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UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 18, 2017
PAT NARDUZZI: I'd like to be here under different circumstances, but another tough one as we talked Saturday. Obviously still disappointed in really how it came out, but actually when you watch the tape, you don't feel as bad as you did Saturday. Our kids actually did some good things on both sides of the ball, and then there was the bad things we did. But you know, as I've said really the last three weeks, this is a young football team that has not paid attention to details like they need to. And there's always blame to put on the coaches, like I said Saturday, of things we could have done better; what if you do this.
But when you look at it, you know, it's almost at times where the young guys just -- because they're in that first-time situation, like option this week is going to be the first time they see some of that, so it's a whole new ballgame. But you're seeing some RPOs coming at you, which everybody hears about RPOs, but then when you see them, last year it was RPOs for your corners, this year it's RPOs for the safeties, picking on the youth back there and inexperience.
But guys just panic with their technique. That's the one thing that we try to teach our guys you have to fall back to is your fundamentals. At times we don't do that. We kind of go -- you go rogue a little bit, and you can't do that. You know, that's why they give us week 4, and we get to jump into ACC play, which is a positive.
Nothing that's happened in the first three weeks really matters. I mean, it really doesn't matter. We get ACC No. 1 against a good football team in Georgia Tech, who's got an off week, open week to get extra rest, extra scheming, extra options, G option, trap option, veer option. They've got it all as far as the option game goes, and then defensively they're very, very solid. Ted Roof, their D-coordinator, obviously Paul, I believe, runs the offense and it's his gig and does a great job, but Ted Roof does a great job on defense.
They're very sound. They're not very fancy. But what they do is what they do, and they're good at it, and they've got good players, too. It'll be a challenge. Are they a top-10 team? No, but you know what, they played well against a Tennessee team and lost in overtime and we know they're a top-25 team, so they are very talented.
Q. You weren't happy about your own defense last week; what's the concern after what you saw on Saturday and especially playing a team like this where you can't really afford missed tackles?
PAT NARDUZZI: You can't miss tackles. You've got to read your keys. Like I said, some guys -- and even some guys that aren't so young didn't read their keys. It's like -- and weren't helping. You wonder where it came from. What are you doing? What are you being coached to do? I tell our coaches, hey, what you see is what you coach, so obviously it's not sinking in; how do we get it to sink in? Do we need a sledgehammer; what do we do?
But you know, this is a totally different week as far as what you're seeing, how you're defending the run, where your guys are located. They have some run-pass conflicts. They've got you thinking about some pass, then they run it. As soon as they start running it on you and break one, then you're going, oh, my gosh, what do we get the guy in there. But this is a totally different deal.
Q. Jordan was in at boundary safety. How much does that have to do with the troubles you guys have had against the run so far?
PAT NARDUZZI: In what way?
Q. Well, Jordan was really good at strong safety (indiscernible) going from boundary to field I should say?
PAT NARDUZZI: You say he's now at the field?
Q. In the spring you had him working at field; why boundary now?
PAT NARDUZZI: We're doing a little bit of both. He's always done a little bit of both. He's played both in the spring, too. I think we tried him out there in the spring. He could still go out there and play. That was the thing, we knew he knew boundary, let's play him at the field and see if he can do that in the spring was the philosophy, and he can still do both. I don't know where he'll be Saturday to be honest with you. We had to put him either at the boundary safety or the field safety, so I can't tell you where he'll be; they didn't have an or section, strong safety or free safety, but he is a guy that can play really anywhere.
But he'll obviously -- getting Jordan back will be a huge lift for everybody, and it'll take some pressure off some guys back there and get a guy that's really played in games.
But again, you're still going to him, he hasn't played for three weeks, so it goes back to groundhog day.
Q. There is an or quarterback; what are you looking for this week? Are you looking for one guy to take that position or is it more --
PAT NARDUZZI: It's a coaching feel. The quarterback situation is -- we're going to continue to evaluate. They both do some really good things on tape. Obviously Ben sparked things with his feet and his athletic ability and what he can do running the ball, and he does some great things, which we know. And Ben does the -- Max does the same thing in the passing game. Doesn't have as much ability to run and run the zone reads and all those things, although I think he's capable.
But we haven't wanted to really get him banged up in then, as well, just like we did with Nathan Peterman. But you know, but then Ben does some things in the passing game that would scare you, too, so we've just got to kind of find out who we are, what we're going to do this week on both run and pass and figure it out.
Q. Was there any thought to giving one of the younger guys a chance Saturday, especially MacVittie?
PAT NARDUZZI: Not right now. I wouldn't lie to you guys. I told you in camp it was really a two-man battle, and the other two are still too young at this point. But if one of those other guys gets hurt, one of those young guys will be getting reps. It's hard to get three guys ready for a game. It's hard enough getting two guys ready. Those two guys have been the guys from the beginning, and those are the two guys we're going to stick with.
Q. I guess we'll find out Saturday at 12:00 or 12:25 who's making the start?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah.
Q. Is what they do this week in practice -- you know what they can do, obviously. What they do this week in practice, will that impact your decision?
PAT NARDUZZI: Of course it will. Of course it will.
Q. Or is your mind already made up?
PAT NARDUZZI: You have some thoughts. Coach Watson has got some thoughts and we all have thoughts together offensively. Talk to the whole offensive staff. We all have thoughts, but if you come into practice and you fumble the ball three times and you throw three picks on Tuesday and you do the same thing on Wednesday, who are you playing? I mean, some guys can make some plays with their feet, but if you turn the ball over it's going to hurt the team big time, and we've done that two weeks in a row. You're minus in the turnover ratio, it doesn't help anybody, and we've got to sustain drives this week. Sustaining drives are going to be critical against that run attack. You don't know how many series you're going to get. Every series is critical because when Georgia Tech gets the ball they can go, and they'll grind up and have a 15-, 18-play run drive and the whole first quarter will be over. Marshall can run.
Q. When you've got such a young team and they have such a tough day, is it different getting them prepared, getting them to bounce back as it is an older group that has sort of gotten the scars and showed that resiliency?
PAT NARDUZZI: It is and it isn't. They're all different. Every team you ever coach is different, I think. Sometimes these young guys in this new millennium are different than anything you've ever dealt with, too. It's hard to tell where they are. We'll find out Saturday afternoon where they are really. But it's hard to read sometimes.
Q. I think Georgia Tech ran for like 240 yards last year, which for them is not too bad defensively. Did you guys have more success because of experience last season, and is that --
PAT NARDUZZI: We'll find out, right? We'll find out. Of course I thought we did an okay job -- a lot of the yards came on the toss play where they motioned over and got into almost a quad unbalanced set and did a nice job, so we took away some of their option, and the normal stuff, and they ran a toss play. Obviously we'll try to stop that this year and try to stop the option at the same time. But they'll have another little wrinkle for you as Paul always does. He does a great job at the end of a quarter, time-out, halftime adjustments last week or two weeks ago -- three weeks ago, I guess, Tennessee he did a great job and got their quarterback, Marshall, loose for -- I think he rushed for 240 yards or something like that, five TDs. He'll find ways to beat whatever you do, so it doesn't matter what you do in the first half. It's 60 minutes, but the experience as opposed to not having experience, I think it's also coaches' experience of coaching it and knowing that we've done this for two years, here's what they're going to do, here's what we're going to do, here's what we're going to do different to fix things from last year. It's a game of chess.
Q. You're obviously somebody with a very impressive defensive background, but you are giving up about 40 points per game. In your third year, what hasn't taken hold to get that defense --
PAT NARDUZZI: It's a good question. I don't look at all the stats, the points, the yards. You'd like to look at the wins, and the wins are the only thing that matters to be honest with you, because I've given up a lot of yards and points and still won games in the past. It's where offenses are going. Look at the scoreboards. I mean, the spread offenses, the RPOs when the linemen are running five yards down the field and no flags are being left out of the pockets, you're hanging out there a lot. You know, you can mix it up and they can rush for 400 yards, whatever it may be.
But that's kind of where the game is going. You see it everywhere. You look at the scores, it's people scoring 60 points everywhere.
We need to continue to recruit, and we need our guys to be coachable. We need to do a better job coaching and play one game at a time.
Q. With a younger defense do you find yourself getting more hands on?
PAT NARDUZZI: Not any more than I normally am. You're hands on every day. You're in those meetings. You're out there with the kids. You're out there watching the tempo at practice, making sure it's fast enough, trying to work the tempo the other day. You can only do so much in a day. It's only a two-hour practice so you're hands on as you can be at every position.
Q. With the way college football is going, like you said, if you get started in the profession, would you maybe gear yourself toward offense or defense, and how did you become a defensive guy?
PAT NARDUZZI: This is old-school questions here. I started off as an offensive guy. You know that. I like football. I don't care if it's offense or defense. To me it's teaching, it's coaching, and I like to still -- I'll never change, I'm a defensive guy, I played defense and would never change as far as wanting to be an offensive guy. I'd rather play defense, coach defense. That's why we deferred. Did I answer that?
Q. That's why you deferred to start the game?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, play defense. Didn't work out good, but...
Q. You talk about guys needing to be better at reading their keys defensively, but at the same time how do you get them better tackling wise?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, that goes with reading your keys. It's about being in position, so if I'm reading you and I don't read you properly, whether you're an offensive lineman or receiver -- we've got guys playing off of guys giving too much cushion, okay, at times. That's going to -- that's fundamentals. We've got linebackers not helping out in coverage when it's clearly a pass or a run, depending on what it is. So all those things, it's being in position to make those tackles, okay.
I can take any one of the Steelers DBs, and if I put them in an open field with a good tailback, they're going to make half those tackles and they're going to miss half of them. That's not good. We'd like to make 85 to 90 percent of those tackles, but it's all about being in position to make those tackles. It's not about the tackling itself, okay.
And then you've got to look at the player and the guy that's making the guy miss, too. But it's being in position to make the tackles, just staying on your feet. But the more space you get because you don't read your key properly, the more problems you're going to have.
Q. You talked about 60 points a game, but I think it's four touchdowns in the last 10 quarters going back to the Youngstown game. What is not happening offensively to -- you've got a new coordinator and a new quarterback but you've got experience at other places offensively, and the results are not quite the same?
PAT NARDUZZI: It's the same thing. It's the same thing. We're doing a lot of good things schematically on both sides of the ball, and when you look at the offense, we're doing some -- we've just got to make some plays. We overthrow a big ball the other day, which is an explosive, and we lose a couple. We've got some guys open that we're not finding or hitting with both quarterbacks in there, and we're throwing it to the wrong guy at times. I mean, it's just -- it's youth, and in the run game it's blocking the right people all the time and the details, just like it was for the Penn State game, you know.
It's details against good teams will get you beat.
Q. On the depth chart, what we saw in game 2 Saturday, is the right tackle position sort of in flux a little bit? What's going on there?
PAT NARDUZZI: We obviously gave up two sacks Saturday, and I think Jaryd played a little bit better last week, but we're giving him a break, too, so we're trying to rotate some guys in there that we think we can. Like you guys said in the summer, are you going to make some moves and get some fresh guys in there. In the past two years, we've played five guys. We haven't built any depth at all, and then we've got in a bowl game and lost a guy and all of a sudden a guy is playing for the first time, so we've kind of said we're going to build some depth there, and Jaryd obviously needs a blow just to see what's going on and knows he's got pressure on his heels because Bookser can play right tackle, as well, and Herndon getting a lot of his first game work, as well. That's another young guy that was a D-tackle and still playing a little bit of D-tackle, as well, as well as Brandon Hodges can go in there. So we've got some guys that we can rotate. We're going to try to keep those guys fresh if we can.
Q. Is Brandon Hodges available this week?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yep.
Q. What has Chawntez shown you the last few weeks?
PAT NARDUZZI: Chawntez has been good. He's explosive, he's got a little different gear. We like Chawntez a lot, and he's practiced better the last couple weeks, and it's paid off on game day.
Q. When you look at the kind of atmosphere on Saturday where you're playing a top-10 team on a pretty day and it's still only about half full, does that maybe alter how you maybe approach scheduling where if you're not going to get big crowds even if it's that kind of quality of opponent --
PAT NARDUZZI: I'm worried about the fundamentals. How about that? I'm worried about the details I talked about. I can't worry about all that. You can go talk to someone else. You can talk to Heather. I'm worried about putting the best product I can on the field; that's all I can worry about. There's not enough time for me to worry about what that looks like. I don't even know. I don't even see it. You know, I don't even hear it.
Q. As far as the scheduling goes, though, does it maybe kind of push you more in a direction if you're not going to get huge crowds even for good teams, you might as well schedule a team that you have a better chance of beating?
PAT NARDUZZI: We want to compete. I mean, we want to compete against the best. I don't care -- you guys are worried about wins and losses. The other day -- the only way you get better is to have good competition, so I'm not going to sit here and say, let's go schedule somebody else. I mean, we want to play the best, and our guys want to play the best. I'm not worried about that. I'm not worried about the crowd, I'm worried about our players and what they're doing on the field, and that's the only thing we can control.
Q. As far as Paul Johnson's offense, you mentioned offenses are changing. Are defenses changing to those offenses, and now is it sort of a change-up for a lot of defensive coordinators essentially?
PAT NARDUZZI: No question about it. Paul hasn't changed through all his years. Through all the -- option teams are option teams. Triple option teams are triple option teams, and that's what he's been. He's never changed. He just -- at times he's gone no-huddle. He's huddled up or no-huddle, and we'll practice some of the no-huddle stuff this week because they did it two years ago to us and did it for the entire year, so we'll be ready for the tempo, as well, with the option.
But you know, Paul does what he does, and just like most offensive coordinators are going to do what they like to do, what they know. It's like telling you guys to go be doctors. We'd be in some big trouble if that was the case. You can't change who you are. You guys do a great job writing and reporting, and Paul does the best job with the option.
He knows his answers. He knows if they do this, I'm doing this. If we're stopping the option, I'm running toss, which is what they did last year. For them, it's a different -- for everybody they play every week, it's different for that defense. It really is. It's totally different. It changes everything you do defensively going into that game. You're changing everything. That's why we practice it all during camp, as well, so this won't be the first day our guys are seeing it. Our scout teams have run it before in camp and we've practiced it throughout fall camp at least 10 minutes a day.
Q. Stylistically you couldn't go -- it's one thing if you're playing somebody on a given week, but that's like the hyper version of --
PAT NARDUZZI: You're watching tape, and it's like, just tell these guys that the corrections and the attention to detail that we are correcting yesterday is for Syracuse. I mean, that's what Syracuse -- when we go up to Syracuse, that's what we're going to see, the same exact stuff. So how we're fixing that is going to be the key, but we're telling them now but they don't have to fix it for two more weeks, and this is what we're going to do the next time we see this. Those are the things you're doing. It's totally, totally different.
Q. A lot of young guys played on defense. Did anybody really stand out to you when you watched the film?
PAT NARDUZZI: I'm glad you asked that. That's another good question. There's guys that stand out to you -- Jalen Williams, guys, played his first snap, okay, and things happen, and coaches get mad when guys don't do what they're supposed to do, but I'll give you one instance of a young guy -- Jalen Williams played his tail off, and it was impressive, and I got after him about two weeks ago, I called him -- I could show you a text message. I called him on probably a Thursday night or Wednesday night, texted him on Thursday night and said, Jalen, if you keep practicing like that, you're going to the scout field, and ever since that time, he's picked it up. I said, you've got to practice. If you're going to be a backup, you've got to practice, and he's really done a fantastic job.
Now, he gave up a big pass, and everybody thinks it was probably Dennis Briggs, a missed tackle, but the backer, Jalen Williams, didn't help him at all. No. 3 runs right by him. Jalen's job is to knock the heck out of him. If you knock him down, he does a great job. If you run by him, you did nothing. How about just do that to him, but he didn't see him.
But to Jalen's defense, it's the first time -- he didn't get in against Youngstown State, he didn't get in against Penn State, and that's the things that you're -- that happen -- that's just one great example because it ended up being a big play, and everybody looks at Dennis Briggs and says, what happened to Dennis, and it really wasn't all Dennis's fault. Dennis is trying to get there, but we're supposed to push him to Dennis, and the guy ran away from Dennis, so it was the total opposite of what Dennis was coached to do, and when Dennis Briggs is in with Sean, Sean does it for him, and then Jalen gets in first time -- hopefully Jalen never lets it happen again. We're going to play Syracuse and probably see the exact same play. If Jalen gets in, he won't -- that's what you hope as a coach. And if he fixes it, you're going, there we go, that's what -- that's why we're called "coach." And if he runs by the guy again, we'll all be pulling our hair out.
But Jalen played well. Damar Hamlin played well. Although Damar didn't see some of the same stuff early in the game, but it was just good to get his feet on the field again, which you guys saw that coming. Therran Coleman did some good things. I'm thinking defensively. Chase Pine did some good stuff. It was good to get Chase out there more, so like I said, that second half was -- there were some good things about it, too.
Q. Did Damar mostly play boundary or field or both?
PAT NARDUZZI: He played mostly to the field. He mostly played field safety. And again, did a solid job out there. He didn't tackle anybody for a long time.
Q. I know you've answered this question --
PAT NARDUZZI: Then why are you going to ask it?
Q. Because I need you to verbalize it.
PAT NARDUZZI: I'll let you answer it for me.
Q. How important would it be for Paul Johnson to know Max Browne was going to be the quarterback or if Ben Dinucci is going to be the quarterback on Monday rather than Thursday or Friday?
PAT NARDUZZI: Paul doesn't care because Paul just wants to know if he's running the G option, trap option. Ted would probably like to know. It's important, but you know, they're practicing all the same things, whether -- put it this way: This weekend if Max got to run his own read and he does this, they're still accounting for him. He's not as big a threat, it doesn't really change much what they do based on what they're playing. The offense is not changing a whole lot except then there's going to be maybe some more keepers, maybe just calling a -- you call the quarterback to keep it, you're not even reading it, you're just saying keep it and let him go. So those are things that -- but as you watch the tape, they're not -- they've played zone read teams before. They've played quarterback keeper teams, they've played us before, so it's not a big difference I don't think.
Q. But it works for you to keep information for yourself as long as you can?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know the answer, I guess. Ask me twice and you know the answer, and I'm telling you, I don't think it -- Ted Roof is a good football coach. I don't think it really matters.
Q. There's not as much tape on Georgia Tech as most teams, but from what you've seen does this quarterback throw it a little better?
PAT NARDUZZI: He does, but the kid before was really good, but Marshall can throw it and run it, and he slings it pretty darned good for a guy that used to be one of their A-backs and then transitioned to the quarterback position. He's athletic. He can run. We've got to find the right scout quarterback this week. I'm not sure we've got one yet, so we're still working on that. That's the details of who's going to be that guy that makes you better. But he's a good football player.
Q. Your defense is --
PAT NARDUZZI: Do you know the answer to this one, too?
Q. No. Your defense is designed stop the run, stop the run, stop the run. How much does that mindset help you going up against a team like Georgia Tech?
PAT NARDUZZI: Not much. I mean, you've got to stop the run. Mindsets are great. Execution, fundamentals, reading your keys, doing the right thing versus the option is critical. You've got to do it. You've got to do what you're coached to do. Got to get them coached up, but they're good. There's coaching going on throughout four quarters of this game. It'll be a -- it'll be a chess match for sure.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports