree there is a path to the NC because of the ACC you still need the Horses and a lot of luck to get there. !. win the Coastal, 2. Beat FSU, Clemson or….3. Win 2 playoff games against really great teams. Not impossible but very improbable. Definitely would require several back to back years of stellar recruiting.

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  18. Re: Narduzzi options. I doubt that he goes anywhere soon, barring some catastrophic screw-up by AD or administration. The reason? There is nothing in his record to indicate that type of inclination. He has turned down many opportunities for a long time. True, there may be a “Dream Job” in the back of his mind, but any big time opening will be pursued by a lot of coaches with much better resumes, and potential assistants lists than PN. If he ever gets Pitt in the playoff 2-3 times, then I’d start to worry.

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    1. A good objective analysis of a dark horse contender for the ACC Coastal Crown. Although Peterman is the essential ingredient for success, both staying healthy as well as being productive, James Conner just st may be the catalyst to create that championship reaction that is produced when the emotional commitment to accomplishing something “Special” is considered.
      What occurs in the first two home games could produce enough momentum in this team to make the UNC game a W.
      We’ll see.

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  19. Nice Reads Dion. Pretty positive stuff. I had to laugh at the part about Galambos setting his personal best 19 tackles vs, Navy. Pretty funny. Too bad they were after 8 yard gains.The articles do make you feel pretty good about our chances in the Coastal.

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  20. I think the bottom line at least for me, is that this program is headed in the right direction. It is full of energy, good leadership, positive press, better recruits (at least on paper), return of the script and…BEER! This team has to have a good season. Even though it is year two under Narduzzi, they have to show growth with at least the same 8 wins AND a win against a top ranked program. The close losses we had last year need to be turned into wins. Excited for September, HTP!

    Great site Reed! Happy and safe 4th to all.

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  21. Comment by Altoona_Josh

    Taglianetti if I recall had no other D1 offers. Prior to his ACL the kid was a difference maker. He was smart and had a nose for the ball. He also blocked punts and kicks (I think he has the Pitt record for blocked Punts) better than anyone I have seen since play for Pitt since I started following in 1992.

    One other player that comes to mind as performing way above starts (Reed he wasn’t on your list I am assuming because he last played for Pitt in 2001) was Antonio Bryant.

    If I remember correctly he was 1 star and had only one other D1 offer from Lousiville. He was dynamic and was more exciting after the catch than even the great Larry Fitzgerald. He was the type of player that made those around him play to a higher level.

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  22. I really don’t think HCPN is going anywhere for a long while. Not just wishful thinking either.

    First of all, for him to go somewhere in the next couple (even 3-4) years, he’s gonna have to have some very impressive seasons the next couple years. (Great for Pitt).

    If this becomes the case, that he puts a couple 10-2’s together and a couple top 15 rankings together, if he goes, he will have laid an excellent foundation for Pitt, the next coach, and recruiting.

    We’d be in a great place. So, even if he is lured somewhere someday, it will be because of what he did while at Pitt.

    We win.

    Second of all, if he does have some dream job, it won’t be a done deal immediately. We now have in place some people in the administration that will at least certainly try to retain him at all cost if he has done well here. Could we match the boatload of money from Alabama, Notre Dame or USC??? No. But after you get past the glory programs, we could very well be in the fight with the money at that time. But at least we’ll have some responsible people involved.

    Finally, does he have a “dream” job? His Alma Mater’s are Youngstown State and Rhode Island. Longing to go back there? Hell, YSU is like Pittsburgh’s suburb. Same kind of people, really same area.

    Michigan State??? I don’t know. He coached there for 7 years. Ok. Not his Alma Mater. He knows some people there, friends with some coaches. Ok. What’s that mean.

    He’s been gone from there going on 2 years already now, in a couple years, he’ll be removed from there for 4 or 5 years. Still know a few people, but???????

    I mean, does he have a longing from childhood to coach at Michigan State???

    If he does well here for the next 3-4 years, I think the administration will address all his needs financial and otherwise, that he will want to stay here and be here.

    He doesn’t strike me as a guy that if offered a fair 4 or 5 million (just a number), that’d he’d hold someone hostage for 6 or 7.

    Also, as much as I love him, he’s gotta produce. What if Pitt goes 3-9 this year?? Wont’ be such a hot commodity.

    Gut feeling, I think Pitt, W.Pa. and HCPN are going to have a long relationship.

    Like

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