PITTSBURGH (AP) – Pat Narduzzi had less than six weeks to cobble together his first recruiting class at Pittsburgh.
And while the former Michigan State defensive coordinator and his staff raced across the eastern half of the country at breakneck pace through January, Narduzzi’s most important job might have been keeping the Panthers’ biggest verbal commitment in house after Paul Chryst bolted for Wisconsin.
Turns out, Narduzzi’s top target was also the easiest one to keep. Coveted defensive back Jordan Whitehead never wavered from wanting to stick close to home, and the Central Valley High star – the top-rated prospect in the state – was one of the first to send in his letter of intent when the signing period began Wednesday morning.
“He wasn’t one of the guys where every day you walk into the office saying ‘Is he in or is he out?” Narduzzi said.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Whitehead is all in with the Panthers and their new head coach, one tasked with shaking the program out of a seemingly endless string of .500 seasons. Narduzzi envisions Whitehead as the kind of physical, in-your-face defender that Narduzzi found with great frequency while coaching with the Spartans.
“He can do it all,” Narduzzi said of Whitehead. “He’s tough enough to line up at safety to come down and smoke you and smooth enough to play corner.”
Whitehead is the jewel of the 14-player class, half of which is from Pennsylvania. The Panthers also announced former Tennessee quarterback Nathan Peterman will is transferring to Pittsburgh. Peterman is expected to give Chad Voytik some experienced competition.
“We needed an older guy to fill in the gap we didn’t have,” Narduzzi said.
While the incoming class is decidedly small in numbers, that’s fine by Narduzzi. The Panthers had 80 underclassmen last season. There will be time to build and with a core that includes ACC Player of the Year running back James Conner, there were no major holes to fill.
“It was not about quantity, it was about quality,” Narduzzi said. “We weren’t going to take a guy just to take a guy.”
Top 25 Class: No.
Best in class: Jordan Whitehead, DB, Central Valley HS, Aliquippa, Pa.
Best of the rest: Darrin Hall, RB, Austintown Fitch HS, Youngstown, Ohio
Late addition: Ben DiNucci, QB, Pine-Richland HS, Gibsonia, Pa. (had previously committed to Penn).
One that got away: Kevin Givens, DL, Altoona, Pa. (verbally committed to Pitt, signed with Penn State).