Preseason’s Copycat FB Questions

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?


26 thoughts on “Preseason’s Copycat FB Questions

  1. Your posts are getting me psyched for football season! What is Stocker’s QB style and what type of offense is he familiar and most comfortable with from high school? My sense is that he is a good running QB. If that is in fact true, do you suppose that they will install some read option plays for him should he need to see playing time?


  2. I always find it interesting how Pitt fans usually (not all the time) overlook some recruits because they aren’t from the Pittsburgh area.

    Boyd was a 4 star everyone was so excited about and most assumed would be a starter from day 1.

    Why aren’t we thinking the same of Ruben Flowers? He is a 4 star just as Boyd was and is probably more physically ready for the college game based on his size.

    George Hill is a 4 star the same as Hamlin, why is there no mention of George Hill starting at CB?

    My picks for impact true freshman:

    Flowers, Hill, Watts and Pugh


  3. I’m a little disappointed in Chas. He had a great blog, thank you would not be enough for what he did for all of us Pitt fans for so many years.

    He owes us absolutely nothing. Again, owes us nothing!

    However, to shut down the Blather, without even a goodbye, very disappointing. Not even a farewell note, just to say “see ya”.

    Tweeted him about what happened to the Blather. No response, although he has Tweeted since to others on different subjects, so his account is not dead.

    Now, if something traumatic or dramatic has happened in his life, then understandable. I don not know those circumstances, and I hope all is well with him and his family.

    One more time, he owes no one anything, but after all the years chatting……….


  4. This blog has more than made up for it, and seems like everyone has taken notice. Lots of great info, more than ever, and come football season will be fantastic.

    Above comment, just a personal note.


  5. Pretty obvious that Reed had kept the Blather going for some time. Thought the Blather might die when Reed said he was going to back off to write his Book.Really glad he has upped his ccommitment. Thanks to Chas for all those years keping the forum alive. Time marches on.


  6. @DAN, I have not posted on the topic of the Blather shutting down, but I feel the same as you. I just hope that everything is OK for Chas and his family.

    If it is, thanks for the great Blog for so many years and God bless. Now, the conspiracy theorist in me thinks this blog shuttering has a hint of “cease and desist” order to it. Of course, the order could have come from his wife and kids!


  7. Weah? I hope I eat crow but this guy hasn’t even caught a pass in three years (he did get that lateral). Someone compared him to Steve Sax getting the yips. True but Sax was an all-star first. Many athletes who have ultra speed simply don’t have the football skills or hands to go with it. I hope I am wrong. Oh heck I will jump on the Jester Wagon let’s put Weah on the Biiletnikoff watch list. Good point about Flower’s talent notrocket.


  8. I hope Justin Moody and Taleni step up as redshirt juniors and keep the true freshmen defensive tackles on the bench and maybe standing as redshirts. It’s so nice having experienced, stronger players in the trenches.

    Now I won’t be upset if Watts and Camp are playing a lot because that means the two have earned the playing time. It’s just an easy excuse for Pitt fans to make when the team loses to blame it on younger players. I’ve been hearing it since 1988.


  9. I’m confident Duzz wants to beat Nova with total “vanilla” on both the O and D in order to not reveal anything to PSU. However, Nova also gives the Panthers an opportunity to get the kinks out of the newness of the offense. So, will the vanilla have some Hersey chocolate and nuts (with a cherry) added to be more fluid for game 2? Can’t wait to find out!!!!


  10. A plain vanilla game plan sounds good. But all too often a “plain vanilla” game ends up with the game being a 4th quarter nail biter. The Pitt Villanova game plan should be to score as much as they can early and often to turn that 4th quarter into an exhibition for most of the Pitt second team(including the QB).


  11. I can remember Villanova giving Pitt a game back in the late 90s at Pitt Stadium. Some unheralded back gave us all we could handle but we won something like 48-43. That back was named Brian Westbrook


    1. Yep, the final was 48-41. One of only two wins for the Panthers that forgettable 1998 season. The record didn’t deter Harris from bringing in a good recruiting class at least. Late in that season my buddy and I were going over the two deep and it was incredible the lack of talent on the roster.

      Pitt paid the price deeply for Mary Brascoe and Dennis O’Conner’s decisions to let football die. What a joke those two were.


  12. Ya, a fine line. I would think the kids will be fired up, for the fact it’s the first game and get to go for real. Gotta come out and assert ourselves and handle things. If being plain means it’s 10-10 at half, gotta dump that and play football.

    PSU opens with what looks like a poor Kent State team, so they will be going through the same thing.

    With a new oc at PSU, from a very small school, forget the name now, don’t know how much tape there is on him and his offense. But, with all of the people these coaches know, has to be someone somewhere that are friends of some of our guys, would be able to get some info on what the guy runs.

    If I’m thinking about it, the coaches certainly already have. I hope.


  13. Regarding Chas and the Blather: I had the feeling he was cherry picking topics to write on and that was fine. I am retired and really enjoyed that blog and doing the posts. But truthfully after doing almost 500 articles and something like a million words I wanted to ‘own’ this myself.

    But I’ll tell you guys something – Chas and I met maybe three times in those five years and spoke on the phone maybe once a year. He never once told me what to do (at this point no one can anyway) and never once asked me to ratchet back my strong opinions. I really respected that about him.

    He was doing that blog since 2003 or so and I can tell you – after only three weeks of The Pitt POV’s life it is constant work. I think he may just be burned out on it.

    But guys – Chas has a very full professional life and very satisfying family life and so I was glad to help out with the football stuff.

    Now – I’m going to give this blog a full 12 months at least and try to get 5-7 articles up per week… it has been every day since I rolled it out and I’m enjoying it but in being the owner I feel a rather heavy weight of responsibility to you readers… and I think that , even if Chas wasn’t writing much any longer – he still felt that and said it was time to back out.

    I think I can say this now also – that Blog got almost a half a million Views and visits per month. I’ll say again – between 400-500,000 per month and there were some months – last June with my Memorial Day article where it hit just about a million and was published in other venues nationwide.

    I’ll add this – at last count I received five solid job offers, three nationally to write for other ‘publications’ based on the work I did with the Blather over the last three years with one the day after I started The POV – The Blather was that well respected for a sports blog. BTW two of those job offers were not sports related but national article-essay gigs.

    So what the Blather did (and may still do?) is so far ahead of any other ‘amateur’ blog I can track it is amazing – like 1000 – 3000x times the nearest competition monthly. I want this site to do that same thing because I want what Chas started to keep going onward through it. And we started off with a real bang and thanks to all for that.

    And you know about the charities I want to fund through this also. So click on those ads, spread the word among other fans and let’s see if the POV family can match what the Blather did… and help others while we do so.


  14. If the “Blather” is done, it will be missed. It has kept me connected to Pitt during my snow bird months. I’m sure Reed will fill the gap, but I hope Chas keeps things going if only once a week


  15. I think we all are very thankful for the Blather and all that Chas has provided for the past many years. However, I believe the concern is why no communication from him at all … will the Blather continue or is it done?? Maybe he doesn’t know himself and/or he is seeking another writer??


  16. Just want to say…your Pitt-Passion is wonderful and I hope it’s inspiring you in all your other-endeavors!

    That being said 🙂 ——> This conversation is amazing, and although *Pat Narduzzi* is not “Overlooking” Villanova — he knows that if our current-squad does not destroy them even if half of them forget to put on their pants, this team is in insane trouble.

    —-P.S. —- I’m super-curious about 1) Nathan Peterman’s development first and foremost obviously, but also #2 about one Ben DiNucci —- I know, I know — “Offer Sheet”, “24/7 + Rivals Ratings” blah-blah—but the darn local Pittsburgh-kid is 6′ – plus, can sling-it a bit, and clearly has crazy-intangibles to dominate so well in PIAA-AAAA — can he straight-up-play in ACC game time at Pitt if he’s called upon???


  17. OK, back to talking football. I’d like to fast forward to fall camp 2017. We are so myopic in our discussion of the backup QB for this season that we lose sight of the long view of that subject. So I ask the same question as it relates to the 2017, “who will be our backup QB for the season”?

    2017, no more Peterman, no more Stocker, a kid named MacVittie, either a sophomore or hopefully for the best 2016 season possible, a no experience RS freshman waiting to become Pitt’s 1st QB messiah since some guy named Danny. Now that is some very speculative discussion. Who’s # 2 QB? $hit, we won’t even know what we have as a QB starter yet come fall camp 2017.

    So I continue to ask the question, “what kind of disease did Ben DiNucci contract this year that continues to relegate him to his personal quarantine that prevents him from being included in this discussion?

    I know the routine response already and I’m not buying it. I don’t care if his mechanics leave something to be desired, and please don’t tell me that at 6’2” & 215lbs that he lacks the physical attributes to take snaps under center in D-1 games.

    If I’m Canada & Narduzzi I’m hoping that MacVittie comes into camp in two weeks and just totally blows me away with his abilities but in my battle plan I’m figuring that this HS kid just won’t be ready to play in 2016. Therefore who do we groom as our backup QB for right now that enhances our future QB depth going forward? That would be our very own “Little” Ben DuNucci. The little QB that could. Good enough to pass for over 4,500 yards & 46 TDs in his senior year of HS. Good enough to be considered for playing time as a RS freshman QB for this season, IMO.

    Next year, sure, MacVittie is going to be the presumptive starter, but won’t it be nice to have a RS sophomore QB with some true game experience there competing against MacVittie for that starting job?


  18. Wbb, if that is the case, I’d still expect Chas to say “stay tuned” or give an update on what he is or is not planning. Even if he is very busy, as Reed has stated , how long would it take to give an update or a final farewell????


  19. @ Dr. Tom, I too would expect Ben DiNucci to be a solid backup QB candidate, but seems like “deja vu all over again” with similar conversations regarding Adam Bertke over the past 2 years.


  20. First off there is no way DiNucci is 6’2″ – I stood next to him in the hotel lobby before the bowl game and he’s shorter than that. He just doesn’t have the overall skills to be a starting, or I suppose, back up QB.

    I’ll repeat myself here but these staff coaches don’t give one crap what a player did in HS… against HS (sometimes 9th, 10th and 11th grade) kids.

    Bertke was a lot better than DiNucci and bagged because he knew MacVitte was probably the QB of the future and that Bo Schneider was coming in – and IMO don’t be surprised if Schneider gives MacVitte a real run for the money and maybe even wins the starting job in fall camp next year. (deja’ vu right?)

    Remember that Schneider is on the roster and practicing with the team this fall and during the season just like MacVitte is – it won’t be a situation where Schneider gets to Pitt right before the season’s hes to play in like Peterman had last year.

    Anyway – I firmly believe the scholarship given to DiNucci wasn’t so much for his talents as it was to get another hometown kid on the roster for the fans in Narduzzi’s first year.


  21. With regard to Villanova, the message is clear. Narduzzi is gathering quality depth at every position. When you have quality depth, the starters must perform. That is how he can best motivate the players. Not through yelling and screaming (although sometimes effective too). I do not want to see a vanilla offense for the opener. I take the opposite approach. Offensively, I would throw every misdirection play I could at Villanova so that PSU will come out more cautious because they got yelped at all week to stay disciplined and in their area. Week two against the Dairy College, you come back with the pound game because the DL is the largest area of concern for the Dairy. Defensively, a different approach. Narduzzi has been running the same defensive scheme for 10 years. There is enough film on it so that there shouldn’t be any surprises. I would save a few surprises on the defensive side, but not change much.

    Replacing Tyler Boyd starts with the TE. I expect Orndorff to have a huge year, especially in the TE screen department. I also like Tipton, Weah and Henderson to perform well.

    I give the nod to Hamlin. Ryan Lewis is a very good special teamer, but I don’t think he was the starter so Hamlin isn’t displacing a starter. I think it also depends on Villy. I know nothing about them, but the game could be used as a confidence builder going into Dairy week. I just don’t think Dairy week is when you want your guys to see the field for the first time.

    Stocker is the backup if an injury occurs in Villy for sure as he will have more experience. That said, you need to be able to throw the ball downfield in order to win. It is early, but I haven’t read or seen anything that gives me confidence we can matriculate the ball down the field through the air yet. If Peterman gets injured, we will go 2 TE’s, 2 fb’s and a RB. At that point, you block the hell out of your opponent and their smaller db’s and put a hurt on their outside guys. Make them afraid and make Pitt great again! LOL!


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