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February 4, 2016

What a fine finish to a hard fought and victorious recruiting season!  Here is Pitt’s “Signing Day Special” presentation of the 23 young men who just signed on the dotted line to play football for the University of Pittsburgh.  They posted great write ups and videos of each recruit – well done Pitt and thanks for the info.

Before we start digging into the details of the class, here is a great 40 minute video of Pat Narduzzi’s 3:00 pm press conference where he discusses this 2016 recruiting class. Does he look like a happy guy to you?

I agree with the commenters who said that this may be the best overall recruiting class since Dave Wannstedt’s time at Pitt.  Rivals.com has us with 23 recruits who average out to 3.13 stars apiece; five 4*s, 16 3*s and two 2* on the whole.  Not too shabby at all.

The excitement for recruiting is as high as any I can remember it being over the last 15 years, as is the excitement for the program and especially the coaching staff.

Narduzzi obviously loves this class.  On CBS’s 93-7 The Fan last night he told the world that he thinks “We are a lot closer than people think to national championship conversation.”  Note he didn’t say to the championship itself and I think that was a smart move to lessen the drama of that statement a bit.

We’ll remember how much fans were pumped up about DW being a new Pitt HC during the fall camp of 2005 but that lasted about one weekend. It rose back up again in 2008-09 but that was more of a wary kind of excitement on the fans part.  The reality of losing seasons had pretty firmly set in by that point.

I’ll say now that this is the type of work everyone (save me) predicted for Narduzzi when he was hired, especially when fans would say “Wait until his first full recruiting class”. Well, all that came true.

Now, if we can win another eight or better yet nine games this momentum will continue, especially if we win against PSU in September. That will take care of those central PA recruits who automatically look at Penn State first. In addition to even better footing with the WPA kids it will set us up nicely for making a real push for those good NJ athletes that PSU signs every year.

We did extremely well in WPA this class and if we can keep that as a strong recruiting base and win games with local kids the ‘other’ sports fans in Pittsburgh will sit up and take notice.

Of our 4* recruits; DB Damar Hamlin, DL Amir Watts, LB Kaezon Pugh, ATH George Hill (who we stole as a  Ohio State commit) and WR Ruben Flowers, three are solid to play defense with Hill being able to switch to DB if needed as he played that position in high school.  That is a real bump in talent for the side of the LOS that is Narduzzi’s first love.

Out of our 23 recruits 13 of them are slotted for defensive positions with six of those defensive line players. That was a future position of need and Narduzzi took great care of that in this class.

But we didn’t hit homeruns just on defense.  Offensively we lured QB Thomas MacVitte out from under the nose of OSU and protected him from a late in the game phone call from Les Miles of LSU.  MacVitte is a big strong armed but inexperienced kid who only played one season at QB in HS.  Lots of fans think he’s the gem of the class but we have seen so many QBs who played outside of their star rating – both better and worse – it is hard for me to even contemplate that until he has a fall camp under his belt.

We’ll see some highly rated offensive recruits in the spring drills and the spring game this year. Along with DE Patrick Jones RB Chawntez Moss and TE Chris Clark, who transferred after playing in the opener last season at UCLA, all enrolled already and are obviously ready to help the team.

Interestingly Pitt officials are working on a waiver for Clark that might allow him to have five years to play four seasons, beginning in 2017.  As a 4* recruit we have to hope he gets that opportunity.

One thing that really separates this class from the previous ones, especially the classes from 2011-15, is the quality of formal offers these kids got from of the P-5 football program to play ball for them.  In the past we’d see a sprinkling of our recruits with a lot of big offers. This year almost every player we recruited has offers from bigger and more winning programs than Pitt has been recently.

An example of this is our late commitment on LOI Day of 3* DL Keyshon Camp.  He’s a kid who was not ranked nationally, 61st ranked player in FL and as only the 38th DL on Rivals national ranking list.  Yet he had offers from the likes of Alabama, OSU, Florida, Michigan (where he took an official visit) and Texas to name just a few.

That is as a 3* recruit across the website’s boards.

Now we are winning recruiting battles that we wouldn’t even have been in the recruit’s Top Five in the recent past. We landed those five 4* kids I listed above and here is a breakdown of their P-5 offers and the stronger programs Pitt beat out for their services. In the past we probably would have lost these recruits:

Amir Watts: 14 P-5 offers; Nebraska and PSU

Kaezon Pugh: 18 P-5 offers; Nebraska, Auburn, WVU, and Miami

George Hill: Nine P-5 offers; Michigan State, OSU, Wisconsin, Nebraska and WVU.

Ruben Flowers: Six P-5 offers

Damar Hamlin: 24 P-5 offers; Auburn, Georgia, Miami, Michigan, MSU, Nebraska, ND, OSU, Oklahoma, PSU, Stanford, UCLA, VT, WVU and Wisconsin.

Man, we have to take another look at the kid everyone and his brother wanted.

What is really impressive is that Hamlin took four of his five allowed official visits and aside from his visit to Pitt ND, OSU and Penn State hosted the kid on their campuses and had that close and intense recruiting thrown at him… and he stuck with the home team.

It isn’t just the 4* recruits who were wooed but the big programs, the 3* kids were highly sought after also and almost every one of them had other P-5 offers too… some more attractive P-5s than others:

PSU wanted WR Maurice Ffrench – who Narduzzi kept from flipping at the last minute, Florida and Tennessee wanted DE Zack Gilbert, and LSU offered QB Tom MacVitte late in the process.

Pitt beat out PSU and WVU in a late decision by WR Aaron Mathews. CB Henry Miller had 18 P-5 offers and turned down MSU, Oregon State and WVU.  LB Chase (Mr. Irresolute) Pine had 10 P-5s.

Local kid DT Rashad Wheeler had 12 big offers with PSU and Tennessee and, to finish off the class, OT Zach Wheeler, who was unranked by position, state and nationally across the recruiting boards was still chased by seven P-5 colleges and turned down Miami and WVU to be a Panther.

Some kids didn’t get any monster program offers but the academic quality of the schools who offered them were just as impressive. For example DE Bryce Hargrove was offered by academic powerhouses Colgate, Cornell, Harvard and Yale.  But he’s more than just a scholar, he can play ball too.

The Service Academies wanted four of our recruits, two by the Air Force Academy and two by the Naval Academy.  That may not sound like that big of a deal to some fans if they based a recruit’s worth on offers from the better football schools alone.

But the reality is that when a service academy offers a high school senior an athletic scholarship that means many important things. First is that the recruit meets their stringent academic and personal standards as there is no difference between the admission requirements of Congressional appointed cadets and those on athletic scholarship.

Second, and more importantly to me, a service scholarship means those military academies envision and want those recruits as Commissioned Officers in the Armed Forces leading other men and women in harm’s way in four years.  That’s top shelf people folks.

There are other interesting twists to this class also.

Oregon State, Stanford, USC, UCLA, California; those are all west coast schools, as far as you can get from these recruit’s home towns, yet those universities  pursued these kid to go and play ball there… and were turned down. Let’s be real here. No matter what quality of football those schools have played lately attending USC, UCLA or California means great weather and stunning coeds.

Hey, recruits have picked a schools for a lot less than that.

All of the issues listed above; the large number of P-5 offers, the Big Dog schools we beat out, the great academic universities that Pitt bested for some of these young men and having players choose us over the prestigious and almost impossible to get into Service Academies… those are bellwether marks for Pitt recruiting.

We certainly have had recruits in the past who have had to make those hard decisions as to which universities to attend as a student/athlete and then chose Pitt, but in my memory I can’t remember a recruiting class that had the across the board 360 degrees of desirability as Narduzzi’s 2016 class has.

That is an excellent portent for future recruiting and for the university as a whole.

 





I’m with you dhuff. I never heard it stated that way but that’s always been my philosophy re trash talk.

At the ’76 Sugar Bowl we rode to the stadium in a shuttle bus full of loudmouthed trash talking Georgia fans. They begged for a reaction but I told them I was saving it for after the game. Oddly enough, after the game there were no bulldog fans on the bus.

Comment by dinosaur 71 02.04.16 @ 9:07 pm

Just one small dose of realism for all of those “giddy” over this Recruiting Class.

There is not one “Tyler Boyd” to be found among the names.

Juwann Winfree would have come close. But given his history, should have NEVER been recruited by Narduzzi and his Staff.

The loss of Boyd is going to be felt. Don’t underestimate that fact.

Comment by PittofDreams 02.04.16 @ 9:14 pm

Ohio is fertile land for recruits. Let Pedo State have Philly and EPA. Hell, let them have Jersey. But dont let those Nitters into Buckeye Country. I’m sure tOSU would gladly hand Pitt some 3-stars before the White Cult took them. I think Pitt can become par with tOSU without cheating. The perfect storm is on the horizon and coming together. Give it 3 years and that storm will blow all those Buckeyes off the tree and turn Creepy Valley into Dead Valley. Poopy Pants will roll in his grave.

Comment by TX Panther 02.04.16 @ 9:17 pm

The loss of Boyd will make the O more dynamic. One man can be shut down. And its not like Pitt is losing a Fitz. Boyd will be lucky to sniff the 2nd round. Pitt’s O was too dependent on him this year. That was a sign of weakness.

Comment by TX Panther 02.04.16 @ 9:20 pm

For the record, Pitt has some stunning coeds as well my friend. Also, have Chatham, Carlow, CMU, etc. right on the same block. Plenty of fine young women who are also plenty smart. The Pittsburgh hills give the women better legs than the California beaches.

Comment by Kukumaluku 02.04.16 @ 9:28 pm

I hope Boyd is a 2cnd rounder. The higher the better for future recruits that are tempted to go to the Bama’s, ND’s and battle 3 others with the exact same skill set. At Pitt, you can play early if you are good enough. Three years and out you go to earn a big paycheck.

I am concerned about the WR position as well. However, the good news is that our strength should be the OL. With that strength we must hope to provide our qb with an additional 5 10ths of a second of pass protection which should get our guys a better chance to get open. Also, a strong running game may avail the offense to BIG plays!

Comment by dhuffdaddy 02.04.16 @ 9:33 pm

wbb, Yes we have much more in common with eastern Ohio than with eastern PA. Also a little more about the number of kids playing football in both states. Back in the late 60s and early 70s there was a policy in Pennsylvania leading to consolidation of school districts. With many or the small boroughs, townships and municipalities joining to form larger districts the net result was fewer teams with fewer kids playing high school football. In Ohio there are more school districts and ultimately more kids playing football. The more athletes you have playing, the more you develop. Also in many of the students in Ohio small schools kids have to play multiple. sports.

Comment by Justinian 02.04.16 @ 9:49 pm

In Pennsylvania and in western PA we still have excellent high school football. We just don’t have as many kids playing football. I love the job Narduzzi and his staff have done recruiting this year. I think the first and most important part of building a successful football program is getting the best local players. If you can do that, you build a good nucleus. Then the better you get and more success you have on the field, the more attractive your program becomes to players from outside the area.

Comment by Justinian 02.04.16 @ 10:02 pm

Dinosaur, The best line I heard from the 76 Sugar Bowl came from a New Orleans bar tender. He said to friend of mine, “We love you Pitt fans, you have a good time and spend money. The Georgia fans show up two shirts and a ten dollar bill.”

Comment by Justinian 02.04.16 @ 10:11 pm

There aren’t as many kids playing football because there aren’t as many people in western PA. My parents graduated from Baldwin in the early to mid 70’s with graduating classes of around 1,000. I graduated from Brashear in 99 with 240(started with over 400-city has much higher dropout rates) & my nephew graduated from Shaler in 13 with 400. Brashear & Shaler are in the top 5-10 districts in western PA, Baldwin is around 20-25. Clairton had 68 boys in the entire high school when the WPIAL reclassified in 2014.

Comment by Nick 02.04.16 @ 10:26 pm

Here’s a link to the Pitt Football 2016 Signing Day Special on Roots Sports. Excellent show.

link to youtube.com

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 02.04.16 @ 10:29 pm

TX,I respectfully disagree. Boyd was a great WR at Pitt and he will be greatly missed. The guy faced the best our opponent’s defense had to offer including double teams and still consistently produced. He does not have the talent that Fitzgerald has, but he is not far from it…What the hell is it with some Pitt fans that makes them have a need to cut down our best player?

Comment by HbgFrank 02.04.16 @ 10:52 pm

Nick … I graduated from Baldwin in 68. My graduating class was 980. We had 58 come out for varsity football and 44 for JV Ball. We had a marching band of 160.

Times have truly changed. Empty baseball fields are filling again and football participating is dropping. Just finished watching the 30/30 special on the 85 Bears. McMahon has CTE and is a mess. 2 fellow players committed suicide. Tony Dorsett who I saw play in HS and every game at Pitt is a physical mess. Randell El just said he’d play baseball if he had it to do again. My beloved Steelers were at the forefront of covering it all up.

Comment by Dan 72 02.04.16 @ 10:54 pm

Boyd was so good he made Chad Voytik look like a “half-decent” Starting D-1 Quarterback… so long as Voytik was throwing to Boyd.

Comment by PittofDreams 02.04.16 @ 11:34 pm

PoD – in case I missed this discussion (too many posts to read), I apologize for the redundancy. But, you were validated by HCPN when he said on the evening of LOI that Hill will start out on the offensive side. You were persistent with your view and I give you credit.

Now, regarding T.Boyd, I too don’t like the trashing of this Pitt great. We have a storied history that is fun to be apart of – the last 30 years have been slim pickings – enjoy this fin athlete for what he was, a SUPERSTAR. There is only one Fitz and T.Boyd made a nice run at reaching his talent level.

Big shoes to fill – next man up!

HTP!

Comment by Erie Express 02.05.16 @ 6:03 am

With the exception of Henderson on kickoffs, Boyd was the only big play threat and he was doubled teamed constantly .. and his ypc dropped dramatically. Ollison was not a home run hitter.

Using Hill and occasionally Whitehead on offense, Henderson in the slot and possibly Ffrench may improve things, and I haven’t given up on Hall either.

Comment by wbb 02.05.16 @ 7:03 am

The closing of many of the steel mills and associated industries which began in mid 70s had a devastating effect on the population in W PA. My senior class was > 600, now I believe they don;t even have that in the top 3 grades.

The downtown is like almost every other W Pa downtown .. there are more empty buildings than stores.

Comment by wbb 02.05.16 @ 7:21 am

Reed,now that great article is read, look at the schedule.Come down to earth boys,we just may not come close to our record this season.Hope we do but,we may be ayear away, and then possibly starting an un tested qb.

Comment by paul shannon 02.05.16 @ 7:26 am

The difficulty of the ’16 schedule is primarily 4 away games … Ok St, Clemson, UNC and Miami. But we may be favored in the rest of the games.

The other away game is at UVa which is winnable, as is all 7 home games … with PSU, GT and VT being the toughest probably.

Comment by wbb 02.05.16 @ 8:09 am

And in completely unrelated news, it is College Championship on Jeopardy. Pitt student, Sarah Dubnik from Jamison from the Philly suburbs, finished 2nd last night on Jeopardy to a kid from Stanford. She did beat a girl from Augustana. Back to football.

Comment by Sam_in_215 02.05.16 @ 8:19 am

Not surprisingly, Rivals then downgraded Sarah from a 4* to a 3*.

Comment by Sam_in_215 02.05.16 @ 8:20 am

RE WR position, the loss of Boyd is obviously big, but we have some really young talent and this is a position where freshman can more easily come in and contribute; none of us know how any of these guys will contribute yet. What we need is a lot more athleticism at the WR Position to cause separation, etc. But the other factor is that we’ll have a new OC, and from what I saw last year, this is my biggest reason for optimism with regard to next year’s offense.

Comment by 1618mt 02.05.16 @ 8:24 am

When our best player was double or triple teamed, did it help open up our offense. Did it make us more dynamic. Yes hes a dynamic player but Pitt was too dependent on him. And dont tell me he didnt take plays off. He is no where near the level of Fitz. I’d put Antonio Bryant ahead of him. He will be missed but not as much as you think. Pitt will be more explosive next year because the opponent knows it just cant focus on shutting down one player.

Comment by TX Panther 02.05.16 @ 8:50 am

TX Panther – I agree that the Pitt coaches did not take advantage of the double teaming T.Boyd was experiencing – and that is on former OC Chaney.

What I dislike is Pitt fans trashing a great Pitt player. It makes NO sense to me.

Comment by Erie Express 02.05.16 @ 9:18 am

Boyd won’t be missed as much as we fans think he will, sometimes it is better for the player and for the team itself if a star player declares early.

Star players suck the oxygen out of the room and hinder other’s progress in a lot of ways. Not that you’d want to stifle the star’s production – that is what makes them stars. But many times the underlings flourish when it is their time to shine.

I’ve said this before more than once, just because a star WR does well and gets a lot of balls thrown his way does not mean there isn’t good, or even great, talent behind him. I firmly believe that is the case with Boyd and his opposite last season Dontez Ford.

Fans are looking at Boyd’s ’15 numbers then at Ford’s ’15 numbers and think there is no comparison, but they don’t look closely enough. Boyd was always going to get the lion’s share of receptions and passes thrown… that is the case with star players. But then look at Ford’s YPC – it is almost TWICE what Boyd’s was.

Twice guys – and like I said that is with a great receiver opposite him. And that wasn’t done with just a few catches but being the 2nd leading receiver on the team. He has hands as good as they come and he dropped very few passes.

Now Ford’s the guy and because he hasn’t been a “star” WR yet he won’t get double teamed right off the bat. He’ll produce like crazy next year and I’ll predict now that he’s be as close to a star on offense as we have next season.

Challingsworth is ready to play full time and did very well as a spot receiver last season with a 14.3 ypc average.

With Ford and Challingsworth as the primaries, Orndoff (also a good receiver especially for a TE) as the safety valve and some good and decent depth we’ll be fine and Peterman will have a better passing year than he did last season because he’ll literally have more targets to choose from.

Comment by Reed 02.05.16 @ 9:36 am

I think Ford and Challingsworth will both be fine, but like I said, we need an explosive athlete or two at the WR position… someone with much more speed. I hope we find at least one of those, or at least a guy that can consistently get separation.

Comment by 1618mt 02.05.16 @ 9:44 am

I dont think anyone should totally trash any player. We can criticize. Each player has his strengths and weaknesses. And yes Boyd was one of the all-time great Pitt receivers. Just not the greatest. Thank God he didnt have Tino throwing to him.

Comment by TX Panther 02.05.16 @ 10:35 am

I don’t think Boyd was the focus of our passing game because he was a star. I think he was the focus because he did one thing far better than any other receiver on the roster…he created separation and got open.
Even though many times the other receivers in a pattern were single covered it was the double covered Boyd that got open. And that is why CV and then NP (and the OC) relied so much on this star WR

Comment by HbgFrank 02.05.16 @ 12:33 pm

The thing with T. Boyd was that even when he wasn’t exactly “open,” the QB knew that he had a great chance for a completion because Boyd could make the tough catch. I think that was why the QBs so fixated on him.

Boyd made a lot of catches that just made me involuntarily say “Wow.”

In an unrelated story, I understand that Coach Duzz had a long talk with Dr. Freddie Fu and Dr. Fu has transplanted a new pair of hands onto Jester Weah. Jester is still working out the kinks, but things are progressing well… 😉

Go Pitt.

Comment by MajorMajors 02.05.16 @ 10:54 pm

Thanks wbb
Watching the Root show and seeing coach Harley…he an OSU grad and his grandad a football legend…I see where we are headed. A strong wpa base and the brand and money to go wherever.
That pleases me.

Comment by Sfpitt 02.05.16 @ 11:29 pm

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