PITTSBURGH — A thud practice is when head coach Pat Narduzzi wants the required physicality in every rep of every drill, but he doesn’t want guys going to the ground. Of course, the main goal is to get through training camp healthy.
But of course, on the first rep of Pitt’s offense and defense matching up in the spider pads, Israel Abanikanda went to the ground on the tackle. It was a lively affair between the offense and defense, something we’ll touch on, and in the morning August heat, it felt like football was back in Pittsburgh.
Frank Cignetti Jr. continued to coach the quarterbacks in a way that’s allowed the quarterback competition to remain on level footing, leading the duo of Kedon Slovis and Nick Patti through drills — along with new Dartmouth transfer Derek Kyler, Nate Yarnell, Eli Kosanovich and Jake Frantl.
There’s no change in the way that Slovis and Patti have been rotating between reps with the ones and twos, and both quarterbacks yet again looked good during drills available to the media Wednesday. In working with the running backs, running through screens, wheel routes and crossing routes, all four scholarship quarterbacks took reps — while Kosanovich worked with the wide receivers.
There’s not much that set either Slovis or Patti apart Wednesday. And as training camp continues, the competition will too. Narduzzi wants one of the two quarterbacks to emerge in a way that makes it impossible for him or coaching staff to even consider starting anyone else.
The running backs, which now includes new Notre Dame transfer C’Bo Flemister, didn’t put together a banner day catching the ball out of the backfield at times, but it’s a unit that will be very, very deep in 2022.
Narduzzi took a vested interest in the punt rush drills Wednesday, standing just inside the end zone to watch the drill with his own eyes. He didn’t lead the drill, but he made sure to impart some words to each rusher who flew by while pads popped at the line of scrimmage. It’s always nice to see the head coach getting involved.
The media was treated to a rare offense and defense matchup Wednesday, the ones and two rotating through during the drill, and the defense looked especially sharp.
The drill started with a false start, which no one was happy about, and as a “Stay on your feet!” rang out, Abanikanda was hauled to the ground. Bangally Kamara sniffed out a quick screen with a nice tackle, M.J. Devonshire executed a perfect thud pop tackle, P.J. O’Brien broke up a deep ball intended for Jaylon Barden and Khalil Anderson made a nice thud pop of his own.
It wasn’t an extended look for the media, but it’s clear the intensity and desire is there on both sides, and that intensity will only increase as the season draws nearer.