Pitt’s First Spring Practice

March 16, 2017  (here is the original)

Offensive Coordinator /Quarterbacks Coach Shawn Watson

On fitting into his role with the team:

“It’s going great. I’ve been really impressed with the job the coaching staff and Pat [Narduzzi] have done here and really it’s easy to come in and fall in love with the guys. There is not a selfish bone on this team, and the guys are into what the team is trying to do and that’s being ACC champions. We are getting on the same page. I have come in and not tried to change anything for the kids in terms of nomenclature of football, and I have needed them to teach me and they have been awesome.”

On his relationship with the quarterbacks:
“It’s really important. We spend so much time together just by the nature of the position and the need the position has. What you are trying to do as a quarterbacks coach is trying to develop another assistant coach on the field. That position makes, in this game, so many critical decisions for the entire team. We spend a lot of time together and I love them already because they want to be around football, so when they have free time, they spend it with me, which has been pretty cool. It’s been awesome, we have gotten to know each other really well and I really like that room.”

On his impressions of quarterback Max Browne:
“I think what I’ve grown most appreciative about him is how humble he is. He came in here and just really cared. He is very respectful of the team, very respectful of the job Nathan [Peterman] did a year ago, very respectful of everybody in the room. He wants to earn his way. That’s what’s really cool about him. He obviously is a very talented player. I remember him coming out of high school as a very, very talented kid. He is so humble and I think that everybody gravitates to him because of that. We are going to keep building and advancing and every day we are going to press him with more install and see what he’s got.”

On the running backs corps:
“Honestly, I’ll have a better opportunity to see when they put pads on, but watching them in the conditioning period, athletically they are very skilled guys, all of them. Seeing them out here today, they’ve got a real work ethic. In their assignments, they’re smart and are really detailed guys. Andre [Powell] does a tremendous job with them. They are very detailed players and it’s a highly competitive room too, which is really good, because those guys need to take a lot of pressure of the pass game by being effective in the run game.”

Defensive Coordinator Josh Conklin
On the biggest things that stood out looking at last year’s tape:
“For the most part it came down to guys making plays. I felt, to be candid with you, as we go through the season we are going to hang our hat on what we do. We’ve always said that. The thing we have to do a better job is finding ways to put guys in better positions, and then we have to coach to finish better than we have. It’s a two-way street, we understand that. The coaches have to coach it better and the players have to play better. When you look at some of the breakdowns we had, I told the guys this today before we came out, it’s one or two guys on any given play. The level of consistency we play at has to heighten. We did some things well. We defended the run well. But the big passes hurt us. I think the guys are eager to get out here and do some of the things we put into place. We haven’t wholesale changed, but we’ve done a few things to help ourselves out and put guys in better positions to finish on those plays.”
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Narduzzi’s First 2017 Season Presser

NOTE:  Here is the Pitt 2017 Spring Prospectus.  I seriously believe that if you are going to be discussing Pitt football from now until the Spring Game then this is a valuable download to have at hand.


Below is the video of Pitt HC’s first press conference… let’s break down his major points.  If you just want to hear his opening remarks then watch this bit from Penn Live).

I have to be honest here – with the exception of the leadership issue discussed this is almost the same info we all have written about and discussed in the comments there really isn’t any ‘news’ imparted.  But it is a nice long presser and it’s about Pitt football so here goes.

Some main issues discussed:

The leadership void left by the graduation of Peterman, Galambos, etc. has to be filled.  HCPN mentioned DT Jeremiah Taleni and MLB Quintin Wirginis for that on defense; Browne on offense.

Kazeon Pugh will be at DE this season and looks good so far in workouts.  He was the Scout Team tailback with terrible ball security. 🙂

TEs – may be in a no TE situations more than before – until  someone steps up?  rsFR De Andre’ Schifino  was specifically mentioned at the TE position.  He was a walk-on last season and redshirted.  However in the past when Narduzzi has mentioned guys early on like that they bear watching.

He talked about Darrin hall’s injury and his partial attendance in spring practice.

A real example of ‘coach-speak‘ was when he talked about competition at all position… “even if Peterman had returned there would be competition at that position“.  Wink, wink, nudge nudge.

He slide a bit of a knife toward Ollison as he referred to Ollison’s work in last year’s spring practices when he referenced that Ollison was ‘feeling good‘ after being ACC Rookie of the Year then came into spring practice as “just OK“. Hmmmm.  Well, coach’s prerogative based on attitude I guess.

I do suggest he get Ollison the ball early and often in the camps leading up to the opener though.

“Ollison seized the opportunity by becoming just the fifth freshman in Pitt history to achieve a 1,000-yard season…rushed for 1,121 yards and 11 touchdowns on 212 carries (5.3 avg.) and also had 14 receptions for 77 yards (5.5 avg.) and a TD…”

He also said new FR Charles TE Reeves was going to get as many snaps as possible; DE Hendrix is OK and practicing; New OC will not mirror Matt Canada – there will be new terminology and ‘structures’ whatever those are.

I hope one change is running Henderson out of the backfield sometimes.

Here is something referring to just what we talked with Dr Tom and Ike about on Tuesday evening:

“Narduzzi hopes returning quarterbacks Ben DiNucci and Thomas MacVittie, who were freshmen last season, will provide depth this season.

“We had one guy (Nathan Peterman), hoping he’d stay healthy,” Narduzzi said. “He didn’t in that bowl game and we saw what happened (Pitt lost to Northwestern, 31-24, after DiNucci threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter).”

Well, coach.  If you hardly ever play any QBs at all other than Peterman then don’t bitch about your back-up failing in a bowl game… which is exactly what he is alluding to here.  I don’t know why Pitt coaches never seem to do this but it would have been a easy thing for at least a few series to get the “never played” butterflies out for DiNucci if he was indeed the ‘hidden QB2‘ as some fans think (he wasn’t).

BTW – The official 2016 Pitt stats has Ben DiNucci playing in two games this season. Huh?  He only played QB in the bowl game so he must have been on special teams in another… or in the Victory Formation but that didn’t happen.

We were ahead 42-14 going into the 4th quarter against Duke. At the 11:01 mark in that quarter it was still 42-14.  Matt Canada did play Manny Stocker for that last two series… but then apparently sat him on the bench for the rest of the season. 

I’ll say this again – Manny Stocker should have been the QB against NW when Peterman went down.  He was the ONLY QB on roster who took any real game snaps to that point.

The old saw I’m hearing that there was no choice but to play DiNucci in the bowl is bull-crap.  DiNucci is no more the QB of the future at Pitt – even in a back-up role than I am.  If Stocker wasn’t the guy then he shouldn’t have been the guy to get those snaps against Duke.

What is refreshing and honest though is Narduzzi admitting that not playing DiNucci earlier was a mistake and well; “we saw what happened…” Two INTs on the final two series is what we saw and that my friends was the difference between 8-5 with a bowl loss and a 9 win season and a ranking in the teens.

Here are some article covering the conference.

Five Questions from the Post Gazette.

Coverage of the Presser by the P-G.

Jerry DiPaola’s Trib-Review coverage of the Presser