Tonight is another edition of our Roundtable. We had a great time last week with Matt and Mark… and let’s get one or two more callers this evening. Always more fun to discuss a win than a loss. Details at the end of this article.
In yesterday’s comments a readers posted the following in regards to a quote Pat Narduzzi made during this last offseason:
Narduzzi was quick to point to freshman defensive backs who were either redshirted or used sparingly this season (2016), but could be key contributors in 2017.
“Damar Hamlin, (Therran) Coleman. (Jay) Stocker is going to continue to get better,” he said. “Bricen Garner is a good football player already. Henry Miller, across the board.”
He also threw out the names of three other freshmen: linebacker Chase Pine, defensive tackle Keyshon Camp and wide receiver Ruben Flowers. Then, he added, “Wait until you get a glimpse of (quarterback) Thomas MacVittie.”
I add this to show just how predictions – even from as close to the team as you can get – are often either way overblown or said with wishful thinking. Looking at those singled out you have to laugh a bit because aside from Damar Hamlin – who is having a nice comeback year and Bricen Garner who is doing OK – the rest of those players listed by Narduzzi can’t really be called a “key contributor” for this season’s team.
Here what the defenders listed have done so far. Henry Miller hasn’t played on defense yet.
Of course we know that now Thomas MacVittie is out of the QB picture completely barring injury to either DiNucci and Pickett and WR Flowers hasn’t touched the ball at all.
Ruben Flowers is an interesting case here – a 4* recruit who had everyone slobbering over him during camp but so far he’s done nada on the field. Now unless I missed it Flowers hasn’t been injured so something has kept him on the bench and that is the staff’s call.
My point with all this is, and I do know that recruiting is an inexact science that usually doesn’t show results for two or three years, Narduzzi’s recruits from 2015 on have not played to expectations yet – nor have his transfers… but those are another story.
Narduzzi has relied on transfers and he’s relied on switching kids’ positions. He hit a gold mine with Nate Peterman but in camp the jury was out on Chris Clark, Mike Flanagan, Max Browne, Dewayne Hendrix and some other players to supplement the returning Panthers for this ’17 season.
Browne was a complete bust – and yes he was even considering his Rice game. Hendrix has played average at best ball and has been sat down for cause more than a few times this season. Clark is a non-factor at TE and Flanagan has been OK but really should have been moved to FB or H-Back as was discussed in camp. A mistake by the staff in my opinion since Watson ignores the TEs anyway.
Right now our 2018 recruiting class is ranked number 58th in the country and that is not going to get us to championship football games in the future… and neither are the fruits last two recruiting classes. Obviously no one is happy with Pitt being almost smack in the middle of the nation in recruiting, but to top it off the chances of us landing any game changing, high value target recruits to fill out the class is rapidly dwindling with every loss we pile up.
I have written many times that I’m surprised that with the hype surrounding Narduzzi’s hire back in 2015, combined with his personal energy and attitude, we have pretty much underperformed in recruiting since he got here.
Up until this year I saw Pitt fans point to any and every bit of good news in recruiting to pin their hopes on future players – mostly because Narduzzi’s recruits had more Power Five school offers than the previous regime’s recruits had. But something to remember about that isthat Pitt is also a Power Five school and other team’s fans are pointing to their recruits getting a Pitt offer as a plus.
At this point would you say that means anything? Does a HS player getting a Pitt offer seperate him from someone not getting one?
Yet we continue to over-estimate kids with other marginal P5 schools’ offers just because they have them listed on the internet (which in itself is a question mark).
I’m not sure that we understand what kind of recruits we are getting from Pat Narduzzi so far. From everything I can see, and I look at these kids now from every different angle because we get in these recruiting conversations all the time, I really don’t see any of them being sure standout star players which is what we’re going to need to have to have championship football teams.
Right now every one of our 2018 class are three star players. Every single one. And this is after two straight eight win seasons and with that energy he supposedly brought with him. Now, three years into the program, we’re seeing the same type, actually in my opinion a lower quality type of recruits, than we have seen over the last eight years of Pitt if not lower quality.
Since 2015 Narduzzi has had 76 recruits (counting the 2018 class). 56 have been 3* players with 10 4*s and 10 2*s. That means that 87% of his recruits are basically average, or a bit above, HS recruits.
I have written and said many times that if you recruit 3* players you’ll get 3* results and we are starting to see that this year. you do not win championships when only 13% of your players are 4* recruits.
I have to say that looking at that and the players he landed in his first two classes I’m not all that shocked we are sitting at 3 wins against 5 losses. I do hope and will keep my fingers crossed that another year of experience will turn these average-now players into solid and good starters but that doesn’t happen in every case.
What is the upshot of all this? Well I think it points strongly to the shortcomings in our position coaches and thus our coordinators. First they haven’t been getting the blue-chip top quality recruits we need and secondly they aren’t all that great at getting these 3* players to contribute at an early stage of their careers. That entails real teaching abilities and I’m not sure we have that on staff at present.
It seems to me that in the three years under Narduzzi so far we have seen recruits who have outstanding talent play well – Safety Jordan Whitehead (who actually committed to the previous staff) and Returner Q. Henderson are great examples of this. But have we seen any recent recruits who don’t have those inherent very special skill sets really shine for us?
To be honest the only impact this staff has had to push kids to great success have been on non-Narduzzi recruits in Brian O’Neill being moved from TE to OL and being coached well there and with George Aston – a walk-on FB who the staff used perfectly to get great production out of the backfield. At least those are all I can think of right now…
I guess you can throw WR Rafael Araujo-Lopes in that list also as he’s turned it up a notch this year but again – he wasnt a HS recruit as he came to Pitt from a JUCO.
Offensive Linemen, Tight Ends and Quarterbacks are really the only positions where it is almost a necessity to have a couple of years of playing under your belt before you really start producing at a high level. But the other eight positions? You can’t say that they should play as true freshmen – but all over the country players in those positions produce and contribute at a high levels as either redshirt Freshmen and Sophomores all the time.
Two full years in a program is more than enough in this day and age. It doesn’t work for every recruit but you can’t make the ‘too young’ excuse for players who have been in the program that long (or even shorter sometimes).
I believe we are lagging behind in both the recruiting HS players and also in coaching/teaching them and it makes me wonder just what we’ll see from these kids in 2018’s season. I’m sure we’ll get better play, some outstanding I’m sure, out of some of these young Panthers next year. But overall will they be older and better… or will they just be a year older?
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