Pitt officially secured its highest-rated recruiting class since 2006 on Wednesday, as its 2021 class was ranked 22nd in the nation by Rivals at the close of national signing day. The class is the highest-ranked group of recruits Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi has ever brought in, and its ranking suggests Pitt is on a major upswing after two down recruiting years.
Neither of Pitt’s last two recruiting classes were ranked among the top 40 in the nation, as the 2019 class ranked 49th and the 2020 class ranked 44th. The two rankings were Pitt’s lowest since Narduzzi took over as the head coach of the Panthers, but the classes offered promise and have already paid off.
Recruits from the 2019 class who are already contributing at a high level include Vincent Davis, SirVocea Dennis, Brandon Hill and Calijah Kancey. And the 2020 class has already yielded stars in Jordan Addison and Dayon Hayes. So it bodes well for Pitt that analysts view the 2021 class as far more loaded than either of its two most recent precursors.
The reason for the optimism is because of four-star recruits like Naquan Brown, Elliot Donald and Nahki Johnson, all of whom are expected to contribute early at Pitt. But the team also has high-three-star recruits like Dorien Ford, Terrence Enos, Malik Newton and Terrence Rankl. And with the majority of those recruits playing on the defensive or offensive lines, Pitt should maintain its status as a force in the trenches for years to come.
This is not the first highly rated class Pitt has had under Narduzzi, as he put together the No. 29 class in the country back in 2016. That class was headlined by Damar Hamlin, a former four-star recruit who is now en route to the NFL, and he was joined by four other four-star prospects in the class. However, the 2016 class will be remembered more for two-star recruits Patrick Jones II and Rashad Weaver, who are heading onto pro careers as well.
With that said, the last Pitt class seen as comparable to the 22nd-ranked 2021 class was the 21st-ranked 2006 class assembled by Dave Wannstedt. That class featured seven four-star recruits, including future All-American Dorin Dickerson and future first-round draft pick Jeff Otah. Pitt also struck gold with a two-star recruit in Greg Romeus, who earned Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2009.
For Wannstedt, the 2006 class kicked off a three-year streak in which Pitt’s recruiting classes ranked among the top 30 in the nation, and that culminated in a 10-3 record in 2009 before recruiting began to lag. Narduzzi will have to replicate that success and sustain it to build anything at Pitt. And while doubts have been cast about his ability to do so in the past, it appears he has laid the groundwork to mold Pitt into a stronger program in the future.