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April 26, 2017

Pat Narduzzi

Greensboro, North Carolina

PAT NARDUZZI: Good afternoon, everybody. We've got a beautiful day in Pittsburgh here today. As Mike said, we finished up spring ball almost a week and a half ago on the 15th of April. I thought we had a very productive spring. Got in 15 great practices, and I felt like our guys came in with a great attitude and got better every day of practice.

Our kids are currently finishing up finals week this week, which is always an important facet of the year for our guys academically. Then they'll have a couple weeks off, and then they'll be back in town getting ready for our summer conditioning.

So with that, I'll open it up for questions.

Q. You have six starters back on offense, but you lost a lot of guys that played a lot of football at Pitt. Did that turnover particularly at quarterback and moving Alex from center to guard, did that kind of affect the progression of the offense that you installed this spring? I guess, how would you assess where you guys stand with the offense after the spring?
PAT NARDUZZI: I always feel pretty good about where we are. But you certainly -- when you lose six guys that were at the NFL combine, five of them were on offense, so you're talking about having some open spots there. Obviously the most critical is that quarterback position. It's a work in progress, really at every spot.

Last year was last year, and that was a very, very productive offense. Can we replicate that? Yes. Is there a guarantee we will? No. This is a different football team than it was a year ago. We expect it to be maybe better in some situations and maybe not as good at others.

But that's why they call it a new year, and that's why you let guys graduate and get their master's degree and move on to the league. So that's something that we'll see.

As far as the installation of what we do offensively, because of not only a turnover in players, but also a turnover in coaches at times, those always are, I guess, a work in progress and something that always sets you back. That's why continuity is so important.

And we're doing things differently. What we did a year ago worked, but we have other things that are going to work too. We're always going to be on the cutting edge of what we do offensively and defensively. I think you have to be nowadays. I think if the Pitt offense or defense looked exactly like it did a year ago, then we probably made a mistake as far as what we're doing.

I always think you have to change with the times. And if we stay the same on both sides of the ball and don't make any adjustments and tweaks, I think offenses and defenses are going to spend all summer putting a game plan on us, and they're going to be right on. We don't want them to be right on.

Q. Tomorrow could be a big day for your program, obviously. To get six guys drafted, it would be the most at Pitt since 2004. Is that something you can wear proudly on your chest when you go into a recruit's living room to talk to their parents about what you can offer these kids?
PAT NARDUZZI: Jerry, you miss me, don't you? You and Lance both miss me every day.

It certainly does. Again, is it six guys drafted tomorrow? Could it be five? Could it be seven or eight? There is another guy that might end up getting drafted, and it could be a total of seven.

So it certainly is a great moment for Pitt football and the University of Pittsburgh if we have that many guys drafted. It tells you you could develop anywhere. When we have six guys at the combine, and you look at the other thing that hit me a couple weeks ago, all the guys at the combine are from Western Pennsylvania, we're not only developing players for the NFL, but we're developing guys from our backyard, and I think that's important.

Q. As you look ahead to the summer and even next season, have you thought about making any more roster additions? I don't know if there are any available grad transfers out there. Just wondering if you're still kicking the tires on any of that stuff?
PAT NARDUZZI: We haven't really talked much about the Flanagan kid, the tight end that we've signed and really could probably talk more about him because he is coming to Pitt. Our coaches are now, as of Monday -- they went out one day last week, and they're out this week.

We're always on the lookout. You never know when your roster changes. It could change daily. Our coaches are always on the lookout for maybe a late qualifier or a guy that's a late bloomer, a junior college guy that after spring ball you reassess what are our needs? Where are we weak at? Where do we need to strengthen this football team out? And we head on the road, and if there's something out there -- I'm getting calls from coaches every day: Hey, let's look at this. Evaluate his character and see if he fits into what we want.

Q. What did you learn from your quarterbacks during spring ball?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, I learned a lot. First off, we have a new quarterback coach in Shawn Watson, an offensive coordinator we're very excited about. I learned that, number one, I feel like every time I've had to bring in a new coordinator or quarterback coach that I probably got lucky and got as good or a better guy in Shawn Watson.

One thing I learned at the quarterback spot is we're a lot deeper than we were a year ago. When I first got here, we had two quarterbacks on scholarship. Right now we've got four. We've got a little spread-out as far as the classes go. We still felt like we had to secure ourselves with an older quarterback and get Max Browne from the University of Southern Cal. So we have a senior quarterback.

We have a red-shirt sophomore now who -- Ben DiNucci, who I say is young. We've got Thomas MacVittie who is a red-shirt freshman now. And then we also brought in a true freshman quarterback, Kenny Pickett, from Ocean Township, New Jersey.

So the room is starting to fill up. We still don't have a junior quarterback. We've got a little void there. But next year we will. We won't have a senior quarterback unless we take another transfer.

So the room is a lot deeper. There is more functional quarterbacks in there. Shawn Watson has done a great job of developing those guys. And it comes down to the finer detail of coaching and the fundamentals, okay. Everybody can say he can't do it, he can't do it. But it's a coach's job to make sure he can do it.

And I feel a lot better that we have a couple quarterbacks that can go in the game, maybe three quarterbacks that can go in the game and make plays with their feet or with their arms. And that's -- you know, that's comforting to me because last year we went into the season with really one great quarterback in Nathan Peterman, but we weren't sure who the back-up was. And our back-up changed daily.

So I'm really confident in at least our back-ups, and the depth we have in that room makes me feel better as a head football coach.

Q. How does that offense kind of evolve from what you've seen this spring with Shawn now as coordinator instead of Matt?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, it evolves because you've got a new guy in there. He's going to try to blend some of the things. I think this -- and I don't care if it's on offense or defense, I think an offensive coordinator's job is to come in and mold his offense to what personnel you have. And people talk about scheme and what we scored and how exciting we were to watch, we still have to take the pieces we have left.

Every year -- that's the thing about college football, every year is a little different. You hope in the NFL it's not too much different if you sign or re-sign your guys and you don't lose some guys to free agency and guys don't retire. Very rarely in the NFL do guys retire. You might have one on the roster, I guess.

So every year your offensive turnover, there is change. You have to do what's best for your offense and put the ball into people's hands that need to get it. Jester Weah has shown that he can be a top wideout in the country.

We've got to find a way to drop back, throw it more and get them the ball down the field. But just trying to use the people we have. We don't have James Conner in the backfield much. So maybe you end up being more of a throwing team. I don't know. But I think you blend your offense into what you have.

Q. Wondering where you guys feel you made the biggest improvements in the secondary this spring?
PAT NARDUZZI: Just improvement in the secondary?

Q. Yes.
PAT NARDUZZI: Okay. I think we made it really across the board. When you look at the secondary and being cover two or cover 14, it's a two-shell team. But it takes four DBs to play back there.

I think we've really built our depth back there. We've got a little bit more depth. We have some young kids we brought in a year ago that just weren't as ready to play as we wanted them to be. Some guys that took red shirts and you knew they had talent.

So this spring we're able to bring those young guys out and have an opportunity through the winter and into the spring to develop those guys a little bit more and get them a little bit closer to being able to help us on the field. So that's something I'm looking forward to, watching those guys.

Then we can go to the starters, we lost Reggie Mitchell and Terrish Webb, two safeties. We lost Ryan Lewis, one of our corners. But Avonte Maddox has really turned into a really good leader for us on defense as a whole. He's not only a very good corner, but a leader. He had a pretty solid year a year ago, and I think he's gotten a lot better playing the deep ball, and just with his fundamentals and techniques. And Phillipie Motley, same thing.

Therran Coleman is one of those young guys I was telling you about -- he's talented, he's big, he's physical -- that is going to play for us this year. As well as Dane Jackson. You have Jordan Whitehead who has been a mainstay there for two years. And then we'll try to develop some more young guys like Jay Stocker and Bricen Garner, and Dennis Briggs is a guy that played a lot of football for us as our nickel back. Right now he's got a big role in the secondary.

So I'm probably missing somebody without having a depth chart sitting in front of me. But we were able to increase our depth back there and have more guys that can go in and play in a football game.

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