For years, we have heard the complaints over and over again from the Panthers' fan base about football recruiting. We've run the range of emotions over the years since recruiting sites came into the forefront and fans started to know more about the best high school players in the country.
Walt Harris brought Pitt back from the dead, but also lost some key commits on National Signing Day. Dave Wannstedt was probably the most successful recruiter Pitt has seen over the last 20 years but even when he was in town, teams still seemed to get the best of the Panthers too much. From there, it was the one-year flash and flair of Fraud Graham followed by the complete opposite approach of Paul Chyrst.
As a whole, Chryst's laid back style was a tough one to defend. It will work with a lot of kids, but these days, there will be some high school stars unreachable with that mentality. To give Chryst credit, his demeanor helped build up a nice base for Pitt after Graham's oil salesman routine left town and he was there to pick up the pieces. I don't believe he gets the credit that he deserves for the job he did and that's mostly because fans want to see results and as has been the case too many times over the last two decades, Pitt has lost more battles than they have won.
Enter Pat Narduzzi and his staff. From the time he was hired, Narduzzi said he would hire assistants that had a passion for recruiting and that's clearly the direction he's taken. Take one look at Twitter to see assistant coaches John Peterson and Rob Harley (among others), and you'll notice that these guys don't sleep. They not only don't sleep, but they are everywhere. Hell, Coach Harley was just in California of all places to do some recruiting. The Panther coaches seem to have a swagger about recruiting and are relentless.
There's no doubt about it - the new coaches are creative and they very aggressive. Fans have begged Pitt to keep local talent here and even, Wannstedt, the most successful coach in a long time, still lost a good amount of WPIAL talent to other schools. I don't know if the new staff will finally build the wall around the area that Wannstedt often talked about, but they certainly seem to be doing all they can to accomplish that goal.
It used to feel like Christmas morning getting a recruiting weekend update on a scouting service or seeing a tweet about said events. Since Narduzzi's staff came on campus, it seems like every other day there is some sort of new contact and WPIAL stars are getting the royal treatment.
This past week, there were a couple of recruiting notes worth observing. First, there was the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight on Saturday night. Instead of letting that opportunity go by the wayside, Pitt decided to take the biggest boxing match in probably 25 years and make it a recruiting tool, inviting some of the top local players (11 in all) down to the South Side facility to view the fight and just hang out. When's the last time you heard about the Panthers doing something like that?
Then there is the Miles Sanders situation. Sanders is a running back from Woodland Hills and is considered by many as the top senior in the state of Pennsylvania. He has also always been a Penn State guy and has had a numerous big-time offers.
Sanders committing to Penn State early continued their success in recruiting in western Pennsylvania. But in case you've missed it lately, the rumor mill has been flying that he could be looking elsewhere. Sanders was even spotted at Pitt spring practices in the process (though he said that was to see former teammates) and there's talk that he is still committed but wants to visit other schools. According to Rivals' Adam Friedman on Twitter, Alabama, LSU, and....Pit could all be in play.
It should be noted that Sanders said recently that he remains committed to Penn State. But with the recent rumblings and the talk that he will continue to visit other schools, I'm not sure things will completely die down on that front.
Will any of Narduzzi's efforts and those of his staff lead to success in both recruiting and on the field? Only time will tell. But it sure has been nice to feel somewhat like the hunter and not the hunted anymore.