Pitt’s football program wrapped up its early National Signing Day activities, landing 18 new players for the program. You can find the entire class here.
Among the standouts are four-star quarterback Davis Beville and four-star running back Daniel Carter. Any four-star quarterback is always welcome in my book and while Pitt seems to have options at running back, like most schools, they’re not in much position to turn down a four-star kid at any position.
Others are solid players, too, and this is a good reminder that it’s not all about the stars. Pitt’s class contains a healthy dose of three-star players with only two two-star kids, according to Rivals in offensive lineman Liam Dick and defensive end Nate Temple. Even Dick had several decent offers with Louisville, North Carolina, and Washington State reportedly after him. The good news, as I’ve been saying since Narduzzi arrived, is that Pitt is seemingly taking less chances with lower-rated kids.
It’s also worth pointing out that the class isn’t completely finished. Defensive end Brandon Mack, who previously committed, is still trying to make up his mind about Pitt. The Panthers also have something going on with Nick Malone, an offensive lineman from West Virginia who is hoping to possibly sign later. We’ll also see if Narduzzi can add any others but this is the bulk of the class, boys and girls.
Overall, it’s a pretty typical Narduzzi class in terms of rankings. As of now, Rivals has Pitt at 39th overall. Last year they were 36th and the year before that, 38th. It’s nice to have a highly-rated quarterback and a few others that should make plays. But Pitt hasn’t had a Top 25 class (Rivals) since 2006 and in the last three, haven’t been anywhere close.
Hailed as a great recruiter by some (probably even me at some point), it’s clear that Narduzzi is basically treading water on that front. The classes have been ‘okay’ but they aren’t really improving. And if you look at the No. 29 2016 class (Weaver, Camp, Hamlin, Watts, Ffrench, etc.), which looks pretty decent, they’re getting worse. Things could certainly be worse but when you’re in the mid to low 30s as a P5 program, particularly over a prolonged stretch, that’s nothing that will turn many heads. In terms of only P5 teams, it’s in the bottom half.
That’s not to put this all on him. Pitt’s ‘brand’ at this point is not real strong. That’s what happens when you barely make appearances in the Top 25. It’s just hard to stay relevant, even when you’re able to pull of the occasional upset.
At this point, Pitt has the look of a capable underdog as opposed to an impressive program. That’s nice and all but how do you sell that? ‘Come to Pitt and you’ll beat a Top 5 team or two in your career.’
That’s not to diminish the big wins Pitt has had. Those kids fought their bloody guts out for those wins and they were awesome. The last thing I’d hate is to dump on those incredible efforts by a great group of guys. But those wins are fleeting and without any sustained success, you begin to question how much they really matter in the game of recruiting.
With regards to brand positivity, the Panthers have been fortunate enough to land on television in some high-profile games. That helps, but many of those have gone poorly. If recruits aren’t seeing you in the rankings and are watching you lose games by the tune of 51-6, you don’t need me to tell you that’s just kind of a tough sell.
The argument can be made that Pitt can win without dynamite classes on paper and to some degree, that’s true. Narduzzi, for one, has actually seen that happen at Michigan State. Other programs have done it. But while the Spartans didn’t dominate on the recruiting trail, they still put together some Top 25 classes on occasion. Pitt is recruiting well enough to be competitive in some years in a pretty weak ACC Coastal Division but that’s really about it. As we saw against Clemson, when it comes to trying to win a conference title, they look pretty far off.
Pitt will find some diamonds in the rough with this class. Most schools, after all, are able to do that. But for the Panthers to really get to the next level, the recruiting, at some point, will have to improve.