Good morning. Pitt is in the middle of practice No. 18 of fall camp today. Coach Pat Narduzzi spoke briefly with the media and said things got a little heated earlier this week at practice, but overall things are still going well.
**Joe Walton spoke to Pitt at practice today. Walton, who was an All-American tight end for Pitt in the 1950s, is a former NFL and Robert Morris coach.
**Narduzzi said he brought the band in on Tuesday in order to let his players experience the game day atmosphere.
**Narduzzi made some references to injuries or as he called it “too many guys laying on the ground” right now. He said they “escaped good” from practice yesterday, which I took to mean there was nothing he deemed major to report there.
**Narduzzi was asked several questions about the battle at the star linebacker position. He said Elijah Zeise is making strides and both he and Oluwaseum Idowu will see playing time coming up. Zeise is a converted receiver and Idowu is a converted safety. The duo spoke to the media this afternoon, so read below for their comments on the ongoing battle.
Narduzzi opening statement:
“Practice 18 today. Had a good one yesterday. Got a little tense out there, guys are flying around. We’ve got to practice more maturely I think, overall the take from yesterday’s practice is there’s too many guys laying on the ground. We’re trying to stay up and keep people healthy. Escaped good, but we’re playing on the edge right now. They have the pursuit in mind, but we’ve got to have the smart pursuit in mind as well. Happy where we are going into day 18. Got a little bit more game preparation stuff in. Working on some opening day stuff and we’ll continue to progress.”
Q: Was part of that bringing the band in?
“We tried to bring the band in last year but they were grinding up in Bradford, Pa. I just think the band is such a major part of what we do. It’s a thing we go to after the game. We sing the fight song. Just to get our players engaged with their players. That what they are. They’re players too. Let them know that we’re together with them and it’s a team”.
Q: You’ve done a lot of Villanova work then?
“We’ve done a little bit.”
Q: You said things got a little heated, how do you teach them to walk that line between being fired up and staying mature as you call it?
“It’s hard. It’s hard to do it because everybody is competing out there. We try to eliminate cheap shots. There’s maybe one or two of those. It’s usually that young freshman who doesn’t know how to control his emotions and he gets out there in the heat of the moment. We try to coach that up. We remind them after practice. We’ve just got to be smart. We can’t lose a guy to something that’s not what we teach. It’s hard. I think it’s real hard. I understand. I’ve been there.
Q: Have there been any classic training camp brawls?
“No. Actually, it’s been pretty good. Our guys, we’ve got great chemistry. I think our kids know how to act. Matter of fact we talked about it the first day. I said ‘Who’s going to be the guy on offense, who’s going to be the guy on defense?’ They pointed to the guy and it didn’t happen until practice six and it was really, really small. And I think we’ve only had really one of those all camp.
Q: Don’t want to mention any names?
“Nah. Doesn’t matter. It’s good players that are intense guys that you know on game day are going to show up…but they let their tempers get to them.”
Q: What does (offensive lineman) Adam Bisnowaty bring to this locker room?
“Bis is obviously an eagle for us. He is unique. He’s a fun guy, tells it like it is. Really I think the guys look up to him. He’s a guy who is a leader of this football team..
Q: What are the main impressions you have seen this spring and summer from (linebacker) Elijah Zeise (who converted from receiver)?
“Elijah has made improvements…I think Elijah made his major improvements in the spring and now you’re seeing littler improvements. Not as big as you’d like to see him, you want to see it go even more. I know it’s hard. He’s a receiver a year ago at this point. He’s been there for six months maybe. Again, he’s making strides. He’s going to play for us and continue to make him a better player.”
Q: Do you feel like he’s grasping the playbook well enough?
“Yeah, I think he is. We threw a lot at him. I think he’s going to even be better when we start to get in a game plan of hey this is what we’re doing. Right now the game plan is that big. It’s going to get down to that big. We’ll start to narrow down what we want to do against these guys. We try to install everything. Every scenario. Every situation in fall camp so when they hear it during the season whether it’s Week 1 or Week 8 they’ve heard it before, it’s not the first time. ‘Like what is that? I’ve never heard of it before.’ They’ve heard of everything and we’ll continue to rep it throughout camp.”
Q: Would it have made it different for him if you had moved him over right after the season?
Not really, because I think you need reps. We had talked about it. You say after the season, in bowl camp, bowl practice he was at linebacker. Wasn’t full-time, maybe mentally he didn’t know. But you need the reps. We saw what he could do in bowl season. I may have told you before but he lined up there. We said let’s try it. He looked at me like I was crazy and then he proceeded to make the next three or four tackles in a row. He was in on every tackle and he doesn’t even know what he’s doing. He can play football. He can play the game.
Q: How does he and Seun (Oluwaseum Idowu) kind of differ at that star (linebacker) position?
“You know I don’t think there’s a whole lot of difference there. Seun moved from safety, Elijah moved from receiver. They’re both very athletic. They both can run and they can both make plays in space. That’s what we ask that position to do. So they both have the ability to do it, and we’re going to see how they also react on game day. They’re both going to get opportunities to show what they have.”
Q: Are you going to reward any guys with scholarships the next few days?
“Might. Maybe. I don’t know. We have to look at that. Never even thought about it.”
Linebacker Elijah Zeise and Oluwaseun Idowu both spoke to the media today about the battle at the Star outside linebacker spot, which is one of the intriguing position battles in fall camp. The pair both went to North Allegheny together and are transitioning to linebacker from different positions, Zeise from receiver and Idowu from safety. Here are some thoughts.
Q: On the competition at linebacker and earning playing time:
“You just have to stay focused. There are spots up for grabs and I have to try to get everything done. I’m giving it my best try.”
Q: On his transition to linebacker:
“In the spring it was definitely an easier transition than I thought it would be. Now that we’re in camp and there’s a lot more stuff to learn, it kind of stumped me a little bit. There are times when I’ve been feeling frustrated, but there’s a lot of great players in that room and I just continue to learn from them and take their example to help with the transition.”
Q: On the complexity of the Pitt defense:
“It definitely gets pretty hard because with offense it’s pretty black and white. You know what route to run and all that. On defense, it’s a lot of reacting to everything and keying all your reads on every play. It’s a lot more involved than an offensive playbook.”
Q: On coming to Pitt as a walk-on and now competing for a starting spot:
“It’s a process and something to work through. Every day is a grind, but it makes me want it that much more coming from that position. I try to work hard every day and just get better and that’s where I’m at now.”
Q: On playing linebacker with fellow North Allegheny alum Elijah Zeise:
“It’s cool because we went to the same high school and graduated in the same class. He played offense and was an offensive guy, so I never thought I would be on the same side of the ball as him. When I heard about the move it was kind of crazy, but I thought it was cool. It’s just like playing next to your brother; we help each other out. Being from the same high school we share that bond and we lived together our freshman year, so coming into this it’s easy to help each other get better and better each day. It’s nice to have him next to me.”
Q: On how camp has been going for the defense:
“It’s going well. They [the offense] scheme against us and we scheme against them and try to beat each other. We compete every day, and it’s nice to get better and see different things from the offense and finding weaknesses in the defense to fix.”
Q: On what playing safety has also taught him that helps at linebacker:
“When you’re lining up and seeing the formation you have an idea of what the call might be, so you already know what you’re looking at. It’s like looking top down, but a little further back. You pretty much already know the calls, so that’s more knowledge to add to that position.”