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UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
August 27, 2018
PAT NARDUZZI: Great to have you here today. Appreciate you guys taking the time to come out on a Monday and check out the Panthers. You know, excited, really, to get this season underway. It's been a long time. Our kids have worked their tail off since really January, and a ton of work goes into it.
I think they're ready to hit a different color jersey. We had a great fall camp. I think it's probably one of the healthiest fall camps we've been involved in. You've got to continue to keep that going all the time.
We've tried to be smarter as coaches and just try to get them to the game. I think that happens when you got a little bit older football team, which I think we do with the 19 seniors that you guys all had a chance to meet at Senior Day -- or, excuse me, the senior kickoff luncheon the other day.
Albany is a good football team. I know you guys want to ask many Albany questions, so I'm going to shoot you with them early.
4-7 football team that beat Villanova last year, which is a good football team, as we know. And then they shut out New Hampshire, who is a CAA playoff team. That's a playoff-caliber team. So, I mean, you kind of talk about New Hampshire in the same terms you talk about a Youngstown, a great I-AA football team. Obviously Greg Gattuso is a great football coach. Obviously with his lineage and being around Coach Wannstedt. You know he's a darn good coach. They've got three Pitt guys on that staff.
So they'll come ready to go with Nate Byham and Jim Sweeney and Jarred Holley, they are -- you know, they'll come into Heinz Field ready to go. They got -- probably their strength is in their O-line, D-line. I think in any good football team you're going to have a strong front group there. We talk about it all the time.
But their entire senior -- I should say their entire offensive line is returning. They're D-line has got everybody returning. They've got three seniors on that group. I think a total of eight seniors in their starting lineups, I think four on offense, four on defense.
Gattuso being a defensive guy, I think they were top 10 total defense -- I think No. 9 in the country last year.
So they play good defense. So our offensive work will be right there in front of them. I think they've gotten good work in camp as far as going against our defense.
So it's going to be a heck of a ball game. Our guys will be ready to come play. With that, I'll leave it open for questions. I know you guys have a ton of them.
Q. What do you know about their quarterback?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know what? Great question. Vincent -- well, Vinny Testaverde, as I like to refer to him, I don't know if they call him Vinny. There's only one Vinny. But he's a good quarterback. We've watched Texas Tech versus Texas back in 2014 when he played, I think played 32, he got in the game there, and looks composed. I'd say as a true freshman, I believe, or a redshirt freshman '14, looks composed throwing the football, really accurate quarterback.
Obviously after went to Miami for a couple years and has landed at Albany, again, played at some great quarterbacks at Texas Tech -- behind some great quarterbacks at Texas Tech and also at Miami. So trying to find a home for him, and I think they got a quarterback that can hurt you throwing the ball.
And I'm sure being in a football family, he can make the checks. And I'm sure Dad's taught him well in his youth.
So good player. Not as tall as his dad. Very mobile. And maybe not like his dad. And good quarterback. So we'll find out Saturday.
Q. How do you feel about your quarterback play? I mean, obviously you're more confident in it than you were probably toward the end of last season. But compared to how you felt about it the first Monday of press conference at this time last year?
PAT NARDUZZI: Last year, the press conference, you had high hopes. I think you thought you had a quarterback in Max Browne, which I still think we do, that had potential to be really good. You had a guy that had been out of it for a while, hadn't played a football game for over a year. So I think that played into the whole thing.
So I feel totally different. With Kenny Pickett being with what he did at the end of the year last year, as you guys all know, and then with what he'd done during spring ball, it's like this. It's consistent. You're going to see a consistent Kenny Pickett doing the little things right, not hurt you as a quarterback, protecting the football.
So, I mean, it's totally different because you've got a guy that's got experience. There's not going to be much rust there. Although, he's still a freshman, you know, I should say he should be a redshirt freshman, but he's still a young guy that hasn't played more than one game as far as starting.
So there's still going to be hiccups as far as I believe. I know everybody thinks he's going to go out there and be Kenny perfect. That'd be in a perfect world. But nobody's perfect, and I don't want to make Kenny tight like that where he's got to play perfect. He's still a baby.
Q. You're not worried about putting too much pressure on his shoulders?
PAT NARDUZZI: No, he likes pressure. I still don't want to make him feel like he's got to be the perfect guy. He's not perfect. And neither am I. So I just don't want him to think he has to go out and play a perfect game. He won't play a perfect game. No quarterback does.
Q. When you're scheduling these games, what are you looking for when you go about scheduling (indiscernible) and how do you feel like Albany checks those boxes?
PAT NARDUZZI: They got 14 PA kids I think on the roster. I got to be honest with you. I don't think I scheduled it. It might have been previous. I don't remember. I'm day by day. A lot of those games get kind of thrown at you and you kind of say yes or no and, you know, go back to my office and bury myself into some work there.
But there's only so many teams available. But you know what? When you look at all the Pitt connections they have, I think it ends up being a pretty colorful look. When you look at former Dave Wannstedt staff member coming back to Heinz Field and having Pitt men on that staff, I think it's a neat story.
Again, they've got a good football team. And we could go to Louisiana and play some CAA team down there or play one that's not too far away. I think just keeping it in the Northeast region is a positive thing.
Q. How far along are you with (indiscernible) getting it to where you want him?
PAT NARDUZZI: We'll find out September 1st, I guess. Right? We'll see. I mean, we got a new coordinator who's calling a game for his first time in maybe 14 years or whatever it's been, very intelligent in Randy Bates, very detailed in game planning.
And then when you look at the personnel, we've got personnel. We've got some guys. But then you've got to go out and show it on game day. Doesn't matter, you can have all the P you want as far as potential, but, we've got to go out and play like we're a good defense, and that's -- you can tell at the end of the year, it's hard. Maybe we can tell after game 1, okay. They look pretty good, but then we're going to find out the next week, and we'll find out the next week.
Ultimately, you're measured by what you do in a 12-game season.
Q. Do you feel like (Inaudible) a place in terms of their understanding or their physical readiness, that kind of thing?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, physical readiness, no question about it. Durability, no question about it. Then the intelligence part of it. I think they've got a good understanding of what we're doing. But like anything, you walk out there and the offense gives you a scheme, offense gives you a formation or back set something you haven't seen, how well can they, number one, communicate on the field.
It all comes down to communication, because you can have one smart guy like Quintin Wirginis in the middle. But if we don't all communicate together, you're going to have issues. We see that in practice every day. That's something we continue to harp on is communication. I've never been through a perfect defense communication-wise, so we're always going to have a mistake here and there. It's going to happen. That's why offenses do what they do, whether it's a shift, a motion, a motion we haven't seen.
But defensively, they're as prepared as they're going to be going into this opener. I feel good with what we do offensively preparing. It's not like we're running a wing tee offense. We run a lot of multiple sets as far as personnel goes. We run a ton of formations. I think we ran 38 formations in our last scrimmage, not this past one, but 38 different formations. That's not including back field sets or shifts or motions. So we're very multiple at what we do.
Again, if I'm a defensive coordinator, that's what I want. I want someone to give me something different every day, not lineup in one formation. So I think formationally, we'll be prepared for anything they give us.
Q. Noticed on your depth chart Phillipie Motley (inaudible) 12 games last year. Talk about that?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think I told you since the beginning, you know, Motley's had a great camp. He really has, and there is competition out there, and there are some more guys. We'll see what it looks like. If Phillipie's playing well, we're going to roll with him. It's who is feeling healthy, who is feeling good. Who doesn't have a tight this or tight, whatever it might be. Coming out of camp, we need gamers, not just practice players.
But I do say this: You play like you practice, and you practice like you play. So if Phillipie does what he did in practice for the last 20 practices, we expect a great year.
We talk about the seniors all the time. They have to have the best year they've ever had. If you want to win a championship, those guys that sit in the front rows in our team meeting have got to play well.
Q. Do you have any idea when Taysir Mack might get his name on that sheet?
PAT NARDUZZI: Is he missing from that sheet?
PAT NARDUZZI: Okay, here. Put his name on that sheet. That's probably just a typo. That's the problem you have when your depth is good. You can put him at the X. I don't know, you don't even know, it says receiver, receiver, receiver, but he'll be at the X.
He's got the ability to play in the slot. He's got to build -- here's the thing about Taysir, he can play in the slot. He can play in the boundary guy, which is where Kenny likes him, and he can play on the field. He can move all over the place intelligent-wise, but put Mack on the depth chart.
Q. In the start?
PAT NARDUZZI: I just said put him on there. We'll see. I mean, come on.
Q. Some guys are in bold, that's why I'm saying that.
PAT NARDUZZI: Some guys are in bold? I don't read the bold. I didn't think you could see that good (laughing).
Q. Does the defense have to have a set personnel? Do you want them a certain type of play? How do you want to be ready for anything in formation in terms of attitude or anything like that?
PAT NARDUZZI: Well, hopefully they've all got an attitude.
Q. How far has Randy been going?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think it's huge. Anytime your coordinator is passionate and has energy. It's going to play a part. Your kids are going to play like your coordinator, I think. So I think that will be something you'll see Saturday whether they play with a little different swag and energy. You know, you're hoping the lights turn on and at 3:30 that's what you see. They've got to be ready to go.
Q. What was the thought this season as opposed to your previous seasons here, that made you feel comfortable talking about the championship game?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, we've talked about it every time in here. Maybe it's that 18 at the end of the 20, I don't know what it is. But it's these seniors. It's the way they talk. It's the way they believe. If they're talking it freely and if they've said it -- put it this way: When I first got here, these guys just wanted to win six or more games. That was the goal. When we had to change kind of how we thought. We talked about goal setting, doing big things, dreaming big.
When I first got here, I was just trying to get them to say ACC. Forget the championship part at the end. But our kids talk in those terms now. Which for every football team you should have that goal. But we had to change a lot of mindsets when I first got here. People thought six or more games, that's a great season.
You know, we tried to engrain that into our kids heads. That's just average or below average. So you feel good because they believe. I'm not going to go out and take a snap. I'm not going to make a tackle, I'm not going to make a catch. But these guys here, if they believe it, and I think we've got the talent, I think we have the mindset, I think we've got the chemistry to win a championship. Is that going to happen? We'll find out.
Q. In your past couple seasons the offense, I guess, has been fairly vanilla or average. (Inaudible) are you thinking similar to this, it would be similar to what we've seen in the past couple years?
PAT NARDUZZI: I don't know. We'll find out. We're in the process of game planning right now. But this is a good football team. We're not holding anything back. So if you're asking that, at times we hold stuff back. I think most people know what we do. So we're going to go out and do it and find out how well we execute the offense.
I mean, you know, again, we've got some new wrinkles that you may not have seen before last year. You may not see those this year. But you'll certainly see them as we move on.
Q. You talk about changing the mindset. How much do those wins against Clemson and Miami do that for the kids? And how much will we see a schedule, called one of the toughest in the country, maybe not factor when you've had those victories?
PAT NARDUZZI: Well, our kids have played good and played big in big games. Obviously those wins help you. When you end with a win, it made the off-season a little bit more approachable for our kids, approachable for our coaches. But I think it helps you. I think when you have the ability to win a big game, and you've got the ability to win every game, period. If you can beat Miami or Clemson, why shouldn't you win an ACC Championship? It's pretty simple. I think our kids understand that. And that probably plays into part of why they talk like they do?
Q. You're talking about (Inaudible) you're not perfect. Does this team need to be perfect to get to where you want to get in terms of records?
PAT NARDUZZI: Only if the other guys play perfect, okay, which probably won't happen. So if the other guys play perfect, it's not going to be easy, but that's our job to make sure they don't. It's our job as coaches to make sure we don't mess it up either.
Q. You guys are replacing a pretty accomplished return man. I mean, you've got guys listed here. Are we going to see a rotation through, a lot of guys getting chances in the return game?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know what? Rafael Lopes has been really -- Araujo has really been fantastic as far as a reliable punt returner. Let's start there. You know, with reliability goes -- we have possession of the ball. I think when you think about punt return and returning punts, the number one thing is that we have possession of the football after the end of that play.
It starts with that, and we can have more, maybe an electric guy back there. But Shocky's been back there, Paris Ford has been back there, we may get different looks. It depends. I just know right now, I don't know if there are any ors on there or not, Jerry. Quick to answer that one. The guy's got every "or" examined.
But, you know, we know we've got faith and trust in what that guy's going to do in game time. So we'll see what the other guys doing to get up there. But, you know, the return game is important.
But I also had will say this, maturity, having a lot of guys that can play special teams, because everybody thinks it's a one-man show back there in the return game. And we can go over tape, over tape, over tape of kick returns for touchdowns, punt returns for touchdowns. It's hard to do it all by yourself.
If anybody thinks that Quadree did it by himself, is crazy. He's a great returner, but he's got help out of ten other guys doing their job. And Coach Powell does a great job designing and organizing those return games, and will continue to do a good job.
I think, forget the return guy, let's talk about those other critical ten guys on the field and what are those guys doing? I think those guys are better right now. That's so much more important than the return guy, to be honest with you.
Q. Coach, Paris on defense?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, Paris was going like this -- he really was and is, I should say. Paris is doing a nice job. He's an energetic guy. I can't wait to watch him on the field. He's energetic. He plays with emotion, and I think the game is a game of emotion. Just got to make sure we keep him under control. He's wild. I love that part of him.
Q. I know you're as curious as we are, and probably more to see what this team does when the lights come on. But is there one guy or group of guys or position of guys that you're sort of most curious to see how they fare now in week one against the other team?
PAT NARDUZZI: Not really. I can't say there is one. You're looking forward to seeing 22 guys out there and the ten positional groups play. If I'm just, you know, fired up to see one group, then we've probably got problems with the other groups. They're so similar. I think I'm excited to see everybody go out there and play. I think that's where it starts.
Q. (Inaudible) when you make a statement like wanting to win an ACC Championship and embracing the mentality and being bold about that, does it put pressure on you as well? Do you embrace that pressure?
PAT NARDUZZI: I don't know if it puts any more pressure on me. We're going to take it week by week by week. It's a one-game season. You know, there's pressure whether you want to be an ACC Championship or whether you want to win six games. Whatever your goals are, there is pressure to do that.
I think when you've got one of the toughest schedules in the country and you have a football team that wants to and has a desire to win a championship, there is no pressure because they believe they're there and they have the ability to do that. So is it stress? Is it pressure? Our guys are ready to play ball.
Q. (Inaudible) can you tell us about that?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, I'm assuming you saw some of the stuff on Twitter. You know, Kellen is an unbelievable kid. Really the set-up for that whole thing, which I don't know if it showed on that video, he does so much in the community service. Forget what kind of football player he is. He's such a volunteer in this community. We talk about making an impact in the city of Pittsburgh, making an impact on campus, putting the smile on people's faces, that's something he does.
Every day when we finish practice, that guy's there. I can put an X and save a spot for Kellen because I know he's going to be there. When I blow that last horn, he's coming up. He's right there.
So he's done so much community service-wise. The guy works his tail off in anything he does on the football field. So he deserved that scholarship. It started with what he did on the field. We're not going to give it -- because he does a great job in community service. We just kind of set up giving it to him that way.
I just said, hey, somebody wants to volunteer? One guy, you only have one, and he's sitting right there like he always is. He said, Coach, I'll do it. It's how we set up, because I knew he'd volunteer like he always does. The guy will do anything. He'll come in here and mop the floors if we wanted to.
That's the most impressive thing. I thought maybe there would be a little dip in maybe his swagger after Jimmy Medure got one. But you guys kind of -- because you sit there and count scholarships. I don't know if it's Jerry counting scholarships. He's thinking maybe there is one more left. Maybe there's one more left. You'd kind of like them to not know if there's any left. You thought maybe saw a dip in his practice, but all you saw was his rise. I watched him to see how he was going to react to that, and he turned it up even hire, which is Kellen McAlone.
Q. Jeff Gordon Jr. joining your team?
PAT NARDUZZI: He is, he is. We introduced him last night. He's on this football team. We're happy to have Jeff. We're happy to have his family involved in the program.
We're still waiting to find out whether he's eligible or not. I think there was some word out there saying he was eligible. He spent the last 20 practices in Ann Arbor, so he's really a transfer. So I don't know what's going to happen there. So he's ineligible right now. So we'll wait to find out what that status is for him.
But just to give you some background on that, he had visited in the spring. Was trying to decide between, after he left Illinois as a grad transfer, between Michigan and Pitt. I just feel like I got there and felt like, you know, maybe he made a mistake and decided to come here.
PAT NARDUZZI: I don't know. I don't know. Let me know what I should do.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports