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Transcript: Pat Narduzzi's Oct. 3 press conference

Written by Craig Meyer on .

Pat Narduzzi met with the media Monday for his weekly press conference, with most of those 20 minutes being spent discussing Pitt's opponent Saturday, Georgia Tech, interspersed with a clumsily-handled response to the benching of star safety Jordan Whitehead in last Saturday's victory against Marshall.

Below is a transcript of that press conference:

 

Opening Statement:

“It’s great to come in here on a Monday after a win. It’s never fun when it’s the other way around. To put an end to last week’s chapter, we watched tape last night and yesterday afternoon and saw a lot of good things. There are also a lot of things to correct. Our first half was probably about as good of a 30 minutes as we’ve played as a football team. I thought the offense came out in the second half and really played well aside from a few little mistakes here and there. Defensively, we lost our focus a little bit. We were feeling good [but] we just didn’t do the little things we did in the first half. We need to learn from these mistakes and move on. It’s great to get a win when facing adversity. The only way to get adversity is to face the real thing. You can try to duplicate it in practice but you can only get it in a game. Our guys continue to fight to the end and we were able to finish the game off on both sides of the ball. Going into this week, our focus is on a good Georgia Tech football team. They’ve had two tough losses recently, kind of like where we were a week ago. They are coming off losses to Miami and Clemson—two really good football teams. They started 3-0 and now they are 3-2. I think this game will be two evenly matched teams, two very good defenses against the run. They are really good in the red zone. They are strong and sound defensively. Ted Roof is an excellent defensive coordinator. I’ve known him through the years and have a lot of respect for him. I think he was up here in the state of Pennsylvania at one time. On offense, Coach [Paul] Johnson is going on his 20th year. He does a tremendous job with the triple option. He’s a great coach and obviously heavily involved in what they do offensively. We’ve got a little extra tape from two games [against the option] that we had last year, Georgia Tech and Navy. We’ve done a good job preparing for this in the summer with our ‘Panther Period.’ Preparing for this type of offense is something that we focused on and needed to get good at. I feel much more comfortable coming into this game than we did a year ago. I think that will help as we move forward defending the option. Both teams will have some changes and there will be things we need to react to as the game goes on. Our guys have a good idea of what changes we made during the summer and how we will work on defending the option.”

On defending quarterback Justin Thomas and the Georgia Tech backfield:

“I think he’s their second-leading carrier this year. The leading carrier is Dedrick Mills, the freshman. I think he’s (Mills) a special player as well. We have to be prepared for the guy under center and the guy behind him. Those are the two guys who are getting most of the carries. They also have their A-backs, which are two guys on the wings who are constantly going in motion. They have a lot of speed. They can split out and get vertical. They are fast.”

On what makes Georgia Tech difficult to defend:

“It’s the scheme and the speed together. Speed is one thing—everybody at this level has speed. It’s really what they do and how they do it. They are so good at the option. It’s not the speed, and Navy proves that. I don’t think Navy has the fastest guys in the country. They’re not getting a bunch of 4- and 5-star recruits. It’s the execution of that offense that is special. When you have the speed and the scheme, it’s scary.”

On how challenging it is to prepare for an offense you only see once or twice a year:

“Every week is a little bit different. You’re facing a different offense with a different quarterback and a different run game. Every week and game is a little different. In the second half this past weekend, Marshall came out and ran plays we hadn’t seen. It’s certainly advantageous for them. They run that offense every day and we prepare for it once a year. That is why it was so important for us to get some time during fall camp to work on them [Georgia Tech].

On his impressions of Pitt’s freshman class through five games:

“When you look at the freshmen who are playing, you have Aaron Mathews, who had a reception this past week. ‘Frenchie’ [Maurice Ffrench] had a nice little run around the edge as well. We’re looking forward to what he’s going to do in the future. Those are two spots that you are happy with. There are other spots that you are not as happy with. I’d like to get more out of Amir Watts. It’s hard for freshmen to come in and be mature enough to play at this level. It’s a big learning curve. I’m happy with what we’ve got so far. We have some guys who are going to come on that we’d like to save [redshirt] if we can. If they are young guys who are competing and aren’t clearly better than another guy, we’re going to treat it as if he will be much better next year. We don’t play a guy just to see what happens. That’s bad coaching. We have some good players we have in our pockets that are going to be fun to watch in the future.”

On if the lack of depth on the defensive line is impacting stamina later in games:

“A little bit. It’s been so cool out, though. I could see that in North Carolina with the temperature what it was. I lost probably five pounds in that game, so I can’t image what they lost in water weight. I think we have some guys that can contribute there. I’d like to see [Mike] Herndon in there this week. This could be a great game for Amir Watts because he can move. We just have to get him going and get him coached up.”

On Georgia Tech’s triple-option attack:

“Our guys would rather you run the ball. You can probably see that. We like to defend the run. Obviously, the option gives you a whole different perspective on defending the run. Really we’d like to just line up the “I” formation and run the power. That’s how football used to be. Now it’s the spread and tricky football. But this will be fun. I think our guys are looking forward to it. I was here until really late last night watching tape. I enjoy trying to figure this out. It’s nice to have two games under your belt when you look at what we did against Navy and Georgia Tech last year. We’re going to tweak some things here and there because they are prepared for what they saw. Both teams will have new things, but it’s nice to go back and dissect what you did in the past and learn how it can make you better.”

On the status of Jordan Whitehead:

 

“No. Nothing different than I told you Saturday. We hope it’ll be soon.”

On if Whitehead is practicing with the team?

“You’ll see tomorrow morning. You guys know I’m not going to talk about injuries or anything else about anybody.”

On if whatever kept Whitehead out of the lineup is resolved:

“This seems like a hot topic here...It’s never resolved, is it? It’s never resolved. We’re still working. Next?”

 

On the development of wide receiver Jester Weah from last year to this year:

“Jester is playing at a high level. He is big, strong, athletic, and he can catch. You can hold him or jump on his back, but you still can’t stop him. He’s a horse. He’s a great football player and it’s what we expected. His confidence is high and it should be because he’s got strong hands. That’s the most impressive thing. He continues to practice better every day too. I think you play like you practice. And when he practices at a high level and competes in practice to catch every ball, we’re getting the same results we are on Saturdays.”

On if facing Georgia Tech and Navy last year will help in preparation this week:

“Yeah, I think so. When you face this type of offense twice, it helps. Is that going to lead to success? I don’t know. We need to stop it. It does help that we’ve seen it. We have an idea of what we like going against it. There are no guarantees. They are over there drawing stuff on the board, too, saying ‘If they do this, we’re going to do that.’ Paul [Johnson] does a good job scheming the offense.”

On what he took from the Navy game last season that will help this week:

“I’m not going to get into any X’s and O’s because I’ll just be blabbering on, but we didn’t play very well. I also did a bad job getting them prepared for the game. We did a better job preparing for Georgia Tech last year and we still didn’t stop it. We didn’t defend the spread like I’d like to. Against Navy, you have seniors departing thinking about their next move. It didn’t seem like they were fired up at first but then we got them fired up and thought we had them ready. It was a tough three weeks of defending the option and I don’t think they enjoyed it. So I did a bad job.”

On cornerback Damar Hamlin dressing against Marshall:

“We want everybody to dress. He’s a guy that hasn’t been ready to go but he’s getting better. He’s getting better on the field, doing good things. He’s always got a smile on his face. That’s the best thing. Is he where he needs to be football-wise? Probably not. But he can get there before it’s too late.”

On his philosophy on using freshmen and taking into account redshirts:

“Some people say use them and don’t worry about it because they may leave you in three years anyways. I hate to look at it that way. They spend a lot of time getting to where they are, whether they are on scholarship or not. We want to use them the right way. Even someone like Amir Watts, who hasn’t played a lot, starts to make me feel guilty as a coach. We started playing him a lot and then he kind of has hung around and not done as well in practice. I feel like it’s his fault and my fault. I’m at fault when a guy doesn’t progress at practice like I feel like he should. I don’t want to do that to someone else either. They have to be better than the guy they are competing with before we put a guy out there. We are very careful with their reps. If we’re going to put them in there, we want to use them. I want to protect our kids and make sure they are playing a lot. It’s tough when you are not playing a lot and you didn’t use your redshirt. It’s not fair.”

On Nathan Peterman gaining more confidence with a strong finish against Marshall:

“It’s good for everybody’s confidence. Our offense was clicking. We threw for more than we ran, which was part of the plan. It was great for Nathan to make those shots. He hit a couple of them and he missed a couple, too. He’s done a good job and we trusted him to put the ball in the air on third down. That was a huge play [the touchdown to Weah] and we aren’t afraid to do that on third down or in the four-minute offense.”

On what went into the play call on the touchdown pass from Nathan Peterman to Jester Weah:

“They were playing a lot of man. We took advantage of what they were giving us. Offensively we were two-dimensional, and you’d like to be that way.”

On Marshall’s ability to run the ball in the second half:

“It wasn’t poor tackling. There were a couple of calls that as coaches we put blame on ourselves. Another part of it was alignments—little things. If you are out of position by alignment, the tackles become more difficult. Your alignments have to be good—you turn open-field tackles into sure tackles. That’s what it comes down to—being in the right position.”

On the productive play of running back Chawntez Moss and whether he has earned more carries:

“Chawntez [Moss] is a good football player. I don’t know if he’s earning any more than he got. James Conner is pretty good, too, so it’s nice to have a two-headed monster back there. We’re going to continue to take care of James and make sure he isn’t overworked. We constantly talk to him and make sure he is good. James would be the first one to say how excited he is about Chawntez and what he did because it helps him [Conner]. James doesn’t need 45 carries—all it’s doing is beating him down. I’ve been on teams where we’ve had guys with 45 carries in a game and he doesn’t need that now or for the rest of his life. It’s great when you can count on somebody else. We can count on Chawntez and I think we can count on Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall as well.”

On what was accomplished during his “Panther Period” sessions in practice:

“Defensively it was to plan for Georgia Tech. That’s what it was. We spent a lot of minutes on Georgia Tech going from individual to team situations and working on little things we need to do fundamentally. For example, we need to stop the run. Whether it’s a spread offense or a triple offense, we need to make the plays necessary to stop them. We looked at it during the summer just so we could get our kids further along. Offensively, we worked on a three-man front. They see a four-man front every day, so it was important to get them to focus on stuff that we normally don’t see in a team period when we play our offense against our defense.”

 

Craig Meyer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG

 

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