Pat Narduzzi and staff were hoping to add at least four offensive linemen to the Panthers 2019 recruiting class. Manorville (NY) Eastport South Manor CSD offensive lineman Matthew Goncalves was the first lineman to join the class. He was soon joined by Morgantown (WV) Morgantown High School offensive lineman Nick Malone (6-foot-6 inches, 280 pounds). Malone, like Goncalves, was a standout at prospect camp and earned a scholarship offer. The athletic lineman caught can be categorized as a ‘sleeper’ and he comes from the backyard of a traditional Pitt rival. To gain better perspective on Malone both on and off the field, Pittsburgh Sports Now contacted Morgantown High School head football coach Matt Lacy.
“Nick has been a two year starter for us as a sophomore, junior, and now obviously project him as going in here a three year starter for us. He’s also a basketball player so he’s very athletic,” said Lacy. “He’s around 6-foot-6 to 6-foot-7 inches tall and in the 270 plus pound range. He really moves very well. You’ve just seen that progression for him. Each year he’s gotten a little bit better and kind of grown into his body and been able to adjust.”
“When he was a freshman and sophomore he was 6-foot-3 to 6-foot-4 inches tall and kind of lanky. He simply didn’t understand how to use his big body. He developed those basketball skills with Coach (Dave) Tallman (Morgantown High School head basketball coach) and it helped him become a much better football player. He got up there to Pitt camp and there wasn’t a whole lot of interest. Nick was kind of a no name. He blew them away with his pure athleticism at camp and that’s what garnered him an offer.”
Coach Lacy was asked to comment on his off the field demeanor. He stated, “Nick, he’s honestly, he’s kind of a quiet guy. He’s one of those guys I would probably describe as a gentle giant. You never really see him with an anger or anything on his face. He’s one of those guys that kind of no matter the situation he’s always smiling. We were joking in local radio station this morning before practice and we had him in the coaches’ office while we were doing it and he was just smiling from ear to ear the whole time he’s talking. That’s just kind of his persona. Now, he’s a road grater at dominating offensive lineman. Like I said, just to talk to him he’s just one of the gentlest, nicest kids. Such a pleasure to be around. He comes from a great family. I’ve had the pleasure, I coached, like I said, one of his older brothers as well, and so I’ve known the family and so forth for a long time. That’s probably, like I said, the best word to describe him is a gentle giant.
Malone was measured at 6-foot-5 inches tall at Pitt prospect camp with his shoes off. Coach Lacy indicated that he’s 6-foot-6 inches tall in cleats and he’s not done growing. With his considerable size, exceptional football and athleticism, he was asked why Nick didn’t elicit more attention for P5 collages in the area.
“Honestly he didn’t get out on the camp scene enough early on. That was one of the things Nick really loved playing basketball. I think early on he was even kind of a basketball lean. As things kept progressing this summer I started to talk more and more to his parents about being recruited and what he needed to do because he spent so much time in the off season playing basketball,” he said.
“He wasn’t going to football camps and that type of thing and so he wasn’t getting the recognition as he probably deserved. So, we sat down after his junior season, I said listen, this kid has the potential to be a power five kid. I’m not saying that he is, but with his size and stuff that’s stuff that you can’t teach. So I said if you want him to get looks I said I know some people I can call, but the best thing to do is get out, get him some exposure by going to these camps. That’s how recruiting works these days. Players have to be on campus and be seen.”
“We sat down, I got a list of all the camps on the east coast, he basically picked all the schools that he liked, and he and his mother made a list and they started traveling together and making the camps. I know he garnered from going to camps obviously an offer from Pitt, a huge amount of interest from Rutgers, and of course West Virginia but the offer never came for whatever reason. So we talked and I said to him listen, in time classes will start filling up, I said every time we’ve talked you’ve told me how much you and your family enjoyed your time at Pitt. I even got to experience it. We took another kid up there on a recruiting weekend and just how well what a family atmosphere it was, talked to Coach (Rob) Harley up there and just I’ve been in contact with him a little bit about another kid. The facilities at Pitt are first class and they really do make you feel like it’s home up there.”
Coach Lacy was asked to elaborate on Nick’s best position in college and his potential as an offensive lineman in the ACC. He stated, “Nick will be easily carry 300 to 310 pounds and still remain very athletic. We don’t use a tight end very much in our offense here at Morgantown High, but Nick is definitely talented enough that he could play some tight end if he had to.”
“When we played games and stuff and let the lineman catch a punt and stuff to get out of conditioning it’s what we do because he can do it and he knows that he’ll catch the ball. He gets out there and he catches balls from the quarterbacks, and he catches punts, and kickoffs, so he is very versatile in that regard. So definitely, like I said, he fits that mold in being an athletic type of kid for his size. He’s not just a kid who’s going to get in and maul you but then not be able to pass you and defend the edge rushers. I think Nick probably projects that that tackle position against some of the quicker you’re seeing now in college football, those edge rush type guys who put their heads in the dirt and go.”
Despite Malone’s commitment to Pitt, a number of P5 schools remain in contact with him. The West Virginia Mountaineers are the school in his ‘back yard’. How solid is his commitment to Pitt?
“I have talked to him and his parents and I would say Nick is a very solid commitment. I think at one time he did the lack of interest that (WVU) has shown in him has turned him off a little bit in that regard. He and I have sat down and talked several occasions about his commitment to Pitt, and every time it came up that smile of his came back.”
Harry Psaros can be found on Twitter at @PittGuru