Narduzzi: 'It get's no better' going from Ok. State to Georgia Tech

Chris Peak, Publisher
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Pitt is going from facing a great passing offense to a great running offense, and Pat Narduzzi talked about that challenge on the weekly ACC football coaches teleconference. Here's the full rundown of what he said.

NARDUZZI: Heading into Week Four here, really the second quarter of our season, and starting ACC play, so we’re anxious and ready for ACC play. We obviously go down to face, I think, a very talented Georgia Tech football team. TaQuon Marshall, the quarterback for them, has done an exceptional job of running the football. They’ve played two games so far. They’re a very athletic, very disciplined football team, well-coached and it should be great ball down in Atlanta.

HOW MUCH DO YOU GET A SENSE OF, OKAY, THERE ARE CERTAIN THINGS YOU NEED TO IMPROVE UPON DEFENSIVELY VS. YOU MAY HAVE JUST SEEN THE TWO BEST OFFENSES YOU’LL FACE ALL YEAR AND IT WAS SOMETHING THAT WAS JUST THE OPPONENTS YOU PLAYED?
NARDUZZI:
It’s a little bit of everything. Obviously, we played some very talented teams. But you know what? You go from facing probably one of the best passing teams in the country a week ago and ten you go play the number-one rushing team in the country in Georgia Tech. So it gets no better. I’ve said this before: we’re a young football team and we lost some talented players. I think we have some talented young players that are going to be good players; now, how long until they figure it out and play with good fundamentals and the details that you need to be a great football team? That’s to be said.

But we’ve played some good football teams, and there may be one other team that’s played two top-ten teams in the country. We’ve got to keep our guys’ heads up and move onto the next one here in Georgia Tech. And again, another very talented football team who loses to Tennessee in the opener in two overtimes and gave Tennessee all they wanted.

GIVEN THAT AND GIVEN WHO YOU PLAYED AGAINST, WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE BETTER OUT OF YOUR DEFENSE AND ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE BALL OUT OF YOUR OFFENSE?
NARDUZZI:
It’s really both sides. Our special teams were better last week than they were the week before. But both offensively and defensively, we’ve got some new guys. I mean, you talk about breaking in a new quarterback on offense; that’s always a struggle to find out your rhythm, find out what he does well in a game and what we can do better that way. So that’s that. And, again, we want to see the fundamentals and details done better. I say that, and it’s not panicking when you get into a football game. And it’s easier said than done when you’re a young guy and things are flying fast, whether it be the tempo or a player, you get out there and you do it in practice and you watch guys do it in practice, maybe versus less-talented guys when you’re going against the scout team, and then to get out there and see a guy run up on them and it comes faster than they thought and what do you do? You start to change your technique and you start to go backwards in what the fundamentals are instead of playing with good technique. And then you lose it. When you lose your techniques and fundamentals and those details, the bottom will fall out on you and it will fall out quickly. That’s what’s happened at times.

TO PIGGY-BACK OFF OF THAT QUESTION, SPECIFICALLY ABOUT THE OFFENSE: NOT ONLY WITH NEW PLAYERS BUT A NEW COORDINATOR, DID YOU ANTICIPATE THERE BEING A LITTLE INCONSISTENCY AT THE START OF THE SEASON?
NARDUZZI:
Certainly. You always do. Anytime there’s change, there’s going to be some sort of inconvenience and inconsistencies; that’s something you deal with as coaches. Every year, you have a different football team. We had a senior-oriented team a year ago with great leadership out of our seniors and 21 to 23 seniors, really, when you look at - at the end, a couple guys became seniors and left, so I think we ended up having 23 guys who left the program. So there’s always going to be change, whether it’s a coordinator or a team, and every team is different.

This is the 2017 team that happens to be a little bit younger, and when you’re breaking in a new quarterback and a new tailback that’s not started in this offense - started in another offense, but not this offense - and different things…you know the most critical position on any football team is your quarterback and who that guy is. Obviously, Nathan Peterman was an exceptional quarterback, and you miss guys like that.

WHAT CAN YOU GUYS DO TO HELP MAX GET GOING? OR IS THERE A COMPETITION UNDER WAY RIGHT NOW FOR WHO’S GOING TO START?
NARDUZZI:
Yeah, there’s a competition, obviously. And again, you know, on the outside, there’s always - everybody looks at what the quarterback did. Everybody looks at what the DB did instead of what the linebacker might have done to cause problems. But things get helped when everybody else does their job, too. When you protect the quarterback and he doesn’t have to get hit, if you give him a little bit more time to make a decision - when the ball is thrown down the field and where it needs to be, you have to catch it. I think against Penn State we had six drops. So there’s those things. It’s 11 guys on the field, and unfortunately at times, quarterback might be one of those positions that gets too much credit when things are going good and not enough when things are going bad.

TWO OF THOSE GUYS ON OFFENSE, JESTER WEAH AND QUADREE HENDERSON, PRODUCED A LOT LAST YEAR AND THIS YEAR THEY HAVEN’T MADE AS MUCH OF AN IMPACT. WHAT DO YOU THINK HAS HELD THOSE GUYS BACK IN THE FIRST THREE GAMES AND WHAT CAN YOU DO TO GET THEM ROLLING A LITTLE BIT?
NARDUZZI:
Obviously, it’s a different quarterback. I mean, what’s the difference? Jester Weah is still Jester Weah: he’s big, physical and fast. And Quadree’s a guy that’s got great wiggle when he gets the ball in his hands, whether it’s a bubble or a jet sweep. So those guys haven’t changed and I think they’re just as good or better than they were a year ago. But it’s getting up in the ball. Obviously people are sitting down on our run game a little bit because until they see us effectively throw deep and actually catch the ball, they’re going to play the run. So that’s what we expect to get out of Georgia Tech and we need to light it up on the back end there. That’s what needs to happen.

GEORGIA TECH’S OFFENSIVE SYSTEM IS ALWAYS BUILT AROUND RUNNING QUARTERBACKS. WHAT CAN YOU SEE FROM TAQUON MARSHALL THAT MAKES HIM A PARTICULAR HEADACHE?
NARDUZZI:
TaQuon - we’ve got a guy that’s running like him right now, and I think it’s like the perfect quarterback: we have Paris Ford. TaQuon is an electric guy. I mean, I think he’s scary. He’ll drop back and throw it as well, and I think he’s got a pretty electric arm. He’s a different guy than they had a year ago, but I think he brings a little different dimension. He was effective against Tennessee and rushed for, shoot, I think over 200 yards and five TD’s, I believe. He’s something special. Coach Johnson’s found himself a special guy there, a guy he’ll have for a couple years.

He’ll sprint out, he’ll run sprint-draw where it looks like it’s sprint out and then he’s electric. He kind of reminds me a little bit of Dennard Robinson, the quarterback, a little bit. Shoot, I think it’s the same number; I don’t know if he asked for that number on purpose or not, but he shows you a little bit of Dennard Robinson. He’s got a lot of wiggle to him, like a Quadree Henderson and he’s a special player.

ON THE RARE TIMES THAT THEY DO THROW, YOU INDICATED THAT HE HAS A REALLY GOOD ARM. CAN THEIR RUNNING GAME SORT OF LULL YOU TO SLEEP A LITTLE BIT AND THEN BOOM THEY HIT YOU WITH A BIG PASS PLAY?
NARDUZZI:
That’s what they do. That’s what they do. In their two games so far this year, they’ve averaged throwing it 13 times each game, okay? Which, really, when you look at it, it seems like a little bit high for what they usually do. I’d have to look back and see exactly how many times they threw it against us a year ago. It might have been about the same thing, maybe 13-to-15 a game. But I can see him throwing it up a little bit more, testing our safeties’ eye control with all the option. But that’s what they’re going to do: run, run, run, run, throw it, and you’d be amazed when you watch the 26 plays of pass that they’ve thrown this year, how effective they are. He’s throwing hitches, which they didn’t really throw much of, so he’ll be able to throw it out there to the number-one receiver on a hitch, he’s throwing comebacks, he throws fades, he’s throwing, you know, a kind of an over route as well. I see him sprinting out to the right and throwing it left, sprinting out to the right and left, so he’s done a little bit of everything and he’s a football player.

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