Pitt lost out on 2019 Pine-Richland offensive lineman Andrew Kristofic on Monday, as the three-star rated prospect committed to Notre Dame.
Kristofic is the second high-profile WPIAL recruit in as many years to join Notre Dame, following in the footsteps of 2018 Pine-Richland classmate Phil Jurkovec. In the 2017 class, Notre Dame landed three players from Western Pennsylvania, giving them at least five over the last three cycles.
The combination of some big-time recruits leaving the region to go to Notre Dame, in addition to unavoidable competition from Penn State and West Virginia, has left many soured on Pitt’s local recruiting.
Pittsburgh Sports Now has written many times in the past about Pitt’s Western Pa. recruiting strategies and how the Panthers haven’t made recruiting locally as big of a focus of the program’s efforts under Pat Narduzzi.
While that’s true, and Pitt’s best chances at landing truly impactful talent probably still land outside the region, that narrative can be a bit overstated. Pitt still does really, really well with local players.
Since 2015, Pitt has signed 21 players from WPIAL or the City League. The next-most total is Penn State with seven. West Virginia has six, Notre Dame has five and Temple and Toledo have four.
Since Pat Narduzzi has arrived, Pitt has landed as many Western Pa. players as Penn State, West Virginia, Notre Dame and Ohio State combined.
Could still Pitt do better in that department? Probably. Of the four- and five-star recruits during that tenure, Pitt has landed four, or exactly half, while Notre Dame and Penn State each have three and West Virginia and Michigan one.
But that’s the rub. Eight four-star players over five years isn’t exactly a lot, and there aren’t any yet in the Class of 2019. There were just two in the Class of 2018.
Those that are there are under heavy recruiting pressure. Pittsburgh is less than a five-hour drive from Ann Arbor, Columbus and East Lansing. It’s far shorter to get to Morgantown and State College. Those schools are going to recruit Western Pa., and they’re going to get their fair share of players.
With the advent of social media, digital highlight films and private jets for recruiters, it’s easier than ever for an out-of-town school to swoop in and pluck the top recruits from an area.
Pitt’s focus in Western Pennsylvania should be getting to know the local kids better than every other school, figuring out which of those three-star players are going to be the best ones, and getting them to commit early so that the Panthers can land talented players from other areas later in the cycle.