Jordan Whitehead Is The Future Of Success At Pitt


Is it possible for a single player, not a coach, to really be the key to the future success of an entire program? To answer the question, we take a look at Pitt’s Jordan Whitehead and what his diverse play and relationships mean for the future of the Panthers.

When coaches decide that it’s time to head out on the road to recruit a prospect to their school, do they look at the benefits not found on the stat sheet after their four years? If so, can it be quantified in the means Pat Narduzzi will experience after the career at Pitt for true freshman safety and surprising utility man, Jordan Whitehead?

I’m not entirely convinced.

Whitehead, who seemed to be a Pitt lean to begin with out of Central Valley high school, ultimately chose to be a Panther, even after the departure of then head coach Paul Chryst. As you can imagine, part of the lure to Pitt under Chryst was in the vision of a demanding role on offense. So when Narduzzi, a defensive guru from Michigan State entered the equation, it was no guarantee he would keep his commitment to the ever-fluctuating Pitt football program.

Narduzzi stayed the course in the recruitment of Jordan, and after a full-court press by West Virginia leading up to national signing day, officially secured the state’s most prolific recruit and Pitt’s most high-profile recruit in quite some time.

No aspect through the typical recruiting process seemed to stick out from any other player in any other single recruiting class.

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So enter the 2015 season. Pitt begins the season with Youngstown State. There were different sources suggesting that Whitehead would see time throughout the game. There couldn’t be, and rightfully so, too lofty of expectations for the true freshman getting his feet wet in division-1 football. As the game concluded and looking back, not much could be said about his performance, except for one single play. The play I reference occurred in the later stages of the game when Jordan put schematics in the backseat and used his football charisma to make a break on the ball. No, it was not an interception, just a pass deflection that I fully believe began to set his impressive freshman campaign into motion.

Game after game he continued to build on the success of the previous, even with, as Whitehead would allude to, freshman mistakes. He has posted four double-digit tackle games with his largest contribution being 15 in a wild Iowa game in September. He leads the team in tackles on the season with 72, the next closest Panther, linebacker Matt Galambos, is 19 behind the true freshman.

The most notable game in his young career came last weekend against the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. Easily the biggest stage that was scheduled for Pitt in 2015, he rose to the challenge. Whitehead had 11 tackles from his safety position and finally found his way to the offensive side of the ball after nine weeks of an inkling to the possibility. From what I can remember, he saw action on four plays, three on the ground and one as a receiver. All he did on half of those plays was find the end zone. He could have had a three touchdown day, but an athletic play by Notre Dame player Matthias Farley deflected that opportunity in the end zone with an interception of quarterback Nathan Peterman.

Statistics are beautiful, every player will tell you that, even if they admit to that notion being buried deep in their chest. However, stats alone won’t change the course of a program for the better after a career. Let’s look at how Jordan can influence the upward trajectory of the Panthers.

As I mentioned, Whitehead hails from Central Valley high school in Monaca, Pennsylvania. With Jordan on the team, the Warriors were a ferocious force in the WPIAL. The WPIAL has been a power source for college football for decades as heralded players in Tony Dorsett, Dan Marino, Bill Fralic, Ty Law, and Mike Ditka have all etched their names in the league record books.

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  • What seems to be evidently clear in the new age of the WPIAL is the desire to be great as a brotherhood. Enemies on the field as two entities but a single unit of players collectively rooting for the other on their higher aspirations at the next level. If you check Twitter of a recognizably named player lurking in the collegiate waters, you wont find a profile that doesn’t have a personal badge, a seal of approval rather, that endorses the success and the further dreams of another prospect at an opposing high school program.

    The struggle that remained, though, was opening the eyes of the WPIAL prospects that success can be found at home attending Pitt and not blindly scurrying across the country looking for the quickest route to the National Football League.

    This is where Jordan Whitehead can forge the “Pitt Way” to do things while staying in the comforts of home to do so. You can argue that current Panther, Tyler Boyd, has been doing that very thing, and with relative ease. You can toss Aaron Donald’s name in the hat for that very matter. However, something about Whitehead makes it seem like the effects will be longer-lasting.

    Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    The vision that the coaches are trying to plaster in the minds of Pittsburgh’s best is what Whitehead is laying on the field each week. Hard work, determination, and studious nature of the game producing on the bright stage at the next level. Producing doesn’t exactly do it justice; making a difference and being the one to make an impression on the outcome of a game is a bit better.

    If you have attended a Pitt home game at all this season, what is it you see Pitt’s freshman safety doing during prior to kickoff during warm-ups?

    Exactly what you see in this picture.

    He makes his rounds with the best-of-the-best from his past league. Above is the photo of Whitehead with Lamont Wade, rated the number one defensive back in the country for 2017. Already committed to the Panthers is 2017 propsect from Seton-Lasalle high school, and the number three overall player in the state of Pennsylvania, Paris Ford, according to Rivals.

    The Whitehead letter of intent and on-field maturation has caught the eye of big names that look to keep the dominos falling, especially if a Paris Ford tweet is any indication. It just takes one domino to fall and No. 9 for the Panthers placed a large bulls-eye on his in 2015.

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    Everything ultimately comes down to each class continuing to bond in succession to one another. It’s not just one school or graduating class for themselves; rather, each building on the other and realizing their dreams can be unified and made at home under Narduzzi. The dream they yearn for is the one that Jordan is acting out after a string of faith continued to guide him to playing at Heinz Field. The high-level of production out of Whitehead is making his name a household one when it comes to making a case for ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year. A well-deserved conversation to be a part of.

    Wholeheartedly, I believe Jordan Whitehead could be looked at as the forefather to the new-age WPIAL to Pitt pipeline. As far as I can tell, the stock-piled well of talent is far from being a barren desert.