FORT WORTH, Texas — I caught up with Pat Narduzzi briefly at Michigan State's Cotton Bowl media availability today, and he said that while his focus over the past few days has been primarily on the Spartans' defensive gameplan for Baylor, he has spent his spare time getting ready to step into the Pitt head coaching role full-time.
In terms of the coaching staff, Narduzzi has had some phone calls with various candidates, but said he wants to meet with the current Pitt staff before he gets too far into the process. That won't happen until after Pitt's bowl game Jan. 2, since Narduzzi wants to be respectful of this team and their process leading up to the game.
"I don't think that's fair to do to the kids," Narduzzi said. "It comes down to the kids, because if the coaches kind of know their fate, then maybe they coach like they know their fate. I want to keep everybody locked in and have an opportunity to talk to people."
Rest assured, though. He has been calling every committed Pitt recruit, as well as a few new targets. Since it's a dead period, though, he can only call each prospect once a week, which sort of limits just how much he can dive into recruiting. I will say, though, just based on my conversation with him, that recruiting is really something that Narduzzi is excited about. Granted, he seems excited about most things, but it's clear he understands how important it is and really does seem to enjoy the recruiting process.
Here are a few other notes from today...
- Pitt safety Ray Vinopal had some fun during the team's press conference today when he said that Narduzzi's "going to do a great job, even though he's a Ursuline guy." Cardinal Mooney and Ursuline High School are two big rivals in Youngstown, Ohio. Vinopal went to Cardinal Mooney, and Narduzzi went to Ursuline. Vinopal said Narduzzi even took a playful shot at Cardinal Mooney when he met Vinopal for the first time Friday night. When someone noted that Narduzzi had a big win over Cardinal Mooney his senior year of high school, Vinopal shot back "yeah, one time" and noted that he was 3-1 against Ursuline in his high school career.
"We all know who owns the series," he said.
Despite the rivalry, there is a bond amongst the Youngstown football community that Vinopal and Narduzzi share.
"It's old-school, tough, disciplined, accountable, smart football," Vinopal said. "People back home take it real seriously. It's important to them and whatever they're doing, they pride themselves on it."
- Defensive coordinator Matt House said he's not worrying about his job status right now. That's something that'll come after the bowl game's over.
"Just like the kids, I'm a competitor, too," House said. "And I want to go out winning our last game. It's a hell of a lot different finishing 7-6 than 6-7. The only thing we're worrying about is [the bowl game] January 2nd."
- House also had an interesting comment when he said Pitt could play a decent amount of dime defense against Houston Friday. A true dime package with six defensive backs (assuming Terrish Webb and Ryan Lewis don't play, apparently both are questionable) would be Lafayette Pitts, Avonte Maddox at cornerback, Patrick Amara and Ray Vinopal at nickel and Reggie Mitchell and Jevonte Pitts as the extra DBs. When I noted to House that that alignment would involve just about all of Pitt's healthy defensive backs, he responded "You never know, we might pull something out." So I don't know if House has something up his sleeve in (most likely) his final game at Pitt, or if he was just joking with me. We'll find out.
- Quarterback Chad Voytik gave us his initial impressions of Narduzzi today: "I think he's going to be an intense coach. I've heard from other guys who know guys that have played under him [and they've said] he's going to push you and bring intensity. I think he showed that a little bit in our meeting."