PITTSBURGH — Pitt took the field for training camp practice No. 18 on Thursday, the final practice of preseason camp.
Appropriately, the players were greeting with a brisk, fall-like morning on Pittsburgh’s South Side, but according to head coach Pat Narduzzi, they weren’t in need of a refresher.
Whether it’s because of a deeper team, NCAA-mandated off days, the team’s GPS tracking system providing biometric rest data or some other, unknown factor, Narduzzi feels that his team is fresher at this point in the season than it has been in years past.
“I feel like we’re fresher than we were a year ago after practice 17,” Narduzzi said. “I think we still have legs, which is a positive thing, as far as conditioning-wise.”
Narduzzi said he noticed the trend on Wednesday, when wide receiver Maurice Ffrench took a handoff and accelerated around the end of Pitt’s defense, leaving everyone in his tracks. That kind of burst isn’t usually available for players at the end of a grueling camp.
“Most of the time, practice 17, your legs are shot, anywhere I’ve ever been,” Narduzzi said. “I think we’ve done a great job keeping our guys as fresh as we can with recovery and really just being a maintenance guy as far as not keeping them out here too long.”
Narduzzi also feels that his team is generally in good health. Of Pitt’s expected starters, all but right tackle Alex Bookser have been practicing fully.
“I’d give us a B-plus right now, which is better than it was last year at this time,” Narduzzi said.
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
Here’s more from Narduzzi, plus the sights and sounds of Pitt’s final practice of training camp 2018.
SCREEN A WEAPON?
In 2017, the Panthers didn’t have much of a big-play passing offense, but it was also a passing offense dominated by receivers, with just two backs in the top nine targets. That might be changing in 2018. With a more mobile starting quarterback in Kenny Pickett and a pair of experience backs, the screen pass could be a devastating weapon for the Panthers. Pitt’s offensive linemen were practicing screen concepts on Thursday with offensive line coach Dave Borbely.
Pitt played five defensive backs a lot more in 2017 than they did in the first two season under Narduzzi, debuting a three-corner nickel look to go along with Pitt’s three-safety “Delta” package.
On Thursday, the Panthers were sorting out the details of their multi-back coverages, with Therran Coleman and Dennis Briggs working with a safety behind them and a corner to their outside, making calls and passing receivers off in routes.