PITTSBURGH — Pitt will close the program’s first early signing period for football on Friday with at least 17 players that have submitted a National Letter of Intent to the program.
But the changes to the rules that allowed so many players to sign at an early date aren’t universally popular.
Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi came out strongly against the changes when they were first announced, and now that he has one season of recruiting with the new calendar under his belt, his mind hasn’t changed much.
Part of the issues is the ramped-up timeline, which saw most players finish their seasons around Thanksgiving along with the college teams, and then have just three weekends to take official visits before signing day.
Players that were previously committed were put under extra pressure to sign and those that weren’t had a mad scramble at the end of their recruiting process.
“I think there’s a lot of pressure on these kids,” Narduzzi said. “These are hard decisions, even for guys that it was easy. I talked to one that said, ‘My mom was sweating this morning.’ It’s not easy. You feel like you’re signing a scholarship, but you feel like you’re signing your son away when a parent puts a signature down there, and you’d better be signing him to the right people. His mom was obviously really happy, but it’s like a big thing.”
While there is technically still another signing period that begins in February, Make no mistake, the vast majority of the Class of 2018 signed on the line this week. Four of the top five players and 12 of the top 15 players in the class have all signed, and Narduzzi thinks the rate is higher than that farther on down the line. “I’d say 85 to 90 percent of the kids probably signed today,” he said. “I think next year it’s going to be 100 percent. I think it’ll just be the new Signing Day unfortunately. … There’s a lot of pressure for these kids to make decisions.”
Part of the pressure of the process involved the players that had committed to a school, but were unsure if they wanted to sign on Dec. 20. Narduzzi had said in the past that he would treat any such player as if they weren’t committed at all, leaving players in a lurch — make a decision they’re not fully on board with in a rush, or start the process over late in the game with few options.
Narduzzi walked back from those words on Wednesday, saying that he didn’t want to put additional pressure on a player to commit. Some of that may have come with regards to New Jersey tight end Matt Alaimo, who was committed to Pitt but did not sign with the team on Wednesday.
“My thing is I don’t want to put any pressure on anybody and say, ‘We’re not going to take you if you don’t sign,’” Narduzzi said, mostly in direct contradiction to his previous words. “It’s got to be the right fit and it’s got to be for the right reason. But you can’t blame somebody for getting cold feet because it’s not easy.”
Alaimo de-committed from Pitt on Thursday, leaving the Panthers without a tight end in the class for the moment. But Narduzzi said that he wasn’t surprised by any of the week’s developments.
“Coming into [Wednesday], there was not one surprise,” he said. “We’ve got great communication from every coach on our staff to me with our kids. Didn’t have any surprises today. I won’t be surprised tonight. I feel pretty good. We knew who we had. Like I said, I didn’t sit here sweating driving in this morning going, ‘God, wonder if he’s going to sign.’ I felt pretty confident that the guys we thought were going to were going to, and obviously I encouraged guys if you’re not sure, don’t.”
It will be interesting to see what happens with Alaimo and other players in his position around the country as college football continues to move through uncharted recruiting territory.