Like many aspects of our country right now, college football recruiting is in uncharted territory, with in-person recruiting between players and coaches suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But it sure hasn’t stopped.
Schools have been just as aggressive when it comes to pursuing players, and that’s going to continue.
“Recruiting hasn’t slowed down. It’s actually maybe sped up for us,” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said in a videoconference on Friday. “Although these kids aren’t coming on campus, these great student athletes all over the country, there’s more phone calls, FaceTimes with players than ever before because I’ve got nothing else to do. …
“We’ve even got coaches now playing video games with recruits. We’ve got coaches playing with Madden and some of the games, just to get around them because that’s what we can do.”
The suspension of in-person visitation has impacted the recruitment of different players differently. Some have taken their visits. Some have not. Some may wait to commit later. Some may do so sight-unseen in order to secure a spot.
“They’ve got decisions to make,” Narduzzi said. “If they don’t make them quick enough, someone else is going to jump in. We know how that whole thing works. The worst phone call you can make to is a kid is that we’ve filled up at a certain position. Our recruits are going to have to do the same thing we’re doing. Change your strategy and adjust.”
Narduzzi said it does make him feel better about his chances with players that have already visited campus, but “there just wasn’t many of them.”
But what really has him feeling good is the depth of the local Class of 2021. If players aren’t able to travel to make visits or are insecure about leaving home for college in the midst of a pandemic, they might be more inclined to commit close to home.
That’s already played out some in the basketball world. Pitt target JaDun Michael committed to nearby Elon over several high-major programs earlier this week.
In football, Pitt has already secured a commitment from local four-star 2021 defensive end Nahki Johnson and might get a leg up on some of the top uncommitted local talent like four-star Getaway running back Derrick Davis and Central Catholic defensive lineman Elliot Donald and three-star players with deep offer lists like Baldwin defensive tackle Dorien Ford, Peters Township safety Donovan McMillon, North Allegheny linebacker Khalil Dinkins and Central Valley safety Stephon Hall.
“This is as good of a class that has been intact in this state of Pennsylvania since I’ve been here,” Narduzzi said. “We have had a lot of Pennsylvania kids on this campus. If it was a bad year, and I don’t want to say last year was a bad year, we got the best player in the state in Dayon Hayes and we’re trying to keep our standards the standard. This year is a heck of a year in the state of Pennsylvania, which makes me sleep a little bit better knowing that there are players in our backyard this year, again as good as it’s been in five years.”
Pitt has made significant strides to do more recruiting in places like Georgia, South Carolina and Texas over the last couple of cycles. Notably, more than half of their 2021 quarterback offers are from Texas.
But if they have to change their approach, they’ve got a pretty good group of players on the home front that they can focus on.
“I hope everybody is smart enough that they probably don’t want to get on airplane from the city of Pittsburgh and go anywhere else,” Narduzzi said. “That’s what we want to do, is keep them here.”