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July 21, 2016
Charlotte, North Carolina
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Pitt. We'll ask Coach Narduzzi to make an opening statement, then we'll bring the student-athletes up for questions.
COACH NARDUZZI: Good afternoon, everybody. It's great to be back down here at the ACC Media Days here. Not a rookie anymore. Last year I walked into Pinehurst not knowing what I'm getting into. Now I'm a veteran. I call myself a vet going into the second year.
It's been an amazing year. A lot of great things happen at the University of Pittsburgh. Looking forward to making some greater things happen.
We have the 2016 season starting on August 7th. Our kids are in camp. That's really the first day that everybody officially comes into camp. We're obviously allowed to coach them up and get after them a little bit, really kind of see what type of football team we have.
The season for these young men really never ends, which I don't know if people really realize how strenuous their lives are. They've been in summer school. There's two sessions. They're getting a lot of work done as well as strength and conditioning work with Dave Andrews, our strength coach.
We finished up 15 days of spring ball, got a lot of work done there. We're currently in a phase we call 'victor's edge,' working on that edge to get victories, as that word entails there.
I think we have a veteran football team coming back. When you look at a year ago, we had 11 seniors, this year we have 20. I think we've got a great senior class. When you talk about a great football team, I think you have to have a great senior class. You have to have a class that has leadership skills, that's going to take the bull by the horn, or the Panther by the ears, try to get things done. To me you're only as good as your seniors play. We have two great ones here to spend a few minutes with you. But it starts with those guys. If they play their best football, then we got a chance to be pretty good.
I can't wait to lead these 20 seniors, 12 of them are fifth-year seniors, so you talk about a veteran, mature group entering this 2016 season, again, I can't wait to lead them out of the tunnel.
Team chemistry. I think it all comes down to that. People say, What kind of football team are you going to have? I think we have enough talent to reach our goals, to do the things we want to do as a football team at the University of Pittsburgh. It comes down to team chemistry. That's all developed when camp starts.
I think our players have developed it. They went to Sandcastle. We had an event at our house. My wife Donna was nice enough to invite them over. Half the pool was empty when they left from all the waves.
Chemistry is huge. They're building it here this summer with Coach Andrews. We'll continue to build it in camp. The way those guys act and get around each other as the season moves on is going to be important.
Obviously we're all looking forward to that September game when we open up against Villanova. We're excited about that game. That's where it all starts. Then we'll just take it one game at a time.
But with the season coming upon us, we're going to find out really where we are as a football team. We have some great games in the ACC. We're going to really find out. Everything is measured, okay? They're going to measure your wins and losses, the height and weight of these guys. We're going to find out as a football team how we measure up in the ACC this year.
With that, I'm going to turn it over to Nathan.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Nathan.
Q. What can you say about Matt Canada coming in, what he's meant to you in the quarterback room, and on the offense what his vision is, what you've taken from it?
NATHAN PETERMAN: Coach Canada has been great, ever since I first had that first conversation with him on the phone right before he was hired. We've really gelled together nicely. Really built a great relationship together so far. I can only see better things happening.
As far as the football standpoint, he's an extremely knowledgeable guy, extremely creative guy. This spring it was really just a joy to get to learn all these new things, the new way of things that he does, his play-calling and things. It's been fun. It's been very teaching, a teaching experience. Just been enjoying it.
Q. Next week you will celebrate three months as a newly married man. What have you learned in three months?
NATHAN PETERMAN: Well, my father-in-law asked me that about a month ago, too. Morgan is her name. I know she's watching at home, too. She's awesome. I think it's just really learning to gel together, learning to mesh together. She's been great supporting me. Just can't wait for many more months, to go through this whole season with her by my side. It's been awesome.
I just learn to be a servant every day and to have fun with her.
Q. Pitt has a great power running game. This year against Villanova you will have James Conner. What will that experience be like to have James Conner back full force?
NATHAN PETERMAN: It's going to be awesome. Just seeing his work ethic while he still had cancer and was beating it, as well as fighting to be the best player he can still be while he's got cancer, to now where he's completely recovered, trying to get back in shape. It's been awesome to witness that. I know it will be a special moment once he gets that first touch, and for all of us to get inspiration from him that first day, really throughout the summer with how great a competitor he is.
Q. Coach can give his own report card about his progress after year one as the head coach at Pitt, but how would you grade him coming into the program?
NATHAN PETERMAN: I wasn't there before, unfortunately. But just to see what he had done as a first-year coach, just how he inspired all of us last year, was amazing. To me, that speech in the locker room only wears off for about three seconds, but just to see his passion, how he approaches everything is contagious. I love playing for him. I couldn't imagine a better coach to play for. It's a fun time.
Q. What have you learned as a student-athlete having now been a part of two major institutions?
NATHAN PETERMAN: I think just to kind of sit back and take things as they come to you. There's a lot of ebbs and flows, highs and lows in college football, and in life. So just to learn from those things. Take adversity and let it grow you stronger, kind of mold you like gold in a crucible.
I've been blessed to kind of go through trials and things. Definitely count that as a huge blessing from God, how it's grown me stronger, how it's helped me to be a better person and teammate, hopefully help our team win this year.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Nathan. We'll bring up Ejuan Price for questions.
Q. As a guy who grew up in western Pennsylvania, has been at Pitt for a long time, what is the Penn State game going to mean this year?
EJUAN PRICE: Being a younger guy, I never got to experience the rivalry. But getting the atmosphere from older people, the fans, you can tell it's a big deal we want to put on for the city. Even though we have a game before that we're not overlooking, we're definitely amped up and pumped for that game and ready to show up.
Q. How much does it benefit you as a defensive lineman to practice against the offense you have every day?
EJUAN PRICE: It's definitely an edge for us. I believe we have one of the best offensive lines in the country. Just going against those guys every day, sharpening our tools against them, and vice versa, it's definitely an edge we got to experience that every day. I don't think we'll see one better. Going against that every day is definitely a plus for us.
Q. What do you remember about last year's Georgia Tech game, maybe preparations for them again this past spring?
EJUAN PRICE: Definitely when you play Georgia Tech and teams like Georgia Tech and Navy, it's definitely a different experience. They're a one-of-a-kind team. The things they do well, nobody else does.
When you go against a team like that, everything has to change basically. It's not common. It's not a cookie-cutter system. Practice is different. You're getting cut a lot, knees is hurting, legs is hurting. You have to prepare and be sound.
One minute someone makes a mistake, that's 20 or 30 yards on their end. You definitely have to be more disciplined when you see those guys.
Q. Take a look at your versatility, just speaking on yourself on the defensive line, as well as how you define the line as a whole going into this season.
EJUAN PRICE: I think we have a relatively fast group this year. We have a lot of speed on the defensive line, we have guys like Tyrique Jarett, 340-pounder you can't move. I think we have a lot of character, a big tool shed. We have a lot of versatility against our guys that I think we'll be a problem in the end.
Q. Reflect on the Louisville game of last year, what kind of statement that made as far as setting up for this year, to be a well-known guy.
EJUAN PRICE: Being off basically three years due to injury, I feel like that was one of my welcome back games. Throughout the season I proved the kind of potential I could have if I worked for it. I got a high ceiling. I think if I keep putting in the work with the guys, I think I can be something special.
Q. After suffering the injury in 2013, missing all of 2014, being able to come back last season and play all the games, how much is that in the back of your mind when you go out there on the football field knowing at any given time it could end?
EJUAN PRICE: I kind of don't think about things like that. I recollect back to when Coach Narduzzi first came and we had a conversation. He basically let me know I had a lot of potential. If I worked for it, I could be something.
He reassured me I wouldn't get hurt. When you talk to a guy that's so confident, it has no choice but to rub off on you.
Any injury I have or could potentially have, is completely out of my mind, and I'm just playing full tilt.
THE MODERATOR: We'll excuse our student-athletes and invite Coach Narduzzi back for some Q&A.
COACH NARDUZZI: That's a great, positive attitude there.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Coach Narduzzi.
Q. What are your thoughts regarding satellite camps? I read somewhere where you don't like them, but you more or less consider them a necessity in today's recruiting environment. Is that right?
COACH NARDUZZI: Talking satellite camps, I thought we were beyond that. I think some people are still doing them nowadays.
We participate in about eight, maybe nine of them. I'm flexible. I can give you my thoughts on what I think, but it doesn't mean I'm going to do that. I think you have to do what's best for your program.
If everybody else is doing it, I don't want to be left behind, if that makes sense.
Personally I'm not excited about them. I don't know if anybody in the ACC is, from talking to a lot of my counterparts. I don't think student-athletes lose opportunities. I think if a team has 25 scholarships to give, I've never seen them hold back and not give all 25 out. So I disagree with those reasons.
But I think when I sit in a home and I tell mom and dad how important their kids are, and when they get there, I'm going to be there, then not to be there, be off some other state worrying about where that next guy is going to come from, it kind of says a different thing.
My main thing is to be with our kids, coaching our kids, helping those 105 guys. You have 105 on your campus, and you're away from them too often. During the season, it's a whirlwind. The season is over, you go on the road recruiting. You come back, spend a little bit of time with them, spring ball, then you're off on alumni functions. When the summer starts up, you're off again on the road.
Those are the reasons. I like to be around our current children. I like our coaches to be around their families. I think that's important. I was able to reconnect with my own family, try to make that situation always better. You got to work on everything you're doing.
Again, if everybody is going to do them, I'll be first in line to find out where our next camp is going to be.
Q. You get to take your team to Death Valley this year. Talk a little bit about that experience.
COACH NARDUZZI: Death Valley? That's what it's called? Never heard that before.
I'm looking forward to it. We have 12 guaranteed games. That will give us 13 or 14. We can't have any redos. I couldn't even tell you what number is, eight, nine, ten, I don't even know. We're going to embrace every opportunity we have an opportunity to play. Dabo obviously does a tremendous job coaching, mentoring his football team.
I talked earlier just talking about measuring up, where will we measure up as a university, as a football program. What better place to go than to Death Valley, okay, and find out how you measure up against a team that was in a national championship game a year ago.
Our kids will find out where we are, how far we've come, how far we need to go.
Q. To take a look at year one to where you stand today, learning experiences, bringing in some new faces to the staff, what can you say about moving forward?
COACH NARDUZZI: First of all, we've got a great staff. I'm very, very impressed. We had lost one individual and replaced him with Matt Canada, who we already talked about a little bit ago. Spent three years with him.
When I look at our staff, I look at Matt Canada as our offensive coordinator, what he brings to the table, not only with his football knowledge, but his care knowledge, the care that he has for our football team. I think his energy can match mine. He's an exciting guy, full of energy, that I think adds to that side of the ball.
Josh Conklin, our defensive coordinator, second season, did a tremendous job a year ago. I think we continually will make strides on defense and get better every year. You're playing different offenses every week. I just think not only our players' knowledge of this defense, but our coaches' knowledge is that much better.
You may see good improvement there.
Andre Powell, our special teams coordinator, everybody wants to talk offense, defense, I think we have the best special teams coordinator in Andre Powell. We've had great off-season special teams meetings. If we win the special teams game every game, we have a chance to do great things.
Q. Several new coaches in the coastal division this year. How does that change your preparation going into the season?
COACH NARDUZZI: It slows down the process. I think when you talk about winning football games, you talk about continuity in your staff. When your staff is intact, you have a chance to gain another step, okay?
When you look at your division changing as far as new coaches at Miami, Virginia, Virginia Tech, so forth, Syracuse, teams that you play on a year-to-year basis, you don't have that year's knowledge as to what they did to you a year ago.
I don't know if the players really care, but as a football coach, it's always fun, the chess match in the off-season of how you are going to defend a team again the next year, what they did to you a year ago, what they didn't do, what you thought they were going to do, what you're going to do to them. Those are all strategic things that I think are important.
After you play a team for seven or eight years, you really got a good bead on them. I think things change. When you have a new staff, going down to Miami, brand-new team. Same players. We know Brad can throw the ball, all those things, but different reads. How are they going to set him up in that offense, so forth, every other team in the conference.
The teams you're playing for the second year in a row, there's a lot of juggling going on as far as what they do and what you want to do. You don't go out and do the same thing two years in a row.
Q. I was there in Atlanta when you did the satellite camp. Not to revisit that whole conversation. But I'm curious if there are benefits with your staff? Is that one of the many benefits? Can you explain how you expect that to translate if you find that to be true.
COACH NARDUZZI: You're talking about as far as being with your staff. That was one of our goals. Going back to the satellite camps, if we have to do them, I'm going to use it as a time, not only are we evaluating prospects, putting our Pitt brand out there in different states and cities, I was going to use it as an opportunity to get around our staff more.
Too often it's all work and no play. We had some tremendous meals down in Fort Lauderdale and Atlanta at some fine restaurants, because I like to eat, okay? We had an opportunity as a staff to really be around each other. I thought that was one of the things I went into. I'm always trying to multi-task. If we got to go, what else can we do to make things better? It was really to hang out as a staff. I thought we were successful.
Q. In Syracuse we've been monitoring Scott Shafer. Came to Syracuse. Was out after last season. In the few months after he left Syracuse, he joined Maryland, then stepped down from Maryland. You've known him for a while, been friendly with him. Has he reached out to you or have you reached out to him? How tough is it to watch a friend going through this?
COACH NARDUZZI: Yeah, I mean, as friends, you definitely reach out to your friends when something happens. I reached out to Scott and Missy to find out if everything was okay. I was assured everything was okay.
I mean, once you're a friend, you're always a friend. That's what friends do for each other.
But Scott's doing well. He'll find himself back in this game in another year, I'm sure.
Q. If memory serves, prior to the Georgia Tech game you were saying you couldn't invest all the time you wanted to preparing for them. In the second year, what was different in your preparation in the spring or what you anticipate for that week?
COACH NARDUZZI: Obviously in your second year, you know your offense a little bit better. But it's more focused on our defense. We obviously had time to focus on the spread option, the Paul Johnson offense as far as what you want to do, what you can do better, how are we going to attack them.
Like I said, you don't go in and try to do the same thing next year. They'll eat you up. Hurt us a little bit in the Navy game, because you're facing the same type of offense. There were obviously other problems in that game.
You have a chance to sit down and really spend four or five days mentally as a staff implementing a new plan for them, and then also spending a few days in spring ball working on those techniques as well.
Q. There's been a lot said about James Conner and his story. From a physical standpoint and a football standpoint, what can you expect from James considering what he's gone through?
COACH NARDUZZI: I guess that's the $100 million question. I expect nothing but his best performance. When you look at what James has done, what he's been, what he's been through, the size of that heart inside his chest cavity, you know, I think you're going to get his best effort.
What is that? I don't know. I know when you look at him in strength and conditioning, our program this summer, he's measuring his body up to where it was. Based on our measurements, he's close to prime condition right now.
I think he'd like to lose a few more pounds. But we've got him back to where we want to. We still got a couple more weeks to fine tune him.
The important thing with James is just monitoring him through the whole process, making sure that we don't overdo it with him. That's going to be the job of our training staff, our strength staff, and obviously me as the head football coach.
THE MODERATOR: Coach Narduzzi, thanks a lot.
COACH NARDUZZI: Thank you. Have a great day.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports