Hamlin headlines homegrown talent for Narduzzi, Pitt
PITTSBURGH (AP) Pat Narduzzi pledged to keep the best players in western Pennsylvania in western Pennsylvania when he took over as head coach at Pittsburgh less than 14 months ago.
It appears he's 2 for 2.
A year after keeping safety Jordan Whitehead from nearby Aliquippa in the fold with his first recruiting class, Narduzzi and the Panthers made coveted defensive back Damar Hamlin the linchpin of his second class on Wednesday.
Hamlin, who went to high school at Central Catholic – literally just a few blocks from Pitt's main campus – announced his decision on live television on Monday and kept his promise two days later as Narduzzi added an athletic and versatile group of 25 players in hopes of building off a solid 8-5 season in 2015.
''Super player, very intelligent, not only in the classroom but on the field,'' Narduzzi said.
Technically Pitt added 11 players on offense and 14 on defense. The reality is Narduzzi isn't sure where most of his 2016 class will line up when they finally see the field.
''They can play either side of the ball,'' Narduzzi said. ''We've got (offensive) linemen that can play (defensive) line … linebackers that can play tailback (and) safeties and corners that can play anywhere on the field.''
And they're big. The Panthers signed four defensive backs listed at 6-feet or taller. The class also includes 6-6, 365-pound offensive lineman Justin Morgan from The Bronx, New York.
''He's a giant really,'' Narduzzi said. ''He'd hug you and you might be gone.''
The size of the class was also important. On the job for just over a month heading into Signing Day last February, Narduzzi added just 15 players. Getting more than two dozen signatures on Wednesday is a vital part of his plan to make sure his auspicious debut season was no fluke.
''It's a huge block, it brings us in a new wealth of talent,'' he said.
Other things to know:
Top 25 Class: On the bubble
Best in class: Damar Hamlin, DB, Pittsburgh. Blazing fast with what Narduzzi called ''the best feet, hips and most athletic corners you can recruit.''
Best of the rest: DL Keyshon Camp (Lakeland, Fla.), chose Pitt after originally committing to USC. RB George Hill (Youngstown, Ohio).
Late addition: Rashad Weaver, DL, Cooper City (Fla.)
One that got away: RB Miles Sanders (Woodland Hills) signed with Penn State.
How they'll fit in: The beauty for Narduzzi is he's not quite sure. Though Whitehead made an immediate impact at safety last year – he was named the ACC Rookie of the Year after leading Pitt with 99 tackles – but he also saw snaps on offense, averaging 10 yards every time he touched the ball. There are plenty of prospects who could get a shot at similar double duty going forward.