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October 19, 2016

Pat Narduzzi

Greensboro, North Carolina

PAT NARDUZZI: Obviously you stated it best, that we are going to enjoy a bye this weekend, and coming off a nice road victory, our first of the year, which was good to get down in Charlottesville against a very good football team in Virginia. We're excited we get a couple extra days to prepare for Coach Fuente and his ball club that comes to Heinz Field.

With that I'll open it up for questions.

Q. A couple generations ago guys playing both ways was a pretty common thing, back in the '50s and '60s and way before that even, but at Pitt it hasn't been much until you showed up last year. Do you think it's a growing trend in college football? Peppers is doing it at Michigan. Is it a growing trend now for coaches to go that route with some players?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, we're just going to try to put our best football players out there in positions where they can be successful, and obviously we think Jordan can do that and has a pretty good handle mentally on what he's doing on one side of the ball, and same thing with James Conner. Would have done it a year ago if we had that opportunity, and we've been talking about it all year of giving him that opportunity, but I don't know what else -- what everybody else is doing in the country, and I did hear about Jabril, and he's that type of guy that can do both. I know we did it at Michigan State when I was there. Tony Lippett played receiver for us, played DB for us, and actually started for the Dolphins last couple weeks as a corner when he was a receiver most of his career, so you never know where these guys are going to end up at the next level. But we're just giving kids opportunities and helping ourselves win a football game.

Q. Is it a special type of player to be able to do that?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, you definitely do. You've got to have a guy that's got a high motor and obviously he's got to be an elite football player, which both of those guys that are doing it for us are, and I think we can do it with some other guys, too, it's just a matter of the right opportunity, the right situation.

Q. I know you said you're going to enjoy the open date; I'm curious with the Thursday night game this week, will you watch that, and will you watch it with family, will you watch it with coaches? Will you avoid it? How do you handle that?
PAT NARDUZZI: We're going to watch it, obviously. I probably won't watch it live. We'll be game planning getting ready for stuff that we know for sure they're doing. It's always harder to watch it on TV than it is to watch it on video. We don't get to see end zone, we can rewind it when we went to, but our team, the guys that are available that don't have class, we'll probably watch it right in our team room, put the TV on and have a little pizza deal there and get a chance to watch it together as a team.

Q. As a follow-up, why did you feel last week was the time to ask James if he wanted to play some defensive end?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, it was a team -- Virginia likes to throw the ball. I think they were 65 percent pass overall when you looked at it, and we had some ideas of when they liked to throw it and when they don't. They were down 14 I think at the point when we put him in there. There's not enough time in the day to rep the runs, although we've repped some of their base runs with him at defensive end. We don't want him in there fighting base blocks if we don't have to, so I anticipate maybe people if they see 24 out there trying to run the football, so we've worked a little bit of that, but we want him more as a designated pass rusher and using his athletic ability to get to the quarterback, so we'll just be very careful. We've worked him in our 3rd down and long package, as well, so he knows that. He just didn't play as much of that and didn't have a need to wear it out in that package, either.

We'll just sprinkle it in there when we need it.

Q. What does he have or what does he bring to the table that he can basically practice for a week and then go and play a couple snaps and then he almost got the strip sack fumble on one of them. Why is he able to do that?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, because he's such a great athlete. He's a football player and he's got great football intelligence. We call it FBI. We put him in pass rush last week and let him go down against Bisnowaty and Brian O'Neill and Jaryd Jones-Smith just to see how he'd do it, and in his first rush it looked exactly like what you saw on Saturday out of his first rush, and he's got that type of knack of just getting to the football and making plays.

Ultimately it's our job as football coaches to put guys in position to make plays, and James is one of those guys that we'll put him in position, get him lined up, and he has the ability to make plays. Not every football player has that ability, and you're looking for guys that will make plays, and I would count on No. 24 making a play when you put him in wherever it is. He can go in as a linebacker if we want him to and be able to run some of our base blitzes, too, so there's some different things that we can do with him.

Q. Does Virginia Tech bring a unique challenge defensively for your offense, and does this extra time particularly help facing a team that's had such a good season?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, I think certainly the extra time will help anybody. Number one, it helps us get a little fresher, heal some of our bangs and bruises, but strategically, obviously it gets us another few days to work on both sides of the ball, as well, special teams to maybe get some different tweaks in and maybe have some things we haven't shown so far ready for them with that extra time.

But it certainly helps their defense, and Bud Foster does a great job like he always has. That side of the ball has not changed, where their offense has changed a little bit from what they were a year ago. So it'll help us. We scored 17 points last year on that stern Bud Foster defense, and it gives us a few more extra days to get more than 17 we hope.

Q. You were credited by a lot of team at the game Saturday for your halftime adjustments. Why did they give you so much trouble in the first half, and what were you able to do to reduce the damage in the second half?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know what, I think it's just coaches get all the credit for making all these great halftime adjustments. I think a lot of times those are overrated. It's guys kind of knowing what they're doing now, what did they do, what did they change, going into the game what can we do better. It's really more of a matter of what we didn't do as opposed to what we did in the second half. This game is not that complicated that we've got to go into halftime and make all these gigantic decisions as far as adjustments. It's really going back and making sure our guys play with good fundamentals. That's where I come from, and there's some little things we did, but nothing that you'd see watching video saying, what did they do different. It was really guys just being in position to make plays and guys understanding really who they're playing against and where their strengths are and where their weaknesses are. I think players start to figure that out in the first half of who this guard is and how is he playing me today, how is he blocking me, is he over-setting on me, what's the best blitz for us to -- we've got plenty blitzes in our package; which ones can we use in the second half, and the guys start to feel, hey, this is what it looks like, I've got it now.

And sometimes you don't get it in practice, sometimes you don't get it in the first half. But some of the plays we gave up were just little things that we should not give up in the first half, either. But it's a matter of finding out, hey, what are they doing today to us, what are they trying, who is it, and how do I have to play the guy over the top of me and how do I beat my man.

Q. Jordan Whitehead talked earlier about how he kind of took it upon himself, blamed himself a little bit for the communication issues you guys had earlier in the season. Have you seen a big difference in the way he's been commanding that secondary, really making those calls that he has to do?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, I have. Jordan can put that on his shoulders all he wants. I'll put it on my shoulders and our defensive staff, as well. That's just asking to get what we want, and ultimately it starts with the coaches and with the players, and you think they know what they're doing but they've got to overcommunicate, and since the Oklahoma State, I think we've done a much better job of not having maybe a busted coverage or an I thought you knew based on this motion that you were going to do this, but even though you think he might know, let's remind him, let's all be on the same page, at least on that half of the field as far as what we're doing.

Probably as sophisticated a passing game that you could see was last week versus Virginia. They had a good passing game. They did a lot of things with Mizzell, and I would say last week was as many different coverage checks and adjustments that we'd have to do because we treated every formation a little bit different than what we did. I'd say on a scale of 1 to 10, playing against Virginia's offense was a nine because of what they did and how they did it and where No. 4 was in their offense, and our guys did a great job.

Again, you get what you ask for, so in my opinion Jordan can put it on his shoulders, but it's on our shoulders as coaches to make sure that we're stressing what we want to get. Our kids, I've said this since my first meeting I've been here at the University of Pittsburgh, if you ask our guys to do something, they will do it. If you told them to communicate it and do it 12 times and signal it four times, they'll do it exactly 12 and 4. If you assume that they've got it and we don't emphasize exactly what we want, sometimes you're not going to get it, and that's young student-athletes across the country, I think, so it's really what are we emphasizing, what are we getting, and if you don't emphasize it, you might not get it, and that's on us as coaches.

Q. To have the performance you did in the second half against that kind of offense, missing Avonte Maddox and Terrish Webb, do you think that could be a building block for your secondary going forward?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, no question about it. I think our guys understand what they can do, and if they play with good technique -- and again, everybody -- nobody is perfect, and to be able to it without T-Webb in the second half and Avonte for the entire game, it gave Phillipie Motley a ton of success, a ton of confidence, and gave the coaches confidence in what Phillipie can do and what Dane Jackson could do the week before.

There's some good competition going on there, and we've got really four or five corners that can go out there. There's no first round corner out there right now, but we've got a lot of guys that can go out and make plays if they do things and pay attention to details.

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