We finally get to read a new Redshirt Diaries entry from Craig Myers of the Post-Gazette. Apparently Pat Narduzzi did a Q&A show in front of a live audience yesterday somewhere… I guess the FAN’s studio.
With the start of training camp just a handful of days away, Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi joined the morning show on 93.7 The Fan for an hour this morning, where he was asked a wide range of questions pertaining to his team and the program as a whole entering the 2016 season.
Below are some highlights from that conversation. To hear the full interview (it’s about 28 minutes long), click here.
He makes a point that we have been talking about for sometime and that is the three RB sets:
This goes in line with what Narduzzi referenced last month about potentially using James Conner as a wide receiver. It’s not clear whether all three players would be in the backfield at the same time — I’d doubt that — but having them out there in some capacity seems like more than a strong possibility.
“How would you like to tackle James Conner on a bubble out there?” Narduzzi asked when explaining the scheme. I wouldn’t, Pat.
My thoughts on that are rather skeptical. First off we have WRs and a TE who can split out wide. But even more so I think we’ll see him used as a decoy if he splits out. Right away the DB will be screaming his head off when he sees that body in front of him – which will bring either the Safety in and/or a LB over to help. That opens up more space behind the LBs to pass of opens up a spot where the departing LB was.
Conner will be more like a Bubble receiver out there than an actual WR. While we are talking about receivers and the passing game here is a great visual reference.
Those three routes on the near right are what we’ll see most for Conner (and Ibrahim especially). Those are the Bubble, Flat and Wheel. The Wheel and the Bubble are moving routes and the flat is a quick pass out to the RB who just moves sideways a bit. That graphic has interesting descriptions of what the receivers should do with their feet next to the routes’ names.
Narduzzi says all the right things about Boyd but really reiterates what we have written on here many times – that we have more targets out there without him. It will be a different and better passing game this season.
He also said this: “They (WRs) will win jobs through camp – they have to make the plays in the game and not just in practice“… hear that Jester?
Another bright spot of his interview was this tidbit:
On running back Rachid Ibrahim: “Through the spring, he limped around coming off an Achilles tendon injury. It’s a long, hard injury, but he came back from it. Just a week ago, watching him run out there, it’s the first time I’ve seen him get into a full stride without looking like he’s limping. He’s finally through that.”
We’ll remember that Ibrahim was injured all of last season. I think his return is as important as any personnel issue going into 2016 save maybe Conner’s health. Especially if we are to believe Narduzzi and Canada that we’ll use ‘all weapons at our disposal this year.’ BTW – coaches say things like that and don’t do it sometimes – this year will be a good time to really spread the ball out.
Ibrahim was the #2 back going into the 2015 season and is very talented. Fans forget just how productive he was as an understudy for Conner in 2014 and we have to understand that no one was getting the ball much when Conner was on that record-setting roll that season. But Ibrahim has been good for us especially with that 8.0 ypc average.:
Speaking of injuries and what it does to a depth chart… and how those depth charts change very quickly sometimes read this:
The great news is that Pitt has enough depth at running back get through Ibrahim’s injury. Starter and All-American candidate James Conner is going to eat up a lot of carries right off the top. Sophomore Chris James, his primary backup, should see an increased role. Beyond that pair, the Panthers have true freshman Darrin Hall, who the staff has already said will play, and redshirt freshman Qadree Ollison.
So- after Ibrahim’s injury it was Conner, James, Hall and Ollison in that order. Afdter Conner’s injury a week later it was Ollison, Hall and James. This is how the RB depth chart changed and produced over the first four games of the year:
Youngstown State: Opener, Conner starts and is injured. Ollison kicks ass in a record setting game:
We win that game. Damn – 207 yards, is its his job to lose? Then Akron without Conner:
We win!! Ollison got the lion’s share of carries. He’s the man! Now to Iowa:
Woop – How did that happen? Darrin Hall tries to stake a claim but with a 2.7 ypc that ain’t going to happen. Onto VT:
Ollison back on top and stays there for the rest of the season, eventually ending up with 1121 yards and 11 TDs on the strength of a 5.3 ypc clip. That was also the beginning of the end for Chris James’ time at Pitt.
Back to the Narduzzi interview: Talking about Whitehead the interviewer asks if he’ll have an offensive package. Well fans, Narduzzi pretty much puts the nail in the “Whitehead should play both ways” argument when he said ‘We have more weapons on offense so we don’t have to but there will be his package out there.’ In context that means maybe a little bit but he’s a fantastic defender and that’s what he’s out there for.
Trib-Review has Chris Peak’s Podcast from yesterday. His Five Pieces of Advice for Narduzzi is interesting.
On a separate note the Pittsburgh City Paper’s Mike Wysocki has a great article about the three Olympians from the Pittsburgh area. Nice headline also.
“A trio of female athletes will carry Pittsburgh’s hopes into the Summer Olympics
Once cornhole gets its Olympic credentials, we’ll quickly see more Western Pa. Olympians on this list.”
Here is another good piece by Chris Logue over at Pitt Nation Sports and here is why I like his writing: