Narduzzi on the recruits: Defense

Written by Sam Werner on .

What did Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi think of the players in Pitt's 2016 recruiting class? You can see his quotes on the offensive players here, and here's a rundown of his comments on the new Panthers on the defensive side of the ball...

Keyshon Camp, DL, 6-4, 275 lbs; Lakeland, Fla./Lake Gibson HS
"A big, big football player. You may have seen, if you follow Twitter enough — I know some of you guys do — he made a big snow angel at the middle of Heinz Field. That was him. That was his body. By the size of that angel, you know that's the guy. Josh Conklin did an unbelievable job staying on him. He was originally to USC, Southern Cal. Josh did a great job staying on him. When things didn't quite go how Keyshon wanted, he fell into our lap and we were able to gain his trust. Keyshon's going to be an unbelievable player for us. Defensive tackle, but athletic enough to play defensive end. He can fit several different molds there."

Phil Campbell, DB/RB, 6-1, 195 lbs; Kendall Park, N.J./South Brunswick HS
"He'll start off at the safety position, unless [running backs] coach [Andre] Powell has something to do with it. Coach Salem recruits New Jersey, New York area, really all of New England. Did a great job with Phil. Tremendous athlete, athletic safety. Could be a tailback as well. We'll see where our needs take us, and he knows that. Phil's a tremendous person with a great family."

Therran Coleman, DB, 6-0, 190 lbs; Pittsburgh, Pa./Brashear HS
"From Brashear High School here in the city. Champion. Will play corner for us. Tall, athletic, has great ball skills. Will just add to our secondary in every way. He's probably the most mature player we have in our program, really. When you talk to him, he is focused and locked in to what he wants to do. He works out about every day with his dad. Maybe too much. He does an unbelievable job in every aspect of his life, and he's a great student."

Bricen Garner, DB, 6-1, 175 lbs; Pittsburgh, Pa./Central Catholic HS
"He is a great football player, probably one of the most underrated players in this class. Bricen was a guy that we loved on tape, wanted to find out more about who he was and what he was. He came to camp and blew it away. When you talk about earning a scholarship, Bricen certainly did that. Not only because of his play on the field, but he came into camp with the pressure being on. The Central Catholic guys, very well-coached by Terry Totten, and a lot of them are in this Pittsburgh area. [Bricen]'s a great technician. Everybody's got different skill levels, and he's a guy, with his skill levels, also plays with great technique. Bricen's going to be a great addition to that secondary."

Zack Gilbert, DL, 6-1, 240 lbs; Charlotte, N.C./South Mecklenburg HS
"A big defensive tackle, played some defensive end. His d-line coach was a guy by the name of Sean Gilbert, obviously a great football player here. Zack is a super, super kid. Going to be a big-time player for us and can't wait to get him on campus."

Damar Hamlin, DB, 6-1, 185 lbs; McKees Rocks. Pa./Central Catholic HS
"Tremendous athlete. Had him in camp, as well. Damar came into our indoor facility for kind of a one-day came with Evolve. You talk about a tremendous athlete, some of the best feet, hips, athletic corners that you can probably recruit. Can't say enough about him in the process. You guys all watched the video the other night about sitting right over here as far as how excited the staff got. Any time you go on TV and commit to the University of Pittsburgh at 6 o'clock in the evening when we're not really working, we're just kind of hanging out enjoying ourselves. Damar's a super player, he's very intelligent not only in the classroom, but on the field. We're excited, obviously, to have him in this class."

Bryce Hargrove, DL, 6-4, 260 lbs; Akron, Ohio/Coventry HS
"Another kid that camped here at the University of Pittsburgh. I talk about those guys that come to camp. Bryce came over to camp, as well. I don't believe we offered him prior to camp. I may be wrong, but again, another very big athlete. Something that we don't have a lot of, didn't get a lot in the last class."
"Bryce certainly helps us in the 'power' category. He's athletic, he's a basketball player. Great family support system there. Another guy, like lot of these guys got that hit late by some other big schools. The beautiful thing about some of these guys that got hit is they didn't call me and say, 'Coach, I'm thinking about going to visit here.' They just said, 'No thank you,' hung up and said, 'Coach, I got a call from such-and-such.' Don't need to mention the school, but just flat-out turned them down immediately without a fight."

George Hill, ATH, 5-11, 200 lbs; Youngstown, Ohio/Hubbard HS
"We've got him listed as an athlete because he is a flat-out athlete. Fast, probably one of the faster guys we have. A 10.6[-second] hundred-meter guy in the state of Ohio, I believe. Or at least will be this year. Has timed out anywhere between 10.6 and 10.8 in the 100-meter. He can play offense or defense. May just start him off on offense as a tailback or some H-back position. He shows up on every type of film you're going to find. He's got really good speed and athletic ability. He can go up and get the ball. We're looking forward to getting George here."

Patrick Jones, DL, 6-5, 250 lbs; Chesapeake, Va./Grassfield HS
"He’s 250 on the dot, but he’s a big athlete. Another guy that adds to that ‘power’ position. He can play tight end, he can play defensive end. If we need his services on offense, we’re going to find out what his ball skills look like because we did not have him in camp. Again, another very underrated player that can run and tackle people, so we’re happy to have him on defense."

Henry Miller, DB, 6-3, 205 lbs; Kissimmee, Fla./Gateway HS
"Henry’s another tall, lengthy DB. He’s 6-foot-3, can do a lot of different things if you watch him play cornerback. Plays a little tailback. You guys will see the video, very athletic guy. Again, another guy that was being hit very late in the recruiting process and we were able to hang on to him."

Chase Pine, LB, 6-2, 220 lbs; Williamsburg, Va./Lafayette HS
"He’s all over Twitter. People thought he was back and forth. Rob Harley did a great job of recruiting him and keeping him in the boat. He’s been forever committed. He really never wavered. It looked like he was, it looked like he was in, he’s out, he’s in, he’s out. A guy that has a lot of people around him in his ear, like all these kids do. In the end, Chase was able to sign with us today. He’s a big, very physical linebacker that’s going to play a lot of football for us on defense."

Kaezon Pugh, LB, 6-1, 210 lbs; Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa HS
"We know about the tradition at Aliquippa and it’s just great to keep that tradition going. Kaezon, a very athletic linebacker, a guy that can line up and play tailback for you. Came to camp, as well. Had a scholarship going into camp because his tape was unbelievable. Again, at 6-foot-1, 210-pounds, I think this guy’s going to blow up when he starts eating in our program and lifting with coach Andrews. Kaezon Pugh, super, super kid."

Elias Reynolds, LB, 6-2, 225 lbs; Brooklyn, N.Y./Poly Prep Country Day School
"Just another guy that we really don’t have enough of in our program. Guys that can play special teams, play linebacker. That guy can be an H-back, an athletic guy on offense, as well. Elias is a super kid that committed to us probably about three weeks ago, I believe. Maybe two-and-a-half weeks ago. A linebacker that we badly need. Very intelligent kid at Poly Prep and has great football intelligence."

Amir Watts, DL, 6-3, 270 lbs; Chicago/Wendell Phillips Academy
"Really a super kid, like every one of these guys. A defensive tackle. It says 6-3, 270-pound guy that’s, again, athletic. He could come in here and play defensive end, as well. We’ll see what he looks like when he gets here. Happy to have him in this class."

Rashad Weaver, DL, 6-5, 255 lbs; Cooper City, Fla./Cooper City HS
"I’ve known for a couple of days that he was going to come. He wanted to mess with coach Salem a little bit. I’ve known for the last couple of days, but you never know until you get that paper in. He just wanted to keep it quiet and make a big splash on signing day. As 2:30 approached, I was like, ‘Where is this guy? Maybe he’s not coming.’ From Cooper City High School right down outside of Fort Lauderdale in south Florida. A big, 6-foot-5, 255-pound kid that was originally committed to Michigan. They dropped him for whatever reason, and he’s a guy that really adds depth to our defensive line in this class. Big, athletic defensive end that can run. He can be a tight end. Very physical and, again, just another super kid who came up here without his mom for a visit. I think it was real hard for the mom to let her go someplace she hadn’t seen, so we’ll get her up here eventually, let her see it. Very, very intelligent kid that’s coming to this program and will add a lot to us."

Rashad Wheeler, DL, 6-3, 280 lbs; Pittsburgh, Pa./Central Catholic HS
"Another big defensive tackle, played some defensive end. Those guys are very athletic. At that ‘power’ position, we’ve got a lot of big athletes that really can do a lot of different things, whether it’s d-end or d-tackle. Rashad is, again, a guy that’s really been a great recruiter in that high school for the last five or six months. I think he committed late summer and is going to be a super, super player for us."

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Zatkoff wants to 'redeem' himself - 02-04-16

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

With road games on back-to-back nights this weekend, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said he has yet to make a decision if he'll split starts between goaltenders Marc-Andre Fleury and Jeff Zatkoff.

If Zatkoff does play in one of the games - either Friday against the Lightning or Saturday against the Panthers - he's hoping to preform much better than his last game, a 5-2 road loss to the Blues Jan. 18 when he allowed four goals on 20 shots.

After serving as the team's backup in 2013-14 and spending the 2014-15 campaign with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League, Zatkoff has appeared in 10 games this season and has a 3-5-1 record with a 2.77 goals against average and a .918 save percentage.

Earlier today, Zatkoff talked about his immediate and long-term future with the team.


If you do play this weekend, how important is it for you to rebound after that game in St. Louis?

"I just want to get in there again. You never like ending on a loss, especially where you don't feel you've played your best. I think it's one thing, as a backup, if you're sitting on a loss and you know you played well and you do what you're capable of. But I think I can honestly play better than I did in St. Louis. I've been looking forward to getting in there and kind of redeem myself."

A common phrase in sports is "having a short memory." If you play badly, you have to forget about it as soon as possible. Is that difficult when you're a backup goaltender?

"I think you sit on it longer, right? I don't know how long it's been since St. Louis but when you're playing more often, right away you're playing that next night or the following night so you've got to clear your mind. I think as a backup, you have more time to look over the video and work on your habits to get back. So sometimes, it can be an advantage. I looked at it afterwards and obviously I'm not dumb. I know when I played a game if I played as well as I could or not. I felt like I could play better. I've just been waiting for the next opportunity to get back in there."

With the down time, have you worked on any specific aspects of your game?

"No. I think I've been playing well. That St. Louis game, I started off well. I think for me what happened, I gave up that first one off a bad play with the turnover and I think I just lost a little bit of my concentration mentally and kind of let it get away from me a little bit. Maybe just overthought it a little too much instead of kind of erasing it, forgetting it and moving on. It's in the past. I think I kind of dwelled on that first goal and it creeped into the rest of my game and made me play a little bit unsure instead of having that extra confidence. I know I can play in this league. Second [season] now and been putting up good numbers. I just want to get back in there and give the team a chance to win when I get in."

How have you assessed your season?

"Good. I don't think obviously my record is probably not where I want it to be but I think you've got to look at that with a grain of salt, some of the games I've had and the losses I've taken. I feel a lot more comfortable this year than my first year in terms of just reading plays, feeling comfortable in the environment. I think that's shown in my save percentage but [also] in game. Just my confidence being in those situations. It's like anything. I think as a goalie, the more you play, the more comfortable you get. So the longer you spend here, the longer you feel comfortable with the game and the surroundings. Even though I haven't played in a long time, once you get in there, the first period, it comes back within a minute or two."

You're scheduled to become a free agent this upcoming offseason and the Penguins have some goaltending prospects in the wings with Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry. Do think about what the offseason could bring for you?

"No. You can't really worry about that this time of year. I love it here. Pittsburgh, they've been so great o me. From [former general manager Ray Shero] and [former head coach Dan Bylsma] to [associate general manager Jason Botterill] and [assistant general manager Bill Guerin] and [general manager Jim] Rutherford and [vice president of hockey operations Jason] Karmanos. Given me opportunities. They're a bit part of the reason why I'm here today. They're the ones that gave me this opportunity. That stuff will all play out in the summer. We'll see what happens. Obviously, they've got some really good goalies down in [Wilkes-Barre/Scranton] but that stuff will shake out in the summertime. I'm just worried about right now playing with this team and enjoying my time with these guys and trying to get into the playoffs here."

(Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)


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Narduzzi on the recruits: Offense

Written by Sam Werner on .

Pat Narduzzi introduced Pitt's 2016 recruiting class on national signing day Wednesday. What did the head coach think about each player the Panthers signed this year? Here are Narduzzi's quotes on each guy:

Chris Clark, TE, 6-6, 245 lbs; Ridgewood, N.J./Avon Old Farms HS (Conn.)
"Chris was the number one tight end in the country a year ago. We recruited him at my last stop, weren't able to get him. I thought we were going to get him, but we lost. A lot of people lost. He was recruited by everybody in the country. We're hoping that he'll play for us sooner than later. That's still out there and we're still through that process, fighting for him to be able to line up and play for us this year. We've got Dan Bartholomae working hard on it. He's a great person, comes from a great family. He played up at Avon Old Farms in Connecticut, but really hails from the state of New Jersey. Super football player."

Maurice Ffrench, WR, 5-11, 15 lbs; New Brunswick, N.J./New Brunswick HS
"We've got him listed as a receiver. He's an athlete. Maurice is from New Brunswick High School in New Jersey, another guy that Tim Salem and the entire staff recruited. Athlete. Again, we have needs at the receiver position. I think he would come in there and maybe fill in for a Tyler Boyd type guy. But we know if we get in a pinch, he can line up in the secondary and help u s there. An electric player that had plenty of people coming at him even late in the game trying to flip him. Appreciate his support here."

Ruben Flowers, WR, 6-3, 190 lbs; Lima, Ohio/Lima Senior HS
"He's a 6-foot-3, 190-pound wideout from Lima, Ohio. Basketball player, very athletic. He's I think 18-0 or 19-0 in his basketball season. He provides us a big target in the future. Again, a guy that's really been committed to us since the summer and has bought in from the beginning."

Brandon Ford, OL, 6-5, 295 lbs; Upper St. Clair, Pa./Upper St. Clair HS
"I believe he was the first commitment. Big 6-foot-5, 300-pound offensive lineman from Upper St. Clair here in the Pittsburgh area. He is a big, very athletic giant. He's a guy that the first day at a basketball game in February tried to commit to me. I kind of said, 'Brandon, make sure you get the right people.' He slowed down the process and we were able to catch back up with him a couple of months later. Mom and dad sat in my office and he committed. Again, I think the first one of the class. That guy's always a special one in this class."

Thomas MacVittie, QB, 6-5, 225 lbs; Cincinnati, Ohio/Moeller HS
"A guy that, again, came to camp and we recruited as a quarterback. He's a tremendous kid, got a great family, from a great high school in Moeller. He's a 6-5, 225-pound drop back guy, but you can say he's a dual-threat quarterback because he can run and he will hit you, so we're happy to have another quarterback in this class."

Aaron Mathews, WR, 6-4, 190 lbs; Clairton, Pa./Clairton HS
"He's a guy that we wanted back in the summer. We offered him a long time ago. We were able to I guess gain his commitment in the last week, week-and-a-half, gain his trust. Aaron's going to be a huge addition to the wide receiver corps with the absence of Tyler Boyd from his same high school. We're happy to have Aaron. We saw him, he played quarterback in high school, he played defense and, again, at the receiver position, he brings a lot of toughness to the game. He's a guy that's going to be able to go downfield and not only catch the football, but be able block people and break some big runs. We're happy with Aaron."

Justin Morgan, OL, 6-6, 365 lbs; Bronx, N.Y./Poly Prep Country Day School
"The guy's a giant, really. He can hug you and you might be gone, some of you guys in here. He's a huge man from Poly Prep Country Day Academy in the Bronx, New York. He's got great support there. His mom actually lives in Brooklyn, and he's got family right there in the Bronx. Really, to go to that school, to get what he wanted academically, he would have to drive two-and-a-half hours with the traffic in New York. Thank that host family for taking him into their home. That tells you what type of kid he is when he's brought into your home. He's a big, very athletic offensive lineman. You would not think he's 365 pounds, and very athletic and physical. Again, a super, super person as all these kids are."

Chawntez Moss, RB, 5-11, 195 lbs; Bedford, Ohio/Bedford HS
"Chawntez is the only true tailback in this class, so he's got a lot of pressure on him because we're going to run the football. Chawntez is a guy that we loved on tape. His coach had faith in us when we said, 'Hey, listen. We love him. We want him to come to camp and make sure that he fits into it.' It didn't take long at that camp to see that's exactly what he was. He walked out of that camp and much like Bricen did, he earned a scholarship in camp. I know exactly what we have, and he's been impressive, like the other two [early enrollees have] in their workouts the last couple of weeks they've been here."

Zack Williams, OL, 6-5, 275 lbs; Silver Springs, Fla./North Marion HS
"A big, big athlete. Was off the radar from a lot of people's standpoints because he was a tight end. Maybe some people called him a slow tight end, but we saw something in him, as far as what he did on tape, even in his junior year as a tight end. I think he can be a tight end, he can be an offensive tackle. He's big and athletic, and he's got good ball skills. Zack comes to us, coach Peterson did a great job recruiting him down in that area. He's going to be a great one for us."

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Empty Netter Assists - What to do without Fehr? - 02-04-16

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


-How will the Penguins replace center Eric Fehr (aboveif his "lower-body" injury is long term?

-Fast starts have been rare for the Penguins.

-How can center Matt Cullen play so many positions at age 39?

-Head coach Mike Sullivan speaks:

-Happy 31st birthday to former Penguins center Mark Letestu. A free agent signing late in the 2006-07 season, Letestu spent parts of three seasons with the Penguins. As a rookie in 2009-10, he appeared in 10 games and scored one goal. He saw action in four playoff games in 2010 and recorded one assist. During 2010-11, Letestu appeared in 64 games and and scored 27 points. In seven postseason games that spring, he recorded one assist. After 11 games and one assist in 2011-12, Letestu was traded to the Blue Jackets for a draft pick. In 85 regular season games with the Penguins, Letestu scored 29 points. In 11 postseason games, he recorded two assists. He is currently a member of the Oilers.

-Happy 33rd birthday to former Penguins right winger Lee Stempniak. Acquired at the 2014 trade deadline in a deal which sent a draft pick to the Flames, Stempniak spent part of the 2013-14 season with the Penguins. In 21 regular season games in 2013-14, he scored 11 points. Stempniak played in 13 postseason games that spring and scored three points. During the 2014 offseason, he joined the Rangers as a free agent. He is currently a member of the Devils.

-After the Jump: Dennis Wideman is suspended 20 games.

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VIDEO: Pat Narduzzi Signing Day press conference

Written by Sam Werner on .

Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi:

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