Pat Narduzzi’s Criticisms of Coach Prime Don’t Hold Up

Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi is old school.

A linebacker for Youngstown State in his playing days, Narduzzi has been in coaching for over 30 years, but has never coached west of the Mississippi River nor south of the Ohio River.

Perhaps because of his background, Narduzzi has not been a fan of NIL or the Transfer Portal. Last summer, after his Biletnikoff Award winning receiver Jordan Addison left Pitt for USC, Narduzzi was critical of his star. “We helped him win a Biletnikoff and be the player he is,” Narduzzi said. “He had one of the best quarterbacks in the country throwing the ball every day. I think sometimes people forget how they got where they are.” Narduzzi also accused USC and Trojan head coach Lincoln Riley of tampering, though without evidence.

So it really wasn’t much of a surprise that Narduzzi had plenty to say about Coach Prime and the overhaul of the CU roster this off-season.

“That’s not the way it’s meant to be,” Narduzzi said. “That’s not what the (transfer portal) rule intended to be. It was not to overhaul your roster. We’ll see how it works out but that, to me, looks bad on college football coaches across the country. The reflection is on one guy right now but when you look at it overall — those kids that have moms and dads and brothers and sisters and goals in life — I don’t know how many of those 70 that left really wanted to leave or they were kicked in the butt to get out.”

Narduzzi wasn’t finished. “I grew up in a profession that you can’t tell a guy that he has to leave based on athletic ability,” Narduzzi said. “I think he’ll be shocked that he probably had some pretty good football players in that room. When I got to Pitt back in 2015, I didn’t kick anybody off. Zero. Those are your guys. When you become a head coach you inherit that team and you coach that team. If someone wants to leave, that’s great. You don’t kick them out. I disagree with that whole process. That’s not why I got in the game.”

Okay. Let’s step back and dissect those last statements.

The rosters of the 2014 Pitt Panthers and the 2022 Colorado Buffaloes are not comparable. So Narduzzi’s statement, “When I got to Pitt back in 2015, I didn’t kick anybody off. Zero. Those are your guys. When you become a head coach you inherit that team and you coach that team“, with the inference that Coach Prime should have done the same, is disingenuous at best.

When Narduzzi got to Pitt in 2015, he wasn’t taking over a 1-11 team. The Panthers in 2014 were coached by Paul Chryst, who was leaving Pitt to coach Wisconsin. Pitt went 6-6 in the regular season the season before Narduzzi took over, with only two of the six losses being by more than a touchdown. If Pitt hadn’t blown a big lead to lose to Houston, 35-34, in the Armed Forces Bowl, Narduzzi would have taken over a team with a winning record.

Colorado, meanwhile, went 1-11 in 2022. In finishing last or close to last in almost every statistical category, the Buffs were only within one touchdown in one of their 11 losses, with all of the other ten losses coming by at least three touchdowns.

Anyone want to bet that, had Narduzzi been named as CU’s head coach last December, that he would have told the Buff Nation: “I’m not going to kick anybody off. Zero. These are my guys”?

If he had, his tenure in Boulder would have been a short one.

Let’s take a look at Narduzzi’s statement, “I grew up in a profession that you can’t tell a guy that he has to leave based on athletic ability. I think (Coach Prime) will be shocked that he probably had some pretty good football players in that room.”

The phrase “some pretty good football players in that room” is subjective, but there are some means by which we can determine just how many “pretty good football players” Coach Prime has lost.

I’ve been trying to track the departures of CU’s scholarship players since the end of the 2022 season. By my count, some 58 Buffs have entered the Transfer Portal since last season. Only a dozen or so of those or so have found new homes with Power Five conference schools.

Now, just because the vast majority of players from the 2022 CU football team were passed over by the other 68 Power Five teams is not proof that they are not Power Five caliber players … but it’s a pretty fair indication.

So, if we take the dozen players from the 2022 team, and combine that with the dozen players who have made it back onto to a Power Five roster, what sort of base of players would Pat Narduzzi have to work with this fall?

Here’s a unit-by-unit look at what Coach Narduzzi would have had to work with in Boulder if his rant was put to the test …

QB … None

Comment … Pretty much all you need to know about this unit (and really about the 2022 team) is that CU had five scholarship quarterbacks on the roster last fall, and none of them remain on the team … and none of the five have been picked up by a Power Five team. You can’t be successful in college football without a premier quarterback, and CU had none on its roster.

RB … Anthony Hankerson … Deion Smith (BYU) …

Comment … Here Coach Narduzzi would have two players to work with, as Anthony Hankerson remains on the team, while Deion Smith has found a home with the newly minted Power Five BYU Cougars (joining the Big 12 this fall). Smith led the Buffs with 393 rushing yards last season, while Hankerson was third with 274. Decent players, but could they carry a team? (They didn’t last year).

WR … Montana Lemonious-Craig (Arizona) … Jordyn Tyson (Arizona State) …

Comment … Ten wide receivers on the 2022 CU roster – none of them are returning. Would CU fans have preferred to keep Jordyn Tyson and Montana Lemonious-Craig? Probably. Tyson was the best player on offense for CU before he was injured, and MLC has shown signs of being a Power Five talent. Would Narduzzi have liked to have some of the talent Coach Prime is bringing in – including Travis Hunter, Jimmy Horn, and a pair of four-star freshmen? I’m guessing the answer would be “yes”.

TE … Louis Passarello … Caleb Fauria … Erik Olsen

Comment … Tight end remains an enigmatic position at the University of Colorado. Buff fans were excited when one of the most highly regarded tight ends in the Transfer Portal, Arkansas State Red Wolf Seydou Traore, committed to CU. The relationship, though, only lasted a few months, with Traore reentering the Transfer Portal after the Spring game (and it’s worth stating that, despite Traore’s high rating, he still hasn’t landed with another team, much less a Power Five team). Meanwhile, Coach Prime kept three sophomore tight ends – a group with nine combined catches in 2022, so Coach Narduzzi would have that working for him … which is nice.

OL … Gerad Christian-Lictenhan … Van Wells … Carter Edwards … Casey Roddick (Florida State) … Jake Wiley (UCLA)

Comment … At least Coach Narduzzi would have a starting five of offensive linemen to work with, though Carter Edwards will only be a red-shirt freshman this fall. Christian-Lichtenhan, Wells, Roddick and Wiley were all starters for the 2022 Buff team … a team which 128th in total offense and 127th in scoring offense. The fact that Roddick and Wiley landed in the ACC and Pac-12 is a testament that they may have had the talent to compete at the Power Five level, and may have been victims of inadequate coaching.

DL … Na’im Rodman (Washington State) … Jalen Sami (Michigan State)

Comment … None of the defensive linemen from the 2022 Buff team remain on the roster, and only two of the eight who have left the team have found homes on Power Five teams (and notably four of them – Ryan Williams, Allen Baugh, Aaron Austin and Zion Magalei – are still homeless). Sami has been reunited with the head coach who recruited him to play in Boulder, Mel Tucker, while Rodman will try and make the Cougar roster in Pullman. The announcements during the week leading up to the Spring game that both Rodman and Sami were leaving the program caused some hand-wringing among Buff Nation faithful, as Buff fans had previously thought there was going to at least a little stability in the defensive line room … but Coach Prime & Co. have since picked up nine defensive line commitments.

LB … Marvin Ham II …  Isaac Hurtado … Eoghan Kerry … Joshka Gustav … Kaden Ludwick (Oregon – as a preferred walk-on as a tight end) …Taylor Upshaw (Arizona)

Comment … Coach Narduzzi would have some “football players in the room” at linebacker, but numbers are deceiving. Marvin Ham has the most experience, with 195 plays (and 13 tackles) in 2022. Hurtado was in for only two plays last year, while Eoghan Kerry and Joshka Gustav didn’t play at all last fall. Kaden Ludwick technically counts as a Power Five transfer, though Ludwick transferred to Oregon as a tight end … and as a preferred walk-on, not a scholarship player. Taylor Upshaw is another “Power Five” player for Narduzzi to work with, even though he never actually played a down for the Buffs. Upshaw came to Boulder via the Transfer Portal from Michigan, participated in spring practices … and then transferred to Arizona.

DB … Trevor Woods … Kaylin Moore (Cal) … Nikko Reed (Oregon) …

Comment … Trevor Woods is the lone holdover from the 2022 team, and has earned the praise of Coach Prime and the coaching staff. Would CU fans have liked to hang on to talented players like Nikko Reed and Kaylin Moore? Sure. CU has produced some pretty good defensive backs of late, only to watch them transfer out. Fortunately, the new coaching staff, headed by Hall-of-Fame cornerback Deion Sanders, hasn’t had too much difficulty in finding quality replacements. Of some interest is the fact that neither Nigel Bethel, a starting cornerback from last season, nor Jason Oliver, a promising underclassman, have found new homes.

K … Cole Becker (Utah)

Comment … Buff fans will have to wait all season to see if the loss of Cole Becker will come back to bite the new coaching staff. You could throw Coach Narduzzi a bone here if you want to count punter Ashton Logan, who recently committed to Oklahoma. Logan, though, was kicked off the team long before Coach Prime came onto the scene.

So … If we are being generous, which means giving Coach Narduzzi some extra Buffs to work with (like linebacker Taylor Upshaw who transferred in and back out again), there are still only about two dozen Buffs from the 2022 team which are being considered to be Power Five-worthy players in 2023 (either by Coach Prime or teams which have picked up CU castoffs).

If Coach Prime had taken Coach Narduzzi’s comment to heart: “When I got to Pitt back in 2015, I didn’t kick anybody off. Zero. Those are your guys. When you become a head coach you inherit that team and you coach that team“, Coach Prime would have been playing with just barely enough Power Five players to field a team … plus another 60 players which would have been a combination of true freshmen from the Recruiting Class of 2023 … and about 35 players who neither Coach Prime – nor any other Power Five conference team – has deemed worthy of giving a Power Five scholarship.

Had Narduzzi been true to his word, CU would have had little to no chance of being anything other than what it was in 2022 … the worst team in Power Five football.


5 Replies to “Calling Out Pitt’s Coach Pat Narduzzi”

  1. Re: the poll.

    I’m looking at 3-0 and will worry about the conference schedule after those first three games. I want to see coach Prime’s idea of “coming to win” as just that! TCU lost a lot of the players that got them there and are now a top 25 team, maybe somewhere between 7th – 18th even.

    CP has 35 players that are 4th, 5th & 6th year players including a 7th year player vying for playing time. Add in the rated underclassmen and your two deep is full of mature men with more 22 & 23 year old’s than we’ve ever seen on ANY college roster; plus a few 24 & 25 year old’s too. And a group of 4 & 5 star rated underclassmen sprinkled in with those 35 and that’s a pretty stacked two-deep!

    Many of them were rated out of HS and some are looking for a comeback or whatever, but 35 are fully grown men committed to CP and winning now. New coaches and new systems make this team something none have ever seen in college football.

    More than 55 seniors & grad transfers and/or rated guys signed on to win today, not tomorrow.

    I’m saying 3-0 is successful of the stated mission to “come to win” and 2-1 would be ok (small, no caps). But how would Buff fans feel if that 2-1 was a win over TCU and CSU? That would be a conundrum if only loss was neb instead of TCU! We’d rather see 2-1 be a win over the hated…

  2. Your point is exactly backwards from what it should be. The question was… What world you consider a “successful” September for Coach Prime? I think Coach Prime has already been incredibly successful in what he’s done, and has the program turned in the right direction. Bringing in essentially a whole new team and new schemes on both sides may take some time to gel. Those of us who picked “two wins” don’t see early wins as essential to HCP being successful—especially with the brutal starting schedule this year. I will be so much happier just to watch this new team play, win or lose, as HCP brings his vision together, step-by-step. So, your comment misses the point and suggests that ALL anyone should focus on is wins up front. Sheesh…get on board.

  3. A lot of professional jealousy and get off my lawn attitude emanating from Pitt. While I am not thrilled with the total upheaval in college football with NIL, the portal, etc., but when you take a step back, it is obvious that the athletes were being taken advantage of bigly and that system was no longer sustainable and hasn’t been fair for decades.

    So if the Narduzzi’s of the world don’t figure out how to operate in the new landscape, they’ll be outside looking in.

  4. Narduzzi makes a point based on the past. That argument today reeks a bit of sour grapes however. Yes, player development is important, loyalty…but hey…it’s kids changing their minds on scholarships, not blood oaths to the mafia. Furthermore, “some pretty good players” can be defined as almost anything, fact is the result brought us 1-11.

    This is how you were supposed to vote. Prime vote
    All other votes are loser attitude votes
    Yur not a Prime member. Yur old school 1 and 11 school

    I’d like to say 5-0, but it’s a little too greedy to expect CU to beat USC for the first time ever, and Oregon and TCU on the road … but 4-1 and a national ranking would be great!


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