MORE HEADLINES - Video: Narduzzi's final press briefing of the week | Behind Enemy Lines: Oklahoma State | Game time preview: Film breakdown of Oklahoma State | Narduzzi: 'We'll be tested' with OSU offense | Inside the Numbers: A closer look at Pitt's passing game | 2019 target takes in Pitt's opener | Red zone among top issues facing Pitt offense | What recruits will be at Pitt's game on Saturday?
Pat Narduzzi had a lot to offer in his Thursday press briefing, and here's everything he said about the DL, quarterbacks, transfers and more.
NARDUZZI: We had a nice week of practice. Three great days and we’re ready for the next challenge. Another top-ten team that’s coming to Heinz Field and I think our kids are excited about it. I don’t believe there’s any hangover from last week. I think they understand how important this one is and it’s a one-game season. Last week’s game doesn’t affect the ACC Championship game. This week’s doesn’t, as well, but they want to go out and prove that they can do it. I’m looking forward to watching them play on Saturday.
FROM TALKING TO THE PLAYERS THIS WEEK, IT SEEMS LIKE YOU GUYS AREN’T REALLY PLAYING UP THE ‘NO ONE BELIEVES IN US’ CARD - IT’S MORE OF A QUIET CONFIDENCE, MAYBE -
Right. It’s like, someone said ‘shock the world’ last week. I was like it’s not a ‘shock the world’ game; are you kidding me? And neither is this one; this is a beatable team. I think, really, who is not beatable? Anybody’s beatable. It’s not one of those - and since you already shocked somebody a year ago, this shouldn’t be a shock. People will give us their best game. They’ve seen who we are, what we are, they’ve seen how tough we’re going to play, and I think that’s the difference. That was last year, this is this year; we need to go out and take it and make the plays we need to make.
YOU MENTIONED LAST WEEK ABOUT THE IMPROVEMENT FROM WEEK ONE TO WEEK TWO; HOW ABOUT FROM TWO TO THREE? HAVE THE GOOD PRACTICES BEEN A GOOD SIGN?
Yeah, I think so. There’s still - you know, Week One to Week Two - I mean, Alex Bookser, he went from Week One and Week Two and he pulled around and missed some of those blocks up the middle on some shovels, went a little bit too wide instead of vertical to get the right guy. So there’s still some guys that are still working on that one to two. And we’ll make improvements.
I think it’s hard to see the improvement from Week One to Week Two because of Youngstown State to Penn State; it wasn’t Youngstown to Villanova or Youngstown to someone else. So I think it’s probably harder to see that, but when you look at the explosive plays, we had more explosive plays, I believe, than we did against Youngstown. I think that’s part of some of the improvement you see. And you look at Kessman and there was a lot of improvement there.
But we expect to see improvement every week. I think this is a young football team that’s going to get better every week, because they’re so young. I mean, Saleem Brightwell’s going to get better every week. Elijah Zeise got a lot better from Week One to Week Two. There’s things like that that are going to continue to get better. I mean, Dewayne Hendrix lined up in the three-technique Week One, okay? He’s never lined up - you know what a three-technique is? It’s lining outside shade to the guard, okay? - talk about lining up at Heinz Field in your first game in over a year, two years, whatever it was, he lined up in a outside shade of the guard. He’s always in a five-technique or a nine-technique. It’s like, what are you doing? He’s like, ‘I don’t know.’ Things happen out there. It’s an example of something he’s never done in camp; all of a sudden the lights get turned on and he lines up in a three-technique.
It’s a beautiful story that he’ll remember forever.
SPEAKING OF THE DEFENISVE LINE, HOW DID YOU FEEL THAT GROUP PROGRESSED FROM WEEK ONE TO WEEK TWO?
Pretty good. I really want to see us do a better job of stopping the run. I’m still never happy, you know. You guys are happy with the damn corners and I’d be happier if we stopped the run. Quite honestly. You lose the game if you let guys run the ball on you, and when they’re running and throwing it, it’s like they can do both. I want them to be stopped in the run game and I won’t be happy with the D-line or the linebackers until we continue to stop that and allow less than a hundred yards rushing.
WHEN A TEAM CATCHES ONTO SOMETHING LIKE THE JET SWEEP, YOU DON’T JUST THROW IT AWAY; YOU PICK YOUR SPOTS, RIGHT?
We keep running it so they can go tackle him and then we run it up inside and do some other things. No doubt about it. Do we hand it off all the time and let him get tackled for five yards? No. We wait until it’s the right time to run it.
SPEAKING OF QUADREE, YOU SAID MONDAY YOU GUYS NEED TO GET HIM BACK TO 100%; IS THAT FROM A HEALTH STANDPOINT OR JUST A LEVEL OF PLAY?
I think it’s more of a health thing than it is anything. Just something nagging him and he’s not 100% right now. He’s not 75% either, but he’s not 100% and we’re working, doing everything we can to get him right. But he had a heck of a lot better practices this week. Let’s put it that way.
WHEN IT COMES TO STOPPING THE RUN, IS IT JUST LITTLE THINGS THAT ARE PLAGUING YOU GUYS SO FAR?
No. Like, against Penn State they ran a different play that we hadn’t seen. Everybody’s zone this way and they came out the back door, so we’ve worked on that and there’s some things we should have, could have done quicker, faster, adjustment-wise. But the one where Dewayne Hendrix was running him down, it’s one of those where there’s some false key reads. People are always trying to do something - and again, something we’ve never seen, really, before, so we have to play our ends different this week with what we’re doing and play that more than anything else. And we don’t need to play anything else. That’s the good thing, based on their reads. So, instead of shuffling, we’re going to turn and run and go meet him where he is.
So there’s little things like that. You see different run stuff every week that you don’t prepare for because you can’t prepare for everything. They have that 20-hour a week rule and you can’t possibly get it all in.
WHAT YOU SAID BEFORE ABOUT A ‘SHOCK THE WORLD’ GAME, BEN DINUCCI WAS TALKING ABOUT LAST YEAR BEFORE CLEMSON THAT MATT CANADA WAS VERY MUCH EXPRESSING THAT MESSAGE, THAT IT MIGHT BE A SURPRISE TO EVERYBODY ELSE BUT IT’S NOT GOING TO BE A SURPRISE TO US. HAS ANYBODY CARRIED THAT MESSAGE IN THE TEAM?
CARRIED THAT MESSAGE THAT MATT HAD LAST YEAR.
That was really my message and Matt carried it with the offense and Josh carried it with the defense. You carry it when you need it and there’s always the word of the week and the focus of the day. But that has not been part of it this week.
We have staff meetings and we have the same message that goes out. Nobody’s got a separate message than someone else. The message is, compete and do your job and the little things will happen themselves.
I KNOW AVONTE’S BEEN LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS REMATCH WITH WASHINGTON; HAVE YOU NOTICED A LITTLE MORE PEP IN HIS STEP THIS WEEK?
You do. He kind of looked a little grumpy going into practice this morning, like, ‘Hey, what’s up? You alright?’ He said, ‘Coach, I’m just focused.’ Yeah, I think he looks at it as a challenge and he should. It’s going to be a great challenge for him. I’m looking forward to seeing the competition.
DO YOU THINK HE’LL BE ON HIM A LOT OR DO THEY MOVE HIM AROUND?
They don’t move him around a whole bunch. They don’t move him around a whole bunch.
THAT MEANS THEY WILL MOVE HIM AROUND THIS TIME, RIGHT?
Maybe. Hey, you never know. That’s right.
HOW HAVE THE CORNERS AND SAFETIES GRADED OUT WHEN YOU’VE WATCHED THE FILM?
They’ve graded out pretty good, I guess. We’d like to get the safeties involved in the run game. Anytime you’re putting a little bit more coverage, it’s like, are the safeties getting down fast enough to help? You can’t just stop it with four D-linemen and three linebackers, seven guys in the box. So those safeties have run jobs as well and sometimes you take away from that when you do that. It hurts you at times, so we’ll just continue to mix it up and try to stop the run when we need to.
WHEN IT COMES TO THE PASS RUSH, HOW CHALLENGING IS OKLAHOMA STATE BECAUSE RUDOLPH GETS RID OF THE BALL SO FAST?
They throw quickly. He’ll throw some three-step, they’re going to throw screens and they keep you off-balance. The best thing to do is get him in third down and long, when you know he’s going to throw it. Then you can kind of do what you want to do.
HOW ABOUT OKLAHOMA STATE DEFENSIVELY? WHAT DO THEY DO WELL?
They mix it up a lot. They run a bunch of different stuff. I don’t know how they get it all coached. I mean, they run 10 different coverages and sometimes that hurts them and sometimes it helps them, because they win some, lose some. So it’s a matter of - I think we’re more of a base, ‘Hey, this is what we do’ and they run a lot more stuff. So they’re more multiple, whether it’s a four-down in, they’ll go four-down in and line up in a 3-4, and they’ll have a nickel package as well. They do a lot of different stuff, a lot of different coverages and I’m sure they’ll have a couple new ones for us, just trying to stop the jet sweep.
COACH GUNDY SAID THEY’RE A LITTLE FASTER ON DEFENSE THIS YEAR; HOW NOTICEABLE IS THAT ON FILM?
You know what? He sees it every day. I only see a game. I thought they were fast last year. Maybe they’re this much faster. I mean, they’re already fast so I don’t know how much faster they get. We’ll see. Maybe their backups are faster, too. I don’t know. It’s hard to say.
THEIR REALLY GOOD RETURNING SKILL PLAYERS FROM LAST YEAR, ARE YOU NOTICING EVEN MORE POLISH, EVEN MORE MATURITY TO THEIR GAME?
Yeah. I mean, they were well-coached already, so I think they do a great job coaching. You notice your team better than when you see somebody else. That’s something Coach Gundy can probably tell you.
MAX SAID YESTERDAY IT WAS NATURAL TO FEEL A LITTLE BIT OF, ‘OH, NOT AGAIN’ TO SEE THE BACKUP COME IN AND SUCCEED. HOW HAS HE BEEN THIS WEEK?
He’s been great. I mean, again, you guys act like he got pulled from the game. His helmet got ripped off, he got whacked in the head and you had to come out of the game. I thought there was a rule where you didn’t have to come out - I didn’t think they were going to take him out for a second. We weren’t pulling him unless they told him to get off the field. All of a sudden, you saw the referees start to talk like, ‘Hey, he’s got to go.’ But we were kind of wondering what to do.
So we didn’t pull him from the game. It was, you know, a helmet got ripped off. Or however it went off.
BUT EVEN IF YOU GET INJURED, YOU CAN STILL LOSE YOUR JOB SOMETIMES THAT WAY. HOW HAS HE -
He’s been status quo. He’s come out and he’s competed and he’s prepared like he normally does. You don’t notice anything from him except some scratches on his face. That’s the only difference I’ve seen from this week to last week. And we expect our backup to go in and make plays. But you don’t lose your job by coming off the field because of a helmet or anything else.
And we might have some changeups this week. You never know.
THERE ARE DIFFERENT PHILOSOPHIES IN SCHEDULING NON-CONFERENCE. DO YOU LIKE THIS, ‘LET’S CHALLENGE OURSELVES, LET’S GET OURSELVES READY?’
I do. I do. Because it’s - first of all, your kids are getting cranked up for it. So they’ll be emotionally ready for the game. I think that’s a bonus. You know, were they emotionally ready for Youngstown or 60 minutes of Youngstown? I don’t know if they believe what you say. Sometimes I think they’re like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, right, Coach.’ So I think it challenges you, number one, and we don’t sit there and say at the beginning of the season, ‘We want to be 12 and 0.’ That’s not the - we want to be ACC champions; you do that, you have a chance to be in the playoffs. Then we’ll move onto the next goal.
So the first thing is to have competition that makes you better. You don’t get good playing Duquesne every weekend. No disrespect; they do a heck of a job over there, too.
COACH TOMLIN YELL AT YOU FOR THE WILLIAM AND MARY -
No, he didn’t.
DID YOU SEE THE POTENTIAL PROPOSAL THAT THE NCAA MIGHT WANT TO DO TO MAKE TRANSFERS IMMEDIATELY ELIGIBLE?
Yeah, I filled out a big questionnaire this week that was important to have feedback to them, so they could see what’s going on.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT?
I think they’re crazy to do that. To leave the window open for anybody just to transfer and be eligible automatically, that’s what you’re talking about? I think it’s a nightmare. I think, you know, but they just made a rule change to limit to 25 scholarships is all you can give. So say you’ve got 20 scholarships to give, you have 20 seniors, but then seven guys leave because they - ‘Oh, I’m a backup, I think I’ll go over here.’
It just opens up - and then the first part of the questions were, ‘Do you think that there should be some rules against tampering and all of that?’ Well, yeah, there should be, but then you do this, there’s going to be more tampering. I know if you commit to Ohio State that I can still reach out to you and keep you warm because you might come back next year if you’re not - you know, ‘Hey, I told you you weren’t going to play, come on back.’ It’s a mess. It’s something that - I can’t believe they’re talking about it.
The NFL will be looking really good to a lot of coaches if they start making moves like that. Because how are you going to coach your guys? Their first answer when adversity hits and they’re not on the depth chart is, ‘Oh, I’ll just go over here.’ How do you recruit?
MOST COACHES WOULD AGREE WITH THAT, RIGHT? THEY’RE NOT GOING TO DO SOMETHING THE COACHES ARE AGAINST, RIGHT?
I’m not going to get fined, right? I disagree. I’m just glad they asked. But the worst part about it is they asked you in the middle of the fall, right? I get a questionnaire on Monday or Tuesday of this week - ‘Hey, can you help us out? I know it’s a tough time to ask’ - yeah, well, don’t ask at this time. How many coaches took the time to fill out the questionnaire, you know? I was like, this is pretty important and, yeah, it is a bad time but you spend time at night to get it done, and I bet half the coaches didn’t. And then our voices aren’t heard because they’re asking at the wrong times of the year.
That’s a January question.
IF 120 OUT OF 128 COACHES SAY, ‘THIS IS STUPID,’ YOU THINK THEY STILL MIGHT DO IT?
You never know. You never know. Sometimes they’ll look at the ramifications of what’s going to happen and what the lasting effect is, but, I mean, it would be hard to coach your kids. If you coach them hard, they might just transfer next week. It just doesn’t make any sense. How is it going to - but, too often, they’ll look at what the kids want. Well, what’s best for the kids? You’re going to take your kids and you’re going to spank them on the butt every once in awhile and tell them, you can’t do this and we’re not going to the zoo or we’re not going to the park, and they have to deal with it. You have to do your homework; ‘I don’t want to do homework; I want to go play video games.’
Well, where are we going with this? It’s the society we’re living in - sometimes it’s, what do the athletes want? ‘Coaches can leave so they can.’ Well, no. Not so fast.
WITH THE QUARTERBACK POSITION, FROM A PHILOSOPHICAL STANDPOINT MORE THAN ANYBODY YOU HAVE ON THE ROSTER, WOULD YOU PREFER TO SEE YOU DEVELOP A GUY OVER FOUR YEARS AND HE STARTS FOR ONE SEASON AND YOU GET ANOTHER GUY WHO STARTS FOR ONE SEASON - OR WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE THE YOUNG GUY THAT CAN START FOR MULTIPLE YEARS?
It’s nice to have a young guy play for two or three years. I mean, we don’t like to go the graduate transfer route. But until we got our depth where we needed to - I don’t believe we need to go that after this year. I feel really good, unless someone else leaves. Unless they open up, then you’re constantly looking for everybody. You never know. Now you have to expand and put that wall right there with all the other guys we’re recruiting from other college football teams.
So yeah, we’d like to develop a guy and - you look at the difference between a Peterman in his junior year and his senior year or a guy in his first year and his second year here at Pitt. There’s a major difference. For sure, development is huge.