Head Coach Pat Narduzzi
“I think the kids are maybe not as excited as the coaches are to put the pads on today. There should be a little bit more enthusiasm and a little bit more intensity out here today. It’s always a good day to put the pads on and go out there and have a little contact. We won’t have a lot. Obviously we can’t scrimmage. We really emphasize staying healthy, taking care of our kids, and staying off of the ground on these ‘thud’ days that we get. It should be fun.”
On whether or not the rest of camp will be full pads:
“I don’t have it marked down, but we’ll probably have a couple more shorts and a couple more shells. For the shells we’ll have thigh boards in really just to protect the kids. The only thing that they won’t have on is knee pads. They love shells, but if they practice well in shells we’ll do a little bit more of them.”
On plans to practice at Heinz Field this camp:
“We’re still working on the dates, but we’re playing a scrimmage there, not this weekend, but the following Saturday.”
On if the amount of time spent practicing in pads is something he has adjusted after a year of experience:
“Not really. It really depends on the maturity on the kids. Sometimes there’s a mental lapse when they feel, ‘Oh, we don’t have full pads on, so I can just go through the motions.’ That’s one thing that we try to fight against. That’s the hardest thing a coach has, is trying to find out where the team is [from a maturity [standpoint]. I think we have a mature team. We did last year too, and we did quite a bit of what we call shells.”
On if there is a point in time in camp that you can tell if a freshman is going to play early:
“I think sometimes on day one you see guys do a lot of things and you get excited about it, but today’s another day that you’ll find out just because there’s little bit more contact than there was the last two days. Then there’s that point where they may hit the wall. You think, ‘Oh wow, they’re going to play,’ and then they hit a wall mentally and all of the sudden they just fall apart. The wheels fall off of the car, and you have a problem there. It’s a process, and it’s never going to happen just like that.”
On what qualities defensive end Dewayne Hendrix has that will allow him to fit into this defense:
“First of all, it’s not about the defense. It’s about the player. I think Dewayne [Hendrix] would fit into a lot of defenses. It’s not just our defense. I think he’d fit anywhere in the country. Number one, he’s a fun kid to coach. He’s a super kid. He pays attention to coaching.
He was the first one on the bus this morning over at the dorm. I’m walking out with him at whatever time it was, 5:50, the first bus was at 6:00. He’s out there ready to go. He’s got his little roll thing to take care of his body and stretch out. He’s the first one over here, and he’s healthy. Why is he over here? Because he cares.
He’s just a fun guy to coach, and obviously he’s a talented player. Athletically he’s big, he’s strong, and he’s physical, but again, he hasn’t made a tackle for the Pitt Panthers yet, so there’s still a lot for him to prove in a game.”
On if linebacker Bam Bradley’s physical transformation was something he did on his own or if it took the encouragement of the coaching staff:
“The coaches gave him a nudge. We gave him a nudge for a year. That elbow starts to hurt inside after you give it to him so many times, but Coach [Dave] Andrews has done a great job with him. Rachel [Baker], our nutritionist, does an unbelievable job. She eats every meal with our kids, so she’s around.
She watches what those guys have on their trays. The one thing that’s different, this camp has been good so far, but there’s no cookies at lunch and dinner. I’m kind of disappointed. I like my cookies. I guess she’s taking care of the coaches too and trying to make us a little healthier. It’s hard to turn down those cookies if you walk by them.
The deserts have been not as much, and that helps our kids out. We really have paid attention to how you’re treating your body. We talk a lot about the fuel that you put in your body. If you put bad gas in the car it’s not going to get you here today. It’s the same thing with your bodies.”
On if he’s excited to see James Conner get back to taking some hits:
“Yeah, but I’m excited for everybody. I told him today on the way to breakfast, I said, ‘Hey, I think we’re going to take you out of practice today.’ He looked at me like, ‘What are you talking about?’ He’s ready to go, and I’m sure he’s anxious to get them all out.”
On how freshman Zack Gilbert’s attitude has been after learning of his cardiac condition:
“Every one of our kids has been great attitude-wise. Our coaches are around them every day. They’re still engaged. They’re still part of our family. You’ve got to treat it like it’s a knee injury, or an elbow injury, or a head injury. He’s got an issue that we were able to catch thanks to our medical staff. You can look at it in a bunch of different ways. You talk about that attitude and just be thankful and blessed that we found out about the situation before it’s too late. I think he’s had a great attitude.
“We’ve been doing this EKG [Electrocardiogram] and Echo [Echocardiogram] for 12 years now, and it’s the first time that we’ve found anything. You don’t anticipate it. There was nothing on the field conditioning-wise. I mean, George Hill ran a 4.4. There was nothing that you said, ‘Hey, let’s go get [him examined].’
Every one of our kids goes through that process. I think every athlete at the University of Pittsburgh goes through that process. A lot of places don’t do it. I think it’s something that the NCAA needs to make sure that everybody does just to save lives.”
On if simplifying the defense was something that they evaluated after last season:
“It’s something we evaluate all of the time. I think simple is better. Simple, but complex. We’ve still got to do a lot of things, and there’s still some new things that we’ll do. I think it also becomes simple for our coaches as time goes on as well. You find a different way to teach it. It’s something that we evaluate every day and every season. At the end of the season we go through an extensive self-scout of what we are.”
Note: “Simple. But Complex.” It’s like he’s tapped into my heart and mind. No one knows me like Pat!