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Much work to be done but Pitt’s football recruiting headed in the right direction

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It’s hard to imagine it but only ten days ago, Pitt’s 2019 football recruiting class did not possess a single recruit. Things have changed quite a bit.

After a flurry of commitments over the weekend, the Panthers now have 11 committed players and judging by how quickly they’ve come in lately, there could be more by the time I’m even finished with this article. The biggest day was Sunday as Rivals says a whopping eight committed on that day alone.

Before I forget here, kudos to Mike who has somehow managed to not only cover all 11 but in a timely manner. If you’ve missed any (and, chances are, you probably did), you’ll find his posts here on the recruiting page.

The numerous commitments have brought Pitt’s recruiting ranking back up to respectability. Once off the radar, the Panthers now stand at 30th overall in Rivals’ latest list of team rankings (and sixth in the ACC behind Clemson, Miami, Florida State, North Carolina State, and Virginia Tech). That isn’t great, obviously, but it’s significantly better than a short time ago when they didn’t have a single commit to their credit. If nothing else, Pitt has at least clawed its way back to the pack with a big weekend.

Now, I know there was quite a bit of angst as far as when Pitt would start signing kids. But the truth is that Narduzzi seemingly gets off to a slow start every year. I’m not sure if that’s necessarily him really having as hard a time as it seems when it comes to landing kids early, Pitt wanting to hold offers until later in the year, or some combination of both. But whatever the reason, the season when Pitt starts landing commits is always virtually non-existent until later in the year. It seems we have this discussion every year and, frankly, by now I’ve quit worrying about it. Narduzzi has always seemed to piece together halfway decent classes. And while they could certainly be better, they generally end with some really quality gets that make worrying too much about things too early kind of pointless.

That’s not to suggest that things have been slam dunk awesome on the recruiting front. I just know by now that, typically, they won’t be a complete disaster.

When you look at the list of guys, there are two noteworthy things thus far. One is that Narduzzi is looking outside of the western Pennsylvania window. So much so that, right now, not a single player is from here or even Ohio. Heck, there’s only one kid from Pennsylvania in all (Brandon George) and he’s from Reading. The other is that the area where Pitt is turning to is the south. About half (five of the 11) are from Florida and Pitt has also dipped into South Carolina and Alabama. While it won’t continue to be this geographically upside down, right now the Panthers’ recruiting more closely resembles an SEC team than one from western Pennsylvania.

None of that should be surprising, of course. Early in his tenure, Narduzzi suggested that Pitt will have to find players from outside of the region. Last year, Pitt had several players come in from the south and that trend is only continuing. It hardly needs said here but, this is not the ‘Build a fence around western PA’ philosophy employed by Dave Wannstedt or, to a lesser degree, Paul Chryst.

I’m not going to run down each recruit. Mike’s posts did a great job of that and there’s no need to rehash things. But in looking at the guys signed thus far, I know there’s going to be a bit of worry from some. Why? Because Pitt is still missing blue chips, according to the star rankings.

Pitt currently has zero four-star or five-star kids in the class, despite ten very solid three-star kids. I’ve been preaching for as long as this blog has run that I’m much more concerned with a kid’s offers than I am his star rankings and many of Pitt’s guys had some quality offers. But there’s no doubt that not having a single upper-level (at least, as of now) Rivals recruit will give at least some fans a bit of concern.

And I think that’s fair. More than fair, actually. It’s great that the overall quality of Pitt’s recruiting has gotten better under Narduzzi’s watch. And it’s far too early to start judging this class yet. But it absolutely has to be noted that only two of the 29 programs ranked ahead of Pitt right now are in the same boat without a four-star or five-star player. All other schools have at least one and most have more than one. And, get this - 16 of the 29 teams have at least five such players. In other words, while the Panthers have essentially caught up to the pack in terms of the overall rankings, they still have a lot of work to do in terms of landing guys that are, for now, anyway, viewed as true impact players.

Another point that is sometimes made and shouldn’t be forgotten is that Rivals’ rankings are based in large part on how many recruits you have. And there is no doubt that Pitt is benefiting a little from that. Many programs both ahead and behind the Panthers in the rankings have fewer commits and, without some higher-ranked guys, the class could very well still drop quite a bit.

But if you’re overly concerned about the star rankings at this point, don’t be. There are three things to keep in mind here.

First, and most importantly, it’s still relatively early. There’s plenty of time left in the recruiting year and while a lot of high-quality talent has been scooped up, kids have also been know to flip - sometimes to Pitt, in fact. And even Pitt doesn’t necessarily land the big flip as they have in the past, there are still plenty of very good players left.

Second, some of Pitt’s three-star players will have a great chance to become four-star kids. The upcoming senior years for these guys has yet to be played and some under-the-radar kids will get a bump up in terms of an additional star. Just because no four-star guys are identified yet by Rivals doesn’t mean they won’t exist by the time National Signing Day rolls around.

Finally, Narduzzi is used to having success without big-time classes. I’m not saying that based on what he has achieved at Pitt. Rather, at Michigan State, the Spartans had plenty of very good teams with mediocre recruiting, as I pointed out here. You never want to have a so-so recruiting class, of course. But my point is that they aren’t absolutely needed to have a great team. As long as you’re finding the right players, you can succeed, as Michigan State did.

Pitt’s recruiting still has a lot of work to do but after this weekend, they are at least headed in the right direction.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill’s Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.