PITTSBURGH — Pat Narduzzi doesn’t particularly care for the NCAA’s transfer portal.
But that hasn’t stopped the Pitt head coach from making good use of it. Pitt landed a commitment from former Michigan tackle Nolan Ulizio on Sunday and Narduzzi is scheduled to travel to New Jersey to visit former Rutgers tight end Nakia Griffin-Stewart.
It’s something of a double-edged sword, as Pitt has been both benefitted and been hurt by transfers in Narduzzi’s tenure.
A total of 13 players departed Pitt’s team between the end of the 2017 season and the start of the 2018 season, a number that on its surface, seems alarming, though the players that left Pitt had varying degrees of success — almost all at a lower level — in 2018.
The Panthers got plenty of run out of Kent State grad transfer Stefano Millin at left tackle last season, and former Indiana wideout Taysir Mack figures to lead Pitt’s receiver corps in 2019.
This season, the NCAA’s transfer process has become even more streamlined, with the existence of the transfer portal preventing coaches from blocking transfers to certain schools. While that’s made parts of Narduzzi’s job easier — he’s not necessarily a fan of it.
“It’s become, really, a mess,” Narduzzi said on Friday. “I don’t know if I’d say it’s good, bad. It’s free agency. I’ve talked to a lot of high school coaches about it. It just gives kids a way to find a different place if things don’t go perfect. I really don’t like it at all. I think kids are going to make a lot of bad decisions. We’re just teaching kids that there’s an easier way to get out of this instead of working hard and trying to improve your status.”
Part of the issue, as Narduzzi sees it, is not so much the existence of the portal, than the sheer volume of players that have placed their name in it.
“This whole things is going to increase staff sizes,” Narduzzi said. “The NCAA is trying to reduce staff sizes. I told Graham Wilbert, our recruiting coordinator, we’re going to have to have a whole new office — add on to our facility and get a new office that just works on the portal. 2,000 kids and you can’t sort through it. Who is watching all that tape?”
The other issue that Narduzzi sees is that a previous NCAA change has limited teams to signing 25 players per class in order to curb over-signing. If a team graduates 18 seniors, has 3-4 kids leave early for the NFL and then another 4-5 transfer out, that means they’ll be playing shorthanded when training camps opens.
It doesn’t seem like that’s going to be the case for the Panthers this season. Pitt has just four players in the portal: wide receiver Darian Street, who is transferring to Towson, tight end Tyler Sear, walk-on kicker/holder Jake Scarton and walk-on quarterback Justin Sliwoski.
Narduzzi said he gave Scarton his blessing to seek a transfer if he can find a place where would have an opportunity to kick instead of being stuck behind Pitt starter Alex Kessman for two more years, but that in general, he doesn’t expect players that enter their names in the portal to return to his team.
“If a kid’s name is entered in the transfer portal, you can pretty much kiss him goodbye,” Narduzzi said. “I’m not going to have a guy with one foot in and one foot out.”
UPDATE: According to 247 Sports, walk-on Pitt fullback Jason Edwards has also entered his name into the portal. Edwards would have been part of a group of players looking to replace George Aston at fullback in 2019.