PITTSBURGH — If Pat Narduzzi ever wants to take a break from coaching, I think he has a bright future in hitting people with a foam bat.
He was a man on a mission as the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends ran through the gauntlet, smacking everyone and anyone — and forcing 10 fumbles by my count. He was very vocal, very eager to point out that he was forcing fumbles.
Ball security was a big emphasis of Tuesday’s practice — the first open to the media since Saturday’s scrimmage at Acrisure Stadium.
A few assistant coaches had to push the giant gauntlet sled up onto the field at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex Tuesday morning, maneuvering the heavy sled up and over the elevated edge of where the turf meets the dirt. It wasn’t easy.
“We gotta get you guys in the weight room!” Frank Cignetti Jr. called out, surveying the progress.
“I’m too old to do this s***.”
Eventually, Christian Veilleux and Nate Yarnell joined in to help the handful of assistants pushing the sled. But not Phil Jurkovec. “He saw me grab it,” Yarnell said, grinning. “He knew it was moving.”
Jurkovec, Veilleux and Yarnell worked with the receivers on basic route patterns, spending a bit more time on screens, and it appears that a couple of young wideouts are beginning to emerge. Zion Fowler-El and Kenny Johnson didn’t arrive until the summer, but they’re working right behind Konata Mumpfield, Bub Means and Daejon Reynolds right now.
As Johnson worked directly behind Means with the X wide receivers, Means was feeding him pointers before and after his reps. It’s something that Means has been doing all offseason as he’s grown into his role. And he’s continued to grow on the field, too. He was one of the highlighted wideouts from Saturday.
In the drills available to the media, we’re able to watch the quarterbacks and the wide receivers work together — against air, to be fair — but we aren’t afforded that same luxury with the defensive backs.
In the few live reps, we’ve seen between the No. 1 offense and defense, the offense has gotten the upper hand — as was the case in the scrimmage, too. I wouldn’t be too concerned about it right now. It’s a very young, inexperienced safety unit that will need to continue to grow through the season, all the ups and downs.
If the wide receivers can be that challenging unit now, it should bode well for when the season opens up in about two weeks. It may just be Wofford, but that doesn’t mean the Terriers’ wideouts can’t do some damage.
The cohesion on the backend, which is largely the safety growth as a unit, will be the top storyline to follow throughout the remainder of camp.