Reading Between the Lines: Pre-Florida State Edition

Would like to Thank Reed for filling in admirably last week. While I thought about opting out of the season, I’ve decided to take it on a presser-by-presser basis. Here is Narduzzi’s latest, with what he really meant to say in italics.

PAT NARDUZZI: First of all, sorry I’m a few minutes here late. Obviously we practiced today, which is unusual circumstance for us practicing on a Monday, but we obviously gave our kids the opportunity to have the day off tomorrow because obviously it’s an important day across this country for our kids to go out and vote.

So we will not practice tomorrow, and our kids, I would say 50 percent of them, have already voted. We’ve got them all registered. Maybe you’ve heard throughout the time, really back in the summer had them registered to vote back home and get that taken care of.

Look, these guys are going to vote. And for many of them it’s going to be the first time that they vote, and you’ve got to ask yourself why is it that in the 100+ year history of college football is this the first time at as a team, guys are wanting to vote? Is it social media? Is it Facebook? Twitter? Maybe it’s the fake news media? Maybe it’s something else. I don’t know. But I know that no matter how good or bad I am at actually coaching, I care about my guys, and I care about how they feel about the issues. And guess what guys? 90% of college football players are black. Maybe more. You may not care, but you know what, I care. And so enabling them to vote, that’s me caring. That’s me caring about equality for my players. Maybe helping them get one step closer to a world in which they don’t have to worry about getting beat or shot just because they stayed out past midnight or ran a stop sign, and until your 18 year old white son has to worry about getting brutalized by police on a routine traffic stop, or until your wife has to tell their 20 year old white kid to wear their team sweats home on a six hour drive home from college in case he gets pulled over by state cop who has a hard-on for guys that look different from him, or until you have to teach your kids to put their hands at ten and two on the wheel and not reach for anything lest they get shot, well, I’m sorry, but you just aren’t going to be able to get it. I’ve got players who grew up with this shit and lived it every day of their lives. They still live it… You? You white guys reading and writing this, you guys following these black players like you’re a 15 year old girl with a crush; you may have come from humble origins, but you don’t know what it’s like. You’ve never been profiled, treated differently because of the color of your skin. I don’t know what it’s like either because I’ve never lived it, but at least I’m willing to listen and willing to try to understand. And and until you do, you’ve got no room to do anything but support. Do you?

So we really stressed that really in the last couple months to make sure their voices are heard.

Next, I think EJ must have insider information because I think last Thursday, I kind of mentioned it last Friday, like EJ emailed me late and I said, Hey, what do you think about doing a, you know, just a mini-presser I guess on Friday just to close the chapter on the Notre Dame game, so he must have wanted to make sure we had enough length here today.

That EJ. A smart guy. Gonna miss him when I leave.

As you guys know already, Paris Ford has decided to move on to the next chapter of his life. Paris is a tremendous football player, a tremendous person, a guy that we’ve got a lot of respect for and we appreciate all the efforts he’s put in here in his really three and a half, four years and really for the six years we’ve known him through the whole recruiting process.

And really, If Kessman makes that field goal, or Mack catches that two point conversion, or the refs don’t call that push off. Well hell, we’d still have lost to Notre Dame 45-3.

We wish him all the best in his endeavors as he moves on through this football world and the rest of his life.

And seriously, we do.

So that’s on Paris, that’s on voting, and then obviously Florida State, which is really where my main focus is right now. Obviously replacing Paris Ford in the lineup and a guy that we’ve got a ton of confidence in. I think I might have mentioned a week or two weeks ago, a guy we feel like he’s a starter, Brandon Hill is a guy that has played the last couple weeks, has played special teams. He’s a playmaker. He’s physical, he’s strong, and he’ll be the guy that will line up and play in that position as we sit here today.

And we are getting beat on the regular in pass coverage anyway, so really, what does it matter?

And, again, I think we’ve got a very, very talented football team in Florida State coming in. When you look at it, Mike Norvell is a heck of a football coach, in his first year, so he’s been busy just trying to install his offense, his defense there at Florida State, and probably had one of the toughest jobs going in, like any coach that comes in with a whole new staff, a new coordinator on offense and defense, without spring ball.

Also, he’s winning on Twitter, which I really respect.

What you see out of Florida State is a constant improvement every single week. Without having spring ball and maybe an abbreviated camp, I don’t know what you call it that we had in this 2020 period, so I don’t know how their practices were compared to ours, but they’ve gone through four quarterbacks on offense in Rodemaker, Purdy — what was the big number 1? Blackman. But now they’ve found their guy, I think.

Tate Rodemaker? Remember him? Yea, we almost had him. Kinda glad he ended up down there, but what do I know about quarterbacks? But yea they improve every single week. It’s almost like they took my 3% better every day mantra and actually put it into practice.

Jordan Travis, No. 13, is a football player. I really, really like that guy. He’s the key to their offense. They like to run it. He’ll throw the RPOs. We’ll see the T-shoots. They like to copycat what they see on tape, so we’ve worked a ton of different stuff that we’ve seen through the years, anything that’s hurt us. Actually the last three years we’ve worked on just looking at — we’ve had two weeks to prepare for them, and

I’m sure we’ll see stuff that we didn’t know we’d see.

And I’m sure we will see stuff we’ve seen and still get beat by it.

But they found their quarterback in Travis. They’re talented in the backfield. They got three tailbacks that play a ton for them. They don’t have quite as many starts on that offensive line as the last team we faced. And then on defense, Marvin Wilson, starts with him, an All-American up front. Their front four is an ACC front four.

When I say they don’t have quite as many starts on the offensive line as Notre Dame what I really mean is like, they kind of suck up front. Of course nobody is calling holds against Pitt even when we were in contention, so they sure as hell aren’t going to call them now, especially against the Seminoles. On the other side of the ball, you should expect our offensive line to get owned, again.

When I first got in the ACC a few years ago I thought it was a quarterback conference. This year I feel like it’s a D-line conference, especially with Notre Dame being in it. It’s a talented crew.

Lets not mince words, our offensive line makes every team we play look like an All-ACC D-line. Especially when it comes to run-stopping.

I think it’s better — they obviously had a big upset win over North Carolina on their schedule and they had a little confidence and obviously got stumbled by Louisville. They come into our game with an open week, as well, so they’ve got time to study and figure out what they want to do as well as we do.

Which honestly isn’t that hard to figure out, so with two weeks to prepare, well we are kind of hoping that the party scene down there in Tallahassee has their guys distracted.

With that, and that was long, I’ll open it up for questions.

Q. In your conversations with Paris, what were his main reasons for not finishing the season with his teammates?

PAT NARDUZZI: You know, I think everybody has got decisions to make. All along, Paris has had these thoughts in his mind going back to last year in February when he decided to stay, and then there’s all the opting out going on in the middle of summer during camp. So he took a few days back then to think about it long and hard.

You know, I can’t fully answer that. Those are decisions him and his family have got to make. They’re business decisions, they’re family decisions, and one that we respect. Just stuff that he’s got to do.

Let me put it this way. He’s one unlucky play away from losing a million dollar lottery ticket. We are three games removed from any goals he may have had for this season. There is loyalty, and there is stupidity. Paris is loyal, but he’s not dumb.

Q. Did he come to you over the off week or even before that to let you guys know of that decision? How did that kind of happen there?

PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, I mean, we’ve had conversations last week. We had conversations this week, as early as this morning was our last conversation, and one yesterday. There’s been conversations, yeah. There’s always conversations.

I’ve known this for a while.

Q. Is there any concern that just simply because the results haven’t been there as a team that that influenced his decision? And as a coach do you worry about that, if things sort of don’t go your way, that more kids are going to be like, ‘I’m good’?

PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, I think everybody has got decisions to make. I don’t see that as an issue. I think we’re good there. I mean, I don’t see it as an issue.

If we were undefeated he’d totally be onboard.

Q. You don’t expect any other players to opt out here?

PAT NARDUZZI: No, I don’t. I don’t at all. I don’t see that. But, you know, I don’t have a crystal ball, and you never know. But I don’t see that right now, no.

Well I mean we haven’t lost to Florida State yet…

Q. You mentioned Brandon Hill and what he does well. What’s the opportunity do you think here for him, especially with this being a free year, if you will?

PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, I mean, it’s a next man in. It’s an opportunity for that guy to take it over and be the future safety at that spot, and I really think you guys will be impressed with what you see back there out of him. I think he’s a fantastic football player. He’s athletic, he’s tough, he’s physical, and he flies around with a ton of effort.

It’s next man up. It’s a great opportunity for him, and that’s really what my focus goes to is obviously to Florida State like we did in practice today and focus on what we can control and the guys that are in those meeting rooms and on that football field.

I’m just glad I get a mulligan on the year, because if I had to break in an entirely new secondary next year we’d be totally screwed. Giving this guy five games, I mean, shoot, we might just win seven next year.

Q. How have you seen the team react to Paris’ news?

PAT NARDUZZI: There really hasn’t been a whole lot of talk. Maybe they have talked by themselves, but I’m focused on Florida State and I think our football team is.

Went out and had a nice practice today, and that’s where the focus is. So if you guys have any more questions, let’s try to focus on Florida State. How about that?

Yea they are bummed.

Q. One of the things Paris brought to your team, he was an energy guy, a lot of enthusiasm all the time. How do you try to keep that up, not just losing him but you lost four games in a row, and do you think that is a concern for your team right now?

PAT NARDUZZI: You know, it’s not a concern for me right now. I think our kids are excited to go down to Florida State and play a really good football team.

He does have energy, but we’ve got other guys with energy. I think offenses and defenses feed off each other. We need to feed off each other better.

Last week we talked about celebrating more, period, and prior to even knowing anything about what’s happening today really. We’ve got other energy guys. It’s not one guy that has energy and everybody else is a bunch of zombies out there.

So about focusing on Florida State…

Q. Any update on Kenny Pickett today?

PAT NARDUZZI: No, I wish I could tell you. I wish I could confirm that he’s good to go. I think he gets better every week. We’ll just keep working at it.

Nope. He’s not going to play.

Q. You mentioned on Friday that Joey Yellen took most of the snaps last week in your two practices. Is that still the case this week?

PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, he’s still taking the majority. Kenny can go out and throw but he’s not moving great obviously, but he’s out there watching at least this week.

I’m not great and math. And Whip, well actually he’s even worse, but we talked to Beatty and he was like, “hey look, a healthy Yellen is still better than a lame Pickett, and Kenny’s going to be gone next year, so if you add it all up it’s like 1+1 = 1.5 or something. Which confused me and Whipple but we figured we should just listen to the only smart guy on the offensive staff.

Q. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. With your running game, what are your options there other than just block the guys better, hit the holes harder, and what can you try to do to try to improve it outside of just running the same plays?

PAT NARDUZZI: You’ve got to change it up a little bit, and obviously we like to throw the ball and that’s where our strength is at least, is throwing the football. So you’ve got to work on it. And I guess we’ll find out, find out if we make you insane for another Saturday in a row. Hope not.

And when I say change it up, I mean, look, it’s too late to practice the fundamentals. And if you look at oh, say any other team, but lets use Arkansas as an example, because they flat out sucked last year. Well they just practiced the fundamentals and here they are punching people in the mouth. So yea, just look for a bunch of sideways passes from us this week because I think that’s something we’ve really gotten away from and it’s really the only thing we do fundamentally well.

Q. I’m a little more worried about your sanity than mine at this point, but at some point do you get to the point and say, ‘Hey, look, that’s just something we’re not good at this year and let’s just throw it 78 times,’ and see what happens?

PAT NARDUZZI: No. We ain’t doing that. We’re going to continue to try, and eventually just keep pounding that rock, pounding that rock. The first hit might not make it, but after that 115th, 200th, 2,000th hit on that stone, that thing will crack open and we’ve got to continue to push and work to dig through that thing.

Who do you think I am? Mike freaking Leach?

Q. Has Izzy [Israel Abanikanda] given you any indications that he might earn more playing time? He hasn’t played much the last three games.

PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, you know, we’ll see. It’s still day by day. He’s still a puppy, as I like to call him. He’s a great kid, and sometimes it just takes a little longer. You still go back to that spring ball, day three. You guys saw the same thing I saw.

Ummm….he still can’t block.

Again, it’s just a process. You’ve got to trust the process, whether it’s in the run game or having patience with your players, period.

We’ll find out. We’ll find out on Saturday if Izzy gets a few more carries, and we’ll see.

He won’t.

Q. There were some coaches around the country that weren’t a fan of election day being a mandatory day off because of COVID tests and practices and these kids have a schedule. What were your thoughts when you found out that the NCAA made that a mandatory off day?

PAT NARDUZZI: You know what, I think at first the ACC made it mandatory, I believe, and then the NCAA came in and was like, ‘Hey, we think…’ I think the ACC did that, so my hat goes off to Commissioner Swofford in making that decision, number one.

And look. The ACC does not get a lot of things right. But they did get this one right.

I was not real happy when I first heard about it back in the day because we were scheduled to play Virginia Tech, I believe, in the first schedule, not the third schedule, and we were scheduled to play Virginia Tech on a Friday, I believe.

I think it was a Friday. But there’s no day off if you’re playing a day early. It’s nearly impossible. I talked to [Justin] Fuente after that saying, ‘How are we going to take a day off?’ We’re going to have to have a gentleman’s handshake. We’re going into this game with two days of practice, and we would look bad if we did that.

And believe me, Fuente ain’t no gentleman.

But I think it’s a great idea. I think everybody talks about wanting change, wanting to make an impact, and everybody’s vote counts. I think it’s important for our kids to get out there and don’t complain about the results if you don’t put your name on that.

I’ll say it again, if you don’t vote, you’ve got no room to complain. Of course after my rant about voting and social issues earlier you probably aren’t reading with very much interest at this point.

I think it’s a great idea, and I’m actually so happy because we’ve got a Saturday game instead of a Friday, so thank the commissioner on that one, as well. So to be able to practice today after a week off, I mean, it kind of timed up for us perfectly. Hated to have an open week after seven games, but we timed it perfectly so we could practice today, give them a day off tomorrow, which for them it’s like a normal Monday. They’ll come in and watch a little videotape on their own. It’s an academic day and then we practice Wednesday and Thursday, so it kind of goes back to that freshness thing.

Now if the Comish could just address the officiating issues the way he’s addressed the voting issue…

Again, I don’t think we’re a fresh team. I see a little bit more speed on our field right now, and I like what I see.

Pinnock is feeling better.

Q. You talked about Brandon Hill. Who’s another guy or another couple guys that need to step up with Paris being gone?

PAT NARDUZZI: You know, Judson Tallandier has been a guy that — I’m texting last week after Thursday’s practice saying, ‘Jud, you’re playing really good.’ He’s coming around. I could pull out his text and show it to you, but he’s like, ‘Coach, I’ve got more confidence than I’ve ever had, like I’m locked in.’ Which is good to hear.

The problem is that against our offense it’s pretty easy to play really good.

So Jud is one of those guys, and Buddy Mack. Buddy Mack is a guy, even last week we put him in there to get some reps and he’s got recall. Buddy Mack is another guy that you could possibly see on the field. Obviously you’ve got Erick Hallett. He’s a swing guy. He’s probably the most versatile football player on our team because he can play corner, he can play safety, he can play star. He can do it all.

In other words, there are now three positions from which he can take bad angles.

Sometimes I feel bad that we don’t get him locked into one home, but he’s so good at doing everything, and he’s been that Swiss Army knife, I guess.

Q. Did Paris have any concerns about COVID in your conversations?

PAT NARDUZZI: No, no. We’ve been really safe, so no. We’ve been really good. Talking COVID… don’t you let your guard down either, guys. I continually tell our guys, don’t let your guard down. You guys watch the news and you see it spiking everywhere around the country.

Again, it’s a great thing that the ACC got us started early. Some teams are starting to play this weekend when it’s starting to crank up, so we’re very, very fortunate to have made it through seven games. Right now we’re trying to get to eight, and every day is an important day when it comes to wearing your mask and doing the right thing and knowing who you’re around and washing your hands.

Look we are top-25 in COVID. You hear that Jerry? Top 25!

Q. For your players, a lot of them, I’m assuming most of them, this is their first time voting in a presidential election. They might have a little more emotional stake in the outcome than normal. Have you guys talked at all about sort of how to handle it? It looks like this thing might drag out for a while. It’s an emotional issue for a lot of people. Have you guys talked about go vote and then come back to work on Wednesday and we’ll get inside this bubble and let the rest of the world be the rest of the world?

PAT NARDUZZI: I don’t know, what’s the state of Pennsylvania have, nine days to get all the votes counted? Did I hear that? Is that right? Three days now? Three days is a long time. Just found out — I was in conversation with a couple guys before our meeting started today, just talking small talk, and they’re like, ‘Coach, we vote on Tuesday, so Tuesday we’ll know.’

ahh the idealism of youth…

And I’m like, usually you kind of know, but I said, this year I don’t think we’re going to know right away. It could be up to a week. I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s all the unknown. But I think a football player, a football team is used to the adversity. We’ve been through some adversity, and I guess we’ll address that Wednesday morning if we don’t know who it is at that point.

And I have to think most of them will be voting for the Incumbent, right? Because you know, most of them are black, and he’s done more for black people than any president since Abraham Lincoln. Well outside of discriminatingly against them in the 1970’s at his rental properties, and outside of showing a long history of racism in his Casinos (i.e. ordering the black employees off the floor when he and his wife are coming through) , and outside of accusing a group of innocent black and Latino young men of murder, and outside of telling a known White Supremacist group to “stand by” on national television. Oh and I forgot to mention he’s the ONLY president in modern history – or maybe ever – who has actually questioned the validity of the entire elections process, which is basically some third-world dictator shit (or Vladimir Putin shit; take your pick). So yea I can see why they would be concerned if this election is contested.

I’m guessing if we don’t know — again, we just go on and play football. We do our job. All we can do is go vote and then after that let everything take care of itself. We have enough to worry about; I can tell you that. Florida State being the biggest one right now.

Oh yea, I also told them to stock up on food and toilet paper. Hopefully 376 won’t be blockaded by angry flag-flying folks and we’ll be able to get to the airport. On the Bright Side, I guess we can’t lose to Florida State if we can’t get to Florida.

Q. You talked about all the different players you guys have that you’re going to be addressing at that secondary. Do you see maybe some different looks or different ideas to experiment with some of the new guys that you have, because the different skillsets that they might bring and things that you might be able to show in your next couple games?

PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, you know, some new things you spring. You think about the old — when you were in chemistry class back in the day and you’ve got that vial and you pour the wrong stuff and everything explodes on you. I’m going to try not to look for any explosions, try to make sure the chemicals are right. I’m going to do what our guys know how to do. I think that’s probably the best advice.

And, again, I’ve got a lot of faith in Brandon [Hill]. I don’t think we have to — we’ve got different changeups every week, but we’ve just got to play smart and know what we’re doing and be consistent back there.

I think what you were trying to get me to say that I was going to change my scheme. Well hey dude, guess what? I’m not going to change my scheme. I’m never, ever, ever, going to change my scheme. You know that.

Q. I don’t even know if Coach knows yet about the Steelers’ news, about four Ravens testing positive. So with the Steelers being so close…

PAT NARDUZZI: I should stay away. I text Coach Tomlin back and forth, and congratulations to the Steelers, 7-0 start, that’s awesome. He’s a tremendous football coach, and they’ve been safe and we watch. Their protocols are just like ours. But that’s not good news. That’s not good news. Again, you look at what we’ve been going through, and I don’t understand what’s going on with the NFL.

I think our PCR tests have been really good. I’m happy with our testing, and I did not hear that, so I appreciate you letting me know that, because that’s something I’ll pass on to our team, again, Wednesday morning when we meet next. It’s like… you don’t know.

I try to mention it every single day, whether it’s in a team meeting or post practice about just being smart and doing the little things right. That’s not good what’s happening in Baltimore then. Four turns to eight…

Top 25 Jerry! Top 25!

Editor’s Note: Yes I’ve closed comments. Will probably re-open them on Saturday for the open game thread. We’ll see. Stay safe and make sure you vote. Opinions expressed in italics were my own, and not those of Pat Narduzzi. You don’t like ’em, well then too bad for you, I’m just proud to be part of a country that allows me to express them. Feel free to express your own opinions in any number of social media outlets, or even via email to your friends and close football acquaintances.

Hail to Pitt

Michaelangelo Monteleone