have talked a lot about what Head Coach Pat Narduzzi will do in his third year at the helm of Pitt’s football program. We have heavily debated whether it truly is “his team” in terms of players he either recruited or acquired by transfer (it is in my opinion).
We speculate on how well his own guys will do in terms of the previous head coaches’ players they are replacing. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we go around and around as to whether experience or talent wins out in the end when it comes to the quality of play he will get out of his roster.
First let’s take a look at what some previous Pitt head coaches have done in their third year. We’ll go back to the time period right after that great winning run Pitt had from 1974 to 1981.
I highlighted the 3rd years of the respective coaches and only showed their first three years.
So – here is the first Pitt HC to review in Foge Fazio:
I think we all remember what happened in Foge Fazio’s 3rd season in 1984 – it crashed and burned as the offensive and defensive wings fell off and hit at 3-7-1… and that was the end of his time here. We started that crappy year at 1-7-1 with a win over lowly East Carolina.
Following Fazio, Mike Gottfried had a somewhat similar experience in 1988 , albeit not as dramatic as he still pulled in a barely wining 6-5 record. That was surprising in that his offense that year scored 27.3 ppg (31st nationally) and had a very good defense in giving up only 16.6 ppg (21st).
See, there is a disturbing trend going on so far in this recap – the 3rd years of our coaches’ tenures are not kind to them as they, up to this point, were a measured drop in the win column. That held true with next coach Paul Hackett also.
Hackett was hired to replace Gottfried and immediately won three fewer games with a 3-7-1 record compared to Gottfried’s last year at 6-5. That wasn’t a great start but Hackett bounced back a bit with a 6-5 record the following year before sliding downward again to a 3-9 record in this crucial 3rd year of 1992.
So far we have looked at three HCs and their combined 3rd year record was 12-21-1 – a winning percentage of 35%. This trend continued…
There really isn’t much to say about Johnny Majors’ 3rd year in his return to Pitt – 1995 sucked as much as his other three years did. He never established a winning season of any kind and had a 2-9 year in his third season.
Now we have seen four HCs with a combined 3rd year of 14-30-1 for 31% wins. Will that keep sway past Majors? Let’s see.
A lot of Pitt fans really appreciate what Walt Harris did for our program as we were really stuck in the mud with five of the six previous years being losing ones. So Harris comes in and continues that trend for his first two years going 6-6 then sliding to 2-9.
Then in that special 3rd year he logs a 7-5 season and lands a bowl game slot for the first time in 10 years. That five win uptick was a real spark of hope for the fans. That season set him up to finish his Pitt career with a very good (for Pitt) 9, 8, and 8 wins.
You can point back to Harris’ recruiting for that jump – something that can’t really be said in the previous decade of recruiting in the other coaches’ first two years.
Now enter Dave Wannstedt – a Pitt football alumni and a fan favorite. We had high expectations for him and the program considering we were coming off the best five-year run with a 39-23 record since the 1970-80s.
But DW quickly dropped down to a losing season of 5-6 in his first year, followed by a 6-6 .500 season before dropping down again in that 3rd year to 5-7.
This is especially interesting because his previous two-year recruiting record was ranked a decent #38 in ’05 then an excellent 2006 class that was ranked #21 and had these four star recruits – many who played as true freshman.
For perspective we have to remember that DW’s 3rd year of 2007 was hit with injuries, to the QBs especially so that, in part, they helped account for his 5-7 losing record.
OK – now we have looked at five previous HCs with a combined 3rd year record of 26-43-1 and back up to a 37% mark. Not getting much better here, are we folks.
So onto our last HC before Pat Narduzzi in Paul Chryst. His first two years showed us 6-7 then 7-6 with a bowl loss and a bowl win. His third year regressed back to a 6-7 mark and a bowl loss.
Finally our five HCs before Narduzzi had a combined 32-50-1 record (a poor 39%) in those crucial 3rd years. But here is a very interesting issue when talking about inherited (or not) recruits…
Paul Chryst’s first two recruiting classes were ranked #47 in ’12 in a small 16 member class. In ’13 he bettered that with a #35 class. But here is a key point with his recruiting in those years. He had a total of one 5* and 10 4* recruits but six of those players didn’t last two years on the roster – Shell, Rippy, Chapman, Grimm, James and Jennings never made it onto Narduzzi’s 2015 roster.
What does all this mean? Well, a lot if you are a “Same Old Pitt” believer.
Maybe not so much if you are a fan who thinks we are on a continual upswing with Pat Narduzzi at the helm, and many Pitt fans are these days. So many different factors go into winning seasons – again, is it coaching, the players, the players’ talent or their experience or is it the vagaries of the history of Pitt football in toto?
What I have seen is a solid two seasons under Narduzzi but also two seasons with some real question marks attached as two bowls losses attest. I’m not 100% sold on Narduzzi’s recruiting yet, his walk-ons seem to be just as good.
And his transfer plans worked out in his first two years with Peterman’s star turn – the jury is still out on his other transfer players going into 2017.
But as far as his getting the star HS recruits I think he”s missed out a lot… and he’ll be the first to tell you that, as he did publicly, when he was asked about his 2017 recruiting class. “Disappointed” was a word he used. But recruiting isn’t all that goes into winning.
It may well be that even with these injuries and the disciplinary awards that surely will hurt this year’s team there may be enough positive synergy extant in the program to pull out a good winning season. A championship season is out of reach this year I’m afraid – but he’s got a couple of years left on his contract to get that notch on his belt.
He needs to get this crucial 3rd year in the 7-8 wins column at least then go from there…
Here is an interesting article by Tim Benz of PSN talking about how perception matters in college ball. gee – I wonder where that has been discussed lately? Benz goes into more game-by-game details in this piece but in the main I agree with him here.
This is an exercise in rear-view mirroring but a very interesting look back by Chris Peak at Pitt’s 2012 recruiting class and he re-ranking of it.
PSN’s take on Aston’s injury and the staff’s attempt to cover for it on the field… I think he’s gone for the regular season.
Here is a PSN interview with Dorian Dickerson speaking about the current players and the team… Notice that when anyone is being interviewed about the QB group the first name mentioned is almost always “Pickett”.