The State Of Pitt Football: Narduzzi’s New Staff And Current Recruiting Commitments


Jan 10, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers head football coach Pat Narduzzi (front left) poses for a photo with members of the Panthers student section before the game against the Clemson Tigers at the Petersen Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Much has changed since my last Pitt football recruiting update from November.

The Panthers lost another head coach, as Paul Chryst flew back home to Wisconsin, and the football squad squandered a 31-6 fourth quarter lead against Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl.

In comes Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, who is highly regarded and as close to his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio as ever. Check my previous article on Narduzzi if you need a refresher on the new man in charge.

As for the Pitt staff, some hires have occurred.

Most importantly, Josh Conklin has been named defensive coordinator. Conklin, 35, was the defensive coordinator at FIU this past season, leading a defense that ranked fourth in FBS with 33 forced turnovers, and 35th in total defense (363.8 yards per game). An added bonus is that he’ll likely have some Florida ties in the recruiting aspect.

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Though not an official hire, it appears that Rob Harley will also leave FIU to become the linebackers coach at Pitt. Harley, a former safety at Ohio State, coach an impressive and surprising FIU linebacker corps.

Conklin and Harley have the same mentality as Narduzzi, wanting a fast, aggressive defense that forces turnovers. This defense will allow incomers such as Jordan Whitehead to thrive in the secondary.

Narduzzi also tabbed Andre Powell as the special teams coordinator and running backs coach. Powell has known Narduzzi for more than 20 years, and led an impressive unit at Maryland this past season.

Dave Andrews was hired as the head of strength and conditioning. He was at Notre Dame the past season for strength and conditioning. A former player at Ohio State, Andrews will provide immediate toughness and experience to the young Pitt Panthers.

Ben Mathers has been named director of football operations, and Narduzzi indicated that he was an invaluable behind-the-scenes contributor to the success of Michigan State.

As for an offensive coordinator, there are rumblings that Jim Chaney is considering a lateral move to Pitt from Arkansas. Chaney coached at Purdue when Drew Brees emerged, and his offenses have relied on pro-style attacks and strong passing games.

As for the current Pitt team, a former four-star wide receiver, freshman Adonis Jennings indicated on Instagram that he intends to transfer from the Pitt program, as the fit did not feel right. He was recruited by Bobby Engram, who left to coach receivers for the Baltimore Ravens last season. He was not used much this year (6 catches for 55 yards, but figured to be a key weapon for Pitt next season).

There is also speculation that current quarterback commit Alex Hornibrook is looking into admissions at Wisconsin, so he may follow Chryst away from Pitt.

As for other commits, 6-foot-5 three-star offensive tackle Rob Dowdy has decommitted, and three-star defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton decommitted and is heading to Kentucky. Florida running back Sekai Lindsay is now considering Indiana, Pitt, and Temple, and Florida safety Peter Knox has decommitted.

The following list will likely change drastically in the next few months, as Narduzzi and the new staff hit the recruiting trail. As for Narduzzi’s Class of 2015, here are the current 11 commitments for the Pitt Panthers (not counting QB Hornibrook):

  • CB (Scout 21, 4*) (Rivals 4*) (ESPN 13, 4*) Jordan Whitehead (Central Valley HS) Monaca, PA 5-10/170
  • RB (Scout 30, 4*) (Rivals 4*) (ESPN 38, 4*) Darrin Hall (Fitch HS) Youngstown, OH 6-0/205
  • OT (Scout 84, 3*) (Rivals 3*) (ESPN 50, 3*) Alex Paulina (Canon-McMillan SHS) Canonsburg, PA 6-5/295
  • TE (Scout NR, 2*) (Rivals 3*) (ESPN 14, 3*) Nick Bowers (Kittanning SHS) Kittanning, PA 6-4/220
  • OLB (Scout 70, 3*) (Rivals 3*) (ESPN 73, 3*) Kevin Givens (Altoona HS) Altoona, PA 6-3/230
  • CB (Scout 102, 3*) (Rivals 2*) (ESPN 57, 3*) Malik Henderson (Hallandale HS) Hallandale, FL 6-1/175
  • WR (Scout 73, 3*) (Rivals 3*) (ESPN 97, 3*) Quadree Henderson (Alexis I. Dupont HS) Wilmington, DE 5-9/172
  • WR (Scout NR, 2*) (Rivals 3*) (ESPN 132, 3*) Tre Tipton (Apollo-Ridge HS) Spring Church, PA 6-1/170
  • DT (Scout 37, 3*) (Rivals 3*) (ESPN 87, 3*) Kraig Howe (Archbishop Alter HS) Kettering, OH 6-3/262
  • CB (Scout NR, 2*) (Rivals 2*) (ESPN 130, 3*) Dane Jackson (Quaker Valley HS) Leetsdale, PA 6-0/170
  • OT (Scout 108, 3*) (Rivals 3*) (ESPN 107, 3*) Tony Pilato (Hempfield Area SHS) Greensburg, PA 6-7/295

Stay tuned to City of Champions for additional coach and recruiting news and game recaps, as well as and for additional Pitt coverage.

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