Over the last few years, it’s been pretty clear that Penn State has had a solid edge over Pitt when it comes to recruiting.
While the Lions are 2-1 against Pitt on the field in their four-game series that will wrap this September, the scoreboard when it comes to recruiting has been even more lopsided.
In the Class of 2017, five-star Clairton cornerback Lamont Wade was plucked out of Pitt’s backyard to be the gem of Penn State’s class, while 12 others, such as current Penn State impact players Sean Clifford, Yetur Gross-Matos and KJ Hamler picked the Lions over the Panthers head-to-head. On the other side of the ledger, just three Pitt commits held Penn State offers: safety Paris Ford, tight end Charles Reeves and offensive lineman Carter Warren.
In 2018, it was more of the same. Wide receiver Justin Shorter and running back Ricky Slade were among the 12 players that chose Penn State over Pitt, while only Belle Vernon offensive lineman Blake Zubovic, Washington D.C. defensive end John Morgan and Florida cornerback Marquis Williams bucked the trend.
Then last season, the Lions really dropped the hammer. After a 51-6 embarrassment at a rain-soaked Heinz Field in the fall, Penn State blanked Pitt totally in recruiting. Of the 12 players with an offer to both schools that picked one or the other, 12 picked the Lions.
None picked Pitt.
If you were keeping score at home, that was 36-6 in favor of the Lions over the last three recruiting cycles.
But there might be some signs that things are changing in that regard. Though it’s early in the 2020 recruiting cycle, Pat Narduzzi has already earned a couple of victories against James Franklin.
Akron linebacker Bangally Kamara and Miami running back Henry Parrish, Jr. both picked the Panthers over Penn State, while four players have chosen Penn State over Pitt offers. That still puts the Nittany Lions on top, but at a significantly reduced ratio.
Is that a sign of a trend for Pitt? It could just be that the Panthers landed two wins early and won’t get many more.
But the two wins came at a time of unsettled results out of Happy Valley. In the last few weeks, Franklin and company lost a local five-star to Ohio State, had another four-star player flip from the Lions to the Buckeyes and two more four-stars de-committed.
It’s far from a panic. Penn State still has the No. 25 recruiting class in the nation, according to 247 Sports. But it’s worth wondering if Pitt’s 2018 ACC Championship Game appearance, combined with a below-expectations 9-4 year from the Lions might have the recruiting pendulum swinging a bit back toward the Panthers.
There will be plenty of time to tell. There are already another half-dozen players with offers to both schools, including top Pitt target Dayon Hayes from Westinghouse and AJ Parks, a DC-area offensive tackle that recently de-committed from Penn State. Both are visiting Pitt this weekend.