It seems to me by reading Pitt fans’ reactions to our latest recruiting commitments that we just might be the only team, in the ACC at least, who gets excited about 3* and 5.5 – 5.7 rated high school players coming onto their roster.
This isn’t just this year or this head coach but has gone back to the days right after Dave Wannstedt was fired at the end of the 2010 season and when we had that shattered recruiting class of 2011.
That was back when there was true instability in the football program with the changeover of three HCs in three years and all the negative press which had been dragged along with that. But we are far past that now and in a real sense have had a run of six years of relatively normal operations in the program.
Yes, losing one HC and hiring another, while not ideal, is very common these days. At the end of 2015 only 29% of the then-current HCs of the 128 FBS programs had been at their schools for four years or longer… which in turn means the 71% programs had turned over HCs within four years – Pitt among them.
So Paul Chryst staying for three years and leaving, and departing on good terms by the way, is the norm in college ball today and isn’t looked at as a negative any longer. Thus it isn’t necessarily a negative recruiting tool to be believed by recruits and their parents. The crap we went though in the administration from 2010 until 2012… yes, that was a bad aberration, but lately it’s not so much.
The point here being that after two years of having Pat Narduzzi at the helm and his having two of the best successive years Pitt has had since 2008-09 our recruiting should have stabilized by now.
But has it?
The truth is that it well may have stabilized but at a level we don’t want to see in our program. As stated above Pitt fans seem to feel that, in recruiting, average is not only acceptable but is apparently desirable. With that we have been jumping up and down and exclaiming “There is a Pat signal!” and thinking we got a great kid every time Narduzzi lands a 3* recruit (as determined by Rivals.com).
Winning programs, real honest to goodness winning programs, are not built on the backs of 3* high school players. They just aren’t and Pitt has shown that to be true over and over again because that is what we get and we have a total of two sustained winning seasons in the last seven years.
In 2016 we had a second consecutive eight win season and both those years were done mainly with Paul Chryst recruits. Especially on the offensive side of the ball where almost every player, save QB Nate Peterman and then in 2016 ATH Quadree Henderson, had been on roster before Narduzzi took over (see left).
With those players we set offensive scoring records this last season the likes of Pitt hadn’t achieved in 100+ years of football. It is no surprise that Chryst concentrated on the offensive side of things given his background as an offensive coordinator before being hired here at Pitt. Those FR and SOs he had recruited who were on the roster after he left made their mark and were highly successful in their upperclassman years.
Reversely, we saw one of the worst defensive showings in 2017 that Pitt has every had also in giving up 35.2 points per game and 333 yards per game passing. Truly horrendous and as a flip side to the above, again it was done with mostly Chryst recruits.
Why can’t Pitt have it both ways for a change you may ask? Well, the answer lies in recruiting and hinges on not who we are getting as commitments but who we are missing out on. Mainly blue-chip recruits.
To boil down the recruiting sites ratings systems to make it easier to understand, and there are big differences, here they are them explained in a nutshell (from this site):
The key to remember with Scout is that the number of stars next to a player’s name is not reflective of a player’s true ability –– it’s a reflection of the player’s skill level relative to his peers:
Understanding Scout.com’s Top 300 is really not that difficult. A five-star rating is awarded to the top 50 prospects. A four-star rating is awarded to a prospect that is considered one of the next 250 best players, ranked No. 51 to 300.
Not everyone does it that way. Rivals rates players based on the impact they are expected to have at their new school and their stars are a little more flexible — and more generous — than Scout:
A five-star prospect is considered to be one of the nation’s top 25-30 players, four star is a top 250-300 or so player, three-stars is a top 750 level player, two stars means the player is a mid-major prospect and one star means the player is not ranked.
Rivals also assigns each player a number in their evaluation. Here’s what they mean.
6.1 Franchise Player; considered one of the elite prospects in the country, generally among the nation’s top 25 players overall; deemed to have excellent pro potential; high-major prospect
6.0 – 5.8 All-American Candidate; high-major prospect; considered one of the nation’s top 300 prospects; deemed to have pro potential and ability to make an impact on college team
5.7 – 5.5 All-Region Selection; considered among the region’s top prospects and among the top 750 or so prospects in the country; high-to-mid-major prospect; deemed to have pro potential and ability to make an impact on college team
5.4 – 5.0 Division I prospect; considered a mid-major prospect; deemed to have limited pro potential but definite Division I prospect; may be more of a role player
So here is the bottom line in recruiting; a 4*or 5* recruit is the better and best of the total recruiting class. 5* players should end up in the NFL as a high pick and 4* players should be drafted and also make All-Conference while in school.
Conversely, a 3* recruit is expected to be a future starter on a FBS team and remember this – over the course of that recruit’s college career there will be at least four opportunities for that to come true.
Anyone surprised that I’m not overly excited that we keep getting recruiting classes full of 3* recruits? You have to be almost blind, deaf and dumb not to be able to pickup 3* kids out of the available bodies in any recruiting class.
Now – there is some real hair-splitting with this and that is what Pitt fans, and I’m sure all schools’ fans who don’t follow the Big Dog programs, do and that is look at the ratings numbers (5.5 – 5.8) and Power-Five offers the recruit has and then try to discern how well that particular player will contribute at Pitt.
While that is fun to do and makes for good conversation – after all I’m doing just that – I don’t think that means anything at all in the long run. We’ll find out in the more highly rated recruits’ first two or maybe three years if they were properly ranked or not. And that is even subjective as hell because a 3* player at Pitt may be a whole lot more valuable to the team than a 3* kid at Alabama or Ohio State (if you can find one).
All this doesn’t even consider the accession rate a school has with its recruits and Pitt has been very high in that regard in the past. There were very few players left on the roster from Todd Graham’s 2011 class just three years later. By my count only seven players in that class stayed longer than two or three years.
A wasted class like that reverberates for at least three years as successive coaches have to make up that loss with inexperienced players or with extant roster players who shouldn’t be starting at all.
Jump to the next recruiting class of 2013 and we kept 10 of 16 for four years; in Chryst’s second season in 2014 and we retained 20 of 27 for their four years and they made up the bulk of the starters for the last two winning seasons.
So is the answer in the Jimmys & Joes as they say or is it incumbent on the coaching staff to 1) spot talent both on the existing roster and 2) teach and lead them up to full potential… or is it more targeting prime recruits and actually convincing them to come to Pitt?
Personally I don’t think you can have it both ways if you truly want to be a perennial Top 10 or 15 program along with 10 – 12 wins per season. There I believe you have to get the blue chip kids onto your roster, keep them there and then get the most out of them for at least three years.
That has been Pitt’s problem for some time. Even back when we were catching those 4* kids we weren’t keeping them. Take a look at these LOI commitment lists below – it is a long part of the article but look at who we recruited, their star and numerical rankings, then get your handkerchief out when you start tallying up how many left or were dismissed from the program.
My numbers may be off a bit – going off the top of my head with who left early but here they are…
2010’s Recruiting Class (DW’s last full class) 16% Blue Chip of total recruits
Lost two of four 4* and seven of 11 5.6 and above recruits. Terrible but some of that had to do with the “bad times” of 2010-2011.
2011’s Recruiting Class (TG’s only class) 9% Blue Chip of total recruits
We kept both 4*s and lost three of four 5.6 – 5.8 recruits.
2012’s Recruiting Class (PC’s first full class) 25% Blue Chip of total recruits
Three of four 4* didn’t finish four years and three of six 5.6 – 5.8 recruits. Horrible.
2013’s recruiting class 11% Blue Chip of total recruits
A bit better as two of three blue chippers stayed as did four of five 5.6 – 5.8…
2014’s Recruiting Class 17% Blue Chip of total recruits
Slipping back a bit here – in Narduzzi’s first year we lost three of four 4* and two of five 5.6. – 5.8s.
Injuries aside and there weren’t that many aside from Grimm I believe, it showed what a lack of ability to both get higher ranked kids onboard and to keep them there does to a program.
Pitt isn’t anywhere near the Elites in recruiting, not now and even with DW’s better years not then either. We aren’t even in the ballpark with the Good recruiting schools all that much.
Here is an older article but it still rings true – it looks at percentage of blue chip players in a recruiting class (4* and above) from 2014. Now, it uses the 247 recruiting site which lists composite results for each player from Scouts, Rivals and ESPN.
As recruiting rankings continue to grow more accurate, they’re now to a point at which they can help tell us which teams are ready to compete for titles.
Every BCS champion since recruiting rankings could be accurately tracked (2005, or four classes after Scout joined Rivals in rating players) has met a benchmark: it’s recruited more blue-chips (four and five-star players) than lesser-rated players over its four previous signing classes
And since those blue-chips are rare — roughly 300 of them per year, with more than 10,000 scholarships to fill nationwide at the FBS level — the teams that get blue-chips crush those who sign a lower-rated level of recruits.
Now look back at what we did with garnering Blue Chippers – our best year was in 2102 when we pulled in 25% in a very shortened class of only 16 recruits. Overall we pulled in only 17 elite recruits out of 111 recruits we signed LOIs with… 15% Blue Chip over all. Not good at all and is the reason we are constantly ranked in the 40s or 50s of all FBS teams.
Now – that is what brought us up to Narduzzi’s first two years. What have we done in the 2105 and 2016 classes to make this better. (One thing I didn’t include these later classes when discussing departures because very few have happened yet.) OK…
2015’s Recruiting Class – 13% Blue Chip of total recruits
2016’s Recruiting class 21% Blue Chip of total recruits
This shows a bit of an uptick but still falls short of what we need as a sustained winning and conference championship program. Hill is gone and out of football.
Obviously there are a hundred of factors that go into recruiting the player, signing the player, getting the player to stay and play to full potential so there is no one answer. I don’t think Pat Narduzzi is doing a bad job of recruiting at all. So far about average for Pitt really.
I just believe that coming out of a period of relative stability in the program and putting out an eight win team in 2015 and 2016 his recruiting should be much better than it has been. Especially with local WPA recruits – we are still seeing almost all of the best of them leave the area for what they think are greener pastures elsewhere and that is all on this coaching staff.