If you’ve been paying attention, Pat Narduzzi has placed a bit more emphasis on recruiting Western Pennsylvania this year than in the past.
It’s not a change in recruiting philosophy and it’s not because of any criticism he’s heard in the past about Pitt not placing a high enough priority on the WPIAL. He’s doing it for one simple reason: the talent is better this year.
WPIAL’s Class of 2020 and 2021 is as strong a group of talent as we’ve seen in many years.
The latest evidence to support that came today when former North Catholic linebacker Nikhai Hill-Green gave a verbal commitment to Jim Harbaugh and Michigan.
Over the next couple of years, players such as Dayon Hayes, Elliot Donald, Michael Carmody, Zuriah Fisher, Josh Rawlings, AJ Beatty, Tui Brown, Dorian Ford, Derrick Davis and Nahki Johnson will be committing to major college football programs.
The question is will any of these players want to stay home and play for Pitt?
If the past couple of years is any indication the answer is not many.
That brings up the yearly debate of when given the opportunity of staying home and representing your hometown, why do so many players choose the option of playing elsewhere?
My thoughts on this might get a few people upset but it’s my opinion and that’s the purpose of a commentary.
Two reasons that I hear a lot for passing on Pitt are that Narduzzi doesn’t play freshman early enough and makes them sit too long. Second one is that the recruit was upset of when he received the offer from Pitt: “It’s the hometown school, they should’ve been one of the first to offer.”
First of all, Narduzzi’s job is to win football games period and he uses the players that he feels can help him accomplish that. Period. His job isn’t to make freshman and in particular WPIAL freshman happy by playing them before he believes they’re ready. Jordan Whitehead is a prime example of someone that Narduzzi felt was ready to play as a freshman. The coach was right and Whitehead went on to be a major contributor at Pitt for three years before getting drafted by Tampa Bay.
An example people and some recruits like to point to is Paris Ford, who was recruited by every major program in the country.
“Why in the world did Narduzzi not play Ford last season? Is he crazy, Ford was a four-star recruit! Did you see how good he was in high school?”
That’s what was being said last year as Ford saw no meaningful playing time in his redshirt freshman season.
The bottom line is that if Pitt thought Ford was the best option and if he was doing everything he could on and off the field to be ready, he would’ve been on the field.
Reason for me using Ford as an example is because I’ve heard from multiple sources who told them a couple recruits last year stopped considering Pitt after Ford didn’t play last year. Those local recruits were particularly upset that Ford didn’t see action in the Penn State game at Heinz Field.
My biggest rebuttal against that weak reasoning is why does that get used against Pitt but not other schools? I won’t use their names but I can point out local players that have gone to Penn State, West Virginia and Notre Dame that didn’t play as freshman and in some cases still haven’t hit the field.
Another shallow argument used a ton for some recruits not picking Pitt is when the recruit received the offer.
That’s weak reasoning for not selecting a college. If the player truly wanted to go there, the date they receive the offer wouldn’t matter.
I could name a bunch of local recruits that Pitt was the first school to offer them and yet they still or will pass on staying home to play. There have also been other local players that committed to other schools after getting offers late.
The purpose of this column isn’t to criticize kids that pass on Pitt, because that’s entirely up to them.
My issue is when phony reasons are given for them doing so.
I believe the number one reason kids are passing up staying home is that they don’t view the offer from Pitt as valuable as the ones they receive from “bigger” programs.
If Pitt wants to start landing more of these local stars and give them more incentive to stay home, they need to consistently win more games.
As in all sports, winning cures many things and in Pitt’s case, I believe it would take away a big crutch that’s many kids have used against the Panthers program.
As the late Al Davis would say, “Just win, baby.”