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UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 5, 2020
PAT NARDUZZI: All right, guys. Ready to roll?
Obviously signing day. National signing day? I don't know what national signing day has become. As I was speaking with somebody last week, this is like the late signing day. They talk about early signing and then the signing day. To me the signing day was back in December. This is really the late signing day.
You have a chance to go out and really focus on what your needs are after a class is finished, assess the needs, again spend a ton of time watching individuals to find out exactly what you need.
We were able to add two additions to the class that we're obviously very excited about. Again, one was a true need. One we were maybe thinking we had a need here in another year, try to work it a little bit different.
The two today we're excited about. Total of 20 in this class. Again, could there be an addition to this? Yes, there could be another addition as we move forward here in the next month or two. Obviously the February period is dead now. There will be nobody visiting, either '21, '22, anybody in the '20 class.
You guys had a chance to meet with eight of our midyears, starting with Lucas Krull, kind of a big dude. It's good to really introduce those guys to you. Hopefully you had a good time with those super individuals who really made an impact since they've been here in the weight room, on the field running-wise, and really got a taste of just 30 minutes of individual, some walk-throughs this morning. Hopefully that went well. Maybe you'll have some questions about something you heard or saw from them.
The two kids, two student-athletes, that we were able to sign today:
First one I'll start, defensive back Rashad Battle from Creekside High School in Georgia. 6'3", 190-pound athlete. Super kid. Came with his dad this past weekend.
Most important thing about recruiting, obviously got to spend a lot of time with them, it is the type of people they are. I think it starts with who you get to coach. There was a smile on that kid's face. A complete smile on his face the entire weekend. You could tell he was enjoying the weekend.
Originally committed to Maryland. Decommitted from them. Kind of kept his recruiting open. He had decisions to make obviously. We were happy to get him this weekend. He's a big, tall, athletic guy that again I think can play corner, free safety, strong safety. I think he can do anything back there. Obviously until we get him here in the program, we'll know a little bit about that.
The specialist we brought in, Ben Sauls, out of the Dayton, Ohio area. Kind of a funny story with Ben in the recruiting. We originally tried to get him as a walk-on. I think he was originally committed to Boston College. Coaching change. We ended up getting on him. We're trying to get him as a walk-on. We're trying to put him in the Alex Kessman kind of category.
When we brought Kessman in, put him behind Blewitt. As soon as Blewitt leaves, we'll get you in. We wanted to get him in the program. We didn't want to bring a kicker in as a true freshman, say, By the way, you're kicking. We wanted to bring him in to have a shot to be the guy and compete.
Tried to get him as a walk-on. All of a sudden he got slammed with probably five scholarship offers, five Power 5 offers, and then all of a sudden committed somewhere else.
Coach Powell, Coach Bates did a heck of a job, Coach Partridge, as well, in helping recruit him, getting it figured out.
Made the decision last Friday based on our numbers and needs. I didn't want to put pressure on a freshman kicker to come in here. This is the guy we wanted. He's the best kicker out there, strong, explosive leg, kicking a 55-yarder obviously in his senior year. He's outstanding. I think one of the best in the country.
We said, Hey, we're not going to wait a semester, we'll do it a little bit different. Sometimes you have to improvise, adjust your attack. We changed it, were able to land him I think primarily on the people we have at Pitt, on the academics, academic situation here in the University of Pittsburgh. You look at the high standard we have there.
Two outstanding kids. Took Ben a couple days to decide. Took Rashad a couple days to decide. We're happy to add those two to the class.
With that, I'll open it up for questions on those guys you talked to and maybe these two guys.
Q. How often do you get two kickers on scholarship?
PAT NARDUZZI: That's a great question. Sam Scarton is another one of our kickers. I'll address Sam because maybe he's watching right now. I wanted to catch him this morning. Didn't get a chance to talk to him.
We've had that problem. We're going to play the best kicker, okay? We had this situation on another staff I've been on. Shoot, we brought a scholarship kicker in and brought a walk-on kicker in, and the walk-on beat out the scholarship guy. We had another kicker that was just on the way out. Same situation. But the scholarship guy ended up getting beat out by the walk-on.
We're going to play the best kicker. Scholarship is how you're getting here. Everybody has a different avenue to get to college, whatever it is. Hopefully this motivates Sam, because he's a good kicker, too. You really want them to fight it out, see what happens in January, even though you have a feeling based on videotape.
That's the tough thing as a coach, you're basing everything you see based on video. That's happened plenty of times really in every position. Again, we'll have three kickers in camp, let them battle it out.
Q. Mark Dantonio retiring yesterday caused a bit of speculation about your candidacy for the job.
PAT NARDUZZI: Well, I thought that question may come up.
Rumors are rumors. Speculation... I can't tell you what's going on in the outside world. I don't know what's happening up there. Obviously it's fresh.
The first thing is to address Mark Dantonio, my relationship with coach. That's my head coach. He always will be. I just want to thank him for everything he's done for me in my career and congratulate him on his exit from Michigan State. He's a great football coach. The all-time winningest coach in Michigan State history. There's just so many things to look back on, all the memories that we had together.
But again, it's a fresh thing. That happened less than 24 hours ago probably. In my text to him last night, You shocked the world today. That came as a total shock to me that that happened, I think to the entire staff and team because I think there's only one guy that knew anything going into that team meeting yesterday they had.
It's fresh. Then there's decisions to make in the whole situation. We talk about it all the time with our kids. I think we're going on a thousand days since anything was ever in the newspaper that popped up just with our kids in a bad light, okay? We got a well-disciplined football team that does things right. It's all about the decisions you make on campus, in class, over in this building. So I'm proud of the discipline our football team has off the field.
We could always get better on the field. But they have decisions to make. Our recruits, those two guys yesterday, they have decisions to make. I get a text yesterday about 4, 4:30, I don't know what time it was. Coach, do you have a second to talk? It's from Ben.
I'm like, Shoot.
I call him. I'm listening, it's ringing, ringing, ringing. As I got on the phone, I'm going to FaceTime you. As old as I am, you can push the FaceTime thing, all of a sudden it goes from talking to him to FaceTime him. I FaceTimed him because I wanted him to look me in the eyes and know, Hey, I want you to see me. I don't want to just hear you. I wanted him to see who I was.
Again, just talked to him about what the situation was. He asked me flat blank, What's going on? Obviously he signed today.
Again, had the same conversation with Rashad, just letting him know what's going on. I mean, recruits got decisions to make. Our players got decisions to make.
Last year, as you guys know, four, five guys could have jumped ship. You see it happening all over the country. I think 111 players, unless the numbers changed, declared early for the draft, 111. A year ago 103 was the stat declared early, were undrafted. Our kids make those decisions there. We try to do a good job of teaching them.
Those guys had decisions to make, just like coaches do. Our coaches, we got coaches, we got NFL teams calling for our coaches. I think when you got great players, great people, things and decisions have to be made. We got operations guys that people are calling up saying, Come for an interview. Golly.
I'm continually here to protect our program. Again, this program is going like this, okay? You can count wins and losses. I think the people that sit in this room, come to this office every day, know what we have here.
We have the best AD in the country in Heather Lyke. Our chancellor is incredible in Patrick Gallagher. Obviously have discussions with them because they could call me. You guys couldn't call me last night. We had discussions last night. We'll go through several different discussions here in the coming days.
It's my ultimate goal to be here at Pitt. That's where I want to be, here at Pitt. I came here to get a job done. We're just working on continuing to move forward.
Again, we couldn't be in a better situation here at the University of Pittsburgh. We really couldn't. I'm blessed to be the head coach here and count my blessings every day. That's kind of the way it is.
I hope I answered that question. I hope Jerry doesn't have any other questions. Jerry, you have a question (laughter)?
Q. You said it was your goal to be here at Pitt. You'll have decisions to make. Would you like to squash those rumors?
PAT NARDUZZI: I thought I just did. Maybe I did it in a bad way.
The rumor, squash them, whatever you want to call it. I got decisions to make, too. I'm here at Pitt. I want to be here at Pitt. That's where I'm going to be.
Sorry, I thought I answered that. I must have been confusing.
Q. What was your answer to Ben Sauls?
PAT NARDUZZI: Pretty much the same thing I told you. I'm not going to sit on a FaceTime and lie to a kid. I'm going to tell him the truth. Our kids know I'm going to tell it like it is. Whether you want to hear it or not want to hear it, I'm going to be real.
I know where my heart is. You got people pulling at you. That's what these poor kids go through in the recruiting process. Everybody think it's easy. Why haven't you committed to Pitt yet? People abuse recruits on Twitter. You have agents pushing our kids, You're going to be a third to fifth rounder, then you're a free agent. You got people telling kids different things, not being truthful.
What I told them is like what I just told you, I told E.J. that this morning. They can be tweeting that stuff out, just so you know. I'm glad they didn't have their own press conference on Twitter last night. You could have known last night. I just tell them like it is.
Q. Is that flattering that your name is out there?
PAT NARDUZZI: Flattering? I don't know. I mean, kind of pain in the tail, I can tell you that. Because any time it comes up, I mean, it's like someone pulling you in a different direction.
You know how much success you had at another place, and you enjoyed it, too. If you didn't enjoy it, you wouldn't have stayed there for eight years. There's always that pull.
Like I said, it's not an easy decision. It's not easy for Jaylen Twyman to say I'm not leaving, I'm staying. When it comes down to it, it's about the people. I know what I'm dealing with here at Pitt. I know every day when I call up Heather Lyke and say, How about this? She's going to say, We'll get it done. I just know that. I don't know that about anyplace else in the country like it know it here.
Maybe I didn't know when it Heather got here, but I certainly knew it about a month after she got here that she's real. And the same with the chancellor.
Hope that answered it.
Q. (No microphone.)
PAT NARDUZZI: I think any opening. I don't know if it matters who it is or what it is. I think any time that happens, doesn't matter what job. I don't know. But, yeah, I can see. You don't have to justify it. Doesn't matter to me.
Q. Michigan State, has anybody contacted you?
PAT NARDUZZI: Next question. C'mon now. I'm not going to get into... Put it this way, my phone was blowing up last night.
Q. What do you see as a long-term goal? Do you want to coach in the NFL?
PAT NARDUZZI: I want to win championships here. I mean, really, I have no desire, I can tell you that right now, to really be in the NFL at this point.
Like I said probably mid-season, I have a daughter that's going to be a senior in high school. Me bouncing around... You look at Kitchens up at the Cleveland Browns, got a really good friend on the staff up there. One year as a special teams coordinator, leaves the Vikings after about eight, goes there, goes there. Like, bad move, he got fired, then he got retained. I'm sure he had decisions to be made too to find out who was going to be the head coach at the Browns.
It's all about stability. I have no desire to be at that level. The time we spend as coaches is not just on the field. I think people forget. College and pros are totally different. There's situations we deal with these young kids every single day that I enjoy. It's a pain sometimes.
Do we really have to have this conversation? But when you see the success, if you have an individual two years ago, all of a sudden you see where he is now, without mentioning names, that's what you coach for. You can throw every win or loss out. You see how far they've come as people. That's the key.
But I want to win championships here. That's our goal. We got a great football team coming back. Don't underestimate that. I'm excited about our players. Our players are committed and their head coach is committed.
We can't have a head coach with one foot in. I'm excited about our strength staff. You're going to get a chance to meet Mike Stacchiotti here in a second. I think we blew that thing out of the water in the weight room. You can talk to our kids and they can verify that, that great things are happening down there.
One of our coaches traveled back and forth to Florida with two U-Hauls. Must have a big apartment down there. He doubled up. So there's commitment down there and great things happening.
Q. (Question about Rutgers.)
PAT NARDUZZI: Not as simple as that one, I can tell you that one. That was simple. That was, like, simple. This one was not as simple because you've been there before. It's not as simple to just say I'm not going to listen to any more.
But great people, great chancellor, a great AD make it a little bit easier, that's for sure. Again, sometimes you get torn. I don't have a question. There's no looking back. There's no looking back saying, Wow, why didn't I do that?
Do you guys have any questions on recruits? John, did you have a question?
Q. As a head coach, you've modeled yourself after Mark Dantonio. Is that someone you asked questions to throughout your time here?
PAT NARDUZZI: He's a busy man. But you ask questions every day when you're working for him. You don't leave and ask a bunch of questions because you're recruiting against him. There's some good recruiting battles that don't always end the way you want them to, one way or another. There's battles on the streets.
But you learn. I've learned from every coach I've been around. We don't do it exactly the way they did it there. I can go back to every coach I've been around has taught me lessons. Joe Novak texted me last night, You need to talk, call me. That's a guy I can lean on every day. I'm going to call Joe Novak probably as fast as I'm going to talk to anybody.
Q. (Question about the two recruiting periods.)
PAT NARDUZZI: I think people are used to it. I'd like to see the stats. I haven't seen them yet, on how many kids signed in December in the first year, that early signing, what I'd call the signing period, or signed in February. But I would imagine the numbers continue to get stronger in December to the point where that is the signing period.
I love the December signing period. Do I care to have a February signing period? Probably not. I'd have one less press conference. I wouldn't have had to come here today. One less job on my plate today. We could move the thing this evening to December, which would make December probably, with bowl practice, signing day, obviously traveling somewhere, maybe a big issue.
I'm happy with the way it is. To me right now, kids can sign today and they can sign all the way till March 31st. We have a big window. To me what they got to do is open up that December signing date where a kid can sign up until, say, mid January, something. Just doesn't seem to be a reason why you have to have two. To me, you need one, then give them a certain period of time to get one.
I had one come through the fax on the 31st, April 1st, April Fool's Day, from a great player. I thought it was kind of an April Fool's Day joke. But it was real.
Q. (No microphone.).
PAT NARDUZZI: I didn't read that. I got a phone call.
Q. He has a friend that may be coming here.
PAT NARDUZZI: Maybe. I'll say this: I believe it's Coach Walker, they all have kicking coaches. The same kicking coach that teaches Kessman is his same teacher or coach. I can't tell you if the holder is tied into them. There's so many tied into the whole thing.
So I would say there's a good chance that might be the case. I didn't read the 120. I don't think you make a decision on coming where a holder is coming. But if he's really good, maybe that's true.
It would be a great question for Coach Powell.
Q. So many kids coming back from your team, how much of this recruiting class is about that versus guys you see as impact players?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think as you look at really the whole class, I'm never going to shut someone down and say he's not ready. I mean, who knows. Of those 20 guys, all 20 got a shot to come in. Obviously a grad transfer like Lucas got a chance to come in immediately and make an impact. You're looking at all the freshmen, which I think is where you're directing that question, they all can.
I mean, you don't know what's going to happen injury-wise. You look at our linebackers, Solomon DeShields, I watch that guy run out on the field, holy cow. He's like a deer running. It's like whoa. Who knows. What happens when the pads go on?
There's so many things you see in the weight room, then there's running. You see a mental component in a meeting room with the position coach. All those things have to click together.
You watch Jordan Addison run. Our guys are saying, Coach, he may be like maybe our fastest receiver. Shockey will say there's no way. There's a guy that can help you right away based on a deficiency with Maurice Ffrench going. You lost obviously at different positions, you can plug them in maybe better than I can.
Q. Did the switch in offensive philosophy maybe open up some doors for you that weren't available?
PAT NARDUZZI: It opens and closes, okay? One door opens in one place, it shuts somewhere. Obviously if you're a receiver, you're going, I want to go catch a hundred footballs. If you're a runningback, you're going, I want to go somewhere they're going to run it a little bit more.
Obviously we want to be more balanced. I want student-athletes in high school licking their chops to come play runningback and receiver and quarterback and O-line. I want to block, pass set, do all those things on offense. You like to be balanced, not be one-sided, I guess.
Q. With Lucas, playing his final year, didn't get a ton of production out of tight ends last year, what is the sales pitch?
PAT NARDUZZI: You put the tape on, watch what our tight ends are doing, whether they made a play or didn't make a play. I will say we had a heck of a lot more production out of our tight ends than we did a year ago. When you look at the comparison, it was really steep.
But you look at what we'd like to do. Again, sometimes you're going to build your offense around your play-makers. Who is making the plays? Lucas comes out in spring ball and says, Hey, I need 50 catches. We're going to get it to him if he shows that he deserves it.
From everything you see on tape, that's great. Let's see you run block, catch it, run after the catch. Again, the production at tight end has been better. Again, you sell what we're doing.
Then when you watch the tape, whether it's a wrong route, wrong read by a tight end or receiver, you're telling them, Hey, this is where you're supposed to be. Coach, I'll get that.
Kids see whether you had the ball thrown to you or the ball was supposed to go to you, it didn't go. Why did it not go to you? There's all kinds of reasons why a tight end might not get a ball. Same thing for a receiver, same thing for a running back. If we hand the ball to you, and you run and fall down in the back of an offensive lineman, pretty easy to see that.
Q. (No microphone.)
PAT NARDUZZI: I don't know, Jerry. I'm bad with math. I have no idea. I have no idea. I'm kind of a bad math guy.
Like I said, I think we can go one or two. There's always going to be attrition somewhere. You plan on it. Bad at math. We just kind of go as we go. Those are all discussions. I don't I don't know if we talked about it. In the icehouse about Bricen Garner making the decision.
Those are both graduates that weren't playing for us that needed to go play somewhere, get a chance to get their feet on the field. Those are success stories to me. We got them to graduate, they hung in here long enough to get that degree, then we move them on.
Are there more of those? I don't know. A lot of times after spring ball, you find out there's some more. I certainly don't want to be short going into the season with 80 scholarships either. The number is very fluctuating there.
Q. (Question about unexpected departures.)
PAT NARDUZZI: It helps out a bunch. If we didn't have those eight, you lose a bunch... Spring ball sometimes gets light. That's why we try to get some of it done in bowl practice where you're getting a lot of work done with those young guys there because at least you have someone to practice against. Those kids are working on scout team.
But spring ball is an opportunity. We'll go ones and twos. We'll have some deep twos. A lot of people rotating in the twos to get reps. It helps us a ton as far as being able to replace some guys.
With Aydin Henningham, Jordan Addison as I mentioned earlier, just getting those guys out there, we got a whole spring to find out. You're not losing Maurice Ffrench without somebody stepping in to see if he can prove to be the next guy.
Q. When is the first day of spring ball?
PAT NARDUZZI: I know where I'm going today. E.J.?
Q. March 2nd.
PAT NARDUZZI: March 2nd. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, then they go on spring break. Those numbers, man, I'm bad with the numbers. I know it's Monday, Wednesday, Friday. After spring break we go Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday.
Q. You mentioned March 31st. Are you hopeful to get anyone else? Do you still target other guys?
PAT NARDUZZI: We're targeting. After today we'll be done at the high school level. It will be more grad transfers, needs, what do we need to help us get that next step.
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