Panther-lair - The Panther-Lair.com 3-2-1 Column: June commits, official visits and more
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The Panther-Lair.com 3-2-1 Column: June commits, official visits and more

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In this week’s Panther-Lair.com 3-2-1 Column, we’re thinking about June commitments, official visits, local offers and more.

THREE THINGS WE KNOW

June will produce commits
Here it is: June 1. Let the levee break and unleash a biblical flood of commitments, one which will wash over us with such force and volume that we shall never again remember the barren spring of 2018 and its infertile recruiting.

Like a shotgunned beer when the tab is popped, the flow is about to begin.

This is June. And now the recruits will come.

We know this because that’s what has always happened. Pat Narduzzi himself has landed 19 commitments in the month of June. He got seven last year, seven the year before and five in June 2015.

Paul Chryst cleaned up in June, too, landing a whopping 25 June commits in the 2013, 2014 and 2015 recruiting classes. That included June 2013, when 11 recruits committed to Pitt - current players like Dennis Briggs, Shane Roy, Quintin Wirginis, Mike Herndon and Connor Dintino and former standouts like Avonte Maddox and Brian O’Neill.

And Dave Wannstedt had June success, too, averaging more than five June commitments per year in his six years at Pitt.

Even Todd Graham had a June run, landing five commitments in June 2011 (although only one of those recruits - Clairton DB Trenton Coles - would actually end up signing with Pitt eight months later).

So yes, June commitments will happen, if for no other reason than, “They always do.”

That Paul Chryst haul in June 2013 - 11 commitments - stands as a record in the last decade or so, and it’s unlikely Narduzzi and company will match that number. Narduzzi’s current high-water mark is seven, which he set in each of the last two years. Can he get to seven again? Or even a clean half-dozen?

I can’t predict that. But I do think the change in the recruiting calendar, with official visits now permitted in the spring, could increase the number by one or two. Although that’s not a definite because…

The official visits might not produce commits
At least, they might not produce commitments right away. And then angst, that old mate who seems to bring so much comfort, will return.

I’m not predicting or guaranteeing anything here, but just like history has shown us that Pitt will get commitments in June, history has also shown that Narduzzi doesn’t really get commitments on official visits.

Consider this: In the last four official visit periods since Narduzzi was hired in December 2014, there have been 30 recruits who signed with Pitt but were not committed to Pitt when they took their official visits. Of those 30, just four committed on their visits: Kam Carter, Phil Campbell, Zack Williams and Allen Edwards.

The other 26 all committed after their visits were over. So while the outcome was eventually favorable for Pitt, there was none of the immediate success fans were hoping for.

I remember the first official visit weekend of the 2017 class. It was the weekend of Dec. 9-11, and Pitt hosted nine recruits. Three of them - Kyle Nunn, Kenny Pickett and Charles Reeves - were already committed but the other six weren’t. And all six of those other guys left campus without committing to Pitt.

I don’t really need to drag it out, do I? You know how this story ends, right?

Jerry Drake. Deslin Alexandre. Damarri Mathis. Michael Smith. Jaylen Twyman. Anthony Davis.

Pitt landed every damn one of them.

The next official visit weekend that year was roughly a month later in January, and it didn’t go quite as well; Pitt only got one of the five uncommitted recruits it hosted. But that weekend was pretty unique in the big picture, since Narduzzi has tended to do pretty well on official visits.

By my count, about a dozen recruits have taken official visits to Pitt in the last four years and committed elsewhere. That dozen isn’t culled from the full list of official visitors; just the ones who could have signed with Pitt (there were about 10 who visited but did not have committable offers or could not have signed with Pitt).

That works out to roughly three misses from official visits each year, which is a pretty good conversion rate. Some weekends - and some years - go better than others, but Narduzzi and his staff have done well in those situations overall.

The dynamic will be different with the new official visit period
It will be very interesting to see if Narduzzi’s success rate on official visits applies to these spring visits.

This isn’t going to be the same kind of official visit period as we’re used to experiencing in December and January. During those visits, there’s a sense of the finish line approaching, and everything everyone does - recruits and coaches - has that end date looming in the background.

Recruits plan visits knowing that Signing Day is coming. Coaches plan visits knowing that Signing Day is coming. Everything leads up to that day, so the process itself operates in a kind of funnel. It’s like a highway and everyone is getting off at the same exit; all recruits and coaches have to choose when they’re going to change lanes and start positioning themselves to take the off-ramp.

The timeline changed a little bit when the early signing period began last December. Now there are two exits, and while coaches may strongly encourage recruits to take that first exit, they still ultimately have the choice - and the consequences of the decision they make.

Then you throw an early official visit period into the mix, and the dynamics change again. Now recruits are going to be taking official visits - a key ritual in the lead-up to Signing Day - but they’ll be taking them a long time before they reach that exit.

And I’m going to take this highway/exit metaphor one step further. Because when you’re on a long drive, you might see an interesting billboard or some humorous graffiti or a three-legged deer with a lava lamp in place of its fourth leg (it’s a short deer), but by the time you get to your exit 150 miles down the road, you’ve forgotten about those things.

Okay, maybe you wouldn’t forget about the three-legged deer. But the memory would get hazy a little bit, just like it will for recruits who take official visits in June and then take more in the late fall before signing in December.

Brandon Mack is a good example. He’s a defensive end prospect from Alabama who has a top five that includes Pitt, LSU, Louisville, Ole Miss and Kentucky. He will take an official visit to Pitt for that big official visit weekend in two weeks, but he also wants to take official visits to the other four schools in his top five, which probably won’t happen in the final week or two of the spring visit period.

That means any additional visits will have to happen in the fall, which means he could have anywhere from three to seven months between his first visit and his last one. No matter what anyone says, it’s always better to be a recent memory than a seven-month-old memory.

So this official visit period is going to be very interesting to watch - and to reflect on once it’s over.

TWO QUESTIONS

Did Pitt wait too long to offer a local lineman?
Pitt offered Pine-Richland offensive lineman Michael Katic this week - an offer that some (or many) thought should have come a long time ago.

Katic is a 6’3” 285-pound interior line prospect who has 20 offers, including Power Five schools like Boston College, Indiana, Louisville, Rutgers, Syracuse and Virginia. The question for many was how those schools - and more than a dozen others - could see Katic as an FBS-level player before Pitt did. How did a player in western Pa. pick up six Power Five offers before Pitt jumped into the mix?

There are probably several reasons for the delay in Pitt’s offer to Katic, but there is one big reason for the offer now: offensive line coach Dave Borbely. It seems that Borbely, who joined the Pitt staff this offseason, was a big fan of Katic from the start and pushed for the offer. Now that the evaluation period is over, Borbely got his wish and Katic got his offer.

The biggest question - more relevant than why Pitt waited or why Pitt finally offered - is how Katic will respond, not just to the offer but to the timing of it. For his part, Katic told Panther-Lair.com that he understood the delay and was excited to receive the offer.

But you have to wonder: if we’re all seeing the delay in that offer, Katic probably is, too, and it’s hard to imagine it not impacting his perception of Pitt and the Panthers’ position in his recruitment. That’s not to say Pitt won’t get him - he did say that the Panthers are in his top three now that they offered - but you do wonder how much effect the timing will have.

You shouldn’t have to make up ground with a local recruit, but Pitt probably has to, at least a little bit, with Katic.

Is there a different standard for local recruits?
The Katic situation touches on a bigger issue that isn’t a product of one recruit or one year; it’s been building for some time. The most recent instances of this issue are Katic and Aliquippa four-star MJ Devonshire: both had multiple Power Five offers when Pitt (finally) offered them this spring.

It begs the question: does Pitt hold local recruits to a higher standard when it comes to offering? We often talk about local recruits holding Pitt to a higher standard when it seems that offering first doesn’t tend to help Pitt as much as waiting to offer seems to hurt Pitt. But do the Pitt coaches take a similar approach? Do they need to see more from a local recruit than they might need to see from a non-local?

For example, the coaches told Katic that they needed to be sure when it comes to offering interior offensive linemen; tackles can be moved to guard, but guards can’t be moved to tackle, and if they can’t play guard and they can’t snap, then they’re stuck eating a scholarship and not contributing.

That seems to make sense. But Pitt has offered plenty of offensive guards from up and down the east coast; literally, Pitt’s guard offers range from New Jersey to Fort Lauderdale and into Ohio. According to the Rivals.com database, Pitt has offered more than a dozen interior linemen - with Katic being the most recent.

So are the Pitt coaches looking for something more out of locals? I’m really not sure. It’s not like they haven’t seen plenty of Katic over the last two years (although it’s interesting that Borbely seems to have taken a liking to him almost immediately).

It carries over to the 2020 class, too: Pitt has offered just one WPIAL recruit in that class (Mars OL Michael Carmody) even though there are plenty more who have offers from other FBS schools. Whether it’s coincidence or a matter of intent on the part of the Pitt coaches is only known to them, but the perception is certainly interesting and worth monitoring.

ONE PREDICTION

We probably won’t spend much time on what-might-have-been this basketball season
After talking to Pitt assistant basketball coaches Jason Capel and Milan Brown this week, I found myself thinking quite a bit about the players who left and what this team might have been if they had stayed, as well as what the team might have been if those players had stayed and the previous coaching staff had not gotten fired.

Ultimately, there’s no point in that exercise, since those players are gone and those coaches got fired. But it’s interesting to consider. I don’t think there’s any doubt that the team would have been better with Ryan Luther, Parker Stewart and Marcus Carr, with Luther adding a lot in the front court, Stewart adding a serious scoring threat and Carr being a point guard with a year of experience.

The real contrast to debate is how a team with those players led by the Kevin Stallings staff would have compared with the current roster led by the Jeff Capel staff. Stallings would have returned that trio of players, but would he have added comparable talent to Trey McGowens and Xavier Johnson?

(Stallings’ two recruits, JUCO guard Danya Kingsby and high school forward Bryce Golden, were not as highly-ranked as McGowens and Johnson, although a forward would have been helpful.)

As it looks from here, the current roster is less in terms of returning players but better in terms of additions, including Sidy N’Dir, a grad transfer from New Mexico State. Are McGowens/Johnson/N’Dir an even trade for Luther/Stewart/Carr? No, probably not. At least not for this season.

The Stallings staff believed it had a team that could be competitive in the ACC in the 2018-19 season and potentially win 20 games. Maybe those coaches were right. Maybe they could have guided Pitt to its first 20-win season since Jamie Dixon was here.

My guess is this: as the season progresses, we probably won’t dwell on those hypotheticals too much. Even if we all agree Pitt would have been better with those three players, I suspect the fan base will largely keep its collective eye on the bigger picture and the considerable improvement made on the bench.