Almost lost in the optimistic talk surrounding signing day at Pitt is a second-year player who appears to have found hope in a new home.
Tight end Chris Clark is part of the 25-man Class of 2016 introduced this week by coach Pat Narduzzi, but Pitt’s letter of intent is not the first he has signed.
“My recruitment has been crazy, crazy,” he said.
A year ago, Clark was in ESPN’s studios pledging to UCLA as the nation’s No. 1 tight end after he had decommitted from North Carolina and Michigan.
After one game — he said it amounted to “13 or 14 snaps” in the opener — he decided to transfer, in part to be closer to home in Ridgewood, N.J.
“It was extremely far from home,” he said. “It just wasn’t really the best fit in terms of (how) I wanted to be developed as a tight end.”
Clark was planning to transfer to Syracuse, but he never made a strong connection with former coach Scott Shafer. Meanwhile, Narduzzi always was lurking in the shadows of Clark’s recruitment.
“I’ve been recruiting him for three years,” said Narduzzi, who also tried to get him to enroll at Michigan State.
Clark, who enrolled in January, has built a connection with Pitt’s coach that he hasn’t been able to develop with others.
“It’s really great to find a head coach who’s as genuine as Coach Narduzzi is,” Clark said. “Because a lot of these guys in this business aren’t as real.”
Clark admits his recruitment has been unconventional.
“It’s definitely not something that I would look back at and be proud of how it’s all happened,” he said. “But now that I’ve found a home, I think I’m going to be able to develop into a great player and person.”
Clark (6-foot-6, 257 pounds) said he believes Pitt’s style of offense is a better fit for him.
“UCLA is more of a spread offense,” he said, noting he has gained 24 pounds since leaving the Bruins. “Here, we are more of a pro style. At UCLA, it felt like I was being developed more into a very large wide receiver.
“I know what makes me good is I’m a true tight end. I put my hand in the dirt, and I can run and catch the ball.”
His receiving skills emerged at Avon Old Farms (Conn.) School, where he averaged 19.4 yards per catch, with 32 receptions for 621 yards and seven touchdowns in 2014. He also attended Don Bosco (N.J.) Prep.
The next hurdle for Clark is gaining NCAA clearance to play this season without sitting out the one year required of most transfers.
“We’re fighting for him to be able to line up and play for us this year,” Narduzzi said.
“I think my situation is pretty unique,” Clark said. “I definitely had some personal things that were affecting me at school.
“I find it hard to believe you would make someone miss two full seasons of football. I just don’t understand the reason for that.”
Notes: Returning linebackers Bam Bradley and Anthony McKee might limited by shoulder injuries when spring drills begin next month. … Coaches are expecting 33 junior prospects on campus this weekend.