Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke’s phone has been ringing off the hook and her emails have flown out by the minute with the amount of interest in Pitt’s Peach Bowl appearance at the end of the month.
“There’s definitely a high demand,” Lyke said at Pitt’s Peach Bowl acceptance press conference on Tuesday. “You know, we know that the airline market is a little bit lessened since Covid, so the flights are fewer and they’re frankly all gone if you’re trying to get there a day or two before. So, come a little early and stay after the game.”
With Pitt students and fans booking airlines and planning road trips down to Atlanta, the month ahead will be busy, and it’ll be an even busier month for Pitt football. Early Signing Day begins Wednesday morning bright and early, Pitt is still looking to fill the vacated offensive coordinator position and the Peach Bowl takes place on Dec. 30 at 7 p.m. in Atlanta.
However, with Pitt currently in the midst of Finals Week, head coach Pat Narduzzi and staff haven’t scheduled practices at all this week, with focus going toward building champions in the classroom and on the football field.
“It’s been our norm here at Pitt that during finals week, that we’re focusing on finals, so we don’t practice at all this week,” Narduzzi said at Tuesday’s Peach Bowl presser. “The kids are welcome to come and watch tape and get involved with their coaches if they want to, but the priority is finishing up our finals strong. We want to be a champion in the classroom as well.”
With Early Signing Day Wednesday, the time away from the football field has allowed Narduzzi and his staff to hone in on securing a vast majority of Pitt’s 2022 recruiting class this week. With a 7 a.m. start time, National Letters of Intent will begin being submitted bright and early Wednesday morning, and the future Pitt players will hold some sort of ceremony at their respective schools and in their communities.
While Pitt still hasn’t hired an offensive coordinator to replace Mark Whipple after his exit for Nebraska earlier this month, Narduzzi isn’t at all worried about not having anyone in place to promote the offense. History, he said, repeats itself.
“Back in 2017, we had this young quarterback from Ocean Township, New Jersey that was committed to us, and we didn’t have an offensive coordinator, we didn’t have a quarterback coach, and I mentioned it the other day, it came down to trust and loyalty,” Narduzzi said. “That quarterback was obviously Kenny Pickett.”
Pitt’s 2022 class is only a 10-man class to this point, with the possibility of a few late Signing Day commitments and transfer decisions, but most if not all of Pitt’s class will sign National Letters of Intent on Wednesday. And Narduzzi said it all comes down to trusting and believing in one another.
“Kenny came here in January and enrolled — which would be on Jan. 10 of this year coming up — and he enrolled and had faith that we were going to do the right thing, and I say we cause all those decisions are made by the staff together as far as who’s going to lead that offense and who’s going to be that quarterbacks coach, so it just comes down to trust and it comes down to relationships you have with players,” Narduzzi said.
In the meantime, Narduzzi said he wants to get through Signing Day on Wednesday before digging into finding a new offensive coordinator, confirming that he had not yet made a decision.
However, a decision will have to be made before the Peach Bowl on Dec. 30 for an offensive play-caller, either a permanent or interim hire. Wide receivers coach Brennan Marion figures to be the frontrunner.
Even without an offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach, Pitt’s Peach Bowl preparation will continue to roll on. With the players having some time off from practice, with film sessions and meeting with coaches still occurring for some, Pitt will gradually ease back into preparation.
“Well, the first thing is, I’ve been a part of different staffs where I think you went into the bowl game and I think the kids started getting bored of the game plan going into game week,” Narduzzi said. “So, that’s the first priority, just to give them a little bit of the game plan as we go. We’re in development mode right, we’ll go out Saturday and get some development in, but we want to make sure when we get to Atlanta, they’re not bored with the game plan.”
Narduzzi said Pitt’s practices heading forward will be shorter, with a focus on being sharper, fresher and faster.
It’s going to be a busy month for Narduzzi and his staff, and it all officially starts bright and early on Wednesday morning.