Jake Kradel stirred up the Pitt Panther fan base when he announced his commitment to the University of Pittsburgh. Kradel’s tweet, announcing he was “STAYING HOME,” racked up over 1500 likes.
The 290-pound offensive guard is ranked as a three-star recruit by 247sports.com. He went to Butler Senior High School, only about an hour north of Pittsburgh by car, which was one of many reasons he chose Pitt. He also connected with the coaching staff.
“Coach [Pat] Narduzzi and the way he develops kids on and off the field,” Kradel said. “That was the main reason.”
Kradel was also drawn to Pitt’s academic reputation.
“From an academic standpoint, [Pitt] is one of the best academic schools in the country. I couldn’t pass up that opportunity, just for life after football,” Kradel said.
Brian Dohn of 247sports.com projects Kradel will be a right tackle or guard in college.
“He blocks down well and is physical. He has good hand placement and his footwork is on point when he pulls,” Dohn wrote. “He can scrape and get to the second level. He needs to work on his agility in pass protection, and his ability to kick step.”
Part of the reason Kradel was such an exciting recruit for the Panthers was because of the attention he received from other schools with strong football programs.
Kradel saw his profile rise last year, drawing offers from major Power Five conference schools including Ohio State, UCLA, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
Kradel attributes much of his exposure to the high-level players he played against in high school.
“I think that was just because of my opponents, to be honest,” Kradel said. “I felt like from them watching my opponents’ tape, because there are a lot of Division I athletes in 6A WPIAL, they saw me. [Scouts] saw I was doing just as good as they were.”
Kradel certainly did play against some high-level competition while at Butler. He competed in the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League’s 6A division, the largest in the WPIAL. Kradel believes the challenging division helped shape him as a player.
“It was awesome,” Kradel said. “When I was playing against [Division I athletes], I had to raise my competition up to their level and try to do the best I could. It kind of got me on the map.”
Unlike most of the 2018 commits, Kradel enrolled at Pitt this semester. By enrolling early, Kradel has gotten the chance to build bonds with teammates early.
“I’ve gotten to meet almost all of the players on the team, trying to build relationships already,” Kradel said. “It’s helped me academically as well, I’m a whole semester ahead of the incoming freshman.”
Given the chance to work with Pitt’s coaching staff, Kradel has seen improvements in his on-field performance already.
“I’ve gotten developed quicker and faster just from being here, and working with our training and conditioning staff.”
In the next four years, Kradel has high hopes for the program. He wants to chase ACC championships, not bowl eligibility.
“At the end of the season, against Miami [last season], that was huge,” Kradel said. “I feel like that is something we can build off to go into the future. I feel like next year the sky’s the limit and we’re going to surprise a lot of people that are doubting us.”