While Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi is still putting the finishing touches on the Class of 2018, they have also been busy handing out offers to players in the Class of 2019 since the Panthers’ season ended three weeks ago.
The early offers are a chance to try to take a look at what Pitt’s priorities are for 2019 and the way they’re going about attacking recruiting as a staff.
The first thing that jumps out is where the latest string of offers are located. In his first three full recruiting classes at Pitt, Narduzzi and his staff have followed a fairly similar geographic plan.
They’ve started their search for Panthers players in Pitt’s backyard with recruits like Paris Ford, Damar Hamlin and Rashad Wheeler coming from familiar WPIAL turf. Then, they’ve expanded to other nearby areas.
“I talk about our back yard,” Narduzzi said at signing day a year ago. “To me, the closer we are to home, if we could get 25 guys from Pittsburgh, they’re all there and want to come, we’re going to take those. We’re going to work from the city of Pittsburgh out.”
That means that some of Pitt’s later targets have come from outside the region. Pitt’s Class of 2017 included four WPIAL recruits, the last of which — tight end Tyler Sear — committed on Aug 18. The late commits all came from out of town, with Jason Pinnock (Connecticut), Michael Smith (Florida), Kam Carter (Mississippi), A.J. Davis (Florida) and Jalen Twyman (Washington, D.C.) all coming after the first of the year.
That pattern seems to be holding true in 2018, with local commits Devin Danielson, David Green, Jake Kradel, Noah Palmer and Blake Zubovic all pledging before Aug 24. Pitt’s late targets all are players from outside the local region.
But in 2019, their offers are already spread out. Pitt has offered quarterbacks from Alabama, Connecticut, North Carolina, Michigan and South Carolina; running backs from Florida, New Jersey, Ohio, Eastern Pennsylvania and Virginia; wide receivers from Florida, Maryland, Ohio, Eastern Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.; tight ends from Maryland and Eastern Pennsylvania; defensive ends from Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio and Washington, D.C. and defensive tackles from Michigan and Ohio.
They haven’t offered a single Western Pennsylvania player at any of those positions. In total, they’ve offered 21 players from Florida, 11 from Ohio, nine from Michigan and nine from all of Pennsylvania. The only local players with offers are Pine-Richland tackle Andrew Kristofic, Farrell linebacker Kyi Wright, North Allegheny cornerback Joey Porter, Jr., and Norwin safety Jayvon Thrift.
There are several potential reasons for the shift. The condensed recruiting timeline, with players committing in December instead of February, is probably one. With less time, Pitt can’t afford to wait on local players before starting to recruit in other areas.
The next part of it is there are no obvious top local recruits for 2019 right now. Whether it’s been Ford or Hamlin, Lamont Wade, Khaleke Hudson, Miles Sanders, Phil Jurkovec or Kwantel Raines, there has been a clear top-tier of WPIAL recruits over the last few years of players that have elevated themselves after their junior years.
That just isn’t the case this year. Kristofic has impressive offers, picking one up from Michigan to go along with Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, West Virginia and Wisconsin, among others. But he’s still rated as three-star prospect by both Rivals and 247Sports.
There aren’t any four-star 2019 products from the region and beyond the four Pitt has offered, there are only six more three-stars: Aliquippa cornerback M.J. Devonshire, Central Catholic wide receiver Corey Thomas, Imani Christian wide receiver Rahmon Hart, Central Catholic defensive end Brian Dallas, Steel Valley linebacker Todd Hill, Jr., Pine-Richland linebacker Tyler King.
From Pitt’s current roster, they’re looking at needing a quarterback, where they’re light a scholarship thanks to Thomas MacVittie’s transfer, three running backs, a wide receiver, four offensive linemen, three defensive linemen, four linebackers and two defensive backs.
There just isn’t local talent to fulfill those needs, even if Pitt closed on all of the available three-star players. In particular, the WPIAL doesn’t have a single highly-rated quarterback or running back and just one wide receiver.
The bottom line is that Pitt has shown a willingness to quickly move from local targets to those in richer recruiting areas in the past. For 2019, that timeline might have been moved up.