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Pat Narduzzi and Players Arriving at Heinz Field -- MIKE SMETANA

Opinion

Vukovcan: WPIAL Kids Continue To Pass On Playing For Pitt, Why?

Vukovcan: WPIAL Kids Continue To Pass On Playing For Pitt, Why?

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.

Paris Ford (12) carries the ball during the annual NCAA football spring Blue Gold game, Saturday, April 14, 2018 — DAVID HAGUE

“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.”

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Mike
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Mike

The mentality among the local kids is that if you are truly an elite player then you wouldn’t go to Pitt. Look at Porter’s comment to another top prospect about his “obligatory” Pitt offer. He obviously considered it a joke. Gonna take a couple of 9+ win seasons to change the local ‘tude.

Evan Firestone
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Evan Firestone

Pitt is held to a different standard with he WPIAL coaches and the recruits’ and their families. Huge double standard with Pitt. Not every freshmen at PSU, ND or wherever play early. I will say I’m surprised Ford didn’t play as much, but there’s a reason he wasn’t seeing much PT and hopefully that’ll change this year..if he’s ready.

Believe me, I wish Pitt was that big time program like Bama, OSU, Oklahoma and the like, but they aren’t. Will they ever get there? That remains to be seen.

Jay
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Jay

Pitt got there, the last period was 1975 to 1984. As in previous times they were ‘big time’, Pitt’s administration deconstructed the program. So it remains to be seen if Pitt’s administration will ever let it happen again.

Tom D
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Tom D

Two quotes from the article that totally contradicts the other: “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.” “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.” I would say that HC PN doesn’t win enough games because he’s too old school and has a late 70’s Youngstown mentality to understand how to win games–and he’s just not a good enough coach how to solve either… Read more »

Tom D
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Tom D

PN isn’t a good enough coach to get them to 9 or 10 wins. Just doesn’t have “it”-whatever that it is. Just doesn’t have it. The WPIAL receipts would gravitate here if he was half the recruiter that Jackie Sherril was. And he’s not good enough to win consistently with players that are not elite.

Tom D
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Tom D

And last thing I will say about HC PN–He’s had elite talent. But his defenses are a gosh darn joke that have been embarrassed for five year. He would have never won that first PSU game if that kid didn’t drop the ball. James Connor and Ollsion and the other Pitt players in the NFL are testament that he had good players but couldn’t put a winning program in place with what he had. Joke

Thisthatso4thandtheother
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Thisthatso4thandtheother

Tom D, I guess we can only play the If game when Pitt wins but NOT win Pitt loses.

Joe Murphy
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Joe Murphy

after hearing those reasons, i feel better about PN…those are weak excuses.. Pitt def. has to win more then they will change their tune, unless all the Florida and Georgia kids beat squeeze them out haha…This town has a very “debbie downer” attitude toward Pitt and sports in general. I love this town and the sports teams can drive you nuts, but lets not forget these are just games. Enjoy the time we got. Narduzzi is a good coach and has won big games, he just has to do it consistently, isn’t that everyones goals??? H2P!!!

Justin Dietrich
Member
Justin Dietrich

I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that Pitt doesn’t have a true college campus and, without opening up that can of worms, a stadium on what we call a campus. Making the trek to Heinz sure doesn’t feel like college game day. We have a limited fan base in the Pittsburgh area and a majority of Pitt fans/alum are spread across the country. Pittsburgh was not a city people wanted to stay in 10-15 years ago so those who graduated from Pitt, moved elsewhere. It appears that has started to change and hopefully will… Read more »

Terrence Otoole
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Terrence Otoole

i believe there is a couple reasons one is i just dont think narduzzi is a good recruiter another reason that hurts pitt he has no coach on his staff that has local ties like a terry smith at penn st ,and lastly winning consistently would go a long way pitt needs to get out of these 6-6 seasons and start putting up 9 or 10 win seasons ,then it would get these local kids to pay more attention

Tracy
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Tracy

Come on! Let’s all at least be honest here. If you are a big-time WPIAL recruit and have multiple DI offers, why would you want to play for a mediocre team in front of mostly empty stadium?

I’m not sure how they fix the stadium issue, so the only option is to put together 4+ years of 10 win or more football, with major bowl WINS.

Anyone here think that this is a realistic possibility?

Pittband
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Pittband

Oh, so cheat is what you’re saying? Nah. Already have one school in the state which is good at that.

Tom D
Guest
Tom D

Everyone on here says the same thing and we’re all Pitt fans but the bottom line is that if the team wins 9-10 games season, year after year, then the recruits will follow. The problem still remains that this coach will not get them there. He’s not good enough to win with “not-elite” talent. Thats the trick. Fake it til you make it. And PN isn’t good enough.

Richard Johnson
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Richard Johnson

I look at the difference between Pitt football and basketball recruiting. Capel goes after major talent that can turn a program around, even though he has not yet landed one , he is not afraid to go toe to toe with big boys. Naz on the hand is going after lower rated players looking for a diamond in the rough, this will take to long to change the program. Coach Naz, if you are going to swing, swing for the fences.

ThearinW
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ThearinW

I somewhat disagree. If you are local Pitt needs to offer early. Otherwise it feels like a snub. All your friends are asking why Pitt didn’t offer you etc. Pitt ends up looking like it doesn’t respect local talent.

Jay
Guest
Jay

After 3 decades of mostly negative ‘local’ media coverage. it’s quite amazing Pitt is able to keep it’s head above water. And since media coverage is 24/7 today and these kids live by social media, this is why Nard took to Twitter.
You can bypass the local negative media (sans Mike V) and their Ped State minions.

Pittband
Guest
Pittband

Double standard, yeah. As I said all last season, Alabama doesn’t make it to the National Championship game with our schedule last year. We are expected to play the cream of the crop but lose and spff. We aren’t the Stealers who we are compared with. Local sports writers diss Pitt because they know the training table at da Stealers is better. No other program at our level competes with an NFL team, so we are always lacking. And the school will never knowingly cheat. So there you have it.

Pitt Fan in North Huntingdon
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Pitt Fan in North Huntingdon

Instead of dwelling on the negative, let’s look at who Pitt signed out of the WPIAL recently. Jake Kradel and Blake Zubovic had impressive offer lists and chose to stay home. Devin Danielson also had a good offer list and in the words of Jim Hammett was “criminally underrated”. While underrated- just not at a criminal level- was Noah Palmer, who was talented enough to win MVP of an All-Star game. If Pitt is going head-to-head vs. PSU, ND, Michigan, and tOSU and it’s a commitable offer, the reality that Pitt is most likely going to lose that battle. Pitt… Read more »

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