Fall Camp #15 in the Books

2017 Pitt Football Camp, Day 15 Recap

Narduzzi, Watson and Players Give Updates on Pitt Camp

 PITTSBURGH—A third consecutive hot and humid morning on the South Side of Pittsburgh saw the Pitt football team complete its 15th practice of training camp at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex.

Head coach Pat Narduzzi held his morning media session before practice. Following the workout, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, quarterback Max Browne, tight ends Chris Clark and Matt Flanagan and wide receiver Ruben Flowers III also participated in interviews.

Coach Interview Videos: Narduzzi | Watson

 Player Interview Videos: Browne | Clark | Flanagan | Flowers

 Below are transcripts from all six media sessions.

Head Coach Pat Narduzzi

Opening statement:

“We have about seven more days of training camp. I think that we have a total of 16 days ‘til gameday, or something like that. We’re getting a lot of good work done. We’re getting some scout team work as well, which is good. It’s teaching our scout team guys how to service the offense, defense or special teams, which I think is critical to teach this time of year. We can’t wait ‘til week one to finally say, ‘hey, we need to get a look.’ Those are some of the things that we focused on the past three days; our scouts were a lot better than what we expected. Every guy out there is critical. It’s not just the starter or backup; it’s the entire team. That’s why they call it a team.”

On what he is looking for in the final week of training camp:

“We’re looking for the guys to get better every day. ‘Get three percent better’ has kind of been our motto, and you are looking for those guys that can hang. You get into that 15th day of fall camp, can they continue to progress or do they just hit the wall like, ‘I’m tired, I’m exhausted…’? Some guys will just be like, ‘I have no more for you, coach.’ It’s understood, but tough guys can push through it. So we’re looking for that toughness and that guy who is going to be with you every day.”

On if age is a factor in the players’ ability to handle being tired in camp:

“I don’t think that age has anything to do with it because I don’t get tired and I’m an old guy. You would be shocked that it doesn’t really come down to age. Sometimes, the young guys are so hungry that they don’t get tired and the older guys are like, ‘this is my fifth camp, I’m going to shut it down.’ So our guys have shown no sign of that. They have shown great resilience, and I’m happy with where they are. They just have to keep pushing, and that is our job as coaches.”

On the possibility of Jason Pinnock seeing playing time this year:

“[Jason] Pinnock keeps getting better. He’s a young guy and those two guys [Jason Pinnock and Damarri Mathis]… you talk about getting tired, those two guys don’t get tired. A lot of time, the freshmen after five days, if they are not mentally exhausted, physically, they have had enough. But they have shown a lot of mental and physical toughness throughout, so Jason has a chance. He is a good football player and we’re not saving anybody. We’re not redshirting guys just to redshirt them. If he can help us on special teams, we’re going to use him.”

On staying with the team in the hotel:

“I stay down there and walk every morning. If you wake up at some time between 5:30 and 6:00, you can watch me walk down the sidewalk. I don’t drive. If they walk, I walk. I could very easily take my car. I’m there every day with them. It’s a hotel. It’s much better than what it was like in the dorm, I can tell you that. It’s beautiful.”

On the long snapper competition:

“It’s been dwindled down. Nathan Bossory and Cal [Adomitis] are working at it right now. We’ll decide, but it is still a battle. Robert Hill left camp. He was a transfer from Tulsa and didn’t see himself in that top three.”

On if the third-down defense is an area that he wants to improve on from last year:

“Yeah, we want to improve everything. If I look back at it, that was probably one of our brightest spots. When we got them to be third-and-long, we were pretty good, I believe. We were probably winning 65 to 70 percent of the time. I think that it is a tough package to go against, but it’s that first and second down that’s important. Let’s get them to more third down and long, and I think that we have a shot when we do that.”

On what makes the third-down package so difficult to go against:

“You would have to ask those other guys. I don’t know.”

On if offensive coordinator Shawn Watson is adaptable:

“No question. If you look at where he has coached and who has mentored him throughout his career, he has a ton a knowledge. That’s an experienced coach for 30-plus years. He knows how to use your players, but that’s nothing special about him. That’s a given, but there are a lot more special things.”

Offensive Coordinator Shawn Watson

On what he has learned about his quarterbacks in camp:

“The two older guys are really playing at a high level. I know they’ve put a lot of work in. They’re highly competitive guys and they’re really good for each other that way. They’re really good for each other in that they help each other. We have a really good room and a really good thing going. I appreciate, first off, the spirit of competition between them and how that’s affected their play. When you have competition in your room, the performance goes up. That’s been a marked difference between now and the spring. Max [Browne] knows what he’s doing. Ben [DiNucci] is used to being coached by me now and how we make decisions. Time is taking care of a lot of things, and I think it has allowed them to be really competitive between each other.”

On if Max Browne is getting better at decision making:

“He’s been very assured in his decision making. He doesn’t make a lot of pass-decision errors, run-decision errors or management errors. He’s really sound that way, and he should be. He’s had a lot of experience and been trained by some really good coaches, so he’s got that part. His consistency since I’ve really been working with him, he’s been very good in that area. I think the big curve for him since he’s been here is learning how we do things and how we call things. That’s been his curve.”

On tight end Matt Flanagan’s career at Rutgers versus what he’s seen at Pitt so far:

“His numbers don’t tell the full story. What’s the emphasis of the tight end? All those things that we don’t know and I don’t know. I just know what he’s doing for us. He’s doing a great job for us and really providing us with a high level of play. He and Chris [Clark] have a really good thing going on there. Those two guys have been very competitive with each other, and we know we can use multiple tight ends now, which is huge for me.”

On using a high-tempo offense for the upcoming season:

“We’ll have that aspect; we’ll have that gear. I don’t believe in being in all of that. I think multi-tempos are the way to go, and that’s how we’re really built here. It’s a philosophy. It’s a team philosophy more than it is an offensive philosophy because the offense is setting the defense up for wins and the defense sets the offense up and how we mesh that together and what the philosophy is starting with Pat [Narduzzi]. Will we have that gear? Yes. Will we live in it? No.”

On if he has had a pair of receivers like Jester Weah and Quadree Henderson before:

“I did, yeah. At Colorado, I had D.J. Hackett and I had a kid by the name of Derek McCoy. Great players who were exactly like Jester. And then we had Jeremy Bloom, who was like Q [Quadree Henderson]. I’ve been around it, and it’s really cool. I haven’t had that skill set because you can use their skill set and what you do, how you get them open, where you put them and how you make matchups. It’s good to have. I’ll tell you what, the other guys in the room have been awesome, too.

I’m just blown away by how much better Ruben [Flowers III] is. Aaron [Mathews] with us, he’s had two really good practices back-to-back. We’re really developing a whole room. Ra-Ra [Rafael Araujo-Lopes] has been great. He’s competing with Q [Quadree Henderson]. Ffrenchy [Maurice Ffrench] has been awesome. We’ve really got, not just one, but several guys like Jester, and we’ve got several guys like Q [Quadree Henderson]. Skill set differs; some are a little faster, a little this, a little that. But we’ve got guys who we can create matchups with and use.”

Tight End Chris Clark

On how Matt Flanagan has been beneficial to him in camp so far:

“It’s been very beneficial. He is probably one of the smartest players I’ve ever been around in terms of knowing the X’s and O’s about the game. That’s something that I’ve had to work on a lot, and he’s definitely taken me underneath his wing and taught me a lot of things I never really knew about the position. I’m growing so much as a player in terms of my technique, so it’s been great for me.”

On how often he and Matt Flanagan will be on the field together and if there’s competition:

“I don’t really view it as that because we’ll both be playing so much. Sometimes Matt [Flanagan] might be in, sometimes I’ll be in and sometimes we’ll be in together. I don’t even really view it as a competition. Obviously we compete with each other and make each other better, but we both know we’re going to play a lot this year. It’s really good to have two solid tight ends.”

On how he has developed technically through camp:

“I think I’ve come really far. I made some strides in the spring, but then I had that injury where I had to take a couple steps back because I missed some more time. Now I feel like I’m starting to slowly get back into it. I’ve always been able to run and catch and have been an athletic tight end. Becoming physical and a good blocker is something that I want to become, and I think I’m making strides this camp. The coaches are saying it and I can see it on film, so it’s been exciting.”

On his thoughts on Coach Shawn Watson’s offensive scheme:

“I think the offense is definitely pretty similar to last season. Coach Watson has definitely added some of his own wrinkles to it. We still have a bunch of exciting things that we did last year that we will do this year. When we added onto it, I think the offense will be even more explosive this year. We’re definitely going to be a team that wants to pound the football. We’ve got a great offensive line, we’ve got tight ends that can block, I think, and we’ve got unbelievable running backs. We have a tremendous amount of good backs; even the freshmen have looked unbelievable out there. We’re definitely going to be a team that just lines up and smashes people in the mouth.”

Quarterback Max Browne

On his impressions of Matt Flanagan and Chris Clark in camp:

“Great. We knew how athletic Chris was coming out of the spring. It was a bummer to have him get banged up a little towards the end. But he’s healthy now. He’s a huge threat in the pass game. You talk about utilizing two tight ends, well one of them is just as good a receiving tight end as your other receivers. There’s no drop off there. And with a guy like Matt, you can tell he’s played a lot of football. It was kind of insert-and-play right away. He knew what was going on from day one. Real smart guy and real dependable, which is huge at the tight end position. I think Dev [Devon Edwards] getting in there as well, all three of those guys will have a huge impact this year.”

On how Pitt’s offense compares to the offense he had at USC:

“It’s very similar. It’s a lot like the offense I had my true freshman year with a lot more under-center emphasis and when you get to passing downs, go back in the gun. I’ve had three or four offensive coordinators to kind of learn. I mean ball is ball. You’re taught one play one way and it’s the same play at a different school, just called different. A lot of overlap, a lot of similar reads. That’s the beauty of being a fifth-year senior: you’ve seen it before and you just go out there and play.”

On how the most recent scrimmage went for him:

“It went well. Still things to clean up as an offense as a whole. It’s a process, like you said in the spring game. We’re building then as a team and as an offense, becoming crisper. I think we made some big plays on Saturday, but still have little things to clean up. We’re glad that after that scrimmage, we still have three more weeks before the first game. It seems like day-by-day and week-by-week, we’re getting smoother and making a lot of plays, which is a great sign.”

On adapting to Coach Shawn Watson’s personality:

“He’s a soft-spoken guy at times. But when it’s time to speak up, he’ll bite you. He’s a great leader, speaks well in front of our offense and he’s a great play-caller. You can tell he’s been around ball a lot. For me, I’m an easy-going guy, so I can get along with whatever. My relationship with Coach Watson is growing week-by-week. He’s a great dude, a great coach and it’s been a fun time in our meeting room.”

Tight End Matt Flanagan

On if he feels like he is getting acclimated to the Pitt offense and how things are done:

”Yeah, definitely. Just spending the time during the summer was invaluable. Getting in the summer 7-on-7’s out there was awesome and kind of learning the playbook. But yeah, right now, I feel pretty in-sync with everybody.”

On the competition with Chris Clark:

“We’re blessed to have two really talented tight ends. We have a really good room right now and every competition makes all parties better. We’re going to have an opportunity to have everybody contribute in that room, so that is really exciting.”

On his impressions on Coach Tim Salem:

“He’s a million miles per hour, but he’s a great guy and a great coach. I’ve been really fortunate to have him.”

On how Coach Shawn Watson compares to previous coordinators he has played for:

“I think that any coordinator out there has to get after his guys sometimes, but he is really professional. He has clear goals for the offense, and it has reverberated throughout the entire offensive unit—what he wants to get done, what’s acceptable and what’s the standard.”

Wide Receiver Ruben Flowers III

 On going through a redshirt year last season:

“I feel like, for a freshman when you first come in, it is always tough to be redshirted. I feel like, as I went throughout the season, I kind of progressed in my mental state and got a little better. I starting think like, ‘maybe this isn’t bad, maybe I can make this something.’ I talked with Jester Weah a lot about it last year, and he just told me, ‘just keep pushing, keep running and keep doing your thing.’ He told me he redshirted his freshman year and his time came. When your number is called, you just have to step up.”

On what he has learned from Jester Weah:

“I have probably learned a lot from Jester. The No. 1 thing is just focus. He always talks to me about focus. In the summer, I was always in Jester’s back pocket, like everywhere he went, I wanted to be. I’m always asking him questions. Sometimes, I don’t even go to Coach Sherman first, I always go to Jester because he has so much knowledge and so much to give, so I like to just soak that up.”

On his performance in the scrimmage on Saturday:

“I just keyed in and had a lot of focus. I just always gave a lot of effort and always being a great teammate.”

On working with Tre Tipton:

“Tre always has an open ear. No matter what the situation is, he always has a positive attitude and that carries over to us. I remember last year, Tre was the first guy when we first came in to sit all the freshmen down in film. Every day after the summer workouts and fall camp, he would just sit the three freshmen in the film room. He has always been the most consistent guy when it comes to just being a great guy and great teammate.”

40 thoughts on “Fall Camp #15 in the Books

  1. Pitt Unveils James Conner Bobblehead for Homecoming

    Promotion for First 30,000 Fans at Oct. 14 Game vs. NC State

    PITTSBURGH—Pitt Athletics announced Thursday afternoon that in conjunction with the University’s 2017 Homecoming festivities, the first 30,000 fans in attendance at the Saturday, October 14 football game versus NC State will receive an exclusive James Conner Bobblehead.

    As the Panthers wear the famous Pitt retro colors at Heinz Field against the Wolfpack, fans will have the opportunity to take home a bit of memorabilia of Conner wearing the same iconic uniform.

    Conner, now a running back with the Pittsburgh Steelers, memorably set the ACC all-time touchdowns record in the Pitt retro colors last season in the Panthers’ 56-14 victory over Duke.

    One of the most decorated players in Pitt football history, Conner finished his collegiate career with 56 total touchdowns and 52 rushing scores—both ACC records—and is second only to the legendary Tony Dorsett in Pitt history with 3,733 career rushing yards.

    Following the all-clear from his Hodgkin lymphoma cancer diagnosis, Conner’s four years at the University of Pittsburgh concluded with a memorable comeback 2016 season that saw him top 1,000 yards rushing with 20 touchdowns in earning first team All-ACC honors.

    He previously was a first team All-American and ACC Player of the Year during his standout 2014 campaign in which he rushed for 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns.

    Game tickets are on sale now starting at only $25.


  2. Reed, Haven’t been commenting much lately but wanted to say thanks for your research and words.
    I have a much better feeling about the athletic dept. now than I have in many years. Someone is doing a nice job with the local papers. Coverage has never been this good. Sure, most are fluff pieces, but it’s sports, each article doesn’t have to be Pulitzer material. Also, Heathers remarks about facilities upgrades for other sports are encouraging. If she is serious maybe our buddy Upitt might want to make contact as this is his business. Seriously, wow, wouldn’t that be a great combo?? Upitt actually plans and builds stadiums at Pitt!! She her Mark. You have the ideas, she appears open. Enlighten her!


  3. Shocked no one has said that paying for the hotel the team and coaches are staying at is a waste on money. It was noted when hired that Lyke isn’t fraid to spend some money so it looks like that is true. Glad to her.


  4. Sounds like to me that the PITT team is staying overnight at the hotel over-nite?? I keep saying that things have changed with this PITT football program… $$

    I don’t care what anyone says. The $1,000,000 offer to Canada was totally legit!


  5. Ike, it would have been legit before LSUs offer. After, LSUs offer it comes off like a Bob Nutting stunt..


  6. PT, It was legit, PITT was hoping for the discount of success and continuity Canada had built up at PITT in one year. Good for him He took the money and run..


  7. Max Browne’s interview yesterday really impressed me with how well spoken the young man is. The content also indicated to me that he is taking ownership as our starting QB.

    There’s no doubt in my mind that his years of practical experience at USC will be the separation factor in the competition between him & the rest of our QBs.

    The one remark from Max that said it all mentioned that “that’s the advantage of being a 5th year Senior, I’ve seen it all before so when Coach calls it down on a certain situational play you just have to go out and execute it”.


  8. From the sounds of it, from his performance in scrimmages, this Grad Transfer from Rutgers just might be one of our new secret weapons to reveal early in the season.

    The loss of Aston was devastating because George’s leadership is irreplaceable, but this guy Matt Flanagan just might be able to replace Aston’s production at TE- H back.


  9. Ditto Dr Tom. Browne and Flanagan are impressive young men. Makes me a little less concerned about leadership. Clark also was impressive. Flowers seems to be getting some confidence may contribute this year and will have big shoes to fill next year.

    All in all, it seems that Narduzzi is doing a great job filling holes with the senior transfers. The O-lineman looks to make a big impact. If Hendrix and Carter play well on D, it could make a big improvement since both are at positions of great need.

    Agree that the loss of Aston, with Conner leaves a big need at the goal line. Someone that can find the hole and break tackles could have a big year. But two solid tight ends will help.


  10. FWIW, although of course none of us really know what will happen this season, I see nothing that has changed my original thought that this team will develop into a really good unit after a rough start.


  11. Any thoughts on the James Conner bobble-head day against North Carolina State on Home-Coming weekend? They will go to the first 30,000.


  12. Call me old fashioned, but this bobblehead stuff is kind of gimmicky, and maybe it works but I think it cheapens the game. If they are modelling it after the Pirates, that’s pretty sad when they should be looking to the Steelers for inspiration. Ike, don’t you agree that maybe the Conner bobblehead may increase attendance for one game, but doesn’t constitute a real marketing program that will produce broader, long term results? If this is their plan to increase attendance, it is a joke..


  13. Well I’m fairly certain that they will all go. Why only 30,000?

    I’m not a big bobble-head guy but this may be a nice memento down the road. What, being a season ticket holder, if I’m not one of the first 30,000 to enter the stadium? Would that be fair?

    I think they picked a great game for it though. I think Homecoming is the way to go. Like to see a great crowd that day.

    Here’s another thing. I’ve been to Pirate games on B-H promotional night and watched some guys buy the cheapest ticket and then turn right around and leave the stadium after receiving their B-H. I don’t care about ticket sales I care about butts in the seats.


  14. VoR: I do agree with you, it’s gimmerish as all heck. << I made up a new word. That said though, in this instance it’s not a bad idea considering it’s James Conner with all his drama and being drafted by the Steelers though. I think by combining it with the Homecoming game makes sense. Makes me sick when that game has a light turnout.

    At the very least it is an attempt at something. Without the big draw game on the schedule PITT may have to do some silly events like this. BUT please, no fireworks at 3:00 in the afternoon!

    Actually I wouldn’t mind a Hugh Green B-H either for my PITT memorabilia collection.


  15. Ahh, A jimmie one finger bobble-head. Now there is something I definitely do not want. In the order of staying cuth, I won’t mention another former psu coach that nobody would want his bobble-head either.


  16. Franklin really flipped the switch after PSU’s performance in 2016. They were about to run he out of town after the previous seasons with Hackenberg at QB. Then walla a change at QB with a new offensive and defensive coordinator and a new six year deal at $5.8 mill per. If Pitt happens to upset him in our game this maybe they will regret giving him that deal.


  17. new PG tweet:

    Brian Batko ✔ @BrianBatko
    Pat Narduzzi said left tackle Brian O’Neill, still limited in practice, has “no chance” of missing the season opener.


  18. So psu just gave Duzz some locker room motivation to stomp the nitters. Last year the motivation was – “this is not a rivalry”. Pitt wins.

    In 2017, the psu administration looks down their noses at Pitt and says – “we’ll pay our HC $4 million more per year than Pitt’s HC and we have no room in our schedule for future games”. Time to out coach the guy who is way over-paid and stomp the nitters, Jimmy Harbaugh style.

    Stop the run (Barkley) and make Trace McSwirley beat you. TM & JF have a knack for losing games (see Pitt & USC).



  19. Urb is setting up voters for his own good. They both have a weak schedule again. Some day the media will understand that the big10 coaches all hype each other before the season and during it, in the hopes people will actually believe it is a great conference. It just isn’t. Fake news!


  20. That $5.8 million salary makes me sick. One decent year and he gets that kind of money. I hope the buyout is real big so that when Frankin chokes with the big contract Creepy Valley will need to take the big one.. On a different note, Ike you are right that we need a big attendance for Homecoming, so maybe the bobblehead will do it. I still can’t get over that Franklin contract- I’m getting sicker just thinking about it…


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