With new NCAA legislation creating a “free agency” in college football this season, the transfer portal has allowed student-athletes to enter the transfer portal and relocate to a new school with immediate eligibility.
The second-highest rated quarterback ever, a Heisman favorite, top-ranked skill players and half of Oklahoma entered the portal in the past month, with hundreds of hundreds of college players having begun the search for new homes. The portal has been a divisive topic among college football coaches this season, and really since its inception in 2018, but coaches have still used it to build and fill out their teams.
With transfers impacting recruiting classes across the college football landscape, Narduzzi said Pitt isn’t going to be a big player in the portal. If the need and fit are there, Pitt will take a look, but Narduzzi’s belief is in development.
“I think the portal has an effect on every recruiting class across the country,” Narduzzi said. “It hasn’t had a big effect on us. Obviously, we’ll dip and dabble in that, but we’re not going to go crazy in it because I truly believe in developing high school guys and developing a guy through. But when you have a need, you’re going to go see who you can get, but it’s going to come down to character and getting the right guys, not the wrong guys because all it takes is one guy that’s wrong in the locker room. It’s changed the landscape of college football.”
With a small 2022 recruiting class, just 12 signees due to a large number of current players returning as of the moment, Pitt is already in a scholarship crunch. And if players were looking for increased playing time or better fits, Narduzzi said he understands, but he’s proud of the way Pitt’s been able to stay together — even if it creates a smaller recruiting class like this years’ class.
“I think it’s great for the kids to have opportunities, but on the other end, as we’ve talked in here before, it teaches guys to take the easy way out,” Narduzzi said. “‘I just go over there. I can go over there.’ Sometimes if a kid wants to go play somewhere he can get more reps, understood, but there’s something about keeping your team together. That’s the one thing I’m proud of. Our kids have stuck together. That’s the one thing I’m proud of. Our kids have stuck together here, 99 percent of them, and played here.”
However, it’s not just college teams that are affected by the vast amounts of transfers. Narduzzi pointed to the high school level and the lack of scholarships available at some schools that may prioritize transfers over bringing in high school talent.
“It’s affecting a lot of high school teams. There are some teams that have used to have ten scholarship guys, and now they’re down to having five because people are going to the portal instead of that incredible high school to get a guy. That’s the sad part,” Narduzzi said. “It’s affecting high school seniors in their recruiting, so now they’re taking maybe FCS scholarship, and then what it’s going to cause is when they have great success because they should have been a Power Five guy, they’re going to spend somewhere in FCS for a year or then Mid-American Conference School and then they’re going to go to the portal and some poor college coach will have them for two years and develop them and lose them.”
Pitt hasn’t had much activity in the transfer portal in terms of exits or arrivals, but one of the areas that Pitt has been linked to is a replacement for Kenny Pickett. Pitt hosted Florida State transfer Chubba Purdy for a visit this month, and there have been very, very slight links to USC transfer Kedon Slovis as well.
With no quarterback in Pitt’s 2022 class, while having “really, really talented” Nate Yarnell from 2021’s recruiting class, Narduzzi pointed to a few circumstances that lead to pursuing — or not pursuing — a high school quarterback.
“All depends on what you feel like you have in that room,” Narduzzi said. “I feel good with the group we have in that room. I feel good with Nate Yarnell being the freshman last year, but to have two freshman quarterbacks, especially in the age we’re in, those are guys that jump into the portal a lot if you stack too many young, talented guys in the same room. You are bound to have guys going, ‘Hey, I’m out of here in a year.’ That’s one of the reasons.”
With back-up Nick Patti likely getting the start against Michigan State in the Peach Bowl on Dec. 30, Pitt’s future starter could be under center or, if the situation is right, Pitt could dive into the transfer portal. Just don’t expect major moves in the portal from Pitt.