Pitt picked up a verbal from four-star DE Elliot Donald on Friday, and I don’t need to belabor the point that this was a win.
Depending on the scouting website you use, Donald is top five or six in the state and top 10 nationally at his position, and Donald’s pledge catapulted Pitt to 26th in the rivals recruiting rankings and 27th in the 247 composite rankings.
I bring the 247 rankings into the discussion for two reasons. First – they don’t get enough press on this site, which has historically stuck to “if it ain’t rivals it’s trash” ethos, and second – I’m about a reference and article that uses the 247 rakings, so there is a bit of selfishness going in here as I attempt to legitimize them.
First, here is an overview of how Scout ranks players in general. Note the breakdown within three-stars.
- Five-stars (98-110 rating): The top 32 players in the country to mirror the 32 first round picks in the NFL Draft. These are 32 players that we believe are the most likely to be drafted in the first round from each recruiting class. The full list of 32 with five-star ratings typically isn’t complete until the final ranking. Any player with a rating of more than 100 is considered a “franchise player” and one that does not come around in every recruiting class.
- Four-stars (90-97 rating): These are players that we believe are the most likely to produce college careers that get them drafted. By National Signing Day, this number is typically in the range of 350 prospects, roughly the top 10 percent of prospects in a given class.
- Three-stars (80-89 rating): This is where the bulk of college football prospects are found and it incorporates a large range of ability levels, all of whom we consider as possible NFL players long term.
- A high three-star (87-89): is considered a player with significant NFL upside who expect to be an impact college football player.
- A mid three-star (84-86): is a player that we consider to be a capable starter for a Power Five football team and an impact player at the Group of Five level.
- A low three-star (80-83): is a player that we consider to be a potential contributor at a Power Five program but a probable Group of Five starter with impact potential.
- Two-stars (70-79 rating): These are prospects that we consider to be FBS-level players with very limited NFL potential.
Rivals on the other hand is a little less granular, but generally does things the same way. Clearly there is less segmentation going on within the ranks of three-stars.
- 6.1 Franchise Player: considered one of the elite prospects in the country, generally among the nation’s top 30-35 players overall, a potential first-team All American candidate and a player deemed to have first round NFL potential.
- 6.0-5.8 All American Candidate: considered one of the next-tier elite prospects in the country, generally among the nation’s top 300-325 prospects overall, a national All American candidate and a player deemed to have first to third round NFL potential
- 5.7-5.5 All Region Selection: considered among the region’s top prospects and generally among the nation’s top 800-850 prospects overall, a potential All-Conference candidate and a player deemed to have mid to low-end pro potential and ability to impact at the college level.
- 5.2-5.4 Low End FBS prospect: considered a mid-major prospect with limited pro potential and expected to contribute 1-2 years at a high level maximum or often as a role player.
247 goes a step further though and also does a composite ranking, which basically takes all the other rankings into account. Per 247:
The 247Sports Composite Rating is a proprietary algorithm that compiles prospect “rankings” and “ratings” listed in the public domain by the major media recruiting services. It converts average industry ranks and ratings into a linear composite index capping at 1.0000, which indicates a consensus No. 1 prospect across all services.
The 247Sports Composite Rating is the industry’s most comprehensive and unbiased prospect ranking and is also used to generate 247Sports Team Recruiting Rankings.
If you want to go really deep on the 247 rankings system here is a link: https://247sports.com/Article/247Sports-Rating-Explanation-81574/
With that being said, outside of the composite – which I think is a tremendous tool – Scout does some things that I really like, for example show a team’s rank within the conference and their average player composite ranking on the summary page. They also show the previous year and next year rankings for context. Handy if you like data.
So for example, we can now easily look at how a guy like Pat Narduzzi has done over his tenure just by looking at average recruit rating year over year.
I’ll throw in 2015 even though it technically wasn’t “his” class. Interestingly it was also his second most highly ranked full class, at least according to 247. Any way you slice it though, the Duzz has been pretty consistent. (Some of you will say consistently mediocre.) The addition of Donald though does put the ‘Duzz’s 2021 class as his highest ranked of all time, if only by the slimmest of margins. Of course history shows us the final ranking will probably end up somewhere south of it’s current .862 ranking. But on some level we are splitting hairs here.
- 2015: .860
- 2016: .856
- 2017: .849
- 2018: .858
- 2019: .849
- 2020: .861
- 2021: .862
- Average: .856
Just for reference here were Paul Chryst’s three classes:
- 2012: .858
- 2013: .841
- 2014: .841
- Average: .847
Aaaand because this is just so easy, and because he seems to be the measuring stick, lets throw in Dave Wannstedt. Surprisingly with the exception of 2008 his recruiting was not much better than Pat’s. Whats even more interesting is that Wanny’s famous 10 win season (2009) happened largely without the contributions of his highly rated 2008 recruiting class. The notable exception of course was Jon Baldwin who was ranked at 0.9914 and played to every bit of that rating in 2009 as a true Sophomore. (57 / 1111/ 19.5 avg / 8 TD).
- 2005: .810
- 2006: .856
- 2007: .852
- 2008: .872
- 2009: .856
- 2010: .864
- Average: .852
And so for those of you who are now crying “but star power!” on the back of that Jon Baldwin factoid, I have to throw in Fraud Graham’s class, just to round this all out. Woof.
- 2011: .804
Can we stop for a second here and point out that these damned lies and statistics somehow make Pat Narduzzi out to be a better recruiter than Dave Wannstdedt?
Ah yes, but Wanny’s first year. He was clearly saddled with Walt Harris’ poor recruiting legacy, and the ‘Duzz clearly picked up a tailwind from Paul Chryst’s momentum. (I can’t believe I just said that…). In the spirit of the Pitt POV lets remove each coach’s first year:
- Revised Average ‘Duzz: .856
- Revised Average Wanny: .860 .
THERE. THERE is the smoking gun I told you about. WANNY WAS A MUCH BETTER RECRUITER THAN PAT.
That is sarcastic yelling by the way. The real question is how much is 4/100ths of a point worth across five or six seasons? I don’t think we’ll ever answer that question but here are average season wins and Strength of Schedule averages so we can reboot old conversations.
- Wanny: 7.2 / 1.78
- Duzz: 7.2 / 3.70
- Revised Wanny (First season removed): 7.6 / 1.89
- Revised Duzz (First season removed): 7.0 / 3.68
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that, despite all the negative press that he gets for his bonehead in-game decisions and his complete ineptitude in preparing his teams for bowl games, Duzz is probably a better overall coach than Wanny. It doesn’t take a statistics major to realize that the Duzz’s schedule was twice strong as Wanny’s but his average wins are equal. Even when you throw out the first seaons, Duzz’s numbers are favorable. His win total is just about 9% lower than Wanny’s while his SOS is over 100% tougher.
Anyway, I didn’t want this to turn into a referendum of Duzz vs Wanny, but we are where we are. And despite my previous statement about Duzz being the overall better coach, the truth is probably that yes Wanny was a tick better of a recruiter once he got rolling. Another measure of that of course is star power, and that’s kind of what kicked this whole thing off (because Narduzzi just recruited a star, out of Pennsylvania no less). While I was researching this article I came across a very in-depth analysis of PA recruiting over the last twenty years, and it is absolutely worth a look, especially if you are quarantined and have a bunch of spare time on your hands. Here is the link.
Here is a graphic from the article, with the Pitt coaches added it. It will probably be hard to read, but I’ll summarize. It shows the college choice of the top five ranked football players in PA since 2000. (247 composite ranking). As you can see Wannstedt reeled in five over his first five seasons. Narduzzi nabbed four.
Last but not least I want to talk “hit rate”, because at the end of the day it’s as much about what the recruit does at Pitt as it is about landing the recruit. My comments are in italics.
Walt Harris 50% hit rate:
- 2000: Dustin Picciotti – Concussion issues. Never saw extended playing time.
- 2002: Larry Fitzgerald – (From MN but gets credit in this analysis bc attended Valley Forge Military Academy when he signed with Pitt. By the same token Shady McCoy does not show up in Wanny’s totals bc he attended prep school in NY.) – Hit. Turned out to be pretty good.
Dave Wannstedet 60% hit rate (75% hit rate if you include Shady):
- 2006: Dorin Dickerson – You don’t get the nickname “Scorin’ Dorin” if you’re a bust
- 2007: Pat Bostick – While I wish I could include his contributions from the announcer’s booth, and his role in 13-9, you have to consider his playing career was a little bit underwhelming. Had Wanny not been fired and Bostick stuck around for his senior year (Fraud Graham year…) this may have turned out differently.
- 2008: Jon Baldwin – Not a bust.
- 2008: Lucas Nix – Hit. Productive career as OL. Signed as Free Agent with Oakland Raiders.
- 2008: Shayne Hale – Injury riddled until his senior year, he recorded 36 tackles, 9.5 TFL and 3 sacks as a senior. Sorry but that’s not top-five-in-PA production.
Todd Graham 100% hit rate:
- 2011: Lafayette Pitts – Hit. Productive career at Pitt through many coaching changes. Has bounced around NFL for last few seasons after signing with Miami as a free agent.
Paul Chryst – 66% hit rate:
- 2012: Rushel Shell – Bust but not because of talent. Work ethic was just not there.
- 2013: Dorian Johnson – Hit.
- 2014: Alex Bookser – Hit. Productive OL. Would have been better if he’d been allowed to stay at Guard his senior year. .
Pat Narduzzi 100% hit rate on active players:
- 2015: Jordan Whitehead – Hit
- 2016: Damar Hamlin – Hit
- 2017: Paris Ford – HIT
- 2020: Dayon Hayes – TBD
- 2021: None – Donald is currently ranked #6
Now none of this takes into account the two and three star guys that coaches developed into on-the-field stars. Heck none of this even takes into account guys in the PA top 10 who weren’t top five. Aaron Donald? Ranked 12th in PA. He turned out pretty good, right? Elliot Donald is ranked #6. Nahki Johnson is ranked #8. Narduzzi still has a shot at one top-five player in PA (Gateway’s Derrick Davis), but at the end of the day the ‘Duzz’s bread and butter is coaching up his guys, regardless of stars and rankings, especially on the defensive line. Jaylen Twyman had an 86 composite score, and was ranked 47th in the country. He’s now an All American. Patrick Jones brought an .835 composite ranking to Pitt. He’s now an All American candidate. Rashad Weaver checked in at .823. He’s an all-conference candidate. Hayes, Donald and Johnson ostensibly bring even more talent to the table than Twyman, Jones and Weaver. Do they bring the same work ethic and developmental potential? If they do, it’s not out of the question that Pitt’s D line (and with it, their overall program) continues to improve under Narduzzi. If not, well then this is just another kool-aid article that’s not going to age well. But given Narduzzi’s momentum, I think the ceiling is high.
Hail to Pitt