A warm hello from your new Pitt football writer at the PG. I returned to work today following a lengthy (and lovely) vacation spent with family.
Some of you may remember me from when I covered West Virginia football in 2011 and 2012. (Don’t hold it against me). I also spent many years covering University of Maine football before relocating to the Pittsburgh area in 2011.
Without any further ado … your Pitt football practice report follows.
News from Monday, Aug. 15:
* Not much to be gleaned from our 30-minute window watching practice, other than it appeared to be the start of a long, hot, occasionally rainy day for Pitt.
* Coach Pat Narduzzi gave us a brief assessment of Saturday’s scrimmage (quote is below), which he said basically told him his team is slightly ahead of schedule from where he expected them to be a week into camp.
* It doesn’t sound like there is much separation from the pack in any position yet, including the deep pool of running backs and some intriguing battles at linebacker.
Pitt football coach Pat Narduzzi
“Saturday we had a great scrimmage. We came out here and ran about 130 plays I believe total, with special teams included. We were really crisp and really healthy. There were a lot of good things. Obviously a lot of things we can correct; but after six or seven practices, I would say that we're probably ahead of schedule. I was very happy with the attitude and the intensity that our guys took. Yesterday we went out and had another good morning after a physical scrimmage the day before, and we got a lot accomplished. Now we're at two-a-days today, so this is when the grind starts. We had individual dinners last night by position coaches, so we freshened them up before we get after it here today.”
On who won the scrimmage:
“The offense did win the scrimmage. It came down to a two-minute situation with the ones and twos at the end. It was a tight ball game. The offense did win the scrimmage, that's why they're wearing the blue jerseys today. You can always tell by the jersey color.”
On if any adjustments were made to the depth chart:
“There were little adjustments. Nothing major, which I guess is a good thing. I'd say about three or four little changes that you probably won't be able to see out there, but nothing that would surprise you. Just little moves here and there that just might happen.”
On how exciting it is to see his former Pitt players perform well in the NFL:
“You know what, we do get excited. I get excited. Those are Pitt Panthers. Those are Pitt men. The next day we got both of those plays up on [Twitter]. I know all of those guys have a dream to play at that next level. I texted Lafayette [Pitts] saying, 'Hey, how many times have you pressed and done that? You should be good down there in Miami, pressing and doing what you're doing.' That's what he did every day here for a year. Just to see it transfer from that field to down in Miami in an NFL game is great. I'm proud of those guys.”
On how difficult two-a-days will be for the players, especially the freshmen:
“We've got a tough group out there. We've got 20 seniors. The freshmen are like little ducklings that have to follow their parents. Mommy and daddy are going to walk, and they're going to follow. I think they'll do a good job of following the lead.”
On how things at the linebacker position have been progressing:
“I think we've got good depth there. I think when you look at it overall, especially with the starting group of [Matt] Galambos and Mike Caprara. [Quinton] Wirginis is doing a great job. Saleem Brightwell just continues to make plays. He doesn't always get lined up the way we want him to, but he's a football player. Out there at the star position, Seun [Oluwaseun] Idowu does a nice job. Elijah Zeise had a nice scrimmage. Bam Bradley, who I haven't mentioned, he's kind of been floating around doing a little bit of both. He's much improved. We've got a lot of depth at that position.”
On the offense struggling in the red zone during the scrimmage:
“We'll get down in there. The field gets constricted a little bit. You kind of tighten it down. Guys are making plays. We had an illegal procedure down there, so that's part of it. That's an easy fix. A lot of easy, fixable things, but the defense is doing some good things down there as well. It's scoring defense and scoring offense. We'd like to score when we're down there. As a head coach you kind of feel good for the defense, but then you kind of go, 'Ugh, we've got to score points down there.' You're never happy as you sit in that office up there.”
On what things he looks for as signs that the team is progressing during camp:
“The first thing is that there are not many guys in yellow jerseys. If you've got that, then you have a healthy, conditioned team. I think that Dave Andrews has done a great job through the offseason of preparing them, and I think that they're doing a great job of recovering after a practice. Today will be a big day. This week will be big. I told those guys yesterday that today is No. 8 and yesterday was seven. If you didn't count a spring game, that's halfway through spring ball really. So we got half of spring ball done in one week. That's a different deal. After this week we'll have 15 days done of spring ball and then we move on and get better. One of the things that we're looking for is consistency. Who are those guys that are consistently going to do it? Or are they like a yo-yo, up and down? The consistency part of it, the guys are engaged every day when they go out there and focused on the little things that they need to do to get better.”
On if he is beginning to see any separation at running back:
“There are so many good players back there right now that you're not seeing a whole lot. Right now, and again I'm not going to give you a depth chart, all of those guys are doing a great job. James [Conner] continues to impress in my opinion. I might even tweet out one of his runs. Just like the end of it, so you can't see the whole thing, but he continues to impress. Rachid [Ibrahim] had a great day the other day. Darrin Hall had a great day. [Chawntez] Moss continues to impress as well. Qadree [Ollison] has been really versatile in what he can do. I'm happy with the stable that we have back there.”
On how quarterback Ben DiNucci has progressed from where he was a year ago:
“He's certainly better. He's made some nice throws. His knowledge of the offense is a lot better. Right now I think Manny Stocker is ahead of him. It's probably one of those spots that we've seen a little bit of a change. As we move closer toSeptember 3rd, we've got to start to get that depth chart squeezed down and really get repetitions to the guys that need it. Right now I think Manny [Stocker] is separating himself a little bit at that spot. You're talking a fifth-year senior compared to a second-year redshirt freshman.”
On how the running backs' individual skill sets affect the role he sees for them:
“It is certainly a major factor. That's what we do as coaches. Whether it's the guys that can cover or the guys that can't cover, we're going to get involved in the run game. We'll put them in there when we know it's going to be a run. It's the same thing in that situation, but obviously as a tailback you better be versatile [enough] to do both. If you're just a runner and you can't pass protect or catch, defenses know that. We're certainly going to use the tools that they have.”
Offensive coordinator Matt Canada
On keeping the players on their toes:
“It's really been a good camp so far. Guys are playing well and working hard. I really like the way we are working. Our guys like football; I can't stress that enough. I appreciate the way our guys work.”
On the growth of quarterback Manny Stocker:
“He's getting better every day. He's taken a couple of big steps. We're throwing a lot at him, and he's taking it in stride. He's playing like a senior needs to play and I'm proud of him. He's probably more focused on the details. Manny worked hard [at NC State]. I would never question his work, but the details matter. So does appreciating pressure. Pressure is a privilege. Everybody doesn't have pressure. Sometimes we don't like it, but if you want to be the guy then there's going to be pressure there. I think he's learned to embrace that, understand it and work at that. I think he's attacking the details of the game and the details of his position.”
On how players will separate themselves at the running back position:
“Whoever is making the best plays and the best runs. We're fortunate to have as much talent as we do there. Sometimes you're in a tough position because you don't have anybody good enough to take the job and sometimes you have a whole bunch of guys who could be a No. 1; we fall in the latter right now. We have a very good stable of backs. Coach [Andre] Powell has done a tremendous job with them. They've done a tremendous job working. It is an extremely deep group. We'll see how it goes, but we feel really fortunate to have them all.”
On the plays from running backs that caught his eye during Saturday’s scrimmage:
“They all made some plays to be honest. They’ve all made plays through camp. It’s great to have James [Conner] back out here, and he’s certainly doing a great job. [Chawntez] Moss is a young guy who is doing tremendous. I think Qadree [Ollison] has really come back attacking and had a tremendous camp. So has Darrin Hall. All of those guys have done a great job. It's a really good group."
On the depth of the playbook:
“We don't have all of it in yet. We're adding to it every day and I appreciate how hard guys are working to learn it. We're slowly and methodically implementing it. The weapons we have and the guys who can make plays give us an opportunity to do different things. We're trying to be sound in what we are doing--simple is always better--so we're going to be sound in what we do and make sure we're always improving. We are fortunate to have multiple backs who can play, multiple tight ends who can play and multiple wideouts who can play.
On the role of the tight ends in the offense:
“I don't know. Saturday is different than Monday. Once we start playing on Saturdays we will see who comes in and makes plays. But they are going to have a role for sure.”