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‘One of the Best That Does It’: Pitt Has Found Recipe for Successful Recruiting in Florida



Andrew Ivins, 247Sports’ resident Florida recruiting analyst, once asked Charlie Partridge just how many schools he could hit up during a recruiting trip in a single day.

Partridge, Pitt’s associate head coach and defensive line coach, dismissed the question. It wasn’t at all about how many but about how much. How much he had to give. If he was able to consistently get to the same locations, the same schools on a regular basis to build actual relationships, then it was a success. So, when it was time, he was able to receive some help and land a kid to steer in the right direction.

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In the state of Florida, Partridge is highly respected. He has the roots, he has the worthwhile ties and he has the legitimate success.

“I think it definitely starts with (Partridge) in south Florida,” Ivins told Pittsburgh Sports Now. “Obviously he was the head coach at FIU, but you bump into him out on the trail and he’s got a full note sheet on every school and every rising senior and junior there, so he’s very organized.”

However, when it comes to Pitt’s success in Florida, it’s far from just Partridge that’s made his mark. Aside from the 2022 class, which was hamstrung by returning seniors, Pitt has landed at least three recruits from Florida in each of head coach Pat Narduzzi’s eight recruiting classes. And 2023 is the third class with at least six commitments from the Sunshine State.

“I think (Pitt has) some good recruiters that do a good job of evaluating and targeting kids that they think are gonna be program fits and then getting those guys on campus,” Ivins said. “I think with Pittsburgh, their advantage is kind of a big city and there’s an NFL team there, and it’s not some college town in the south. I’ve heard kids like that aspect, I think more and more kids have brought up that they practice in the same facility as the Pittsburgh Steelers. And on top of all of that, I think Pittsburgh can point to, ‘We’re winning games in the ACC at a high level,’ and more importantly, since Narduzzi has shown up, he’s developed guys that weren’t as highly regarded and sent them to the NFL.”

Since Narduzzi has arrived as the head coach, Pitt has landed recruits in Rashad Weaver (Cooper City, Florida), Damarri Mathis (Lakeland, Florida), Deslin Alexandre (Pompano Beach, Florida), Habakkuk Baldonado (Clearwater, Florida), Marquis Williams (Pampano Beach, Florida), Calijah Kancey (Miami, Florida), Brandon Hill (Apopka, Florida), Vincent Davis (Fort Lauderdale, Florida), Jared Wayne (Clearwater, Florida) and P.J. O’Brien (Pompano Beach, Florida).

Calijah Kancey (8) – October 30, 2021 David Hague/PSN

That list features two NFL Draft picks, six current Pitt starters (including an elite prospect in Kancey) and solid contributors in Davis and O’Brien. In Pitt’s Florida commitments, Narduzzi could have done much, much worse. And in all honesty, he couldn’t have done much better either.

When Pitt is harped upon for looking to southern states like Georgia and Florida, even with the likes of Elliot Donald, Nahki Johnson and Dorien Ford staying home in 2021 and Kenny Johnson providing an in-state commit in 2023, there’s a sentiment that Pitt’s focus on “second and third-tier Florida talent” is a detriment, but Pitt’s dedication in recruiting those less-regarded recruits has paid off. As Ivins said, Florida is a super fruitful state — and Pitt has never backed away from a battle.

“Sometimes those second-tier level kids are the ones that end up making it to the league,” Ivins said. “I think that goes into player development, but I also think they do a good job of identifying and looking for certain traits and just getting those kids up there. I think they have a firm understanding of what schools to consistently evaluate and build relationships.”

When it comes to Partridge, looking at someone like Weaver (who now plays for the Tennessee Titans), he helped a transfer kid from Broward County, Florida to the NFL. When it comes to Kancey, with just five Power Five offers and no offer from hometown Miami, his progression from an undersized defensive tackle to one of the very best in college football has been eye-opening — especially considering potential NIL offers this spring.

And with Pitt’s propensity for recruiting just a bit outside of its own backyard, it has raised questions as to just what exactly the recruiting plan is. However, in a talent-rich state such as Florida, even the lowly-rated or underrecruited prospects have been fighting their entire lives just to secure a high school roster spot.

“I think it is difficult, but I think people also misunderstand the south Florida culture,” Ivins said. “A lot of these kids in the Tri-County area, since they were eight, nine years old, they were at the park and you kind of had to perform if you wanted to go to the best high school. And then all the kids in their neighborhood, the goal is to make it to college.”

Ivins said the communities have a mindset of getting a kid to the next level. The coaches have played at schools as far off as North Dakota, but that’s legitimate experience. If the opportunities are there, no matter how far, the kids are encouraged to chase those dreams. After all, football is a way of life in some Florida communities.

“It’s year-’round (in Florida),” Ivins said. “It doesn’t stop. There’s 7-on-7, all these schools, most of the kids are running track and I think what’s kind of unique about Florida is some of these kids play multiple positions on both sides of the ball.

“(Pitt is) searching for guys that want to go and play and get developed, and they’ve done a good job, when I look at their class, of finding those individuals.”

With commitments from defensive end Antonio Camon (Tampa, Florida), wide receiver Lamar Seymore (Miami, Florida), defensive back Shadarian Harrison (Lakeland, Florida), running back Montravius Lloyd (Saint Petersburg, Florida), defensive back Jesse Anderson (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) and offensive tackle Tai Ray (Apopka, Florida), Pitt has been busy in the 2023 class. It’s a big class, and it’s a class that Ivins is very high on (much, much more to come on that), but it may not be done either.

Photo courtesy of Jesse Anderson’s Twitter account.

Four-star cornerback Braeden Marshall ( named Pitt to his Top 5 following his official visit, and four-star safety Jaremiah Anglin named Pitt to his Top 8 just before his official visit. However, it’s five-star wide receiver Hykeem Williams that is causing a stir in Pittsburgh.

“Every time I ask about Hykeem and the people around him, Pittsburgh is a team that consistently been in this thing,” Ivins said. “And they’ve been in it from the jump, he’s very, very close with Tiquan Underwood.”

Williams, a five-star wide receiver and one of the very best recruits in the class, made one of his official visits to Pittsburgh — a trip out that impressed both Williams and his mother — and his recruitment has been the lingering factor after a strong June.

Williams, without a doubt, would be the centerpiece of not just the 2023 class but Narduzzi’s entire time at Pitt. He’s a big, strong, fast wide receiver, in the mold of a Larry Fitzgerald, that could truly break the mold at Pitt. And new wide receivers coach Tiquan Underwood has been the key factor in his recruitment.

Ivins himself mentioned how Underwood flew down for a single day to watch Stranahan High School’s inter-squad scrimmage, showing exactly how highly Pitt thinks of the talented pass catcher. However, even with Pitt rolling out the red carpet, he concluded that it may not be enough. But that doesn’t mean Pitt hasn’t completely gone all out for Williams either.

“I think for Pittsburgh it’s gonna be hard to fend off the Texas A&Ms and the Georgias, those are the two teams with the most buzz as of late, but you’ve also got Miami in there,” Ivins said. “So, would I be surprised if Pittsburgh landed him? No. I kind of think they’re the lowkey darkhorse, but I think in this NIL era, that’s certainly going to play a factor. I think relationship-wise, he knows the people in the Steel City maybe the best. And will that be enough to win out? I don’t know, but you can’t fault Pitt for trying this hard and still showing up to the battle.”

And even if Williams does decide to commit to a Georgia or Texas A&M, Ivins is a big, big fan of Pitt’s Florida class. While he feels that one or two of the six may emerge as legitimate NFL Draft picks, he feels that all six are two-deep contributors at the end of the day.

“As long Charlie Partridge is there, they’re gonna continue to have some footing in south Florida and they’re gonna continue to make good evaluations,” Ivins said. “He knows what’s going on there and they seem to have a grasp of what’s going on. I think it’s impressive, they’re one of the best that does it down here.

“I think a lot of people forget, Pittsburgh just won an ACC title, and they’ve got a lot to sell. Miami can’t say they’ve won an ACC title, so that’s big.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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2 years ago

Lunch bucket and hard work. Great PR for Coach P. and Pitt staff. H2P

Ryan Scholato
Ryan Scholato
2 years ago

They are getting the kids that are not being looked at by the bigger school’s. When they start pulling the 4 and 5 stars then they have something. They are winning recruiting battles against teams like Duke, BC, Coastal Carolina, Not teams like Penn St, Ohio St, ND. Hell they are losing in state kids to WVU. Just saying. Look at 247 team ranking they have 16 commits and are ranked 32nd, Penn St has 17 and ranked 6th.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ryan Scholato
Justin Dietrich
Justin Dietrich
2 years ago
Reply to  Ryan Scholato

And yet Pitt is better than State Penn right now… Franklin has always been a great recruiter, but he can’t coach and he can’t develop.

Ryan Scholato
Ryan Scholato
2 years ago

Well consider Penn St had 8 players drafted and was in the top 5 in amount of draft picks this past draft I am not sure where your getting the can not develop. I believe Pitt had 2. Second, we don’t lose Clifford we finish 11-2 at worse and that’s in the BIG10 east not the ACC Costal which last year was probably the weakest it has been in 10 years. So not sure your so much better, I would more or less chalk it up to level of competition. If Pitt was such a power house right now, why… Read more »

Ed Rose
Ed Rose
1 year ago
Reply to  Ryan Scholato

11-2? You are a delusional nut job. They went 7-6. Clifford played in most of the games they lost.
PSU can have all the accolades and wins, etc. They will never shake what Joe and Jerry did. Outside of the cult fan base most see that as a corrupt program that provided a haven to a serial child rapist. I am curious why a PSU fan would be commenting on a Pitt site? Does not make sense.

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