PITTSBURGH — Pat Narduzzi said he wasn’t exactly pleased with Tuesday’s practice, with too many sloppy mistakes and lackluster effort levels, and he was very hands-on during Wednesday’s practice indoors at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
While Narduzzi didn’t pull his team leaders aside ahead of Wednesday’s practice, he actually pulled the entire team aside, he did say that the team leaders know what to do and how to fix the mistakes surely seen when going back and watching film. If Wednesday’s intensity level was any indication, it’s clear that message stuck.
There’s a championship or bust — and not just ACC championship — level of expectation heading into the season, and there are only a handful of practices left before the season kicks off against West Virginia on Sept. 1.
The battles over the next week and a half will determine a lot about not only who’s starting against WVU but how this season could go.
Kedon Slovis remains remarkably consistent, and Nick Patti isn’t far behind, but I think Slovis is in line for a good season at Pitt. Slovis isn’t exactly the most mobile quarterback, but he’s a perfect fit in the style of offense that Frank Cignetti Jr. is going to run this season. His anticipation and touch are apparent even when watching him run through practice drills.
Jared Wayne remains Mr. Consistent when it comes to the wide receivers, the leader in the team room and on the practice field. It’s like every rep he takes is an example of how to run whatever drill he’s in. Remarkable consistency.
The adjustment to the college level for Addison Copeland and Che Nwabuko continues to progress, but it’s clear the pair are true freshmen. Copeland had a ball bounce off his hands during a drill available to the media, and as he jogged back to the line, Narduzzi’s voice rang out: “Let’s go, you’re a wide receiver!”
Kyi Wright, who is listed at 6-foot-3, 265 pounds, is absolutely enormous, but he’s still working on consistency in both pass catching and all phases of blocking. Regardless, he moves incredibly well for his size, and with the ball in his hands, he’ll be tough to drag down. He’s in line for increased opportunity this season.
It’s also clear that even if Israel Abanikanda takes that next step to become a bell-cow at Pitt, Rodney Hammond Jr. isn’t going anywhere. He’s still Pitt’s most adept pass catcher out of the backfield. An Abanikanda-Hammond duo has a lot of potential.
The intensity level reached an even higher level when the offensive and defensive lines clashed in blocking battles, mixing the tight ends in at times. Narduzzi himself was a big part of the drill, coaching up Devin Danielson up close and personal, and Dave Borbely and Charlie Partridge roamed between battles themselves.
Calijah Kancey is very, very difficult to stop. Deslin Alexandre is a strong run blocker, but it’s clear to see why he’s so valued on the field. Man, Pitt’s defensive line is so solid. It’s running deeper than ever this season against Pitt’s 1A and 1B offensive line. The level of depth across the trenches is going to be a key factor this season.