The Pitt football program didn’t even play over the weekend and they received another bad loss.
As Pittsburgh Sports Now first reported Monday morning, star safety Paris Ford has played his last snap as a Panther after deciding over the weekend to opt out of the season and prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft.
This news, which was not entirely unexpected, has made an already bad season that much worse and even more challenging for the Pitt program. While other reasons can be given, if this team had a record of 5-2 or 6-1 instead of 3-4, I have few doubts that No. 12 would be lining up at safety this Saturday against Florida State.
Fans and media have every right to have their opinion on the decision itself but so does Ford. College football is a business and Ford made the right business decision to protect him and his family. Depending on what 2021 NFL Mock Draft you read, Ford is slated to go anywhere from the first to third round and with nothing really remaining to play for at Pitt, he’s making the right decision to opt out.
As we see every weekend and even what happened to Rashad Weaver last year during a non-contact play in practice, injuries happen and Ford is potentially risking millions every time he takes a snap in college. Although he loves the Pitt program and his teammates, it isn’t worth it for Ford to risk it, considering what’s ahead of him.
This is no doubt something that anyone wanted to see and the most disappointing aspect to this story is that I believe Ford’s enormous talent was for the most part wasted by Pat Narduzzi.
When committing to Pitt back in 2015, Paris Ford wasn’t just another local commitment, he was a national recruit that could’ve gone to any program in the country. Ford, was rated as one of the Top 50 players in the country, and received offers from programs such as Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Penn State, Tennessee, UCLA and various other Power 5 schools.
Instead of going to the bright lights of a school such as Alabama, Ohio State or Penn State, Ford decided to stay home for the sole reason of being the centerpiece and the face of building back up the Pitt program and keeping the star players home. Although the local recruiting has improved slightly, the winning and status of the program hasn’t changed much since his commitment, which has nothing to do with his on-field performance.
Maybe those things would’ve improved more if he was used properly.
Because of his enormous athletic ability, Ford was able to overcome some of the restraints strapped on him from his head coach and put enough on tape that will get him drafted in April. Although he performed at a high level, I don’t believe we saw just how good Ford can be and he’s just scratched the surface of what he can accomplish on the football field.
Keep in mind, despite being one of the top safety recruits in the entire country, Narduzzi decided to move Ford to cornerback his freshman season. This did not work out and it essentially ruined and wasted a year of him developing. The following year, Ford was moved back to safety and not surprisingly was one of the most productive defensive backs in the ACC. However, in another head scratcher of a move, the head coach thought it was best to take his biggest play maker off the field many times on third down.
Ford was young and liked to freelance at times, which I’m sure bothered the coaches but the upside on what he could potentially do on a field was much greater than anyone that was replacing him. Unless he’s not healthy, a talent like Ford should never have been substituted for.
The way that Ford was used or not used during his first two years at Pitt was something that bothered a lot of people within the program. During his first year with Pitt, I remember a parent of one of the players telling me that after a couple weeks of practice, that player told his father that Ford was without question the best and most talented player on Pitt’s defense.
Unfortunately for Ford and Pitt fans, we didn’t get a chance to fully see this talent displayed until a couple of years in the program. I’ll admit I don’t know the whole situation and am not a football coach but what I do know is that when Pitt lands a talent such as Paris Ford, he should be on the field immediately and they should be willing to deal with any growing pains that go along with his development.
Another failure to properly use Ford was the fact that we never saw him on the offensive side of the ball like we did Jordan Whitehead. I have zero doubt that his athletic ability would’ve made him a dangerous weapon, like the way former offensive coordinator Matt Canada used Whitehead. Not exploring that opportunity with Ford was a mistake by Pitt.
If you want to be able to land high four and five-star recruits, you have to know how to coach and deal with them on a personal level and that’s something that wasn’t done in this case.
Ford will be remembered as a talented local player that played great in a Pitt uniform, it’s just too bad we didn’t get to see all that he could do. Guess we’ll have to wait to see that on Sundays in the NFL.