PITTSBURGH — The first practice of Pitt’s 2018 football season kicked off in the rain on Friday morning at Pitt’s Duratz Athletic Complex.
The Panthers took to the field with helmets, but no shoulder pads, as they eased their way into the 2018 schedule for Pat Narduzzi’s fourth season as head coach.
Here’s the opening whistle and first crack of the pads.
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
FOCUS ON TEACHING
The focus seemed to be on instruction, with first-year coaches Randy Bates (DC), Dave Borbely (OL), Archie Collins (DB) and Corey Sanders (S) taking time to explain each step of each and every drill and the importance of it to their charges.
With the expanded NCAA roster limit, there’s also a bevy crop of freshmen that don’t know where to go or what to do at any given moment, so the pace was a bit slower on Friday when compared to a regular in-season practice.
Here’s linebackers coach Rob Harley and safeties coach Corey Sanders stopping drills for a teaching moment.
Here’s defensive coordinator Randy Bates on the emphasis of the first few days of training camp.
BREAD AND BUTTER
One of the most important offensive plays for Pitt since Matt Canada introduced it in 2016 has been the jet sweep, inside zone combination.
The flanker goes in motion, the quarterback reads the way the linebackers react to the motion, and then gives his cadence for a snap as the flanker passes for a jet sweep or a just a moment later for an inside zone handoff to the running back the other way.
It’s a tricky bit of timing and with three quarterbacks all getting significant playing time last season, Pitt never seemed to totally get the timing of it down. So it’s not surprising that play was a focus for the Pitt offense during practice No. 1 this year with Kenny Picket taking the helm.
PARIS FORD ON OFFENSE?
If you’ll watch the above video closely, you’ll see No. 12 in blue, cornerback Paris Ford, getting in some work with the wide receivers. With Jordan Whitehead having moved on to the NFL, it looks like Ford has taken his place as Pitt’s defensive back that can be utilized as an offensive weapon.
As usual, Narduzzi was coy with details.
“Maybe,” Narduzzi said. “First of all, he’s got to figure out the defensive part of it. We’re always going to mess around each day and work it, see how good he looks over there.”
ONE DEPARTURE, ONE ADDITION
Narduzzi announced that offensive lineman Justin Morgan has been dismissed from the team. He did not give a reason. Morgan did not see game action in two seasons with the Panthers.
He also announced the hiring of a new equipment manager to replace Tim “Ox” Enright, who resigned in late July. Derek Moos, who had been the equipment manager for several of Pitt’s campus-based teams, was promoted to fill the spot. He’d been with Pitt since 2017. Before that, he was at Eastern Michigan.
Here’s the rest of Narduzzi’s post-practice briefing with the media:
LAST GO ‘ROUND
Running back Qadree Ollison is in his fifth and final training camp with the Panthers, and he’s taking nothing for granted, as even as a senior, he’ll be battling with Darren Hall and a group of hungry young backs for carries.
Ollison spoke about the depth of the room, his relationship with Hall and going out on top as a senior.