A trend with college football fans is to go into semi-serious addiction withdrawal when we are smack in the middle of the off-season. Aside from recruiting, and our school’s LOI Day Signing event, there isn’t a whole lot of timely news to discuss so we usually default to football recruiting. Because almost any other football news that makes headlines during the off-season is usually bad news (i.e.; injuries, transfers, firings and dismissals), and because our basketball team truly sucks, we welcome recruiting talk at this point.
And it is always interesting to converse about how hard it is to find that needle in the haystack that great recruiters do.
HIGH SCHOOL RECRUITS AND RECRUITING
That isn’t to say we should diminish the importance of recruiting one bit – it is at least half of the resources needed to get a winning football program out on the field. So here is another and more in-depth look at the business of recruiting (and of course later developing) high school football players. The thing about a subject as big and broad as this is that one really has to chop it up into smaller pieces to even begin to understand the big picture.
All that said I’d like to clarify my stance on recruiting because I admit it can be confusing and even torque some fans off. My look at HS recruiting is this: 95% of recruiting is the down in the trenches fighting during the long and drawn-out process of one coaching staff competing against 10-30 other good schools’ staffs to get the recruit (and his parents) to verbally agree to come to Pitt on scholarship.
That sounds rather simple however it is anything but that. It takes a lot of time, energy and, last but certainly not least, money to field an effective recruiting team. Blue-chip kids are targeted as early as their freshman year in high school so a school has to maintain steady and convincing contact with him for a long time to get that signed Letter of Intent.
Because of that I give that hard recruiting work credit where it is due. I look at when a recruit committed to Pitt to determine who actually ‘recruited’ that player. I fully understand it is also vitally important to keep the recruit onboard in case of a coaching change or if the recruit’s interest in Pitt wanes the closer they get to LOI signing day – but truly that is small potatoes compared to the extremely hard and long work a staff does to get that verbal commitment in the first place.
Why do I do that? Because it paints a much clearer picture when we fans start discussing how good an individual head coach (and his staff) are at getting those initial commitments, especially if we are comparing different HC’s work in this area. Also, I have held this stance for all the years I have been on the POV and The Pitt Blather before that going back to Wannstedt’s years. So this isn’t something I just decided to do to screw Pat Narduzzi (as I’m sure some of you will think).
So please keep that in mind…
Now, that ‘look back’ stance looks like it cuts out any credit a HC gets for keeping the commitment valid and then for getting the best play they can out of that recruit as long as he plays for Pitt. I do not believe that is the case so let me provide you with an example of what I’m talking about.
For instance, let’s look at Safety Jordan Whitehead (commit date: 6/11/14), WR Returner Quadree Henderson (10/4/14) and RB Darin Hall (8/19/14). All three of them were recruited by and committed to Paul Chryst before Pitt’s head coaching change happened on December 26th, 2014. For that reason I consider that the previous staff did all the extensive hard work needed in getting the kid to Pitt so they’re the result of Chryst’s recruiting efforts.
However, and this is important… I also consider them to be Pat Narduzzi’s players and with that I credit Pat Narduzzi with getting the highest level of play from their individual talents. To me, although he didn’t actually recruit those three players, he is directly responsible for their quality play after they signed LOIs. So kudos to Narduzzi for getting the most out of those three players while they were at Pitt.
This is an important point so I’ll say it again…
In the recruiting class of 2015, which was split between Paul Chryst and Pat Narduzzi, we see these Blue Chip recruits listed below who I consider ‘Chryst recruits’ because he did the grunt work and successfully convinced them to come to Pitt… and did so in direct competition with some monster programs in the case of Whitehead and Hall especially:
But to reiterate, I also credit Narduzzi and his staff for everything these players have done out on the field as he was the HC when they first put on a Pitt uniform and started their college careers. Again, for guys like Whitehead, Hall, Q. Henderson and, let’s say, Dane Jackson that is a real feather in Narduzzi’s Pitt ball cap.
I hope that clears some things up for in the future when we get into discussions about how good a recruiter a HC is as opposed to how well a HC gets the players to perform after they are on roster. They are two separate animals in my opinion.
TRANSFERS IN and JUCOs
To me these are completely different issues from the actual recruiting of HS players. Much has been discussed about transfers on here since Narduzzi became our HC mainly because he uses the transfer system more than any other Pitt HC has in the past.
But once a recruit has signed with a different school than Pitt, played a year or two there and decides to transfer the competition for his services drops dramatically and truly is a ghost of what sort of offers he had coming out of high school. If we take a close look at one of our recent transfers we can see this writ large.
QB Max Browne was a nationally best Rivals 5* recruit (6.1 rating) with 15 offers from Top 25 schools as some of the very best in the country wanted him back in 2013. Just to list a few of those: USC, Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Michigan, Notre Dame and Stanford were all dying to get the overall #1 recruit onto their roster. Obviously he chose USC and we know what happened there – he had a non-descript three-year run of playing 2nd string with only two starts to his credit.
So who wanted him after he decided to transfer for his last year of eligibility? Well, in my conversation with a SoCal sportswriter last off-season it appears Browne had two serious offers other than Pitt – and he chose us. Well, you can easily see the difference between the crazy hard work that goes into landing a blue-chip recruit out of HS initially as opposed to his diminished worth after his initial stint at his first school.
Peterman’s , Hendrix’s and Clark’s stories mirror Browne’s also – all received great offers out of HS then almost none after their declarations of transfer. So with that I do not consider getting transfers on roster as actually ‘recruiting’ them. Now, the fact that Narduzzi landed Peterman, Browne and those others are in their own good things he did – Peterman especially – but it’s really a separate issue than recruiting as we know it.
I look at JUCO’s the same way – even though they are listed on the recruiting websites as recruits coming to Pitt, it also isn’t the same. So in a nutshell, when we discuss recruiting on here this is my criteria:
♣ The success of targeting a recruit, connecting with him and his family and then fighting off other, bigger, football programs to convince him to come to Pitt on scholarship stands by itself as a true indication of a HC’s recruiting prowess.
♣ Recruits who verbally commit to one HC are credited to that HC when we are discussing relative strengths and weaknesses of a HC’s recruiting. Some credit is due for keeping the kids committed until LOI signings by that is a far cry from fighting for and landing them in the first place.
♣ Once a recruit is on campus and playing in a Pitt uniform all that the player accomplishes as far as production out on the field gets credited to the inheriting current HC.
A DEEPER LOOK
A few articles back we got into a conversation about Pat Narduzzi’s recruiting and his ability to ‘close the deal’ when recruits made an official visit to Pitt. To remind – recruits are allowed five total official visits to schools that are paid for by the school itself, parents are allowed to visit also. Anon pointed out that Narduzzi did indeed do well at that (actually he wrote “virtually all” which was misleading) and so I learned something new.
In that post Anon added links to Rivals’ ‘official visits’ listings. Here they are and they are interesting to look at.
Here are those visits broken down into the blue-chip recruits visits and signing success rates. Interestingly enough what we see in detail below isn’t necessarily the great success rate Anon was stating it was:
Keep in mind that the four ‘undecided’ recruits in this 2018 class may still sign with Pitt but that won’t happen – only one is still in the running and he’s a long shot so I adjusted the table to show that.
But what we see is that even in this most positive aspect of Narduzzi’s recruiting the yearly trend is downward. Less official visits are being closed on as the years progress as is the number of Blue Chip kids he’s being able to get to come on official visits.
Just the other day I wrote an article about a Pitt fan’s Excel Spreadsheet that showed all the Pitt scholarship offers from this class and also going back a few years. This is where things get very interesting.
Given that Narduzzi and staff were successful getting kids who took official visits to Pitt to commit I started wondering if those official visits reflected a good portion of blue chip players who we were offering scholarships to and actively recruiting at the time. Here are those results:
Again you can see a distinct downward trend in Narduzzi’s being able to get these kids to Pitt on official visits and culminating in this recruiting class striking out on Blue Chip official visits and commitments completely.
That is almost hard to believe – 105 Blue Chip offers, one official visit and no Blue Chip commitments so far with only three days left. As I stated above I believe we have a decent chance at Mychale Salahuddin the 4* ATH out of Washington DC we have been dogging. If we sign him that would be great, but even if this year’s efforts by Narduzzi and his staff have come up short in a rather dramatic way.
Because Pitt’s recruiting does not live in isolation I looked at a few other ACC schools around the same level of play in 2017 as Pitt had and charted their recruiting stats also:
As you can see from this slice of mid-range ACC teams Pitt and Pat Narduzzi are just about average when it comes to landing all-star ratings of recruits on official visits in 2018. However if you look at the number of visits and commitments of the Blue Chip recruits we fall to 4th in the listing.
These are a lot of statistics to digest I know, and truth be told I’m not sure they tell us anything that we didn’t already know about Pitt’s recruiting over the last three years. We know that Narduzzi started off pretty well in his first full class of 2016 with five Blue Chip kids and a 29th ranked class. I was pretty happy with that given it was Narduzzi’s first full class.
The year after didn’t fare so well with only three Blue Chippers and us sliding to a 39th ranked class… and now in this year’s recruiting class he’s doing the worse he has since his hire with zero (0) Blue Chip recruits (so far) and continued in dropping to 46th nationally.
As you know by reading my past articles I think this is a very worrisome trend as we are in the phase of Narduzzi’s tenure where Pitt’s starting players will be majority populated with his own recruits. We saw the turnover start last season and we came up 5-7 on the season with no bowl game. I sure don’t want that to continue, do you?
It’s easy to seperate one aspect of Narduzzi’s recruiting work like Anon did with Narduzzi’s success at getting commitments out of official visits and Narduzzi has been pretty good at that. That is only a snapshot of his recruiting however… Sadly what Narduzzi’s been doing poorly at is getting our targeted highly ranked 4* and 5* recruits on campus for those official visits and then landing them as commitments.
If he is going to stay Pitt’s HC and expect any sort of consistent success here in the future he’s got to do much, much better in recruiting than he has to date. Some of his own recruits will turn out to be gems I’m sure – but if you desire, aim at, shoot and then miss at those Blue Chip recruits the way he has been doing then what you’ll have is exactly what we are getting so far. That is a roster full of three star recruits and at Pitt that won’t cut it for championship, or even successful, seasons.