With the Panthers beginning ACC play this Saturday, head coach Pat Narduzzi is ready for the season to begin in earnest. He spent most of his weekly press conference discussing the upcoming game against Georgia Tech, a big change from last week, when he stewed over Pitt’s loss to Western Michigan.
PROTECTING THE FOOTBALL
Georgia Tech ranks No. 12 in the nation with a +5 turnover margin through four games. Narduzzi said that he’s preparing his team for the Yellow Jackets ballhawking defenders.
“They have been the team that’s always trying to go after the ball, they tackle the ball, and we have to do a good job of making sure our guys hold on to the ball when they are anywhere on the field,” Narduzzi said.
He added that he incentivizes players on the scout team to force turnovers in practice.
“I go down and encourage those guys, ‘Hey, go down and get a milkshake for everybody on the defense, have the GAs go out and get them their favorite flavor of milkshake if they can get a turnover,’” Narduzzi said. “I haven’t had to buy any. Guys offensively are doing a good job holding on to it and got to continue to do that.”
RUN-PASS OPTION FOCUS
Narduzzi said that Georgia Tech has had a lot of success early this season deploying run-pass options, a category of play that gave the Panthers fits against Western Michigan.
“We worked a lot on RPOs last week and changing things up and doing some little things here and there,” Narduzzi said. “With [the Yellow Jackets] doing RPOs, they are going to take a lot from the Western Michigan game, so we’ll obviously give them a different look.”
Jeff Sims, the Yellow Jackets starting quarterback, missed a few series against UNC due to injury before returning for the second half. Narduzzi said that the Panthers are preparing to face both Sims and his backup, Jordan Yates, on Saturday.
“You have to prepare for two different [quarterbacks],” Narduzzi said. “Sims, you’ve got to be careful because that guy can go and he likes to pull it and he likes to run and he’s going to use his feet… I think Yates is more of a passer.”
GEOFF COLLINS HANDSHAKE
Following Pitt’s win over Georgia Tech in 2020, Geoff Collins, the Yellow Jackets coach, blew off Narduzzi’s handshake attempt at midfield. Narduzzi said that following the slight, the two of them talked it over.
“We talked at Media Day face-to-face and he apologized, and it’s over,” Narduzzi said. “He’s a classy guy and I appreciate him apologizing. I know how tempers go. I didn’t take it personal.”
Narduzzi complimented Collins further as he discussed Georgia Tech’s transition from former head coach Paul Johnson’s triple option offense.
“Coach Collins has done a heck of a job of developing that program and building [it] up,” Narduzzi said. “That’s why they have given Clemson and North Carolina fits the last two weeks.”
SCOUT TEAM UPSIDE
With many of the players on Pitt’s roster getting a chance at playing time during the Panthers blowout victory over New Hampshire, Narduzzi mentioned a number of players on the scout team who have impressed him thus far. One was freshman quarterback Nate Yarnell, as well as Pittsburgh area defensive linemen Nakhi Johnson and Elliot Donald.
Narduzzi also praised redshirt freshman wide receiver Luke DelGaudio, who he said has excelled at blocking punts in special teams practice.