Pat Narduzzi recently locked in his third four-star verbal (LB/DE Naquan Brown) for the class of 2021, and amidst the (nearly universal) celebration, someone commented on how it would be interesting to look at the four-star washout rate at Pitt. Certainly there have been a few. With the relative dearth of four-stars that Narduzzi reels in, each one is (in the fans’ mind) a precious commodity, and each should have an above-average chance of developing into a star. And yet, many do not. This article intends to detail just how good (or bad) we’ve been.
Being ambitions (and slightly drunk) I originally wanted to go back ten years. Then I realized it’s 9:47 on a Sunday, and I have to get up tomorrow and I am on my last half glass of wine. So I prudently decided to stick to the Pat Narduzzi era.
We’ll start with 2015. Which technically should not count as it was a transition year and these guys were Chryst Recruits, but what the hey. Two guys. Both pretty good.
Jordan Whitehead – 5.9 – DB – By all accounts a successful if not brief career. Currently doing very well for himself as the starting safety for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Darrin Hall – 5.8 – RB – Took a while but he did break into the starting lineup and was a successful and productive running back in his senior year. Made his name on breakaway speed rather than shiftiness or power, and probably benefitted inordinately from the Watson / Borbley zone blocking scheme in 2019, and if you take out all his long runs he actually wasn’t very good, but he DID get all those long runs, and if he had just worked a little harder on his pass blocking he’d probably be on somebody’s practice squad in the NFL. So after all that, was he a slam-dunk four-star win? No. But did he ultimately live up to his billing. I’ll say yes.
2015 Success Rate: 100% (2/2)
Alright 2016. Pat’s first full recruting class. And he certainly made a splash, signing FIVE four-star players. Oh but how many made the cut?
Ruben Flowers – 5.8 – WR – Tall and I guess good hands, but I remember watching his HUDL film and thinking to myself, “man this guy doesn’t seem all that fast or athletic” and sure enough he never really got onto the field. Ended up at Independence Community Collage and put up 12 receptions for 161 yards and 1 TD in 2018.
Kaezon Pugh – 5.8 – LB – Man the Yinzers were excited when we landed Pugh. A local guy that was highly rated. A Quip! Pat was going to rebuild the pipeline. Well Pugh at 6’1″ never really found a position, and sure enough never really found the field. He transferred to Howard, so Kudos to the young man for going to a place where he can still get a quality education. Looks like 2018 was his final seasons, and Howard’s website had him listed at 6’2″ 240 (he came to Pitt listed at 6’1″ 203). He seems to have suffered from lack of position at Howard as well, withy maybe a switch to running back. He rushed for 75 yards (13 carries, all in 2nd half of season), and posted four tackles. I’m going to go ahead and label him a bust. As for the Quip2Pitt Pipeline? Pat has recruited just one other Aliquippa player since then: WR Will Gipson, who has yet to see the field in his first two years.
George Hill – 5.8 – ATH (RB) – There was as much excitement around George Hill as there was around Pugh. He was the guy that was supposed to keep the RBU reputation going. Sadly, he was diagnosed with a heart issue prior to starting training camp and for his own safety he was not allowed to participate in drills. From a player safety and wellbeing standpoint this is absolutely a win. And there was absolutely no way to forecast this on the recruiting trail. In that context I am giving George gets the same grade that I got when I dropped a class before the midterm grades were posted: Withdraw Passing. I hope that he is safe and prosperous today.
Amir Watts – 5.8 – DT – Didn’t redshirt and that my have been his undoing. Better known for his locker room presence than anything he did on the field, although he was a fixture for most of three seasons. His senior year stats looked like this: 25 total tackles, 7 TFL, 2 sacks. I think we can all agree you want more out of a four-star.
Damar Hamlin – 5.8 – DB – Also didn’t redshirt and it cost him. Bounced around from safety to corner to safety again, and he kind of got a mulligan with an extra year of eligibility even before COVID. Was a leader and a strong performer last year and has been incrementally better this year. Four stars should generally be productive multi-year starters and that’s exactly what Damar has been.
2016 Success Rate: 25% (1 out of 4, with 1 “Withdraw Passing”)
2017 brought us three four-star recruits.
One of them was Paris Ford. (6.0 – DB) Say what you want about Ford, and his ability (or desire) to play within the system, but he was absolutely the most talented (and passionate) guy on the field for two seasons. His closing speed on run support was unparalleled and his ball-hawking ability was pretty damn good. And yea, those targeting calls were bull____. We all know that. I wish him well in the NFL.
Another was Charles Reeves. (5.8 – TE). The opposite of Ford. Heavy. Slow. Not a team player. Washed out after a year. Now plays for the Youngstown State Penguins. Logged 3 appearances and no stats last year for them. Kind of sad, really.
Anthony “AJ” Davis (5.8 – RB). A little bit of a gray area here, because for a couple of years AJ Davis has been the best of a bad lot of Pitt running backs. Still, the Pitt faithful are used to the likes of Shady McCoy as a four-star running back (or at least Darrin Hall). Davis hasn’t really even come close to Hall, much less McCoy and so…even though Davis has been a “productive” player for the last couple of years, I can’t label him a recruiting win. Yes this is college, but sorry I’m not grading on a curve.
2017 Success Rate: 33% (1/3)
2018 (oh 2018)
One four star Player. Four star RB Mychale Salahuddin (5.9). Lauded as the next great Pitt running back, and if you saw him in the couple of games he appeared in before he tore up his knee, he looked kind of like the real deal. But… he tore up his knee. And if you’ve read (or watched) Friday night lights, you will know that Boobie Miles is a real guy with a real knee, and he ended up working in a warehouse in west Texas. (I actually have no idea if the movie documents Miles’ store, but the book opens up with the story of Boobie Miles and his knee and it’s absolutely heartbreaking). Anyway, Salahuddin and his surgically-repaired knee are now at North Carolina A&T, and due to COVID he has yet to post a stat. If he goes off and becomes an FCS All-American, then Pitt will have sadly missed a good one, but I’m guessing that the practice film doesn’t lie and he’s probably not quite the same guy he used to be. The the question then…does Pat Narduzzi get penalized because this guy got hurt? Because up until the injury happened, it looked like this dude had talent. (Okay okay we are talking about three carries against UNC for 34 yards and two kick returns against UCF for 26, but still, could he have been any worse the AJ Davis or “The Flea”?)
Sidebar: If you sort the 2018 recruits by rating, Nick Patti is the second highest rated guy in the class after Salahuddin. DE Habukkuk Baldonaldo and LB Wendell Davis share the lowest rating at 5.5. Discuss.
2018 Success Rate 0%. (0/1) The best ability is availability. Sorry Pat.
2019 also yielded one four-star. QB Davis Beville. He’s seen limited action this year, and was essentially recruited over when Whipple chose to bring in ASU transfer Joey Yellen. This is not exactly a glowing endorsement from a (supposedly) noted quarterback guru. A quick review of Beville’s limited passing activity shows questionable accuracy. That’s not a great characteristic for a quarterback in the west coast system, so I’m going to say “bust”. Still, if he magically manages to develop next year I reserve the right to change my opinion.
2019 Success Rate 0%. (0/1)
2020 – Pat picked it back up in 2020 and signed three four-stars.
First and foremost he signed Pittsburgh DE Dayon Hayes (5.8). In limited action Hayes has shown himself to be a talented and disruptive defensive end. Under Charlie Partridge’s careful tuteledge I have little doubt that Hays will turn into a contributor if not a future star.
Second Pat signed DB/WR Jahvante Royal (5.8). He’s redshirting this year and I don’t believe he’s seen the field, and so the jury is still out. At this rate I’m not including him in the evauation. Even a four star should get a redshirt year if he so chooses (and often this is the best thing for the program).
Lastly, there is Georgia DB Rashad Battle (5.8). He was a late (and surprise) signee. He’s gotten some playing time and while he looked a little raw early on, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. So yea maybe I’m going out on a limb here but I’m going to say Pat hit on this guy.
Projected 2020 Success Rate: 67% (2/3).
So overall where does his put Pat? He had some dark days in the middle of his tenure (but I will also refer you to the guys at the bottom of the Pitt signing class that have been productive. For every Four Star miss there is a two-star hit. I mean, legit question, who saw Sirvocea Dennis coming?) Nonetheless, the BETTER mid tier programs (and lets not mince words, Pitt is a mid-tier program, probably upper mid tier, but mid-tier nonetheless), hit on the majority of their four-stars and also develop the two’s (and really I’m just talking about Wisconsin here). Sadly, Pitt just isn’t doing that. If you take away Chryst’s Pitt recruits (Whitehead and Hall), Pat has hit on just 4 out of 13 four-stars (Hamlin, Ford, Hayes and Royal). Okay Salahuddin got hurt, so if you include him that’s 5/13. Even at five out of 13, that’s less than 40%. (.384 to be precise). That kind of batting average will get you into the hall of fame in baseball, but as far as college football recruiting all it does is piss off your fans.
It’s not all piss and vinegar though. An optimist could say that the arrow is trending up (potential 67% success rate this past season, and there are three defensive lineman 4-stars for 2021, all of whom have a good chance of panning out). Nonetheless, if Pat wants to get to the next level his four-star evaluations needs to get a click or two better – especially on offense. Still, he’s trucking along like he always did, with a core of three star guys, and he’s generally managing to win more than he loses. After all, 7-5 is a lot better than 5-7. Right?
Hail to Pitt