If you haven’t been paying attention, National Early Signing Day is Thursday, and it’s an opportunity for Pitt to lock in around 15 – 17 commitments (depending on how things go over the next couple of days). Rivals has Pitt’s current class ranked 46th, which about what you’d expect from a Pat Narduzzi class.
If you adjust for quality over quantity however, and sort the rankings by average stars, Pitt ranks around 26th (I had to manually count so I might be off by one or two). That puts Pitt ahead of such notable programs as Wisconsin, West Virginia, Virginia, Virginia Tech and USC (Southern Cal not South Carolina).
In fairness, both Wisconsin and West Virginia are actually just right behind Pitt (3.12 stars per player, Pitt is 3.13) The Hoos and (surprisingly) USC are close (3.08 / 3.0). The biggest surprise however, is Virginia Tech. They’ve got 11 commits, with zero four stars, seven three stars and four (count ’em) two-star players. That’s good for an average of 2.64. Ouch. The Hokie faithful better hope Fuente has some serious scouting and player development chops. Gobble gobble.
Pitt, meanwhile has landed a very Pat Narduzzi-esque total of two four-star players, and has reeled-in three more 5.7’s (which are just a hair away from being rated four-stars). That’s 30-33% of the total class, which is pretty typical of Narduzzi.
By comparison (since coach Narduzzi has guaranteed that Pitt will win the ACC within the “next couple of years“) Clemson has landed 22 commits to Pitt’s 15. Just four Clemson commits are three star players. So to drive home my point, Pitt has two four star players in this class. Clemson has twenty. Given Clemson also has one of the finest coaching staffs that money can buy, and Pitt, well has a more…value-oriented…coaching staff, well…the Panther faithful better hope Narduzzi has some serious scouting and development chops.
That’s what Narduzzi does? Right? Scout and develop? Because that’s what we optimists have been selling ourselves on for the better part of five years now. Lets open up the Crootin’ Time Capsule to find out.
We’ll do Pat’s first two full classes. Impact players in BOLD. (Spoiler alert – there are more of them on defense than on offense).
Pat Narduzzi’s Pitt 2016 Class
- Commits: 24
- Rivals Rank: 29
- Four stars: 5
- Percent 5.7 or Higher: 29%
Damar Hamlin – 5.9 – Two year starter and arguably one of the top safeties in the ACC, even if he was snubbed for all ACC Honors. 71 tackles and nine passes defended in 2019. Will graduate this year and play in the NFL.
Ruben Flowers – 5.8 – WR – Washed out
Kaezon Pugh – 5.8 – LB – Washed out
George Hill – 5.8 – RB (ATH) – Medical condition prevented from playing
Amir Watts – 5.8 – DT – Two year starter. All ACC Honorable Mention as a senior. May project as a late round pick or free agent in the NFL. (Yes yes Reed, we know that all ACC HM is a bone thrown to teams by the sportswriters, but it still means they thought a player good enough to be in the top 1/4 of the league, and that counts for something. With that being said, you’d think a four star would develop into first or second team , hence Watts is not labeled as an “impact player”)
Therran Coleman – 5.7 – DB – Career backup. Entered transfer portal as a grad transfer this year.
Keyshon Camp – 5.7 – DT – Injured two years in a row as starter.
Thomas MacVittie – 5.6 – QB – Transferred to community college. Now backup QB for Kansas.
Chawntez Moss – 5.6 – RB – Played two years from Pitt before leaving team. Averaged 5.4 YPC as a freshman, 2.8 YPC as a sophomore. Did not play college football after Pitt.
Chase Pine – 5.6 – Linebacker – Rotational player at Linebacker for last two years. 18 total tackles, four TFL, 0.5 sacks as a Junior this year playing behind Florida transfer Kylan Johnson.
Maurice Ffrench – 5.6 – WR – Two year starter. Caught 84 balls as a senior (but just 8.2 YPC). Named third-team all-ACC. Missed last three games with a broken jaw or probably would have totaled close to 100 receptions. Will probably get a chance in an NFL camp as a kick returner and possibly slot receiver.
Bryce Hargrove – 5.6 – OG – Converted D-Lineman. Started two games in 2018. Started every game in 2019. Named third team all-ACC. I’m naming him an Impact Player, but would he start at Clemson?
Zack Gilbert – 5.6 – DE – Medical condition prevented from playing
Phil Campbell – 5.6 – LB (ATH, converted Safety) – played well in a platoon with Cam Bright at Star Linebacker. 52 tackles, 6 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 1 INT, 2 FF. Fast Forward to Cam Bright to see why Campbell is highlighted as an Impact Player.
Henry Miller – 5.6 – DB – Transferred prior to 2019 season.
Aaron Matthews – 5.6 – WR – High School QB who flipped from Penn State because PSU wanted him to play defense and the Duzz promised him a shot at Receiver. To his credit, Matthews has stuck with it, and he has turned into one of the best blocking WR’s in the ACC (if not the FBS), but… his pass catching skills never seemed to blossom. Nonetheless, Matthews will go down in college football history as the man who thew the “Pitt Special” touchdown pass to break Central Florida’s 27 game regular season winning streak. That technically doesn’t qualify him as an impact player, but I ask you, would Pitt have had a guy that could have thrown that pass if Matthews has been playing for Penn State?
Brandon Ford – 5.5 – OL – Career backup who left the team in 2019.
Bricen Garner – 5.5 – DB – Career back up who has actually played less as he’s gotten older.
Rashad Wheeler – 5.5 – DT – Backup defensive tackle who was switched to the offensive line this past off-season. Ended up as the starting fullback. While it’s probably unfair to compare him to George Aston, he’s no George Aston.
Zack Williams – 5.5 – OL – No longer on the team.
Justin Morgan – 5.5. – OL – No longer on the team either.
Patrick Jones – 5.4 – DE – Had breakout season in 2019 as a Junior. 41 tackles, 11.5 TFL, 8.5 sacks, 1 PD, 4 forced fumbles. Voted second team all-ACC.
Rashad Weaver – 5.4 – DE – Had breakout season in 2018 as a Sophomore. Injured during camp. Expected to be one of the top pass rushing DE’s in the ACC in 2020 if he comes back at 100%.
Elias Reynolds – 5.3 – LB – Surprisingly productive as a Sophomore, notching 49 tackles and 3.5 TFL in a platoon situation. Saw his playing time and productivity reduced in 2019, as he totaled just eight tackles in three games. He and Pitt “mutually parted ways” about four games into the season.
Pat Narduzzi’s Pitt 2017 Class
- Commits: 24
- Rivals Rank: 36
- Four stars: 3
- Percent 5.7 or Higher: 25%
Paris Ford – 6 – Safety – Statistically the top defensive back in the NCAA in 2019, and was somehow snubbed for the Jim Thorpe Award (Side note I grew up in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, and as a Pitt fan I would like to say that the town of Jim Thorpe has absolutely nothing to do with the Jim Thorpe Award, other than sharing the name). 79 tackles, 3 int, 1 TD, 9 PD, 3 FF. Will play in the NFL, either this year or next.
Charles Reeves – 5.9 – TE – Will forever be stuck in Pitt fans’ mind as “the one who got away”. Transferred from Pitt prior to the 2018 season. Was it because he wasn’t good enough or was it because he saw the writing on the wall as far as Tight End usage in Shawn Watson’s offense? Probably the former because he played in only three games at Youngstown State last season and did not register a stat.
AJ Davis – 5.8 – RB – Started at running back in 2019 and seemed to play better as the season went on. Solid runner, but production was a bit underwhelming for a four-star guy out of Florida, even if he was playing in Mark Whipple’s pass heavy attack and running behind a suspect offensive line. 126/532/4.2/4. Did catch 22 balls for 264 yards so that is something.
Kyle Nunn – 5.6 – LB – Nicknamed the “Sewer Rat” a couple of offseasons ago by Pat Narduzzi. May have seen the field on special teams this year.
Kenny Pickett – 5.5 – QB – Did a yeoman’s work under center (and out of the shotgun…) in 2019, his second full year as a starter. Finished 14th in passing attempts and 96th in passer rating. Threw 10 TD’s against nine interceptions. At the same time he led three game winning drives and played through an injured shoulder for most of the season, as well as catching the aforementioned game winning TD pass against Central Florida. His stats would have been a tick better if Pitt’s receivers didn’t drop an average of 2.7 passes per game, but he can’t be considered an impact player unless he vastly improves upon his meagre 117 passer rating.
Cam Bright – 5.5 – LB – played well in a platoon with Phil Campbell at Star Linebacker. 56 tackles, 9 TFL, .5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF, one very long scoop-and-run fumble recovery that helped us avoid an embarrassing loss against Georgia Tech.
Side Note: Cam Bright + Phil Campbell combined production out of the Star Linebacker Spot: 108 tackles, 15 TFL, 4 sacks, 1 INT, 3 FF, one very long scoop-and-run fumble recovery that helped us avoid an embarrassing loss against Georgia Tech. That’s first-team All-ACC / borderline All-American production folks.
Darian Street – 5.5. – WR – Transferred
Todd Sibley – 5.7 – RB – Played well in a couple of games. Played poorly in others. Seemed to be hurt more often than not. Seems to have all the tools but needs to work on his patience and vision.
Carson Van Lynn – 5. 5 – OT – Backup tackle in 2019. Blocking TE in 2018. OL Coach Dave Borbley spoke highly of him during the offseason but he couldn’t seem to unseat grad transfer Nolan Ulizio at right tackle, and Ulizio was not exactly stellar.
Albert Tucker – 5.5 – DB / LB – Special Teams
Dontavius Butler-Jenkins – 5.5 – WR – Played a little but was surpassed on the depth chart by true Freshman Jared Wayne.
Gabe Houey – 5.5 – OL – Starting right Guard in 2019. Did not play particularly well early in the season but seemed to improve as the season went on. Solid if unspectacular at this point in his career.
Tyler Sear – 5.5 – TE – The other one who got away. If he’d kept a cooler head in 2018 he might have actually been able to catch some passes for Pitt this year. Instead he played in one game for Temple in 2019 and did not register a stat, so was he really the one who got away?
Grant Carrigan – 5.5 – TE – A workmanlike blocker who never complains. Was a redshirt sophomore in 2019. Now weighs in at 6-7, 280 so everyone thinks he’ll eventually move to Tackle a’la Brian O’Neil. Pitt probably has to add a few more quality Tight Ends first.
Side note: Pitt picked up two TE commits on Monday. Florida Grad Transfer (and former JUCO) Lucas Krull, and JUCO Daniel Moraga. Moraga is may not be quite talented enough for a FBS roster (but we’ll see) and Krull,if you read between the lines on this PSN article, has all the talent you need, but seems to lack discipline and/or dedication. Both are no more than band-aids to help cover a gaping hole in the roster, but if Pitt can land an actual freshman TE recruit they should help bridge the gap until some homegrown talent is ready. And no, do not pin your hopes on converted linebacker and redshirt freshman Kyi Wright. Yes he’s talented, but it’s highly unlikely he’s developed the necessary skill set to make an impact at Tight End in just one year.
Carter Warren – 5.7 – OT – Started at Left Tackle for Pitt in 2019 and it showed. Wasn’t bad at times, but was pretty bad at others. Will probably be serviceable next season after a year of experience and another offseason of development.
Jerry Drake – 5.5 – OT – Backup offensive lineman
Damarri Mathis – 5.7 – DB – Pro Football Focus will tell you that overall he’s statistically one of the best corners in the ACC and likely top 30 in the NCAA. Did not receive any all-ACC honors. Had a few lapses in a few games but for the most part played really solid in pass coverage. 2 INT, 11 passes defended.
Jason Pinnock – 5.5 – DB – Another very solid performer at corner. Tweaked his hammy against UCF and wasn’t quite the same after that, but when healthy looked a lot like a lockdown corner to me. 1 INT, 7 PD.
Side Note: Assuming that Mathis and Pinnock split time opposite of Dane Jackson, overall production was pretty damn good. 35 tackles, 3 INT, 18 PD. 18 Passes Defended would be tops in the country if it was attributed to one single player. Without actual snap count data it’s hard to tell if this is an apples to apples comparison though.
Michael Smith – 5.6 – WR – A much ballyhooed recruit who has not yet contributed.
Kam Carter – 5.6 – DT – Turns out that Pitt actually was the last chance for this former PSU recruit who came to Oakland via Last Chance U.
Jaylen Twyman – 5.6 – DT – 2nd team All American twice over. 38 tackles, 12 TFL, 10.5 sacks, 1 pass defended. When fresh he is outstanding, but clearly gets winded after three plays in a row. Needs to work on his conditioning to truly be counted among the all time great Pitt defensive linemen (and that holds whether or not he decides to leave early for the NFL)
Owen Drexel – 5.4 – C – Backup Center
Kirk Christoudoulu – 5.3 – Punter – Wildly inconsistent punter who is very good when he’s good and maddeningly bad when he’s not. Placekicker Alex Kessman took over his punting duties midway through the season and Pitt recruited a punter in the 2020 class. Will the Aussie be around next season?
The windup (and I’ll keep this short because it’s late and I’m tired) is that that Duz’s 29th ranked 2016 class generated just five impact players. His 36th ranked 2017 class generated six. Seven if you count walk-on all-ACC center Jimmy Morrissey (who is not included above) That’s thirteen impact players in total (and four of them platooned across two positions…) Of the thirteen, just three were on offense (Ffrench, Hargrove and Morissey).
Of course this surprise anyone. It just proves what we already know. The Duzz can evaluate and attract talent to his defense … and as far as the defense is concerned, stars kind of don’t matter. Most of the “impact players” above were three stars or less. (Although Paris Ford is every bit as good as his 6.0 rating and Duz would take more of him if he could get him).
Sadly, Pat has not shown the ability to do any of the above (evaluate or attract) talent on offense (at least not in the 2016 or 2017 classes). Perhaps it’s because of OC turnover, or maybe he just sucks at recruiting (although that’s probably to true because then his defense would be bad too). Or maybe it’s just plain bad luck. Regardless of the reason, the Duzz better figure it out fast, or that promise of an ACC championship will feel just as hollow as an upset loss to a 5-6 BC squad at home.
Hail to Pitt
PS – if you are into recruiting you should gift yourself a subscription to pantherlair.com this holiday season. You get 25% of and a $75 Nike gift card, so basically your subscription is free. Here is the link if you are interested. The forums are a tremendously good source of recruiting information.
PS 2 – there are many more conclusions to be drawn from the above data. Please feel free to dive in.