Mike Vukovcan on Pitt Football, Recruiting, and New Site

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First, can you tell readers about your new http://pittsburghsportsnow.com/ site and what your focus is?

The focus of @pghsportsnow is twofold.  1) to update all the passionate Pitt Panther fans around the country and especially here in Pennsylvania on how Pitt is doing in the recruiting trail.  With the hiring of Pat Narduzzi, I knew Pitt’s level of recruiting  especially with elite players would improve.  I also knew that Narduzzi and his assistants would be able to recruit the elite talent in Western Pennsylvania, which is exactly what they’re doing.  2) Since HS football is so popular in Western Pennsylvania, I wanted to become an outlet for fans to read about and find where the players are going to after they’re done playing hs football.  So our focus is on Pitt and WPIAL hs football and basketball recruiting.

What made you decide to launch the site and is there anything new on the horizon readers should be watching out for?

My main reason for launching the site is my passion for recruiting and also Pitt football.  I figured it was a perfect mix.  As far as things to watch out for, that’s too far ahead for me to think (LOL)! We’re not even a month old. My main goal for the first year is to gain respect and earn the trust of Pitt and hs football fans. I want to put out reliable and timely information which will hopefully make my website credible in the eyes of the readers.  Down the road,  maybe do a weekly/monthly podcast or add a video element to the site  but that’s down the road.

A good deal of your focus seems to be on Pitt football recruiting. How do you get such good information and will you branch out to basketball as well?

Over my 20 years working at KDKA-TV,  I’ve been fortunate enough to develop a lot of friendships and contacts in the Pitt football circle.  For years, I’ve talked with guys that I respect like Paul Zeise, Chris Peak, Harry Psaros and through them, developed some contacts in football. As far as basketball, I will be doing some basketball (with the elite WPIAL recruits and players that  Pitt is recruiting).

In regards to Pitt’s football recruiting. How are the upcoming classes looking so far under Narduzzi – and what players should fans be most excited about?

I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that we could be at the beginning of some really special years of Pitt football.  Pat Narduzzi is EXACTLY what this football program needed.  A good coach, a coach with passion, a coach with a personality and a coach that will be able to attract the best talent in the country.  Paul Chryst leaving for Wisconsin will go down as one of the best things ever to happen to Pitt football.  When it’s all said and done, Pitt’s going to have a top 25 recruiting class this year. Next year (2017) look out. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Pitt’s class was ranked in the top 15 next year.  The WPIAL’s Class of 2017 is special and I believe that Narduzzi will end up attracting a majority of that talent to Pitt.  Guys like Paris Ford, Donovan Jeter, David Adams, possibly Lamont Wade. Big-time talent.

Western PA should be a fertile recruiting ground for Pitt but it has struggled in the past to sign top-rated hometown players. Has this changed recently and how so and  who is still on the horizon that could be an impact recruit for Pitt still?

With 2 months left in the recruiting Class for 2016, Pitt is still chasing some very, very good talent.  Uncommitted WPIAL players that I think Pitt can still get are Damar Hamlin, Khaleke Hudson, Aaron Matthews and possibly Miles Sanders (who’s currently a Penn State commit but I think could change his mind).

How has this coaching staff’s approach to recruiting differed from those in years past – and has it worked?

The reason that this current  coaching staff can recruit is simple, they love to recruit.  They eat, breath and sleep recruiting.  It’s a 12 month a year job.  You can’t recruit 5 or 6 months of the year and expect to be successful. Doesn’t work that.  All the coaches love to do it.  Some former Pitt assistants didn’t enjoy recruiting and just wanted to coach football.  That doesn’t work.  The other thing reason for success with Narduzzi and his staff is that they’re skilled users of social media.  They’re masters of Twitter, which is a must today.  Paul Chryst and his staff hardly ever used it. That was and is a mistake.

How do you view Narduzzi as a coach? The team has won the games “it should” but hasn’t beaten rated teams yet this season. Is this just a product of needing his players to improve his system of play?

I think Narduzzi did a really good job this year.  I don’t think there’s a person in the country that would’ve predicted 8 wins for Pitt if they were told that James Conner (ACC Player of the Year) would miss the season and that he’d start a first-year quarterback (Nate Peterman).  Under those conditions, fans would’ve signed in blood for and 8-4 record.  Also remember that Narduzzi doesn’t yet have this type of players on defense and yet made huge improvements over the team last year.  Team recorded a ton more sacks and turnovers despite having virtually the same talent as the previous season.  Just wait until he gets “his guys.”  Could be special.

Any early thoughts/predictions on Boyd and Connor returning next season?

There’s no chance of either Tyler Boyd or James Conner returning in 2016.  Boyd is going to be a first round pick and will instantly become a millionaire.  He won’t risk.  Conner won’t return because of the risk of re-injuring his knee.  I’m told that the NFL people are telling Conner that he’ll be a 3rd or 4th round pick if he comes out this year.  A running back only has so many carries in him.  Conner isn’t going to waste those carries not getting paid.

Any last thoughts for readers?

I just want to thank everyone that’s logged onto Pittsburgh Sports Now and took the time to read the stuff I’ve written.  In only a month, the page views that we’re (Joe Steigerwald/Web Designer)  receiving is incredible.  We’ve actually been stunned by the numbers.  Seeing them is huge motivation for me to keep churning out information.  If we’re still doing this a year from now,  it’ll be time to take the site to the next level.

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One thought on “Mike Vukovcan on Pitt Football, Recruiting, and New Site”

  1. Aimme says:

    Good to hear from you Mike. I always know extlcay what to write to get you to pipe up, right? Reasonable people can disagree on these rankings, but Syracuse did just lose AT HOME to Pitt by DOUBLE DIGITS. I understand the Kansas-Cornell analogy by we all know Kansas would beat Cornell 9 out of 10 times. That’s the definition of a fluke. Can we say that about Pitt-Cuse? I don’t think so. Let me see more and then I will adjust accordingly. As for West Virginia and Villanova, I’ve had them 1-2 in that order since October and I see no reason to change that right now. Nova losing to Temple in one of those crazy Big 5 games (where upsets are commonplace) doesn’t upset the apple cart in my mind. Again, it’ll all play out. I actually enjoyed Boeheim’s postgame after Seton Hall, even his potshot at the media about OOC schedule strength (at least the quotes were interesting and usable). Much better than the normal blah-blah-blah you get from a lot of the other guys. Bitter, the point about last year’s Big East is how it was the deepest league ever. Obviously no league was better at the top than those mid-80s Big Easts. If it makes you feel better the next time it comes up I will put an asterisk and a footnote making this distinction. Piratefocus,I’ve been beating the drums for Fero Hall as you know, but he is way too small to play center in the Big East. Have you seen the size of the postmen on the other teams? Big John is a space-eater and is useful in short spurts (alas, his knees have robbed him of the rest). Fero has to beef up big-time before he can hold his own at center for any reasonable lengths.

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