We talk a lot on here about recruiting, or perhaps the state of quality recruiting, and what it takes to build a successful college football program. There are obviously a lot of variables that go into creating a strong football team and roster – two different entities with the other two being the coaching staff and the athletic department support.
I’m a firm believer that you build from the ground up meaning that convincing the best HS recruits, wherever they reside, to come and play ball at Pitt is the necessary foundation for long-term success.
Now, we have seen Pat Narduzzi supplement his recruiting with transfers, most notably QB Nate Peterman, to be able to win football games which we did in Narduzzi’s first two years. I’m not a big supporter of multiple transfers because I think that it is a patch job used by a head coach for immediate fixes and so The work of ghould be used judiciously.
Getting incoming transfers is hugely different than actually recruiting high school players and much, much easier. In the first instance your HC is convincing a established to transfer in with at most just a few other schools pursuing the player.
In the second instance, recruiting players directly out of HS, the staff has to woo and win the player away from many different options offered to him. It isn’t unusual for a highly thought of 3* or a 4* recruit to have 10 or more serious offers of a scholarship to play ball. That is a huge difference from getting a transferring kid who has, in the vast majority of cases, failed to produce at his first stop.
So what has Pat Narduzzi done so far in his ability to get HS players to commit to Pitt and how well have they played for him?
There is an old question of is it the “Jimmys and the Joes” or is it the “Xs and the Os” which creates solid producing players in college. I’ll add a third side to that and state that the coaching staff has a ton to do with it also. It doesn’t do anyone any good if you land a talented player then have a staff full of position coaches who fail to teach him how to play successful football at the D1 Power 5 level of play.
The HS players who can come directly into D1 ball starting lineups and automatically succeed in a big way are few and far between – but Pitt certainly has had some of those players before. Guys like Dorsett, McCoy, Lewis, Fitzgerald, just to name a few, have done it and in a spectacular fashion. Notice that when this does happens they are almost always on the offensive side of the ball where someone in a skill position – most notably Wide Receiver or Running Back – can impact the games right away. Defenders usually take longer to reach that stardom level although that has happened recently with players like Jordan Whitehead at defensive back.
But for me it begins and ends with actual HS recruiting and the ability to get good, hopefully great, seniors to commit to your program and that sometimes takes a full two or three years of hard work and effective lobbying while the kid is still a schoolboy. Because of that I believe the ‘commitment date’ is the key indicator of which HC is responsible for the player coming to play here.
Every so often you’ll see a mass exodus of committed recruits change their minds after a off-season head coaching change (as we saw at Pitt after Dave Wannstedt’s firing) but that was minimal back in 2015’s class.
This begs the question of which of Narduzzi commitments have reached past the normal and average level of play to become ‘stars’ in their own right. Here is a list of Narduzzi’s ‘own’ recruits; 54 players who committed to play for him and Pitt in his truncated 2015 class and the 2016 & ’17 classes since those are the kids who have had a chance to actually suit up and play ball so far. I excluded the 2018 class.