PITTSBURGH — It’s safe to say Pat Narduzzi wasn’t too happy with how Tuesday’s practice ran, especially coming off such a steady performance during Saturday’s scrimmage.
There was a day off on Monday, following a light Sunday night practice at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, and Pitt hit the field Tuesday for a practice that lacked the attention to detail and speed that he wanted.
“We had an OK day yesterday. I was kind of a little bit disappointed. I related to having a good Saturday and everybody’s feeling good about themselves, and the head coach says, ‘Hey you did a nice job, guys. Good job, good work.’ And then they come out yesterday just sloppy. Not as much detailed focus as I wanted.”
Wednesday’s practice that was available to the media indoors at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex was a lively affair, so how did the bounce back occur?
How to Bounce Back from a Disappointing Practice
It wasn’t as if Narduzzi simply pulled Carter Warren, Deslin Alexandre and Habakkuk Baldonado aside and expressed his disappointment in Tuesday’s performance. He pulled the entire team aside and just said, ‘C’mon guys, let’s go.’ It’s a team after all.
“A little bit of (younger and older guys),” Narduzzi said. “It’s a team, right? It’s everybody, just a little lack of focus. Everybody feels themselves once in a while. We just weren’t as fired up.”
However, Narduzzi feels like the leaders will take it from there to uphold the level of intensity and attention to detail that’s been accustomed at practice. He feels like the team gets it.
After all, it happens. Every day isn’t a perfect day, and Narduzzi said the next steps are to fight through, go back and watch the tape to realize that, ‘Yeah, coach was right, and then go out and fix it at practice the next day. If Wednesday’s practice available to the media was any indication, the message certainly stuck.
The duo of Brandon Hill and Erick Hallett at safety is as close to a lock to start against West Virginia on Sept. 1 as possible, since every unit is in open competition for starting spots, according to Pitt’s coaching staff. Yes, they’re going to start though.
But Pitt’s secondary, the safeties especially, is very deep. And there are options across the board.
“You look at Javon McIntyre, P.J. O’Brien is playing really well,” Narduzzi said. “Steph Hall didn’t do anything in the spring, and he flies around, he’ll hit the heck out of you, loves to hit. I’m gonna forget somebody. We’ve got some guys that can go in there and play. And Jud (Tallandier), didn’t play in the spring.”
O’Brien, McIntyre, Tallandier, Hall and Khalil Anderson provide a little bit of everything when it comes to on-field traits. And another player, who isn’t exactly a defensive back, who has impressed in his coverage skills is Bangally Kamara. He had a great interception during Saturday’s scrimmage, but he’s evolved into an all-around threat.
“Bangally’s really stepped up. I’m very, very impressed with what he’s done,” Narduzzi said. “Not only the interception of the day, just his physicality, his ability to rush the quarterback and create havoc in the backfield. He’s got that, we’ve gotta keep him focused all the time, but he could be a good football player.”
Kamara has made strides since the spring, after being named as the Ed Conway Award winner for the most improved defender, and it’s clear his list of trusted responsibilities is growing.
When’s the Quarterback Being Named?
“I don’t really have a timetable,” Narduzzi said, “I don’t think it’ll be Sept. 1.”
So, it’s sometime between Aug. 17 and Sept. 1.
Narduzzi said that when the time is right, he’ll name the starter. It’ll likely be Kedon Slovis trotting out with the offense against West Virginia on Sept. 1, but Nick Patti is certainly a more than capable option. It’s been a competition since Slovis arrived in January, and it’s that competition that’s possibly keeping things under wraps.
“We’re gonna go back and watch J.T. Daniels, every pass he’s ever thrown at USC and Georgia,” Narduzzi said. WVU hasn’t officially named Daniels the starter yet, but it’s clear who Pitt is preparing for.
With two weeks until the Backyard Brawl, it’s clear Pitt’s research is going to be very intensive across the board. And Daniels himself will be well studied.
Expectations for the Season
It’s well documented that Pitt’s ACC championship was won by last season’s team, not this seasons. It was a high point for the program, but no one is satisfied with just one. Or just an ACC title for that matter.
“It’s a new team,” Narduzzi said. “We’ve got new players, and it’s just trying to reiterate every day, every week, every practice that this is all based on what you’re going to do. We’ve got faith, we’ve got belief in what we have been and what we wanna do and what our goals are. It’s going to take daily work to get that thing done, and it’s a new football team even though 85% of our football team is back from a championship team, you still have to have new leaders emerge.”