Right now there is a good discussion here on the POV regarding what is going on with Pitt’s recruiting. I’ll add to that today in looking at what it took, in modern Pitt football history, to get to double-digit wins and how recruiting was a huge part of that.
We all know that the primary task of a college head coach is to win football games, preferably more than he loses and most desired enough to win championships. So far Pat Narduzzi has fulfilled the first part of that with consecutive eight win seasons and a two-year record of 16-10. Not an easy thing to do at Pitt for sure, especially for a rookie HC.
Next on his agenda is the 2nd part of the equation; championship football, and to do that a lot of things have to fall in line, most importantly in my opinion high quality players to put out onto the field. The head coach does that in three basic ways.
First and foremost he recruits the best he can get high school football players to fit his needs. Secondly he attracts transfer students who can fill in immediate holes in the lineup, as we have seen Narduzzi do with great success so far.
Third he needs to look at Junior (or Community) College players with an eye toward the same as above – fill gaps left by recruiting failures by either himself or his predecessor.
I suppose you can throw walk-ons in there somewhere but those are usually individually driven by a kid wanting to play college ball at all cost – most notably tuition, room and board – which the scholarship players have awarded to them.
Those transfers, walk-ons and hell, add greyshirt players to that as rare as they are, would be considered ‘others‘ when discussing recruiting and recruiting classes who have signed Letters of Intent to play football at Pitt.
There was a comment on the POV the other day stating that I “totally discount” those ‘other’ players , meaning transfers and walk-ons, when discussing Pat Narduzzi’s recruiting. That isn’t true at all – I certainly give Narduzzi credit for bringing in those guys and I have written that many times.
However to attract incoming transfers is a whole different, and much, much easier, task then it is to get highly ranked HS recruits to sign a LOI for four years of play at your school.
Believe me the different in competition for the HS SRs who are highly ranked and have numerous offers is like night and day from convincing a QB or other position who has perhaps two or three schools asking him to transfer in after he didn’t do well at his original college.
In essence there was a reason why guys like Peterman, Browne, Hendrix and Chris Clark chose other colleges out of high school rather than sign with Pitt back then. They chose to play at schools who might have had better football programs than Pitt had at the time. Or maybe not, as we see below:
1st ranked 5* Max Browne went into a 10-4 USC program in the Pac-10. His best offers included; USC, Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, Wisconsin…etc. He was ranked #7 nationally.
1st ranked 5*TE Chris Clark was a bit of a different story going to 4-8 hometown UCLA after getting offers from; Alabama, OSU, LSU, PSU, Nebraska, Florida… etc. He was ranked #79 nationally.
4th ranked 4* Dewayne Hendrix chose to play in a program who just went 7-5 in the SEC and, again, had Butch Jones and a HC. His best offers; UT, OSU, Florida, Wisconsin, PSU, Nebraska, MSU…etc. He was ranked #78 nationally.
8th ranked 4* Peterman went into a 2013 5-7 win Tennessee program but one who had a new coach in Butch Jones. He committed over 14 months early and had limited offers after that. Had he stayed on the market he’d have had more probably. Obviously he signed with the hometown team.
Do you honestly feel or believe that Pitt would have gotten a sniff of those Top 100 recruits back when they were JRs and SRs in HS? Of course not. We are getting decent three star kids now but no one with the position and/or national rankings those first three transfers above had coming out of HS.
In discussing this issue I will use a comparison between the two latest winning Pitt HCs, Dave Wannstedt and Pat Narduzzi, and how they accomplished that feat. I am leaving out both Todd Graham (6-7) and Paul Chryst (19-20) because obviously their records at Pitt were not on the winning side.
I also recognize the Chryst recruited some excellent ball players, mostly on offense, way less so on defense but this discussion is about the winning HCs.
I’m also not adding Paris Ford on the recruits list below because it is apparent he did not enrolling at Pitt for 2017 on Monday past thus he almost surely isn’t going to sign a Pitt LOI this season which is what a “recruited” player is based on.
He’ll be a free agent recruit for 2018 after apparently going to prep school for the year, and let’s hope we get him then, but one never knows. Actually let’s hope he qualifies for this year and that still could happen but a prep year looks more likely.
The goal of a college football program is to have as many as the nation’s Top 300 players as they can get given their needs. But the nature of college football is also one of switching players from one position to another (and to another in Dickerson’s case). So coaching staffs will very often take the best athletes on the board knowing they can move the player around to fill needs in a year or two.
We have seen that happen a lot at Pitt; Malecki from DL to OL, Clemmings from DE to OL, Ziese from WR to LB last year and Pugh from LB to DE this year, etc… so rarely will a staff pass up a sure 4* who would sign with Pitt due to his position already being filled on the roster unless the player is a QB or some such.
Therefore the listings below are more reality based and are only the 4* or 5* kids who actually suited up and played for us.
The blue chip recruits currently on roster who Narduzzi himself convinced to come to Pitt were ranked like this (and I do recognize that DW had a year under his belt before his 2006 class):
2015 –(65th ranked class; 13% were 4* or 5* recruits) Seven of 15 recruits were Narduzzi’s.
No 4* or 5* recruited by Narduzzi
2016 -(29th; 21%)
LB Kazeon Pugh; 22nd position – N/R nationally
DT Amir Watts; 25th position – N/R nationally
WR Ruben Flowers; 50th position – N/R nationally
2017– (38th; 13%)
RB Anthony Davis; 13th position – 247 nationally
TE Charles Reeves; 13th position – N/R nationally
Those are some very nice recruits there and very good for Narduzzi on those recruits. Let’s compare that list to the recruiting classes before Dave Wannstedt’s nine and 10 win seasons – which we are hoping Narduzzi gets to this year and beyond:
2006 – (21st ranked class; 26% were 4* or 5* recruits))
TE Dorian Dickerson; 8th position -85th nationally
RB Kevin Collier; 15th position – 125th nationally
TE Nate Byham; 7th position -132rd nationally
Jon Malecki; 18th position – 174th nationally
DB Aaron Smith; 22nd position – 246th nationally
DB Aaron Berry; 22nd position – N/R nationally
2007 (26th; 25%)
OL Chris Jacobson; 9th position – 205 nationally
QB Pat Bostick; 6th position – 111 nationally
WR Aundre Wright; 20th nationally (JUCO)
RB LeSean McCoy; 7th position – 43rd nationally
DL Tony Tucker; 10th position – 227th nationally
DL Tommie Duhart; 27th nationally (JUCO)
2008 – (28th; 32%)
WR Jon Baldwin; 5th position -26th nationally
OL Lucas Nix; 9th position -117th nationally
DB Jared Holley; 13th position – 226th nationally
KR Cameron Saddler; 8th position – 247th nationally
DE Shane Hale; 11th position – 247th nationally
Another way of looking at each HC’s three-year period is this chart. 2018 obviously isn’t finished yet so they have asterisks…:
|Year||Coach||Total Recruits||4* / 5*||% of 4*/5*s||Class Rank|
(For honesty sake lets also realize that Narduzzi will probably pull in a 4* or two before the 2018 class is complete.)
Folks – there are some marked differences there and there are also some unique factors. As stated above Wannstedt had been in the job for a year before that 2016 recruiting class so that helped him a bit. Even though 2005 was a losing season at 5-6 he bounced back with a very good recruiting class in 2006.
Pat Narduzzi was responsible for only seven of 15 recruits in 2015 so that skews things a bit also. I listed 2018’s class just for info purposes but to me it look like another average class – with the caveat above. I’d have thought in his third year of recruiting and coming off two eight win seasons he’d be getting more blue chip players, but that isn’t the case so far with only three out of 24 recruits in this 2017 season’s class.
Now one may look at those class national ranking and say why is Reed saying these are ‘average‘ classes when we are in the Top Third of the 128 schools?
Well, here’s the thing about national recruiting class ranking; they are misleading. There are 65 Power Five schools out of 128 D1 schools… so we sure as hell should be recruiting better than those lower ranked, non-P5 conference, schools do.
In essence we need to look at where we stand in that group of our peer 65 P5 schools who we are truly recruiting against, or should be at any rate. The fact that we are currently (and was also last year) 38th out of 128 schools doesn’t float my boat at all. Drop 63 of those non-P5 programs and we actually are 38th out of 65 schools… or sitting in the bottom half of the Power Five.
For example at the end of 2017’s recruiting cycle every spot from 1 to 37 in front of our 38th place was populated by Power Five schools. That left only 25 Power Five schools below us in recruiting… in other words we were in the lower 41% with 59 % recruiting better us.
Do you think that is great recruiting for a guy who came to Pitt with a powerful defensive rep and high energy, to say nothing of an eight win season, in his first year?
Looking at some individual players aside, and there are some good ones and some of those with 3*s, I really don’t think so. I think it is mediocre when stacked up against our peer group.
I have said time and again that a program needs more 4* and 5* players to populate at least 25% or so of the starting lineups to be successful in the long run.
You can see by the two HCs’ comparison that Dave Wannstedt did just that and it paid off for him with the first 10 win season in 38 years since 1981. He preceded that with a nine win season – one of only three since that same 1981 year.
There is no better case in point then Dave Wannstedt’s great recruiting leading to 2008 and 2009’s 19 wins.
So, when Pat Narduzzi starts pulling in players with the equivalent 4* and 5* HS recruit rankings of these recent transfers on a regular basis then I’ll have a different take on his HS recruiting – but he hasn’t done so much yet and this year it looks like he’s not doing it either.
Again, I’m not saying these classes aren’t decent and have some kids who will play very well for us… just that his are not championship recruiting classes so far.
I’m happy as hell we have those three transfers on the roster and I absolutely give our HC credit for getting them here – but they weren’t recruited by Narduzzi having to go up against tons of other Power Five programs when they chose to come here.
Bottom Line: There is no comparison between getting players who have faltered as non-career starters at their previous school looking for a second chance (Savage, Peterman and Brown, not so much Hendrix and Clark) than getting nationally rated highly ranked recruits directly out of HS with lots of bigger and better Power Five schools after them.
Recruiting those HS kids is 100% harder with 100% stronger competition. End of story.
I’ve had this conversation for years with recruits, transfers and staff – as I said, night and day. If you think that is all just semantics then you are not looking past the first layer if this issue.
One last thing – lets give credit where it is due in the DW v PN discussion. I honestly don’t believe Wannstedt every had a season like Narduzzi did in 2016 regardless of how many wins he had. To beat PSU at home after that long haitus and then Clemson in Death Valley – two programs in the final Top 5 is no small feat and I applaude loudly Narduzzi’s doing that.
Note: It is funny what a year at a prep school can do for a recruit. Pitt’s WR/DB Aundre Wright didn’t qualify to play at Pitt coming out of Perry Traditional Academy back in 2006 so he spent a year at the football factory Milford Academy in NY state. He went in as an unranked 2* recruit and…
Presto Changeo! He comes out of there a 4* recruit.
Pitt has a new recruiting coordinator:
Pitt Linebackers Coach Rob Harley Adds Recruiting Coordinator Duties
Harley is in his third year on Pat Narduzzi’s Pitt coaching staff.
PITTSBURGH—Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi announced today linebacker coach Rob Harley will add the responsibilities of recruiting coordinator for the 2017 season.
Harley, who enters his third year on Narduzzi’s Pitt staff, has been one of the Panthers’ most effective and energetic recruiters.
“I have known Rob for six years dating back to our time at Michigan State and from the very beginning I was always so impressed with his communication skills and relentless work ethic,” Narduzzi said. “Rob owns great vision and insight on today’s recruiting and has the ability to make us innovative in our efforts to attract the best student-athletes to Pitt. Rob has the DNA to lead others and with this coordinator title he has earned the right to lead our recruiting department.”
“I could not be more excited to help coordinate our recruiting department at Pitt,” Harley said. “We have an unbelievable staff made up of driven people and I believe that sets us apart from every other program in the nation. It will be my job to help organize, structure and guide our recruiting department to be as efficient and effective as possible. When our coaches have elite student-athletes to work with, the sky is the limit for Pitt football. This is a tremendous responsibility that I do not take lightly, and I’m looking forward to meeting Coach Narduzzi’s high expectations when it comes to recruiting the best student-athletes in the country.”