On Wednesday morning, Pat Narduzzi pumped up his staff’s spring recruiting efforts in Western Pennsylvania with a tweet before a busy day of local offers.
“First day of spring recruiting starts today,” Narduzzi wrote. “Starting in our back yard — Western Pennsylvania. On the Hunt!”
First day of spring recruiting starts today. Starting in our back yard – Western Pennsylvania. On the Hunt! pic.twitter.com/oIMN36AHw6
— Pat Narduzzi (@CoachDuzzPittFB) April 15, 2020
By the end of the day, Narduzzi and company had extended scholarship offers to three local products, Class of 2021 Beaver Falls linebacker and running back Josh Hough, Class of 2023 Brashear athlete Ta’Mere Robinson and Class of 2023 Laurel Highlands athlete Rodney Gallagher.
While Hough became the eighth junior to receive a Pitt offer in the WPIAL Class of 2021, the offers to Gallagher and Robinson represent a bit of a departure for the Panthers.
Pitt has offered WPIAL freshmen before — most notably, the Panthers were the first to offer current Gateway junior Derrick Davis, just after the end of his freshman season.
But being in early on a recruit hasn’t always been a staple of Narduzzi’s efforts at Pitt. In fact, he made it a point in 2018 to say the opposite.
Speaking after announcing Pitt’s signing Class of 2019, Narduzzi went out of his way to say that Pitt did not offer players that young and that they were more comfortable waiting until they had a better read on a player’s true talent level.
“Sometimes, there’s rumors out there that we offered an eighth grader or a ninth grader. That’s a bunch of baloney,” Narduzzi said. “I think too many coaches make too many mistakes offering guys early. That’s why I like what we do. We slow that process down. If we didn’t get that five-star guy because we’re not sure, or we didn’t see him in camp, I’m good with that. I’d rather be sure with who we get than taking these swings and misses at guys that aren’t good enough in our opinion.”
In just about a year and a half, that baloney has turned into a highly publicized part of Pitt’s recruiting strategy.
That’s not to say that Narduzzi is being hypocritical. Times changes and strategies change. In this instance, those in-person camps that Narduzzi and his staff have put so much emphasis on are not going to happen this offseason. Pitt has already canceled theirs and it remains to be seen if any will be held anywhere.
Players like Hough, Gallagher and Robinson would surely have been invited to participate in Pitt’s camps this summer, and under Narduzzi’s preferred model, could have earned an offer at that point.
Without that evaluation tool, the Pitt coaches are having to judge based on film whether or not a player is good enough to play at the ACC level.
At the end of the day, scholarship offers are a low-risk proposition for the school. Offers extended verbally (which all offers to underclassmen are) aren’t one bit binding, and even after formal offers are extended, until a recruit signs his Letter of Intent and submits his paperwork, the school can always pull the offer and fill their spot with another player.
But doing that too frequently can leave a bad taste in the mouths of the recruit, his parents, and most importantly, his coaches, who may have more players down the road that Pitt is involved with.
In the case of Gallagher and Robinson, Narduzzi and his staff believe that they’re talented enough that those offers will still be good by the time they’re ready to make a decision a few years from now. Judging by the other schools that have jumped in on each of those players, that’s probably a good bet. And just like Pitt, those schools are in the same boat, offering freshmen just based on film and maybe a phone call.
“Everybody’s strategies gotta change,” Narduzzi said to local media on a recent teleconference. “Our strategy and recruiting has changed. I won’t get into the details of what we’re doing or how we’re doing it, because I want to keep that kind of tight.”
Was he talking specifically about the idea of offering more, younger players? Hard to say. After all, keeping things tight to the vest is one thing that Narduzzi will probably never change.