(Disclaimer: Recruiting rankings are very arbitrary things. There's been numerous articles highlighting teams and players that far exceed their recruiting rankings like Kansas St and Aaron Donald as examples. But coaches uses these rankings as recruiting points, and obviously fans use them too. Nobody has any idea how any of these classes will really pan out, but I want Pitt's initial picture to be accurate)
If you follow recruiting closely, you'll have seen Pitt's team recruiting ranking probably look terrible. It's currently #72 in the Rivals rankings. I don't think people really understand how sites like Rivals compile their rankings, however. Not many would take the time to research such things.
Basically, Rivals ranks players on a scale from 5.2 to 6.1. A two star player is from 5.2 to 5.4, three star is 5.5 to 5.7, four star is 5.8 to 6.0, and a five star is a 6.1.
That rating is converted into a certain amount of points which I've put below
The top 250 bonuses are a little long to post here, but you can find them here.
If you take a look at Pitt's recruiting class you'll see the ratings I'm talking about right along the side. I calculated Pitt's points total again myself to confirm I understood the formula right:
The Top 250 bonus points are for Jordan Whitehead ( 38 points) and Darrin Hall (14 points).
There is one other detail that's important: Rivals only ranks the first 20 prospects of a team's class. So if you have a couple of random 2 stars, they won't drag your ranking down if you have more than 20 prospects. The flip-side of this is that schools with less than 20 commitments are inherently punished for not having as many prospects.
This is where Pitt is really hurt. They only have 14 commitments in this recruiting class (excluding the transfer of Nathan Peterman). The main reason for this is Paul Chryst completely stacked his first two full classes. He took 50 players, which is essentially the max he could have. Pitt only graduated 11 seniors this year, and had a few transfers. So Pitt is very youth heavy in terms of its recruiting classes. I'm sure you heard the stat numerous times this year that Pitt had the youngest team in major college football this year. Now, Pat Narduzzi could have taken more, but between either having to force more kids out who are in the program currently, and only having three weeks to recruit, it's understandable he didn't get there.
What I'm going to do is see what Pitt's class could have looked like with 20 commitments instead of 14. I was inspired to do this by my friend Josh, who's also a big pitt fan you should follow. He first showed that by taking just six more 2-star recruits like Gentry Ivery (rated 5.4 on Rivals), which would not be hard at all, Pitt would increase it's ranking to be 48th. That's a 24 rank jump just by adding six low-rated players.
I decided to take it a step further. Pitt had four of its 14 recruits as 2 stars. A little less than a third of the class. So I decided I'll have two of the six be higher 2 stars (5.4), 3 mid level 3 stars (5.6), and one higher 3 star(5.7). I think it is extremely reasonable to think Pitt could have gotten four more mid level 3-star recruits if they had more space and a little more time. You could make an argument to throw in another 4-star recruit, but I'll keep it on the low end.
Here's how it looks:
That new 1,462 number would Pitt at #39, which is a 33 rank increase. The three above Pitt would be Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma State. The three below would be Texas Tech, Arizona, and Utah. Pitt would be seventh in the ACC instead of last where they are now. For further evidence of my point, Michigan also only had 14 commits and were rated 50th despite having six four stars on their commit list. Again, for comparison, if you only took the top 14 (which is being very generous to only take the top) members of Penn State's 15th ranked class, they would drop to 26th. That's how big an effect just the number of recruits make. Comparing to Chryst's classes, it ranks ahead of his 2013 44th ranked class, below his 2013 35th ranked class, I think the rankings formula was changed in 2012, but that class was 47th.
Now I know you'll say, "you're doing magic with numbers to make an arbitrary point", and you'd be right. Except the numbers we're starting with anyway are arbitrary. The reason I did this was simply because you will see recruiting rankings thrown around a lot, and they really don't tell the whole story. Chris Peak of Pantherlair did an excellent job of providing some context for the recruiting class this year. Narduzzi did lose out on Bowers, Givens, Petrishen, Talan. Miller, and a few other people, but he accomplished the main goals of keeping Jordan Whitehead, adding quality quarterback depth, and adding some playmakers on defense.
Either way, you hope Narduzzi will be able to develop the players from this class into contributors. If you look at Todd Graham's only class, you'll see a class that has contributed almost nothing past three or four players. Pitt cannot afford to have a class be so ineffective again.