Charlie Partridge’s south Florida ties connect Pitt to fertile recruiting territory
When Charlie Partridge puts Pitt’s defensive linemen through their paces in practice, it’s easy to see he’s a coach who does not tolerate nonsense and makes sure his players stay engaged throughout each drill.
The results show up on game day.
Rising junior Rashad Weaver has a chance to be one the finest ends in the ACC after totaling 14 TFLs and 6½ sacks last season.
End Patrick Jones II made the most of his time on the field, getting 71⁄2 TFLS (including four sacks) and four quarterback hurries without making a start.
Partridge does good work off the field, too, and it shows in Pitt’s 16-man 2020 recruiting class. He recruits Florida, and Pitt has six verbal commitments from that state.
After finishing No. 50 in the nation last year, Pitt’s 2020 class is currently ranked 21st, according to Rivals. If it stands through signing day in December, that will be Pitt’s highest ranking since it was No. 21 in 2006 with Dorin Dickerson, John Malecki, Jeff Otah and Greg Romeus.
Partridge, who grew up in Plantation, Fla., and was head coach at Florida Atlantic for three years, was on the ’06 Pitt staff, too, before leaving and returning in 2017.
Pitt’s rise comes at a good time, with competition increasing in the ACC. Six of the 20 schools ahead of Pitt are ACC members.
Prospects are ranked by the number of stars assigned by various recruiting services (as many as five for the best players). They are by no means foolproof. Weaver, for example, was a two-star in 2016.
Pitt had five four-star prospects that year, according to Rivals.com, and three never made an impact on the program. Only Damar Hamlin and Amir Watts are still on the team as they approach their senior season.
Pitt’s only 2020 four-stars are wide receiver Aydin Henningham of Deerfield Beach, Fla., and defensive back Jahvante Royal of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Recruiting analyst Larry Blustein, who said he has followed high school players in south Florida for 49 years, said Partridge has been a big part of Pitt’s success this off-season.
“Partridge is just an animal when it comes to recruiting and knowing the kids,” he said.
Bluestein said Henningham is a versatile athlete who has extensive experience in the secondary. Royal previously had an Ohio State offer to play wide receiver, but has settled at safety.
“He’s more of a cover safety,” Blustein said of Royal. “He’s not going to bang you to death. He has some physicality, but that’s not his game.”
Blustein said two Florida players who might play early are running back Henry Parrish and defensive end Emmanuel Belgrave, both of Miami.
Blustein said Parrish has a chance to be special, calling him “one of the top four backs in the state.”
“Big-time kid who has an opportunity to be just an unbelievable back. Catches the ball, smooth runner, he glides. You don’t ever get a good hit on him. Pitt likes those bruising kids who can get out in space.”
Parrish chose Pitt over Florida State, Miami, Michigan and Penn State, among several other Power 5 schools.
Blustein said Bellgrave, who only has eight offers, could turn out to be “a real steal.”
“He’s a tremendous playmaker,” he said.
Blustein called Pitt’s overall class “awesome,” noting that fans in south Florida are well aware of the players Pitt is recruiting.
When Parrish arrives next summer, Pitt could have five Florida running backs on its roster, including present players A.J. Davis and V’Lique Carter, and this year’s incoming freshmen, Vincent Davis and Daniel Carter.
Under Pat Narduzzi, Pitt has found many players outside Western Pennsylvania. If you use the Mason-Dixon line as a boundary, 11 of Pitt’s 16 recruits in the current class go to high school south of it, including three from Georgia and two from Maryland.
Only three of Pitt’s returning starters this season — Aaron Mathews (Clairton), Hamlin (Central Catholic) and Dane Jackson (Quaker Valley) — played in the WPIAL.
Pitt did grab one of the top players in Pennsylvania when Westinghouse defensive end Dayon Hayes verbally committed to Narduzzi on Saturday. He is ranked No. 3 in Pennsylvania by Rivals.com. Hayes has offers from 26 schools, including Penn State, West Virginia, Texas A&M and Michigan State.
Hayes’ reputation, in fact, reached south Florida. “That’s a big get for Pitt,” Blustein said.
Hayes trains with DeWayne Brown, whose No. 1 client is Aaron Donald. Brown sees similarities in the two players, even though they are separated by a decade’s worth of hard work and experience.
“His get-off (at the snap) is so similar to Aaron’s,” Brown said.
And more to the point: “He trains with the same mentality.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .