Things haven’t played out like most expected for this Pitt football team and the fan base isn’t happy.
Pick an issue, any issue, and Panther fans are probably criticizing it. While certain things are justifiably getting questioned, one area where it’s too soon to make a judgement on is recruiting.
Prior to this season, no one was criticizing Pat Narduzzi for his recruiting, in fact, a vast majority of people thought he was doing a great job and that was his biggest strength as a coach.
Fast forward to October 11 and those same people have doubts about Narduzzi and the players he’s bring in to the program.
To be blunt, that’s completely ridiculous and plain silly.
Fans around here have had to deal with a lot of negative things for decades but Narduzzi needs time and these recruits need time to develop. I know most don’t want to hear that and don’t have the patience for it but that’s the harsh reality.
Very few Power Five recruits live up to their potential in their first year on the playing field. Maybe we the media are guilty of hyping these kids up and fans immediately expect them to be stars and make major contributions in their first year. Reality is that doesn’t happen very often.
I haven’t agreed with everything Narduzzi and his coaches have done this year but it can’t be dismissed that Chris Clark, Aaron Mathews, AJ Davis, Max Browne, Ben DiNucci, Rashad Weaver, Amir Watts, Kam Carter, Keyshon Camp, Elijah Zeise, Saleem Brightwell, Dane Jackson, Damar Hamlin, Elias Reynolds, Patrick Jones, Therran Coleman, Rashad Wheeler, Maurice Ffrench, Chase Pine, Bricen Garner, Jason Pinnock and Damarri Mathis are getting playing time and have major roles for the first time. That’s a bunch of players getting their first on the job experience.
I’m not trying to make excuses but I am trying to be realistic and explain why things aren’t happening as fast as most would like.
I’m surely not going to make a final opinion on these recruiting classes and put any sort of grade on them yet.
Here’s a look at the last two Pitt recruiting classes and some of the major players that are expected to be major players in the Panthers turnaround.
CLASS OF 2016: Rashad Weaver, Keyshon Camp, Damar Hamlin, Aaron Mathews, Amir Watts, Elias Reynolds, Henry Miller, Kaezon Pugh, Therran Coleman, Rashad Wheeler, Ruben Flowers, Chase Pine, Chawntez Moss and Thomas MacVittie.
CLASS OF 2017: AJ Davis, Jaylen Twyman, Kam Carter, Michael Smith, Jason Pinnock, Damarri Mathis, Jerry Drake, Charles Reeves, Tyler Sear, Dontavius Butler, Todd Sibley, Cam Bright, Kenny Pickett and Paris Ford.
Not included are players such as Deslin Alexandre, Carter Warren, Gabe Houy, Grant Carrigan, Owen Drexel, Kyle Nunn, Bryce Hargrove, Phil Campbell, Bricen Garner, Brandon Ford and Maurice Ffrench who also could major impacts.
The point is that it’s ridiculous to criticize Narduzzi’s first two recruiting classes considering nearly every one of them are basically “rookies.”
As far as the this year’s class, it’s shaping up to be a solid class. Stop looking at the national ranking that it receives. Narduzzi has less than twenty scholarships to give this year so unless they landed a bunch of four and five-star players, it wasn’t ever going to be ranked very high.
Fans need to trust the coaches and their evaluation process. On the surface, Marquis Williams, Devin Danielson, Blake Zubovic, Chase Brown, John Morgan, Judson Tallandier, Jake Kradel and Noah Palmer look like good gets. Pitt had to battle big programs to land Williams, Danielson, Zubovic, Morgan, Tallandier and Kradel.
The big fish for this year is still out there. If Pitt lands Aliquippa’s Kwantel Raines, the overall perception of the class will improve. Raines will announce his decision on October 30.
Most of this negativity has to do with the 2-4 start but Pitt has six games to play which means time still remains to take something positive from 2017. More importantly, some of Pitt’s building blocks for the future have six games to get on the job training and experience.
I’ll be the glass half full guy and say that players like Ford, Hamlin, Weaver, Camp, Watts, Davis, Sibley, Miller, Pugh, Coleman, Reynolds, Reeves, Butler, Danielson, Williams, Zubovic and Kradel give me optimism for the future.