Pitt Prepared for Saturday’s Crucial Scrimmage at Heinz Field

 

PITTSBURGH—The Pitt football team practiced for the 10th time of training camp on Friday at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex as the Panthers finalized preparations for Saturday’s Heinz Field scrimmage.

 

Head coach Pat Narduzzi held his regular morning media session before practice, while secondary coach Renaldo Hill and five players—wide receiver and kick returner Quadree Henderson, defensive end Rashad Weaver, defensive back Jazzee Stocker, offensive lineman Jerry Drake Jr. and linebacker Jalen Williams—each spoke to the assembled media after the Panthers’ workout.

 

Head Coach Pat Narduzzi – Interview Video

 

Opening statement:

“We finished up a great day yesterday, so it is a little lighter day today. These guys are excited about coming out in what we call “spider pads” today, so there will be a lot less contact. Hopefully, they are mature enough to practice in those. Sometimes, different teams, especially a young football team, think that it is going to be a day off, but there are no days off during camp. Sunday is their day off, I guess.  They have to be able to maturely practice in those things. We could come out in full pads today and scrimmage tomorrow. It does not make any difference to me, but we try to mentally freshen them up for a big day tomorrow. We get to go to Heinz field, which will probably be the biggest scrimmage of the year. Then I will say that the next one is the biggest of the year because it is the next one, but it’s a big scrimmage to find out where we are.”

 

On if he has made any changes to his defense since coming to Pitt three years ago:

”Hopefully, we are doing it better, but we are doing the little things. You have to adjust; I don’t care if it’s offensively, defensively or special teams, you have to adjust with the times. There’s always different tweaks that we have going on. We did a year ago, not that it mattered, but you are always looking for different stuff. That’s how we evolve. You are not going to change your overall structure, but there are techniques and fundamentals that you try to do a little bit better. I think that we have some good stuff.”

 

On what beyond schematics is the most important factor in being successful:

“It’s called development. I have been around the staff rooms. I got hired by Miami (Ohio) back in March of 2003, seven days before spring ball started and inherited the staff. When I got there, it was like, ‘why are you doing this?’ Well, we couldn’t stop that, so we went and started putting this defense in. You can’t just keep changing defenses to stop a play, a formation or a type of offense because you don’t get any type of consistency. You need a base, a fundamental background to go from, then you tweak based on [the offense]. Our offense does some crazy stuff, and we face some crazy offenses, so it couldn’t be a better offense so go against, because you see everything. You see everything from a wish-bone, three-back offense to an empty set. So, our defense, when they come out of camp, will have a good base on all kinds of offensive plays.”

 

On if this year’s offensive line is the deepest he’s had at Pitt:

“No, I would say last year was pretty deep, even though we didn’t see a lot of guys. When you say ‘deep,’ you have some guys who are getting better every day, but last year we had a lot of older guys. I would say last year was pretty good. I don’t know if you could beat that one. I think maybe in a couple of years, we can get there, but I would not say that.”

 

On if he has seen Quadree Henderson improve as a wide receiver:

“He had a great catch yesterday, and I think that we have. I have seen little things out there. It’s hard to say, ‘you won’t find out until game day,’ but I know that he is focusing on that and getting better.”

 

On if Maurice Ffrench’s role will increase in the offense due to Tre Tipton’s injury:

“No question about it. Maurice is a great player offensively and defensively, and anytime a guy goes down, it’s that next-guy-up mentality. Whether Maurice beats out Tre Tipton in camp or Tre is not there and the job is there for the taking, Maurice is going to hopefully have a major part in this offense.”

 

On if he is picking the roommates for the players at the hotel:

“Oh, yeah. And it is a lot different than a year ago.  It’s like [Avonte] Maddox is rooming with ‘J.D.’ [Jerry] Drake [Jr.], and the first night he comes up and goes, ‘Coach, really? I have to room with J.D.?’ Now, he’s like his best friend. He’s texting me pictures of J.D., so it’s funny how that whole thing goes. They go, ‘Coach, I don’t even know that guy.’ Well, that’s why we put you with different people. And we try to always mix people up in the summer where we used to stay. We moved the freshmen in there and they had their freshman roommate for the rest of the year. Now we can put a senior with a freshman and really mix it up.”

 

On Ben DiNucci’s growth as a leader:

“Ben’s doing a good job. Could he get better? Yes. There are a lot of things, but Ben has grown a lot since he has gotten here. I think that he has grown a lot since that bowl game, and we’ll see how much more he grows. He’s still got ways to go.”

 

Secondary Coach Renaldo Hill 

 

On Bricen Garner developing as he gets more reps:

“It’s important for those guys to get reps and be able to see things constantly. Meeting time as well, and just continuing to go through that process and take as many notes as they can so that it continues to process a little faster.”

 

On if he is seeing players step up at safety with starting positions up for grabs:

“I am. They see it as an opportunity there and they are definitely attacking it. That’s what we need, and I think it will make the group stronger even when Jordan returns. But we’re happy with how Bricen [Garner] and [Jazzee] Stocker, along with those other guys, are competing at the positions.”

 

On Henry Miller’s role:

“He’s like a wild-card guy. He’s a guy who can go out and play corner. He’s big enough to play both safety positions and probably even a linebacker spot. He definitely gives you a variety of things that you can do when you look at his size and skillset. We’re just going to continue to get him in the meeting room, increase his knowledge and show that he can play fast and use all of that ability that he has.”

 

On press coverage:

“When we talk about it, that’s the first thing you do when you go to a camp. Those guys, you may give them all the twos to plan off. As soon as they get the chance to get the one-on-ones, they’re in press. It’s easier to teach. You can minimize the routes based on where their release is at. That definitely will help us and we can even shorten it by down-and-distance or personnel group inside. It allows our group to play fast, and that’s what they like to do. We want to keep them up there and let them get after it.”

 

On man-to-man coverage:

“They enjoy it and they embrace it. When you click on the TV and the National Football League, that’s all those guys do. I tell them that if they want to play at the next level, you’ve got to be able to press coverage.”

 

On Phil Campbell’s physicality makes him a good fit for the boundary safety position:

“Definitely. He sees the ball and goes and gets the ball. That’s what Phil does, and he’s an attack guy downhill. He’s not letting up; he’s not going to be timid around the pile. You need that enforcer back there, and we’re hoping that’s something he can provide for our unit.” 

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