On any visit to Pitt’s practice facility over the last year, there’s been a familiar, baritone voice that echoes across the fields. Head coach Pat Narduzzi is an enthusiastic and passionate man, and it comes out at practice.
This fall, there’s another voice that can be heard over the din of pads smashing, and it’s that of offensive coordinator Matt Canada. Canada, stalking the sidelines in a straw hat, barking at his charges, draws a stirring comparison to the relatively placid Jim Chaney, who departed for Georgia this offseason.
“I think it’s been received OK,” Canada said. “You have to coach your personality. You have to be who you are and that’s certainly kind of the way it is for me. I’ve always tried to do that and go full speed. It’s who I am.”
It’s clear that Canada and Narduzzi — who have been friends since an early-career stop at Northern Illinois in the early 2000s — are on the same wavelength.
“He’s like Narduzzi but on offense,” said junior receiver Zach Challingsworth. “He’s an intense guy and he demands a lot out of you. But if you’re going to have a coach that sits back and doesn’t critique you and doesn’t want you to be good, then why have him as a coach?”
“We both are similar in that regard,” agreed Canada. “That’s why we’ve always gotten along and also had pretty good battles back-and-forth working together and coaching against each other.”
So far, Canada feels that his methods — along with the experience derived from spring practices — has allowed things to go smoothly.
“The players have responded extremely well,” he said. “The players are working extremely hard. I couldn’t be happier with where we are as far as installing an offense and doing those things. I’m really, really pleased with where we’re at.”
Running back James Conner is on his third coordinator at Pitt, but he likes what he sees so far from Canada.
“First day, he set the tone for us,” Conner said. “I like him a lot. I like his offense and I feel like I can fit well in it. He’s just a great motivator. There’s nothing but positivity coming from him.”
As usual, Narduzzi and Canada are on the same page about the way the Pitt offense will look in 2016, and neither expects there to be a dramatic change.
“I don’t see it a whole lot different than it was a year ago,” Narduzzi said. “We have a philosophy on what we want to do, and you hire a guy with the same philosophies. I just happened to hire a guy that I knew better than the last guy. Matt’s an unbelievable guy, he’s got great repair with the kids, he’s very positive and energetic and he has a great mind. I think you’ll see that come September 3.”