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August 26, 2019

Pat Narduzzi

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

PAT NARDUZZI: All right. Great to be here today. Obviously game week. It's exciting around here; lots of things to do. Running around. Just excited. I think our kids are excited about camp ending. I think they're excited about having an opponent to play instead of each other.

Primarily came out of camp pretty healthy, besides Rashad Weaver, which was obviously a major blow at the beginning of camp. From there on out, we came out healthy.

Our kids are locked in right now with classes starting today. They obviously have the day off, then tomorrow we'll resume practice.

Get to play the Virginia Cavaliers. Bronco Mendenhall does an incredible job. Done a great job building that program since his arrival. We look forward to having them come up to Heinz Field next Saturday night. I think it's going to be a heck of a matchup, Coastal favorite this year, Virginia is. That will be a challenge.

Any time you open up with someone that's a pre-season favorite, I think it adds a little extra for the game. Obviously on offense, Bryce Perkins is the guy. He's the guy you got to stop. They've got weapons, new weapons. Their depth chart just came out earlier here. There's some slight changes that I have not had a chance to digest in the spring. Nobody has a number, so you're not sure even who you're playing at times. At least they don't have Daffy Duck playing right guard. I guess there's a bonus there.

Know who I'm talking about? They don't know. We got to get you around.

Bryce Perkins. Defensively Bryce Hall at corner, a Pennsylvania native who is a super kid, got a chance to talk with him down at the ACC Media Day, just a tremendous kid. Obviously a big, big dude. Really good corner for them.

Then Snowden, Charles Snowden, is another guy up front. We have to know where those guys are at all times. Obviously they have a true freshman nose guard I know came out on the depth chart here in the last 20 minutes, that you know nothing about.

So it will be one of those games we're going to have to find out who they are, what they're doing. It's a typical opener. Even though we've played them in the past, they've been a team that messes -- two years ago they had 37 different personnel groupings. It's a lot to digest on one side of the ball.

Offensively they're watching a lot of stuff from I'm sure a bunch of UMass tape, all the stuff we did last year. They're going to have to decipher what we are doing both in the run and pass game.

One special note that I'll finish with here, let you guys ask some questions. This will be our first game since the passing of Bill Fralic. As a tribute to him and his family, especially his wife Susan, he'll have his brother-in-law Tom Brown, former Pitt fullback, be our honorary captain. That's never easy. To be able to have them back and honor them on our first home game of 2019 is special.

We'll also have I guess, Bill Fralic was a pretty nasty football player. We'll have '79 towels given out before the game also in a tribute to Bill Fralic.


Q. NFL teams start camp sooner, start season later than yu. Game Saturday night with Miami, do you get enough practice that you're ready for a game this early?
PAT NARDUZZI: Doesn't matter. We all get the same. Again, obviously the NFL has the model right, but they also pay those guys. Able to play those young guys, get some stuff out of the way. Again, I only watched 10 plays last night. I saw Ben light it up going down the field. They looked pretty sharp. Saw Rudolph to Washington, which made me cringe again. It was a post, not a fade. I didn't know he knew how to run a post route.

Pretty sharp their third pre-season game, fourth on Thursday. It is what it is. No sense in complaining. We all have the same situation. Comes down to the details.

We talk about discipline. I don't expect to go out and look like what the Miami-Florida game looks like. That's not us. Not what we prepared for, not what we showed. When the lights turn on on Heinz Field at night, you don't know what you're going to get. The emotions are flying.

Over at the Westin when I talked to you guys, we had a scrimmage, it was more mental than physical. We had some special teams miscues as far as, I didn't know the punt was on the field, coming out late. Where is this guy for kickoff? We had some of those we hoped to clean up.

We couldn't have had a better rehearsal on Friday, as far as being in Heinz Field, hitting about everything, kickoff after safety. Whatever it was, we're pretty detailed in taking care of situations that maybe we'll never see till week five, six, maybe not the entire year. We've worked every situation mentally.

When things hit the fan on Saturday night, you never know how the kids are going to react. Hopefully they're prepared and ready to roll.

Q. Speaking of Heinz Field, how important is it to play well at home, win games at home, in terms of your schedule, your accept?
PAT NARDUZZI: With seven home games, it's obviously really important. We put a premium on home football games here for the city of Pittsburgh. When we walk into Heinz Field, we play our best. Any time we step on the field, I don't want to win every home game and lose every away game. Every game is important. Only 12 guaranteed, they're all important.

To play well in front of our home fans in the city of Pittsburgh is something our kids look forward to.

Q. You mentioned Bryce, how do you prep for a guy like that, special scout teams guys?
PAT NARDUZZI: Sometimes you do. We've prepared for different athletic guys, have changed things.

I don't think we did anything special for him last year when we played in that game. I forget who the scout quarterback was that week. Obviously Bryce can throw it and he can run it and scramble. It's getting our kids used to what we need.

First thing we're going to have to get used to, last time we played them, we were in mid-season form as far as hitting a quarterback. We stayed off the quarterbacks, which scares me. We're going to have to hit the quarterback this week on the scout field. We did a little bit last week, but our kids were kind of like, even though our scout quarterbacks didn't have red jerseys on, they were still, That's the quarterback, stayed off him.

They're going to have the green light to go light a quarterback up and tackle him this week. That's the biggest thing, tackling the quarterback. I would say whether it's Perkins or anybody, Vinny Testaverde, doesn't matter who we're facing in the pocket, we got to hit the guy regardless of how athletic he is.

He poses a challenge because he's a scrambler and can make a lot of things happen with his feet.

Q. How big a challenge is that for a guy like Deslin Alexandre?
PAT NARDUZZI: It's a challenge for everybody on that field. Deslin is not rushing all by himself. It's going to take four of them. It will be Deslin for Patrick Jones, Twyman, the rest of them. The linebackers as well.

Q. How soon did you start preparing for them? First day of camp? In the spring?
PAT NARDUZZI: No, no. This is in the spring. Our coaches have looked at them. February and March we've watched them. You watch the spring game when it comes out. You're watching everything you can. But, no, we've had scouting reports on them for a long time as far as who they are.

Again, until you get the final depth chart, they have things they're changing and doing in the off-season. Still things you don't know. What we know is what they are on tape. You couldn't dissect them any better than what we've dissected them, what we know of. There's all the last month what have they done, who has emerged, what do their freshmen look like. We got guys that are faster than they were a year ago. Their guys are faster. Who is the speed guy, the new feature guy? I don't see a No. 4, going back to Taquan Mizzell a couple years ago, who is in the league, I believe. They've always had a No. 4 who is their dude. I think they're disguising him, no No. 4 on the roster. We don't know.

Last year I think No. 4 had like 93 catches. I forgot what his name was. I remember Taquan because I like that name.

Q. When you talk about tackling, do you feel that was the key to what you were able to do against Perkins last year?
PAT NARDUZZI: We got him down on the ground, that was key. One way or another we got him down on the ground. Tackling the quarterback is going to be critical this week for our D-line and linebackers for that matter. He has got designated runs. They'll run quarterback outside the zone with him, they'll spread out and he'll take off running. They do quite a bit with Bryce.

Q. Talented defensive back in Bryce Hall. Do you throw away from him or run your offense as is?
PAT NARDUZZI: We're going to run our offense as is. Can't eliminate the right side of the field for the offense. We played other good corners. That's our job on offense. I'm not going to give you the game plan as far as are we going at him, away from him. We're going to attack the defense just like they're going to attack our defense and offense. We're going to look for strengths and weaknesses and try to maneuver in the proper way.

Q. (No microphone.)
PAT NARDUZZI: He's been here for a year. He certainly has done a nice job. Gotten bigger. He's gotten stronger. He can stretch the field, I can tell you that. He's a guy that is really just caught a lot of balls in camp, which a tight end catching the ball is kind of unheard of the last couple years.

He's done a nice job. Again, when I talk about speed, there's a guy that's changed his speed where defense is going to have to deal with his speed down the field.

Q. (No microphone.)
PAT NARDUZZI: I've said earlier in camp, I felt that way coming out of spring ball, we have three starting corners. We can rotate those guys, keep our corners fresh. I feel the same way really at the safety spot with Damar Hamlin, who is outstanding, and then Jay Stocker, Paris Ford are three guys that we can rotate those guys, we can keep them fresh. I feel the same way with Mathis. He's been outstanding, he's been consistent. His knowledge of the game, what an offense is doing, I think last year he played, you know, every formation was the same, every backfield was the same, every receiver split was the same.

He's got that. Those are the keys. The keys to playing offense and defense is when you can start knowing what the other team is doing as opposed to, I got my job done, but you have no idea what the other side of the ball is doing.

Q. Depth at corner and safety, anybody separated yet?
PAT NARDUZZI: I would say a majority of those orders are because we feel pretty good about them. If I can name 15 starters, if you -- I don't even know what's on the order there. D tackle, that's because of depth.

Q. Quarterback?
PAT NARDUZZI: Backup quarterback, still looking at that. You can figure that one out.

Q. (No microphone.)
PAT NARDUZZI: Phil Campbell and Cam Bright are doing well at the start. I think we can win a lot of football games. A year ago it was Oluwaseun Idowu, I wasn't sure who was going to go in next.

Q. For the first time you open with a conference opponent. How exciting is it, given they're picked to win the division, you're defending your division title, all those factors incorporated?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think our kids are excited. They're sitting up on campus. As coaches, I was telling someone at the luncheon, everyone is coming up, Hey, aren't you so excited? I'm not really excited. I get excited game day when they come out of that tunnel. That's when coaches get excited. It's finally got here.

Until that point we have a lot of work to do. I walked out seven minutes before this press conference started out of a meeting. Again, there's a lot of work that has to be done for us to not look sloppy Saturday night.

Q. How do you feel playing a conference game in an opener, knowing you're 4-0 in openers?
PAT NARDUZZI: I didn't know that. Thanks for letting me know.

This opener is going to be a little bit different. I'm excited bit. I mentioned this back in the summer, as well, I'm excited about opening it up with a conference team, a well-coached Bronco Mendenhall team. Regardless of who the team is, opening up in the ACC is special. I really do. I think it gets our kids' motors going a little bit further. They're not thinking, We got this game. I can say the last four openers, maybe 4-0, but we didn't play Virginia, okay? I think they're a very, very talented football team.

We better be ready to go. I think the attitude, they know what's on the line. It's an ACC game. They know what's on the line. They know this is a very good football team. We know we're going to have a hungry Virginia team coming in her trying to kick our tails because we got a win down there last year. We know they'll be hungry, tough, they'll be physical, a lot of talk pregame. We kind of know what we're getting into.

Q. (Question about defending title.)
PAT NARDUZZI: You can throw everything out. This is 2019. Last year was 2018. This is totally new teams, new people. This is the only time you're going to see a 2009 team, Virginia team, versus a Pitt team. We don't have the same guys we had. Ollison is playing in Atlanta. Darrin Hall is in Green Bay. It's a different football team. Doesn't matter what happened a year ago. They're the pre-season favorites. I don't know if that's media. I don't even know who votes on all that stuff. But there's a reason they're there. There's a reason we're picked fourth. So our guys got to step up.

Q. Why do you think you were picked four?
PAT NARDUZZI: Like I said, I don't know if that's the media. No one asked me for a vote. Why are we picked fourth? I don't know. Doesn't really bother me. That's great. Pick me eighth, tenth. It is what it is.

Q. (Question about the offensive line.)
PAT NARDUZZI: We'll find out. You never know, like I said, whether you watched that Miami-Florida game, you don't know what you're going to get out of a freshman right tackle or out of a first-game starter, out of anybody. We're going to find out. That's why they have the test is going to be at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. I feel comfortable with our offensive line, I really do.

Again, we'll find out if they get an A, B, C or D. I don't think it going to be an F, but we'll find out what kind of grade they get.

I'm happy with those guys from the left tackle to the right tackle. Gabe Houy has been really special. Thought he would be a tackle. He filled in at that right guard spot. We got some guys to fill in at both guards. Stayed healthy (knocks wood). I like the chemistry in that room. I like the coaching that's going on in that room. I like their toughness.

We're going to be able to run the football, I guarantee that. That line is going to be key to doing that regardless of who is in the backfield.

Q. Blitzing can be challenging for experienced offensive lines. Is that going to make communication especially important?
PAT NARDUZZI: It could, depending on who your center was. With Morrissey in there, I don't have any fear they're all going to be on the right page, go in the right direction. He's obviously a key piece. But Owen Drexel has made some great strides, Jake Kradel has taken snaps at the center spot. I don't know if there's wars at the center spot. Jerry is checking it out right now. I don't even know who would be the second center in the game. We've worked hard as getting a backup center as well. We're going to find out about that.

Q. Traditionally in the openers, you kept things pretty vanilla in an effort offensively to not show the next opponent what you have.
PAT NARDUZZI: Are you sure we did that (smiling)?

Q. I'm pretty sure. Either that or your offense was really, really boring.
PAT NARDUZZI: (Laughter).

Q. Did you have to accelerate the installation of stuff? Are you going to be throwing more at kids earlier in the process?
PAT NARDUZZI: It's quality or quantity. Which one do you want? You can look at it, I mean, sometimes the opener, what do you do well as an offense? The one thing I know we're going to do well is run the football. Whether it's four different schemes you're going to run, you're going to see a power scheme, I can tell you that.

Again, we can throw a bunch of stuff in, see what they got. You guys watched the spring game. The more you do, the worse you are at what you do. We can be vanilla in the opener, whatever it may be. It can be because we held stuff back, it could be because that's all we wanted to do or could do at that point. If you recall a year ago, we had a young offensive line, too, right? Denny Tino, Kernan, two starting left tackles. Transfer tackle from Kent State, no one knew who he was. Kind of like Nolan Ulizio, who is this guy?

There's a difference there, too. Taking into account who you have. We're replacing four linemen up front. What's the easiest thing to do? Run the football, eat up the clock, do what a tough Pittsburgh football team does.

Q. Media Day we talked extensively you need to be more dynamic in the passing game.
PAT NARDUZZI: We do. It's going to be. Our passing game has to be dynamic, too. When we throw it, let's compete it, you know? I guess we find out Saturday night.

We're going to throw the ball better, too, throw it more often. We're still going to be able to run the football. It starts there. Your passing game won't be worth a darn if you can't run the football. We don't want to be one-dimensional coming out of the game saying we ran the ball 80% of the time. I'd like to say it's 60/40 run. 50/50 would be nice. It's an opener. We have to be able to run the football.

Q. (Question about Tre Tipton.)
PAT NARDUZZI: Tre Tipton has been outstanding, really has. He's been special. He's as engaged as he's been since he's been here. Chris Beatty, I give him credit for hugging him up, bringing him in, getting every ounce of talent we've got out of him. I think he's going to make a lot of big plays. He's running routes better than he ever has.

To answer your passing question, do what you do better, we don't have to do it more, just better. I hope I answered that question. Tre Tipton is part of that let's do it better. When we throw the ball, run a perfect route, put the ball where it's supposed to be, get it out of our hands on time. Those are the keys. It's not how many times or how fancy it looks. Let's just gain yards in the running game, pass game.

Tre, I'm excited about him.

Q. (Question about the wideouts and Shocky.)
PAT NARDUZZI: He is on the depth chart?

Q. He's not.
PAT NARDUZZI: It's a testament to the other guys. I can't tell you who is on there. E.J. just makes those depth charts up. He puts who he wants on there when he wants (laughter).

But, you know, Shocky is a guy that's got a ton of talent and will play. Let's leave it that way. It's a two deep. We didn't give you the five deep.

Q. Kylan Johnson, Nakia Griffin-Stewart. How much different does it make, especially in game one, when you're plugging in a fourth or a fifth-year guy as a new player in your lineup as opposed to a redshirt sophomore that has never seen the field?
PAT NARDUZZI: Those guys all played meaningful games before. That helps us a ton. I tell you what, we've gotten lucky, really lucky, with not only the quality of player they are, but the quality of people we brought in this room. It's hard to bring a guy in here one year and try to fit in with all the guys. Our kids have done a nice job of opening their arms to the grad transfers. The grad transfers have done a great job of opening up their hearts to the football team, giving it everything they've got on the field.

You're going to see those three guys play an awful lot of football. Again, it's a testament also to our staff and our coaching staff of getting the right guys, not only character-wise, but these are three major additions to this football team that are going to contribute a lot to this football team. I'm excited about watching all three of those new guys.

They're Pitt Panthers now. I don't know where the heck they went to school before. We're happy they're here. The one thing you don't want to bring in is three grad transfers that aren't playing for you. We brought in the right ones. Done a great job of evaluating and bringing in the right ones, whether it's Nathan Peterman who I hope makes the Raiders there, great two-minute comeback the other day. That's what we're looking for.

All right. Thank you very much. Have a good one.

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