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When Pat Narduzzi took over the Pitt football program, the buzz that appeared to be lost after several mediocre seasons appeared to be restored.

A talkative, scrappy looking son-of-a-coach from Youngstown preached toughness, stability and defense to a choir of fans that desperately needed to hear it.

“(I’m) highly motivated to build this team into a national powerhouse,” the former Michigan State defensive coordinator said. “We’re gonna do it with relentless energy, passion and discipline.”

While Narduzzi’s message was clear, his first challenge was keeping the members of the current recruiting class in the fold.

Pitt lost several members of group former coach Paul Chryst put together. Tight end Nick Bowers and linebacker Kevin Givens remained committed until just days before signing day, both flipping to Penn State. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook and defensive tackle Kraig Howe followed Chryst to Wisconsin, and offensive lineman Rob Dowdy left for WVU. The losses are considerable, but Narduzzi has added seven recruits in a little over a month. The new coaching staff has focused primarily on defense, filling holes in the front seven and in the secondary, as well as adding a quarterback.

"When it comes to recruiting, Pat Narduzzi is really big on building relationships and he's going to put in the effort," said Matt Dorsey, who covers Michigan State recruiting for SpartanMag.com. “He’s confident in the kind of player he wants to fit his defense.”

While it may take a few years, Narduzzi and his staff believe in building a strong front seven and developing defensive backs that are comfortable being left in one-on-one situations. At Michigan State, Narduzzi made a habit of developing under the radar recruits stars into stars. Darqueze Dennard was a two-star recruit out of Jeffersonville, Georgia in 2010. Four years later he was the first-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals.

Commits Jay Stocker and Jordan Whitehead (above left) could provide Narduzzi with a similar opportunity to build from within. Whitehead, ranked by Rivals.com as the nation’s sixth-best cornerback, could make an immediate impact as an electrifying return-man.

Stocker, a three-star recruit ranked as the country’s 36th safety, has an impressive build (6-2, 185) and could become the hard-hitting safety enforcer Pitt lacked last season.

Narduzzi also added young talent to the linebacking corps. The class of 2015 includes four linebackers, three of whom were added in the past month. Ohio's Anthony McKee chose Pitt over Michigan State and Oklahoma. Saleem Brightwell of Paramus Catholic in New Jersey passed up offers from Miami, Missouri, Michigan State and Nebraska to join the Panthers.

"He’s exactly what you look for in a linebacker," Paramus Catholic coach Chris Partridge said of Brightwell. "His motor never stops."

The new staff also kept four-star running back Darrin Hall of Ohio in the fold, as well as three-star offensive linemen Alex Paulina and Tony Pilato.

Narduzzi and his staff have also created a presence on social media platforms like Twitter, tweeting “Pitt is It” every time he gets a verbal commitment.

While it may be awhile before Pitt fans see results, Narduzzi and his assistants are certainly putting forth the effort in the early days of their tenures.

FUTURE PANTHERS
Most Immediate Impact:
Jordan Whitehead. Whitehead’s arrival on campus has been anticipated for months, and his loyalty to the Panthers during the coaching turnover has only increased the hype. The Central Valley star could push for time in the secondary or give Tyler Boyd a rest in the return game. Or both.
Future Star: Running back Darrin Hall. Assuming he’s willing to bide his time until 2014 ACC Player of the Year James Conner guy is gone—likely after next season—Hall has the talent to be a prolific ACC running back. While Whitehead has stolen the headlines, Hall could become one of the most important in the years to come.
Under the Radar: Wide receiver Quadree Henderson. Henderson’s 5-8 height kept him from being more highly-recruited, but his ability as a slot receiver could get him on the field more often than some might expect.

CLASS OF 2015
Saleem Brightwell LB (6-2, 205) Paramus, NJ/Paramus Catholic
Ben DiNucci QB (6-3, 195) Gibsonia, PA/Pine Richland
Allen Edwards DE (6-3, 245) Franklin, MA/Dean J.C.
Gentry Ivery WR (6-1, 205) Mansfield, TX/Legacy
Darrin Hall RB (5-11, 195) Youngstown, OH/Austintown Fitch
Malik Henderson DB (6-0, 170) Hallandale Beach, FL/Hallandale
Quadree Henderson WR (5-8, 170) Wilmington, DE/Alexis I Dupont
Dane Jackson ATH (6-0, 170) Coraopolis/Quaker Valley
Anthony McKee LB (6-2, 195) Columbus, OH/Marion Franklin
Alex Paulina OL (above right) (6-3, 280) Canonsburg/Canon McMillan
Tony Pilato (above right) OL (6-7, 290) Greensburg, PA Hempfield
Jay Stocker S (6-2, 185) Coatesville/Coatesville
Tre Tipton (right) WR (6-0, 160) Spring Church/Apollo Ridge
ordan Whitehead CB (5-10, 180) Monaca/Central Valley

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