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July 18, 2018

Pat Narduzzi

Oluwaseun Idowu

Alex Bookser

Charlotte, North Carolina

Q. You're sort of the old guy in the group now; what have you learned in your years of playing football? How are you different now than you might have been when you were 18?
ALEX BOOKSER: You know, tremendous difference in everything that I do and how I carry myself and how I come to work every day.

As the old guy, I've kind of had to embrace the leadership role, and you learn quickly that different people learn in different ways and guys take coaching in drastically different ways. And something that might have worked for me growing up isn't going to work for everybody, and so I've kind of had to realize that everybody plays the game, goes about the game and learns the game in their own different way. And that's something as a leader I've really had to realize and adjust to.

Q. Alex, one of two returning starters on the offensive line; just what you can say about other guys you're expecting to step up on the line with you and what you can say about the unit going into this year?
ALEX BOOKSER: Yeah, as of now, through the spring, we've had -- next to me at right guard, we've had Mike Herndon playing. He's a guy who's seen some time in games, a close friend of mine, somebody who -- maybe at a different school he would be starting, but because we have had such depth at offensive line, he's kind of had to wait around. And he's played a part on offense and on defense. He's a guy who's just a big team guy, contributes any way he can. It should be awesome to get to see him have his moment.

And on the other side, at the other guard is another guy similar to Mike, Connor Dintino. He's had a lot of role-playing chances. He's played some fullback. He's gone between offense and defense, as well. They're both guys that have really been itching to play, and it's going to be exciting to see them get their opportunity.

Q. So you guys are somewhat low in terms of returning career starts in the offensive line, but I sense that you're not too worried about that. What are the biggest factors really not just for offensive line but for a football team in determining beyond experience, beyond technical game strategy, what are the factors that determine whether you ultimately succeed?
ALEX BOOKSER: You know, as a collective team, everyone buying into the same idea. You can have anybody you want, but if it's an individual effort, you can fall to lesser teams.

The big thing for us is to all buy in to the same idea. Once we are all together, there shouldn't be anybody we can lose to because as we've proved over the last few years, when we really want to succeed and we're 100 percent bought in to each other and to the game plan, we can beat just about anybody in the country. So now it's about us harnessing that ability and really coming out every Saturday and proving that to the entire country.

Q. You've got a returning starter at quarterback who I think has just one start under his belt, but can you talk about how Kenny has responded as a leader and how he's leading the offense despite his limited experience?
ALEX BOOKSER: Yeah, you would think that Kenny has been in Oakland for four years the way he walks around campus, the way he acts, the way he presents himself, the way he goes about his work, watching film, comes with playbook. The guy is a pro. He's been a pro since he stepped foot on campus, and it's been awesome to have a guy like him in the locker room to kick people in the butt when they need it, be that guy. And as a senior leader, it's awesome to have a younger guy really embrace that role.

He's not one of the younger quarterbacks who say I'm not a senior, I'm not supposed to be the leader of this offense. He knows that he's taking the reins, and this is his offense, and he's embracing it, and that's been awesome to see.

Q. I wanted to ask you about Darrin Hall, came on strong last season. What's his off-season been like, and what are you sort of expecting to see out of him this year?
ALEX BOOKSER: He is a physical specimen. He is one of the -- watching him work out every day is amazing. The guy comes to work -- it's like you can't find a way to make him show a sign of weakness, and you know whenever he comes into the game, big play potential goes through the roof. It's awesome to have him running behind us.

Q. Last year the offensive unit gave up 31 sacks. We're obviously talking about new personnel at the line this year. There's a fine line in getting people better and getting acclimated so that number comes down. How does that stat get lower?
ALEX BOOKSER: You know, that's something that falls completely on us. We've had a new offensive line coach come in. We do some things differently. But what it really comes down to is we didn't take the same kind of pride in our work that we did the year before.

The year before last, I think we gave up nine sacks in the regular season, and we really couldn't find that same kind of -- for whatever reason, that same kind of success.

But we know that it's a possibility, and we know that we can do that, it's just revisiting that and how were we able to do that. We know as a team that that's a possibility for us, and protecting Kenny is going to be huge for us this year. So hopefully that's going to be one of our biggest improvements as a unit this year.

Q. Describe Seun as a teammate.
ALEX BOOKSER: Seun, similar to what I said about Darrin, this guy doesn't have a weakness. You can do anything you want to him in the weight room, on the field. You can't break him. He's one of the toughest guys I've ever met, one of the hardest workers. To see him come from where he did as a walk-on and to have the success that he does now, it's one of the best stories in college football is to see him run out of the tunnel and start for the Pitt Panthers every Saturday.

Q. Tell us about Alex.
OLUWASEUN IDOWU: Great teammate. Comes in with the same kind of consistency every day. See him throughout the warm-up running in front of everybody. And though he's one of the biggest guys out there, he's still out there running in front of everybody. And you kind of look at him as an example. Everyone kind of looks at him for an example, know what I'm saying, as far as how to carry himself and how to do things, bring energy to the came. And he brings a lot, a lot, a lot of juice to the whole team. He's really the guy to look to whenever we need some energy throughout the day.

Q. Alex talked about the fact that you went from a walk-on to running out onto the field and being who you are today for this team. Just speak on that story because there are guys trying to make it and trying to find their place in football and getting recruited and whatnot, and your story of being a walk-on to where you stand today is a special one, so what's a word of advice you'd give to them?
OLUWASEUN IDOWU: The same advice I'd give to anybody, walk on or not, is give your everything every single chance you get. Don't leave anything off to say, oh, what if I did this or what if anything else. It should be everything you have every single time you get the opportunity to because you might not get the opportunity again. Opportunities come and go, and you don't get a lot of them back. So give everything you have every single chance you get.

Stay humble and keep your goals in mind at all times and keep working towards that no matter what level you reach at any point. Always have a goal and always work towards it, and you'll be fine at the end of the day.

Q. You turn 22 this week, happy birthday.

Q. Do you feel 22?
OLUWASEUN IDOWU: No. I still feel 17.

Q. What did that win versus Miami do for the program? What stamp do you think that placed on it for what is Pitt football?
OLUWASEUN IDOWU: That really shows everyone and more importantly ourselves what we're capable of. The things being said, the belief that we have in each other, the belief that we have to win games before games, all the faith that we have was proved really in that game at the end of the season to give guys a lot of confidence coming into this next season, and for this next season, that kind of play is where we need to start and kind of carry throughout the whole season and improve on throughout the whole season. We can still get better from there.

We're capable of great things, I think, as a team, and with our growth that we're going to have, we're going to have capable of even more. So I really believe in my teammates, and I've seen it. That game really proved it. Everyone has seen it, so we just need to do the same thing and then more after that.

Q. Seun, you lost Whitehead and Maddox, two of the better players in Pitt history, and yet as you look around you see so many familiar faces. Give us a contrast: Two great players you have to replace, but so many returning starters?
OLUWASEUN IDOWU: Yeah, it's kind of like a needle having a weight on it, know what I'm saying? With that one needle it's a lot of weight to carry on. When you have a bigger service area, you have a lot more needles and things like that to stand on, per se. A lot of that pressure is distributed. You have guys being able to do their job at different levels all throughout the field, able to make plays wherever we can.

We have a lot of knowledge coming back. Those we've lost those very good players. We have a lot of knowledge and a lot of skill and talent coming back and improved talent and growth coming back to the same team, and I think we can do a lot with that.

Q. Can you describe your head coach using just one word?

Q. Why passionate?
OLUWASEUN IDOWU: You hear it. You feel it in his words. He means what he says. You see it every day. He's consistent with the energy that he brings. He's consistent with the things that he says. He's consistent with what he cares about, and he cares very much for his players, his team, and the game of football. He cares about winning, and you just see that. You can feel it in his words. So that's just the big thing of it, and you have confidence in the kind of person he is.

He has not let us down really in anything he said he was going to do, and that builds trust, that builds a bond with the whole team. And you just see that throughout, and it really improved everything for the whole team in general.

Q. I wanted to ask you about Rashad Weaver, seems like a guy that could have a breakout season. Tell me about him.
OLUWASEUN IDOWU: Really focused player. A lot of guys, we have a lot of good D-ends. He had a really good season last year, improved, pretty focused, working on his technique in every little thing he could possibly tweak to get better, and I think he's going to do more.

I think a lot of our D-ends in general have improved a lot over the years, and there's a lot of depth at that position, especially on the D-line, especially on the defense in general. There's a lot of depth, not a lot of drop-off, which is a great thing to see for that defense.

And he's one of the guys -- we also have other guys, as well, that are going to do a lot of great things this year, and I'm really looking forward to what the defense is going to look like this season.

PAT NARDUZZI: I must owe Seun some money for those kind comments.

Q. Coach, you've heard what the team thinks of you here this afternoon. What do you think about this team and going into year number four at Pitt? What have you seen from them?
PAT NARDUZZI: I would give the same description. I would say our football team right now is confident. They're passionate about what they're doing and they're working hard. This is a long process.

Some guys think, okay, camp starts. Okay, when do they report? August 2nd. This thing has been going on for a long time. Since the Miami game, there's been a process that we've gone through to get to where we are today and where we'll be when they report to camp on August 2nd. These guys work their tails off. There is no break academically, athletically, they're in summer school, getting A's and B's. They're in the weight room every morning, five days a week. Got a barbecue at my house on Friday. I mean, it's just constantly something. We've got a great chemistry right now, and that's kind of how I feel.

There's still a lot of work to do before where we're going, but we've got a passionate football team that I love, and it's a joy to come to work every day.

Q. As this is your fourth season coaching at Pitt, what things have you learned from past seasons that's going to help you this season?
PAT NARDUZZI: Well, I think when you think about past seasons and in past games, I think the one thing you do learn every year is who you're playing, you learn about the ACC conference, the talent in this conference, the coaches in this conference, whether it's an offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, special teams. You find out what they like.

Two years ago, it seemed like the whole division was brand new and you didn't know what you were going to get out of Fuente or Bronco Mendenhall. There's some consistency. There's not been a lot of coaching changes, which is nice. It's nice when you can have a two or three game summer scouting report on someone when you can really say, hey, what are these guys like against us, who are they as personnel-wise. You start to learn a little bit more about your opponents. Those are the biggest things I think you learn as a football coach this time of year.

Q. This is kind of a two-part question. Were you hoping to redshirt Kenny Pickett last season, and is it a blessing in disguise he got the action that he got?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yes and yes. Is that easy? Kenny Pickett, we wanted to redshirt that guy. We knew he was talented. We had brought in a transfer in Max Browne from USC who we thought had talent, started off a little slow, had a great game against Rice, was having a great game at Syracuse when he dislocated his shoulder.

I told this story earlier today. I come out on the field, and poor Max is laying on the ground with that shoulder dislocated, screaming, whining, kid was really hurt. I felt awful for him.

As I'm looking down at him, I'm going, Kenny is going to have to play, Kenny has got to play, and we put him in that game. There was no let me think about this for a week. We knew he was talented. We thought we could skate through the year without having to use him. We felt like we had a decent backup and a guy that could win games for us based on everything he did in practice. So we wanted to redshirt him, couldn't.

It's a blessing in disguise because we're able to slowly bring him out without breaking his confidence and throwing him out there to the wolves early, which we could have done. And we could have a crappy quarterback right now going into 2018, but we did it the right way, the slow way, which I'm sure a lot of fans would like to have thrown him out there early, but who knows what would have happened. But we slowly developed him, and he was down reading off of cards for four weeks. I mean, he was a scout team quarterback and a darned good one, but we're happy with where he is right now.

He's got really -- he only played in four games, so if that redshirt rule, the four-game redshirt rule is retroactive, he's really a true freshman right now, and if I had a good lawyer, I'd probably say he's got four more years to go, which would be really nice.

Q. Similar to you, Harlon Barnett left Michigan State, job and a boss he liked. Talk about that thought process and that first year of taking on a new challenge.
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, Harlon Barnett is a tremendous football coach, person, and a guy that is like a brother to me. We worked together for 11 years. I probably spent more time in a staff room with Harlon than I did my own brothers growing up. Harlon is a great friend. He's a great football coach. Florida State has got a good one. In a couple years we're going to have to go down and face them, as well.

But he's going to be a tremendous coach. He'll have no problem transitioning. I think the kids will play their tails off for him because he's real. What you see is what you get out of Harlon Barnett.

Q. Over the past couple of seasons, your defense has given up more yards than points at times than I'm sure you're comfortable with. You have so many players coming back from that unit. What are you challenging them to improve on this year?
PAT NARDUZZI: Well, obviously you can't give up the big play. When you look at a defense, you want to be stingy. You'd like to stop the run and stop the pass and stop it all. Realistically in the offenses we're facing today, it's not happening a bunch. But I think as you recruit to the talent you need on your football team that you eventually will get better.

We made some major strides, I think, last year. I think we probably got as far as we could do with our coordinator there at the time. Josh Conklin did a heck of a job when he was there, he took a head job. And I really think we upgraded in the hire of Randy Bates, I really do. And that's no disrespect to Josh. It's just a different guy that brings some different ideas and a different way of doing things with a ton of energy. So I'm excited about where we are as a coordinator, I'm excited about the players we have.

A year ago last June, I walked out on the field, we get about 30 minutes a day to work with them, I should say 30 minutes every other day, two days a week we worked with them. I looked at the linebacking corps and Seun was one of them and I'm going, God, that's all we've got. Almost a little scary.

But now I walk out there this June, I'm going, whoa, there's a lot of guys there that can play for us, which they couldn't play for us a year ago. So it's another year of development. We can't draft them, you know. It's a little easier, I think, in the NFL. It's not easier to win, but it's easier when you can say I want that guy, I want to pick that guy. I don't care if it's the first pick in the draft or the 24th pick, but you're recruiting him, and you've got to develop him into young men, and they give it everything they've got, and that's the fun of coaching.

If we all had great players, what fun would it be to coach? But that's part of the development part that I enjoy, especially at Pitt.

Q. Can you talk about the development of the defensive line as a unit since you arrived at Pitt in terms of is this what you want it to look like in terms of athleticism, skill set, et cetera?
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, it really is. When you walk into our practice facility this fall, this August, you're going to see a group that we've worked awful hard, number one, recruiting them and getting them on campus; and then Charlie Partridge, our defensive line coach has done a great job developing them. Which I say develop them, I'm talking about developing them in the classroom, okay, and on the field, because they go together. If you're not doing your job in the classroom and you can't be dependent on going to class or turning your work in on time, then you're probably not going to be very dependable when you get on the field.

Each one of our coaches deal with our players individually, but Charlie Partridge, there couldn't be a better guy not only as our D-line coach, but our assistant head coach. He develops those guys.

Like Alex talked up front, it starts up front with the O-line and your defensive line. These two, if you don't have them -- I know Alex Bookser put all those sacks on the O-line. I'll correct him. There's a lot of things that go with sacks. Number one is a quarterback that can get out of his way and not just run into a guy and take a sack. So I wanted to change what Book said as a young guy, and he took it all on him, which is what you want your kids to take ownership of those 31 sacks. I didn't even know we had 31 sacks, but those were a lot of ones that we kind of gave away and didn't know where to go with the ball. So I hope that answers your question.

Q. You just spoke a couple minutes ago about Randy Bates being the defensive coordinator moving forward. What do you like about the way that he approaches the game, just what you've seen from him, and what he's brought to the table already?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, first of all, Randy is a guy that I've known for a long time. I love his passion about the game. I mean, there's some people that will study it and do whatever they can do to be better, and he's one of those guys that's going to go to every extent, watching videotape, watching that tape again, watching this cut-up or that cut-up.

I can just tell through all my years at Michigan State, we were always in constant communication, I'd say every other week, about just common opponents. Just, hey, what did you think, what did you think of their O-line, what did you think of the tight end, how fast is he. Just sharing those things. That was a guy just like me. So there was one guy if I had to say in the Big Ten for eight years that I always was calling it was him, and he was always doing the same thing calling me to get information, and to me that shows you he's got a passion for what he does. So we're very similar as far as our styles of defense.

And he's got, like I said, a different type of passion and energy we have on the field right now. I think it's all about that. We can have a bunch of fast guys, strong guys, athletic guys, smart guys, but if you don't play with passion, if you don't play with a lot of energy, it doesn't matter. And Randy can bring that out of each kid.

Q. Last year Seun had 11 and a half tackles for loss. What is it about your style of defense that allows a young man like that to succeed to that level?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, I think it's an aggressive attack style defense. We're attacking, we're not sitting back. We could give up less passing yards, but we're trying to be a dominant defense. That's how you win championships with defense. You don't win championships being average. So we want to be an attack style. And when you can put people behind the sticks, whether it's a 3rd and long or 2nd and long, so we're going to be aggressive -- if you talk to anybody in the conference about what we do or how we do it, it's an aggressive style defense where we're coming at you. We're not going to sit there and just defend you, we're going to attack you and make you defend us.

Q. We asked Seun to describe you in one word. How would you describe you in one word?
PAT NARDUZZI: That's hard. My wife could give me a lot of great praise. One word? I would say just work, really. I mean, I'm going to work to get what we need to get, whether it's in recruiting, in the office, on the game -- it's just going to be put the work in and you'll get something back for it.

Q. Last year was not a terrific year for the coastal vis-á-vis the Atlantic. Was that a one-year trend? Listening to all the coaches this morning, everybody feels like it's going to be a really strong year.
PAT NARDUZZI: Yeah, I mean, all those guys that make that decision are probably sitting in your chairs right there. I don't worry about where anybody else is. I worry about Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh, how we're doing things. And we want to be that best team in the country. We want to be ACC champions. We want to be in the playoffs. That's all I'm worried about. I can't control what anybody else does. We want to try to make everybody else look bad and make sure Pitt is at the top of the Coastal.

Q. Pitt has had two of the real marquee wins in this league the last two years, obviously Clemson and Miami last year. How can those games be springboards into this season?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, I think any time you can beat two of the best teams in the conference in back-to-back years, it lets our kids know that, hey, if you pay attention to details, you can do it every week. You have to have focus, you've got to have leadership, and they don't let Coach Bates or Coach Narduzzi or Coach Watson, our offensive coordinator, go out on the field and get in the huddle. You guys got to take that game over on the field, and you have to do it every down, and I think our kids realize that.

You grow up, you've got a different chemistry of your kids, and I listen to our kids talk today in different settings around the Westin today and just listening to how they are regurgitating the information we're throwing. They are buying in and believing what we're talking about, and that's how you win football games.

But we've got 18 seniors this year. We had a very, very small senior class last year. I think we've got great leadership from the top down. We're developing our young leaders, as well, from our seniors down to our freshmen, and that's the encouraging thing about it.

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