Pitt Training Camp: Day 9 Q and A

Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi and other Panthers coaches and players spoke following its workout on Tuesday, August 18.

Coach Pat Narduzzi

Opening statement:

“We had doubles yesterday, had a great day. The guys are pushing through. They’re a little banged up going into [today’s practice], which is par for the course. I think you’re always a little banged up at this point. A lot of guys are working through it and we’ll go from there.”

On the balancing act of preventing physical wear and players getting in the needed work:

“Is there a balance? You’ve got to practice. You can’t stop practicing. It’s all a part of doubles. It’s a grind. You’ve got to take care of them. You’ve got to know who they are and what their injuries are. Our trainers and strength coaches do a good job. You’ve got to maintain it. We get our guys into cold tubs. I feel pretty good where we are going into camp.”

On the two-a-days:

“We had triples back in the day. I think people are going away from them. Sometimes it’s just wearing your guys out, but there’s a lot of teaching to do, too. I think four [two-a-days] is a lot, too.”

On finding depth at the linebacker spots and if Mike Caprara can play all three spots:

“[Caprara] can play all three mentally. Physically, I don’t know if he’s suited to do all three. Two for sure. I feel comfortable because I trust him to be able to go out there and do that thing and we’ll do things defensively that he does well from (the Star position). We’ve got a transfer here in [Matt] Steinbeck and he’s doing a great job at that position already. He was a guy who came in as a safety and played at the buck. He’s been getting reps as well, which is good. You hold [Nicholas Grigsby] out and get to see a little bit more of what the other guys do. That’s all part of managing your positions.”

On how converted tight end Brian O’Neill has looked at tackle:

“He’s looked really good so far. We’re happy with where he is. Obviously, he’s a lot bigger and he’s done a nice job there.”

On the freshmen linebackers:

“Anthony McKee has been out there to get a feel as well at the Star position. Saleem Brightwell has shown some promise as well at the boundary. They’re freshmen too, though, so there’s going to be some ups and downs. One day you go, ‘Wow’ and the next day they hit the wall mentally. So it’s an up and down, yo-yo type of thing.”

On if this is the point where freshmen hit the mental wall:

“No doubt about it. You just have extra meetings with them or hold them after meetings. It’s more a mental thing than it is a physical thing. Someone starts to struggle and go, ‘Oh, it wasn’t like this in high school, this is hard.’ Some guys can push through that. It’s just caring for them.”

Tight Ends Coach Tim Salem

On how the tight ends are progressing:

“I think the tight end group had a great summer. It started back in the winter time with Coach [Dave] Andrews and the strength staff, they worked those kids with a great mentality and passion. It carried over to the players. They are stronger, no question. I think some of that strength does show up in practice.

“As I was telling them this morning, I think right now we just have to clean up the butterflies, the small things. I think some of the big things we’re doing well. It’s just the minor things that have to get cleaned up, and some small assignment issues, but we have a few weeks to get that done. I like their effort and I like their attitude.”

On Scott Orndoff showing more speed:

“I think he’s always had a good long stride and does have some speed. They’re in shape. I mean, we’ve had some good long practices and a great tempo. We walk out the door or out the gate at the end of practice and we’re not dead tired. They’re doing a great job of eating, drinking and recovering for the next practice. So, we have a great frame of mind right now—not only the tight ends but the whole team.”

On getting the tight ends more involved in the offense:

“Whatever it takes to win. I’ve been around long enough that if one game a tight end catches 10 passes and the next game he catches zero, as long as the bottom line is that we’re progressing, moving, scoring and winning, then that’s all that matters. They all have to play their part and they all have to play their role, and they all understand that.”


Linebackers Coach Rob Harley

On which players can play all three linebacker spots:

“To be honest, they all should be able to play. It’s the same position. The Mike is the only one that’s different. Those two outside backers have the same rules. It’s just a matter of what those guys on the field are seeing a lot of. So it’s just about developing depth. These guys have to be ready. You never know. It’s a long, long season. We have to have the ability to switch guys around. The bottom line is we’re going to put our best 11 out there and in my case, specifically, we’re going to put the best three guys out there who give us the best chance to win. It’s all about finding the right combination and really just getting guys the experience to experience those things at all three positions.”

On Mike Caprara and what gives him the versatility:

“I think he’s an experienced guy who can understand it from both angles. They all have the same rules, but those guys are going to see a couple different things out there on the field and different plays coming at them. He’s a guy that can diagnose quick. He’s a third-year guy. He can diagnose quick and he can decipher and say, ‘By playing out here I have some things to look at and when I play more inside I’ve got some different things to look at there.’ He can compartmentalize and separate those things. Young guys have a hard time doing that. [They say], ‘Hey, I just want to see the same things all the time, Coach.’ That’s good and we’re going to get those guys reps there. For these older guys, they can kind of bounce.”

On seeing things from backup linebackers:

“I think we’ve seen guys having to play together and communicate. When you get a new group in there, they are forced to communicate. You get running with the same three or the same 11 on defense there’s kind of an unspoken communication. When you get some new guys in the mix, they’ve got to really start talking because it’s no more just a slight look or a slight tap of the helmet. It doesn’t mean anything to the new guys that are there. It always helps when you change the rotation around because these guys continue to talk and continue to get on the same page. I’ll tell you if we’re all wrong, we’re all right. Listen to the middle linebacker and let’s get on the same page. It’s about communication, but, again, depth is the key.”

Linebacker Mike Caprara

On playing all three positions:

“I played all three positions as of right now. I play the Star, Money and Mike.

“It’s been a great experience. I feel the Star has helped me the most being out in space for all three positions. Knowing the whole defense, knowing the whole linebacker [unit], but knowing the whole defense has helped me the most.”

“I never thought in the beginning of camp they would give me all three. I just nitpicked at it a little bit here and there. Now it’s kind of not set in stone, but to the point where I’m at all three positions.”

On the difference between the three:

“Well, the Star and the Money are just outside linebacker spots. You’ve got more space and you’ve got a running back to cover up. At the Star you’ve got to work the wide receivers more. At the Mike backer position you’re not as much in space.”

On which position he feels most comfortable:

“I feel most comfortable right now at the Money and Mike spots because I’ve played them so much in spring and most of fall camp. I just started the training camp, so it’s not too hard right now.”

On if he thinks he is a veteran and understands the system more:

“No doubt. From a veteran’s perspective, just being in the system of college football [longer]. I know these young guys and these transfers coming in, they don’t understand the culture of things. The veterans and the older guys have to account for it all and understand the defense.”

On how playing all three positions helps him:

“I think it can only make me as a linebacker smarter because I know all three positions and more tendencies. When you’re in the field, you know more tendencies of wide receivers and you can alert something to the backside because the people on the backside say I’m the Star and Bam [Bradley] is the Money or whoever is in the Money position. I can let them know what’s going on on that side of the field. It just works both ways, and I know because I’ve played all three positions so I know more tendencies.”

Tight End J.P. Holtz

On what’s different about this season:

“I mean, it’s my last one. I just have to make it the best. I want to go out a champion with this team. I’m really looking forward to it.”

On if his three years at Pitt have gone by quickly:

“Oh yeah. I told the freshmen to cherish every single moment of this. I remember coming in three years ago as a freshmanI still feel like I’m 18 years old—and now it’s my last year.”

On being a reliable offensive option:

“I just want the team to be able to count on me and then do whatever I have to do for them. I try to be at every practice, every lift, every meeting on time and just be there every day.

“I just come out here trying to work every day. I have fun practicing. I won’t say that to everyone, but I actually do. I have fun. I like coming out here every day getting better and getting better as a team.”

On Coach Tim Salem’s approach:

“It’s really good. I really like him as a coach. He’s always on top of us making sure we’re doing the right thing on and off the field. He’s always texting us and staying on top of us, so it’s going really well.”

On the progression of the tight end unit:

“I think we’re doing really well. We have a solid group. Jaymar [Parrish] switched to tight end, so he’s with us now. I think, as a group, we’re all bigger, faster and stronger. We’re just excited for the season.”

Tight End Scott Orndoff

On if his long touchdown catch and run in Saturday’s scrimmage:

“I think it just shows that the tight ends are an athletic group. We’re big guys. We feel like we can be good down field receivers as long as you give us the opportunity. So, I think it shows that we’re not just big blocking tight ends. We can move, we can a little bit and catch a ball down field. I think it shows the coaches that if they need us, we can be a big target down field for them.

“Me and J.P. [Holtz] both feel like we can make plays in the passing game. Last year you didn’t see that as much until the end of the season, but I definitely feel like we can become more of a pivotal part of the passing game. The tight ends you see in the NFL now, they’re all getting balls, so me and [Holtz] think that if they give us a chance we can make plays for them.”

On if Offensive Coordinator Jim Chaney is trying to get tight ends more involved in the offense:

“Oh yeah. He’s always trying to find ways to get us involved. We just have to show him that we’re reliable. Even as a whole position group—if he calls on us to make a play, we have to make it. If not, then he’ll look elsewhere. So whoever is called upon, we have to come through for [Coach Chaney].”

On what he’s better at this season:

“I think just playing fast. Learning a new offense has a big learning curve. The big thing about it is that sometimes you might not know exactly what to do, but as long as you play fast then that’s all you have to do. I think playing fast, playing the speed of the game is something I’ve gotten a little bit better at this year.”