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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 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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