Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi spoke with the media on Sunday, Nov. 28 ahead of the Panthers ACC title game contest against Wake Forest. During the session, Narduzzi emphasized what has made the Panthers succeed in 2021 and highlighted what he sees out of the Demon Deacons high-powered offense.
Wake Forest RPOs
Narduzzi said that run-pass option plays have a big role in Wake Forest’s offensive success.
RPOs exposed the Panthers defense early in the season, and Narduzzi has made preparing for them a point of emphasis ever since.
“They are the master of RPOs, they’ll run them in, out, every different route you can think of off the same formation and same run action,” Narduzzi said. “We’ve struggled with RPOs early in the season, I think we’ve got some fixes and gotten better at it.”
Defensive Line and Charlie Partridge
A year after losing three defensive linemen to the NFL draft, Pitt’s defense ranks No. 2 in the nation in sacks with 46.
Narduzzi credited defensive line coach Charlie Partridge with the units’ continued success.
“We manage to be [second] in sacks, and again we’re stopping the run,” Narduzzi said. “Your defensive coordinator is doing a good job putting them in a position to make plays, and then Charlie Patridige does an outstanding job…our guys just continue to develop, and it’s a tribute to our coaches.”
Brennan Marion’s First Impression
Several of Pitt’s wide receivers have set career best marks this season, despite many missing games due to injury. Sophomore Jordan Addison is a Biletnikoff finalist. First-year receivers coach Brennan Marion has played a big role in their development. Despite Marion’s reputation as an offensive wunderkind, Narduzzi said Marion annoyed him at first.
“He kinda annoyed me a little bit…he had more people call me, and I’m like ‘who is this guy?’” Narduzzi said. “[People recommending Marion] almost cost him the job…it was too much.”
After meeting Marion, however, Narduzzi quickly changed his tune.
“When he came in, he blew [me] away with his knowledge,” Narduzzi said. “The other thing I look at is in recruiting, I want a guy that’s a go-getter. This guy went to go get the job.”
Unique Offense Versus Unique Defense
Narduzzi characterized the matchup between Wake Forest’s offense and Pitt’s defense as a clash between schematic white whales.
RPOs are the new fad in football, but Narduzzi said that the Demon Deacons run them differently than other teams do. He said his defensive scheme is a similar outlier.
“Our defense is unique in what we do and how we do it, we bring a lot of pressure at times and people have to deal with that, that’s why we have a lot of sacks and turn our guys loose,” Narduzzi said. “Wake Forest is that on offense. They have mastered their way of doing it, they love what they do, their kids believe in it…believe that they’ll be successful doing what they do, because they’re the only ones who do it that way.”
Tight Ends’ Improvement
Pitt’s tight end group has been a whipping boy for the program for much of the past decade. High profile transfers like Nakia Griffin-Stewart (and even Lucas Krull, who suffered a season ending injury in the second game of the 2020 season, one that would’ve ended his collegiate career if not for the COVID eligibility exemption that the NCAA issued all players) all failed to pan out.
Narduzzi said that improved play out of the tight ends has played a big role in Pitt’s offensive eruption this season.
“A year ago, we had a passing game to the receivers, but we didn’t have any tight ends,” Narduzzi said. “They’re getting yards after the catch, and they also help in the run game.”