Pat Narduzzi and staff continue to broaden their recruiting efforts in the south. Eight players committed from the states of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina recently inked their letters of intent during the first national letter of intent signing period. Perhaps the most intriguing prospect is safety Buddy Mack from Byrnes High School in Duncan, South Carolina.
To gain better perspective on Buddy Mack and what he can contribute to the Panthers, Pittsburgh Sports Now spoke with Chachi Sullivan, the head instructor of the Defensive Backs Academy for Elite Position Training. Sullivan played college football for South Carolina State University where he was named All Conference and won the MVP Defensive Back award. He served as South Carolina State’s defensive backs coach from 2004-2007. Pitt quarterback Davis Beville and guard Trey McGowens previously participated in the Elite Position Training program.
“I’m in charge of the Defensive Backs Academy and I train players from North and South Carolina in the fundamentals of the game. Our goal is to advance their game as much as possible,” said Sullivan. “Buddy Mack was part of our program. When he came to us he looked like a safety. He’s close to 6-foot-2 inches tall and we trained him as a cornerback so that we could teach him how to play in space, work with his footwork and teach him ball skills. If you watch his high school film, they utilize him in multiple capacities because he’s played strong safety, he’s played cornerback and free safety in the past.”
“My role is to continue to develop what those kids are getting. Some schools play a lot of zone. I’m able to go back and watch their film and start to teach them man to man concepts. If their high school plays a lot of man to man, I spend more time catering a program to them that will help them increase their man skills or zone skills. Our goal is developing their skills and make them a complete player.”
Mack (6-foot-2 inches, 175 pounds) was ranked a three-star prospect by Rivals, ESPN and 247Sports. He was a standout for Byrnes High School, a powerhouse program in South Carolina, that went 29-9 over the past three seasons. Mack finished a strong senior season registering 40 tackles, two interceptions, nine tackles for a loss, two sacks and two touchdowns. He recently participated in the Shine Bowl of the Carolinas, the oldest high school football all-star game in the nation. The game features many of the top high school players from North and South Carolina.
Coach Sullivan was asked about his time working one on one with Mack and he stated, “Buddy is a talented player. I could see him being an impact player for Pitt or at least playing early in his career. He could play nickel or boundary corner. I think eventually he’ll be a free safety for the Panthers. He has ball hawking skills. He could be a game changer because he has great instincts and hands.”
“Buddy is very coachable, he’s hungry and he’s selfless,” said Sullivan. “For his high school team, he played a lot of strong safety which is not really what he is. He played the position because he wanted his ball club to be successful. Buddy is a prideful kid that comes from a very strong background with his mother and father, two great parents. He’s a really, really good kid. I meet a lot of kids in and around my profession. Sometimes the attitude doesn’t always match their ability. That’s not Buddy.”
Game over! Bro is a DOG! https://t.co/1atQ9rJdck
— Davis Beville (@DBthaQB11) December 21, 2019
“Pitt has landed a steal. I felt like his recreating should’ve probably been a lot better, but people had questions about his speed. He was able to go to camps and show them his ability. I’m truly glad he ended up at a power five program. Buddy, perhaps, will help develop a pipeline from South Carolina to Pittsburgh. Trey McGowens, who was part of the Elite Position Training organization for basketball. Davis Beville was part of our organization and he’s playing quarterback now for Pitt. Now you have Buddy Mack heading to Pitt. I’m hoping that Pitt has found a little honey hole in the Carolinas they continue to take some of the overlooked but talented players we have down here.”
Coach Sullivan was asked how players with Mack’s ability go undervalued in the recruiting process. His answer was eye opening. “Clemson has started to recruit on a different scale. Even though they are in South Carolina, they have started to recruit nationally. That leaves the South Carolina Gamecocks as the premier power recruiting the state,” he said. “Clemson has less than 20 players from South Carolina on their roster. South Carolina makes a strong push towards players from Florida and Georgia. It leaves a lot of talent left in the state heading to the Coastal Carolinas and UNC Charlotte’s of the world.”
“There’s not major airport in South Carolina. When most schools fly in, they come through Atlanta or Charlotte. If you’re going to go to the upper part of South Carolina where Buddy lives, you fly into Charlotte and drive down. Charlotte alone has 28 high schools, so a kid can get easily overlooked. “
Buddy Mack is the fourth player from South Carolina to join the Panthers’ football program joining Davis Beville, Nate Temple and Michael Vardzel.
Harry Psaros can be found on Twitter at @PittGuru