Rookie Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi spoke for the first time at an ACC Media Day event earlier this week in Pinehurst, North Carolina. What did the new Panthers skipper have to say about the team he’s inherited? Check out some of Narduzzi’s comments below. All quotes courtesy of ASAPSports.com.
Q. I’m sure going through video of your future opponents, you’ve noticed the ACC has a number of mobile quarterbacks. As a defensive guru, how does it complicate your task to stop these quarterbacks?
COACH NARDUZZI: It’s something that I think our defense is built for. I believe that you’ll be seeing some pretty good quarterbacks in my last really 13 years of coordinating, as of late you’re facing a new guy. Mariota was a pretty good player a year ago that we bottled up pretty good. He was a great player. I thought he was a quarterback like a Russell Wilson, an old ACC quarterback. But I think our defense is built to stop spread offenses. It’s something we’ve had a lot of success at doing through the years.
Q. What has the first few months in Pittsburgh been like?
COACH NARDUZZI: It’s been six months, but it seems like a month. The first thing I think about is the support. Sometimes if you’re all by yourself, you have that job, you feel like you’re doing it all by yourself, that’s an issue. With our chancellor, Patrick Gallagher, you have support from the top. All our support people, Chris LaSala, my administrative assistant Vicki. When you have support and people that are intelligent in the situation they’re in, I think it makes your job easy. It’s been obviously a whirlwind. Everything is new. Coming in here first day, Media Day, you don’t know what to expect. A better-looking crowd than I thought (smiling). But everything is new. You just take them as they roll.
Q. 19 wins the last three years for this program. At the level of mediocrity. How do you get Pitt back?
COACH NARDUZZI: One game at a time. You don’t do it overnight. No quick fixes. You start with the people you’re involved with, building relationships with your players. Everywhere I’ve ever been, my players are going to play their tails off for me. There’s a love between the players and the coach. If you treat them the way you treat your son or daughter… It’s getting everything out of those kids. If you expect everything from them, you give them nothing, what do you have? So I think that’s where it really starts. It’s a relationship and the trust that the players and the coaches are going to have together. That takes time to build, as well. You got to go through some tough times. You got to go through a tough loss so they know you’re with them win or lose. That’s something that we’ll build at the University of Pittsburgh.
Q. Coach, James Conner had Player of the Year, but Pitt had 120 yards rushing. The rest of the team was minus 10. How do you fix that?
COACH NARDUZZI: Get somebody else. You know, he’s your workhorse. As I said to someone yesterday, I hand him the ball off down here in Pinehurst and have him carry it back to Pittsburgh if I could. We’re going to give the guy the rock. Le’Veon Bell had I think 390 carries one year, his junior year before he got drafted by the Steelers. So if you have a guy that can carry the rock and he’s hot, you’re going to keep giving it to him. We have a stable of runningbacks we have a lot of confidence in. When it’s their time to show, where we need them, they’ll be ready to roll. But you’re not worried about it. You have Player of the Year in the ACC, which I’d be really worried about as far as carrying the ball. That’s what tailbacks want to do. He’d be disappointed and saddened if I said we need to give somebody else some more rushing yards. I want to give him more passing yards.
Q. How do you know you’ve done what you wanted to do for that day?
COACH NARDUZZI: I think you’re never satisfied as a football coach. I don’t think you’re ever satisfied as an athlete. Whether you rush for 200 yards in a game or you coach a victory. As a defensive coordinator in the last several years, after a game, even if we gave up a yard rushing, you’re disappointed. How did we give up that yard? You’re never happy with what you’ve done and always looking to get better. When you put that head down on the pillow at night, you’re always wondering, What else could I have done today to get better? Sometimes that causes sleepless nights, too.
Q. Was there anything that surprised you about your team this spring? I’m sure you had expectations coming in. Through spring practice, anything that caught you off guard?
COACH NARDUZZI: I guess in a positive way nothing surprises me as a coach because you’ve seen everything when you’ve coached long enough. What surprised me is how quickly our kids bought into what we’re doing. When you take in a 1-11 or 2-10 program, someone used the word ‘mediocrity’ earlier. Sometimes with a mediocre program, when you lose a coach, kids are still going backwards instead of forward. I think the most impressive thing is the way kids bought into everything we’ve done, from when we were on the road recruiting trying to finish up a class in January, and there’s a new strength coach whom they don’t know, working their tail off to the end every day, our strength coach, Dave Andrews, would call me every day. He came from Notre Dame. He said, Coach, I’ve never seen guys work like this. There was an energy by our kids to want to get better. That’s what we seen. Very, very impressed with I guess the way our kids have bought into what we’re trying to do, what we want to do.
Q. Coach, what do you feel like you have in Voytik at quarterback?
COACH NARDUZZI: Chad is an impressive individual. From my first phone call to him in January, to every meeting I’ve had with Chad, the first thing I’d say, if you said give me one word, it’s leader. Morning workouts 5:30 in the morning, probably not a more impressive player as far as a leader and competitor. So if I want a guy to touch the ball, it’s that guy. I’m happy with that ball being able to touch that his hands every snap coming from the center. He’s a competitor, going to do everything it takes to win. He’s impressive, not only academically, but athletically. He’s gifted. He’s a super, super guy. Again, not too many people know this, in winter workouts, we had about six different groups, he matched up with James Conner every snap throughout the whole workout. Competitive, go through the bags, whatever it may be, he would beat James. He’s a little lighter than James. He was going to compete against the best every snap. That was the most impressive thing about him. He’s a leader and a competitor.
Q. What can you say about being a part of that Pittsburgh/Syracuse rivalry now?
COACH NARDUZZI: Is it a rivalry? I guess it’s a rivalry in many ways. Me and Scott Shafer have been friends for over 20 years now. Had our first full-time coaching job together. Being that’s our big rivalry, I guess, to me a rivalry is something I guess you work into. You have to live it before it becomes a rivalry. I have to live in it before it becomes a rivalry. Maybe our kids know it. We’ll get into it, figure out all the intricacies of that rivalry. Couldn’t be against a better friend than Scott Shafer.
Q. Speaking of rivalries, with you being the new coach of Pitt, James Franklin being the new coach at Penn State, the rivalry with that game, how important is it for you, because there’s a lot of fans in Pennsylvania that want to see that game ever year? Do you want to keep that game alive as long as possible, too?
COACH NARDUZZI: No question. Being from Pennsylvania, that’s a big game. I don’t think there’s any bigger rivalry, you can talk about Syracuse, until I’ve been in that Penn State rivalry, a win or a loss fuels that rivalry. In the state of Pennsylvania, Pitt/Penn State football game is where it starts. I think in the state of Pennsylvania, if they could play that game 12 weeks out of the year, they would vote yes to do that. It’s an in-state rivalry. You know that’s a rivalry. I’m all for keeping that thing going. I know Scott Barnes, our athletic director, is working on that.
Q. You touched on your relationship with Scott. Can you expand a little bit on that relationship, if you reached out to him when you got the Pitt job, what it’s going to be like to play up there?
COACH NARDUZZI: We played up in the Dome when I was at Cincinnati. It’s a fun place to play. Start where you finished. Again, Scott Shafer and his wife Missy and my wife Donna have been friends for a long time. I didn’t call him about the job when it came up. Stayed in the corner, hung out in my cave in East Lansing. As soon as you tell somebody, it travels. Obviously somebody told somebody something, but it wasn’t me. So never had that conversation with him. Obviously had it with him after I’d gotten hired. Just talked about how excited we are together, just to be able to play against each other and look at where we were 25 years ago as grad assistants. He was at Indiana, I was at Miami of Ohio. Their children grew up with our children. Look back to where we were, this is our dream, we’re now both competing in one of the best conferences in the country. Going to be able to go head-to-head on a Saturday, which as a rivalry is not a lot of fun, but fun in another way.
Q. You have Tyler Boyd, how do you intend to use him?
COACH NARDUZZI: Tyler is a great football player. Again, he’s smooth, fast, got soft hands. We’re going to try to get the ball to him as much as we can, whether it’s handing it off to him in the backfield trying to get somebody else a carry, or throwing it to him down the field. Hired a great offensive coordinator in Jim Chaney to lead our offense. Have a lot of confidence that Jim will put Tyler in position to make a lot of plays in different ways, make it hard for people to know where he is.