Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi did a pretty good job of recruiting in the early signing portion of his Class of 2020.
With a few scholarships left to go, Pitt has the No. 41 class in the country, according to 247 Sports’ composite rankings, and that doesn’t take into account four-star quarterback transfer Joey Yellen, who may end up being the most impactful player in the class, and four-star tight end transfer Lucas Krull, who will immediately fill a huge need.
But the recruiting job he’s done on his own players has been even better.
In an age of rampant player transfers, only two Panthers — defensive back Therran Coleman and running back V’Lique Carter — have decided to leave Pitt via the transfer portal since the end of the season.
Even more impactfully, four defensive stars that could have played at the NFL level have bought into Narduzzi’s vision and chose to return to Pitt.
Paris Ford, Patrick Jones and Jaylen Twyman all sought out NFL evaluations as draft-eligible underclassmen, but instead decided they wanted another season playing in Narduzzi’s defense.
Safety Damar Hamlin, who would have undoubtedly seen NFL interest and was invited to play in the East-West Shrine Bowl, the second-ranked college all-star game, wanted to play another season at Pitt so badly that he went through the process of fighting the NCAA for a fifth season of eligibility.
Even after winning that fight, he didn’t have to use it and he didn’t have to use it at Pitt. Hamlin could still have chased his NFL opportunities. He could have graduated and transferred to one of the very best teams in the country with his experience as a three-year starter with the Panthers.
Narduzzi isn’t perfect. His late-half clock strategy is not a strength. He badly botched the decision to kick a field goal on 4th and 1 late at Penn State last fall. He puts his foot in his mouth at times. His usage of talented young players has been questionable at times. It took four years of stubbornness for his defensive principles to finally pay dividends instead of being a hindrance.
But Narduzzi unquestionably wants to be at Pitt and he has unquestionably created an environment where talented players want to play for him and want to be at Pitt.
That’s a powerful combination. It’s easy to critique his in-game strategy, but let’s be honest, many, many coaches do that poorly. And at the end of the day, college football games are far more greatly impacted by the quality of the players on the field than the tactics involved.
Narduzzi has recruited some talented players to Pitt. He’s also developed stars out of less-talented players. Jones and Twyman, along with graduating cornerback Dane Jackson, were three-star players that will certainly play at the NFL level.
Now, he has bona-fide and established collegiate stars deciding that another year at Pitt looks better than chasing their NFL dream and almost every other scholarship player is coming back.
In this day and age, that’s an extremely rare combination and Narduzzi deserves the credit for all of it.