Early in Pat Narduzzi’s tenure as Pitt football coach, the Panthers made it a clear priority to recruit first in Western Pennsylvania before spreading their focus elsewhere.
Pitt had a good deal of success with that approach, landing quality local players like Damar Hamlin, Aaron Mathews, Therran Coleman, Paris Ford, Blake Zubovic and Jake Kradel.
Last year, though, that all changed. Without getting a commitment from a single local recruit, Narduzzi and Pitt went off the board, bringing in 18 players — mostly from the south, and all from out of town — for a weekend of official visits in June.
That weekend resulted in an impressive recruiting haul, with eight players committing in the span of 48 hours, and the southern influence on Pitt’s Class of 2019 can’t be denied.
Of the 19 high school seniors that have signed or are expected to sign with the Panthers, 10 are from south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Just two — Aliquippa wide receiver Will Gipson and Farrell linebacker Kyi Wright — are from Western Pennsylvania.
It seems that the Panthers are lining up for a repeat coming this June.
If you’ve been keeping tabs on Pittsburgh Sports Now’s coverage since the recruiting window opened, Pitt has been sending out offers left and right to talented underclassmen as they start the process for recruiting the Class of 2020 in earnest.
Another flurry of offers over the weekend surrounding Pitt’s junior day brought up the total of Class of 2020 offers from Pitt to 171.
But Pitt’s offer to Westinghouse defensive end Dayon Hayes was just the fifth of a player from Pennsylvania and third from Western Pennsylvania, with Hayes joining Norwin quarterback Jack Salopek and Mars tackle Michael Carmody.
Instead, Pitt has offered a whopping 65 players from Florida, a combined 29 from Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., and 16 from Georgia. Pitt is still recruiting traditional hotbeds like Ohio (15 offers) and New Jersey (10 offers).
That’s not to say that Pitt isn’t going to recruit Western Pennsylvania in this class. There were over a dozen 2020 prospects from the WPIAL that Pitt hosted this weekend. Many, like Central Catholic defensive end A.J. Beatty and Woodland Hills tight end Josh Rawlings, seem to be good bets to eventually land a Pitt offer.
But there’s been a clear shift in long-term strategy. No longer is Pitt starting in its backyard and building outward. The Panthers are taking an across-the-map approach from day one.