PITTSBURGH — Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi addressed the media en masse on Tuesday for his first full press conference of the 2017 season.
As usual, I’ll take a look at what I think are the five biggest takeaways from Narduzzi’s statements.
Scroll to the bottom for video of his full remarks.
ABSENCES ADDING UP
Fullback George Aston and cornerback Phillipie Motley were both injured on Monday, and Narduzzi said the team is still evaluating their statuses, in a slight departure from his usual injury policy. He also said that if their absences are going to be significant, he will provide an update.
Aston and Motley join wide receiver Tre Tipton (knee) on the team’s official injured list, with several other players missing time with smaller injuries. Wide receiver Aaron Mathews hasn’t practiced due to personal reasons and freshman defensive back Paris Ford remains academically ineligible.
The team is already nearly a quarter of the way through training camp, meaning those players that haven’t practiced yet have now missed out on a lot. Narduzzi said that the team has taken steps to find ways to keep the players that aren’t on the field with the team during workouts up to speed, but the guys that aren’t in place won’t be working from a position of strength when they return.
“For the most part, we’ve got guys in place, and we’ve already addressed that issue,” Narduzzi said. “But I think anybody that’s not getting as many practices as we want — whether he’s injured or not at practice for a day, whether it’s academics or whatever — we’re catching them up. We’ve had some guys that that have had practices individually, where they’ve gone out with the drill coach in the evening and got their practices in. … We’re able to do that and keep guys up to date. We have iPads and playbooks and mentally they got to be locked in.”
LAST CHANCE? FAR FROM IT
Much was made about defensive tackle Kam Carter’s appearance on the reality show Last Chance U and the way he was portrayed. Many Pitt fans questioned the character of Carter, who transferred from East Mississippi Community College this summer.
Narduzzi doesn’t seem concerned. He admitted that he hand’t watched all of the show, but he’s seen enough of Carter in practice to be unconcerned with what he characterized as an overhyped, made-for-TV portrayal.
“It hasn’t been an issue,” Narduzzi said. “If I had seen issues from that show … but, again, he told me about everything I needed to know prior to. Like I said, he’s a great kid. He was as up front and honest as you could be. He said, ‘Coach, I snapped on a coach one time.’ He called it “snapped.” He told us everything. I mean, it didn’t shock me. I think it’s all for the show.”
For the first time, Pitt’s players are not staying in the dormitories on campus and shuttling to the practice facility every day for training camp. Instead, they’re staying at a hotel on the South Side that’s a short walk from the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. That’s made a big difference in the ability of the staff to provide the proper nutrition, hydration and rest for the players.
“We just had a disconnect with being in the dorms and the travel and you’d waste 20 minutes over, 20 minutes back,” Narduzzi said. “We just thought it was important to get them here, close to us. They walk down just like the Steelers’ rookies do, so when you talk about being a first-class program, that’s where it is. “We’ve invested a little bit more. Obviously hotels aren’t cheap, so I thank Heather Lyke for getting that done and Chris LaSala for pushing it through, and it’s first-class. Our kids, if you ask them, how the hotel is compared to the dorm, they’re going to be like, ‘way better.’ It’s not even close. So they’re getting their rest. Rest and recovery is so, so important for our kids.”
BEING THE BOSS
Narduzzi dismissed two players from the team this summer and suspended three more in his most public and sweeping show of discipline since become the head coach before the 2015 season.
He made it clear to point out that even though he made the ultimate decisions on those disciplinary matters, they were made together as a coaching staff.
“Whether I’ve been the head coach for the last two, going on three seasons, or assistant coach, assistant head coach and )defensive) coordinator, it’s not just a head coach’s deal,” he said. “You talk to your whole staff: ‘Hey, what are we going to do here?’ We’ve got to set the standard what we want to be as a program. If you don’t put your foot down, you lose it all, really. You lose all respect.”
TAKING IT FOR THE TEAM
The Panthers have a slogan for the season as they have in the past. This year, that slogan is “Take It.” I’ll let Narduzzi explain:
“We’ve need to take it to the next level. We’ve got to go take it is really where that comes from. Nobody is going to give us anything. When you go beat two Power Five champions, when you beat the national champion, you’ll have target on your back at some point, and we need to go take it.
“There’s some close games we lost a year ago, and we can’t let that happen, so if you want to win those close games, we’ve got to find a way to take it. So our attitude is every day to go out and take it, and I think with that schedule there, we’ve got an opportunity. It’s a one-game season, and I think there’s a lot of opportunities for our kids there.”