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Pitt

Fresh off big recruiting day, Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi sounds off on new transfer, redshirt rules

Jerry DiPaola
| Monday, June 18, 2018, 4:24 p.m.
Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi reacts during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Duke in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. Pittsburgh won 24-17. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi reacts during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Duke in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. Pittsburgh won 24-17. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Head coach Pat Narduzzi during Pitt's spring game Saturday, April 14, 2018 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Head coach Pat Narduzzi during Pitt's spring game Saturday, April 14, 2018 at Heinz Field.

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said the NCAA's new transfer rule that allows players the freedom to leave without getting a release from their current school is “a lot of talk about nothing.”

“This is a bad rule if (Pitt starting quarterback) Kenny Pickett comes in and says, ‘Coach, I think I want to transfer.'

“That doesn't happen. We're not losing our good players.”

Speaking Monday on 93.7 FM, Narduzzi said players “who are leaving us are the ones we're OK with. They're looking for (more) playing time.

“It really helps our roster management. If the kid doesn't want to be here and doesn't want to be in the beautiful city of Pittsburgh, do we really want him? No.”

Pitt lost several players to transfers after the 2017 season, but in every case, the player had not made a significant impact on the program or probably wouldn't make one in the future.

The most high-profile transfer was quarterback Ben DiNucci, who transferred to James Madison after making six starts and throwing for 1,091 yards and five touchdowns last season. But DiNucci would have been a backup to Pickett this season.

Running back Chawntez Moss also left, but his playing time diminished last season after he rushed for 227 yards as a freshman in 2016.

Narduzzi likes the change to the NCAA's redshirt rule that allows players to participate in as many as four games without losing a year of eligibility.

“It's a great rule,” he said. “It should have gone into effect a long time ago.”

He said if the rule had been passed in 2016, two players projected to make big contributions this season — Pickett and junior safety Damar Hamlin — would have an extra year to play. In Pickett's situation, he would have four more years, instead of three.

“Maybe if the NCAA had got off their rear ends a couple years ago, Damar Hamlin, (who) only played in three games (in 2016), how about we get one more year back for him?” Narduzzi said. “Kenny Pickett only played in four games last year. I'm sure Kenny would like to have that year back, as well as (offensive coordinator Shawn Watson). Everybody in the Panther Nation would be jumping up and down.

“Nobody wants to redshirt. Now, freshmen get a chance to go out every day and practice, and ‘If I get better in the next three weeks, maybe they'll put me in.' ”

Narduzzi is a day removed from getting verbal commitments from nine high school seniors — an impressive and unprecedented one-day haul — and moving Pitt's Class of 2019 from No. 77 to 29 in the Rivals.com ranking.

He said he didn't get a chance to spend Father's Day with his wife and four children until later in the day.

“I would have rather sat home all day and went to church in the morning, but we had work to do at Pitt football,” he said. “The whole month of June is crazy, and it's getting crazier for coaches. We haven't had a day off in the month of June yet. I feel bad for our guys. Everybody works their tails off because we know what we have to do.”

Most of the verbal commitments are 3-star prospects, according to Rivals, but Narduzzi said he pays no attention to how players are ranked.

“You know where you can stick (the rankings),” he said. “Stars don't matter.”

Narduzzi said when he was coaching at Cincinnati in 2004, the class was ranked 80th in the nation, but some of those players were drafted into the NFL.

“You don't win football games with 4- or 5-star players,” he said. “You win football games with character and team guys.

“I bet we offered (scholarships) to 10-12 kids just from watching them at camp. We're watching kids run around with great motors, saying, ‘I love that kid. I don't care how fast he is.' ”

All but one of the nine players come from states other than Pennsylvania. The exception is linebacker Brandon George of Berks Catholic in Reading.

“We're going to go wherever they are,” he said, without identifying anyone by name. “We're going to Alabama if we have to go. We're going to go to Florida, Georgia. We happened to get a player from (Pennsylvania). Wish we had more of those.

“But the ones who want to pull the trigger are the ones we want.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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