I always enjoy Chris Peak’s podcasts from his Trib – Review gig. Honestly, after writing that long article yesterday I am pretty tapped out so I’ll piggyback this article onto Peak’s latest podcast and see if we can’t generate some conversation based on his questions and what our answers might be.
He had another good one yesterday and here it is:
Before we get into the individual six questions Chris asks and answers in his podcast remember that all these questions will be answered with a 93.57% coachspeak – meaning canned and pat, simpel answers. Just saying…and here goes:
How do you keep your player’s from overlooking Villanova because they face Penn State at home the next week?
Whatever answer Narduzzi gives to this question is going to be wrong. Why? Because there is no possible 100% solution to ensuring your players are going to be able to face anything that is thrown at them.
So are so many different ways things can go sideways in a football game, especially one in which you are playing against a team who is supposed ‘inferior’ to you. The main one that comes to mind is overt cockiness based on paper statistics and inferred qualities.
“Pitt is better than Villanova because”…: bigger program in a higher division, better recruits, better coaches… on and on to even better training tables and the food our kids eat. But all that doesn’t matter because a football game can spin 180° on one play be it a turnover, and injury or a momentum killing penalty.
So what does Narduzzi and staff have to do? Emphasize three things to lessen the chances that Villanova wins the game on that one play. First they have to get our players to understand that the kids across from them want to win the game as much as they do. It is too often taken for granted that the lesser team is afraid of the Big Dog.
Second they have to not panic when things start turning against them. Football is played for 60 minutes and all too often, especially going into the middle of the 3rd quarter a 10+ point deficit looms larger than life, that lead looks bigger than it actually is.
If our team hasn’t scored many points in the first half this situation gets worse as players in the midst of competition have short memories – all they can reference in-between plays is what has happened that afternoon so far.
So the eyes have to be on what the final score needs to be, not what it is at present. They can’t start to believe that because they only scored 7 points in the first half then 11 points is impossible in the 4th quarter.
Third our players have to play one play at a time and concentrate on only what they have to do on that single play. They can’t look at an opponent’s TD pass and think the other DB blew the coverage. They have to look at that and say I had my responsibilities covered and my teammates will do the same every play until we win.
But all said, I’m not nearly as worried about the team going into the Villanova game with PSU in front of them. I’m much more worried about the PSU game with a easy win over Villanova behind us – that is the danger zone and a real setup for a loss to an equal opponent.
How do you replace Tyler Boyd?
We here on The Pitt POV have been adamant for some time that you can and will replace Tyler Boyd – it just won’t be with one person as Chris says also. We have a receiving corps with some real talent. That talent that hasn’t been able to show itself because the Hoover Vacuum that Boyd was sucked up every passing play. Jim Chaney purposefully created that vacuum in his playcalling.
Well, both Boyd and Chaney are gone and by necessity other receivers will have the opportunity to shine. Ford (our next offensive start IMO), Weah and I believe Challingsworth are going to get the bulk of the pass attempts their way this season. Throw the underused TE Scott Orndoff in there also.
Our new OC Matt Canada will use multiple formations, varied plays and invest a lot more decision-making into Nate Peterman to choose who he should throw to. Along with those aforementioned receivers Canada will use the slot receiver more this season with Quadree Henderson probably getting short passes for long speedy gains. He will (should) split Orndoff some ways off the LOS and use him downfield – Orndoff has great hands for a TE.
This is why I’ve had the beer wager that Peterman blows up this year. Pitt fans way overestimate the year Boyd had last season due to his reputation of the two years before… it really wasn’t as good as everyone thinks. We’ll match and exceed his 2015 production by a large margin and score a more points in the air.
Where will Damar Hamlin be coming out of camp?
This is an interesting question and not just because it has Hamlin as a subject. We already know Narduzzi will make the personnel moves that he sees fit to make the team better on the field. He did it at the QB position with Peterman and at the Safety position with Whitehead.
But the truth is that Narduzzi stuck with the conventional starting lineup that was used at last season’s end through the camp and onto the opening game. If you remember Voytik started over Peterman and Pat Amara started over Whitehead against YSU and Akron. We know also that both of those positions flipped after those couple of games into the season.
That’s why I think we won’t see Hamlin starting on Sept 3rd. Pat Narduzzi gives his incumbent starts fair chances to hold the position by playing in actual competition, not just in scrimmages during camp. Hamlin may overtake Ryan Lewis in the course of events but he won’t be the starter against Villanova.
Will the Back-up QB be Thomas MacVitte?
Stocker or MacVitte? MacVitte or Stocker? Which kid is the QB2 coming out of fall camp?
It will be Stocker for various reasons, maturity and experience being two of them. But mainly it is because Narduzzi has a five year (or more now) contract and wants Thomas MacVitte to be his starting QB for as much of that time as possible. To do that he has to put the Redshirt on MacVitte and keep it there.
Which then begs the question; who do you put in if Peterman gets hurt during the game, even it looks serious enough to be a season ender? The answer is very obvious to me – you put in Stocker who has been getting the QB2 snaps during all of camp and in-between the season’s games.
Fans might not know this but only two QBs work with the 1st string offense during the game week practices. So if Stocker is the 2nd string QB you go with him as he has actually been practice the individual game plan against that week’s opponent’s defense.
You don’t bring in a kid who hasn’t done that yet. There is a world of difference between sitting in the QB’s film room discussing a game plan with the OC and the other QBs than there is actually executing it with the rest of the offense in practices. The 3rd QB may have that game plan set in his head but the other two are using it with their bodies and their arms.
Now – that injury situation opens up another decision for the staff; do you give the true FR the QB1 snaps for the next game and the rest of the season or stick with the upperclassman QB who just played out the last game as the relief?
There is the tricky part and quite honestly I don’t know the answer. I do know what I’d do based on the info at hand today.. I go with Stocker and sit MacVitte.
What other true Freshman will have a spot on the two-deep going into the season?
There is no way to know at this point. Coming out of the first two weeks of camp the staff can weed out the true freshman who are obviously not ready to play on the two-deep. There are many variables that go into that, one of which is the player’s physical body – is he big enough and strong enough to compete without a redshirt year in the weight rooms?
Is the kid mentally ready and mature enough to go right away? The bottom line for the vast majority of recruits is that the staff throws out all the stuff the player did in HS and concentrates only what he can do against his teammates… who are all D1 college players.
We saw this with our two highly touted rookie LBs, Brightwell and McKee, last year as they were good and highly rated athletes but were just not physically ready to take on those big opposing TEs and OLs on the field of play.
Are the players themselves excited to have James Conner back?
Please! This is a no-brainer unless we have a roster full of small minded kids with envy problems. If that’s the case then God help them.
What answers would you guys give to these six good questions (well, five good ones anyway) if you are in Narduzzi’s shoes during that press conference?