PITTSBURGH — Pitt football has built a culture of success, hard work, stability and great development over the years and many across the ACC have noticed it.
The ACC Network hosted its ACC Football Road Trip at practice on Wednesday at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. The ACC Football Road Trip sees ACC Network analysts go to all 14 ACC schools to meet with coaches and players. Commentators that generally feature on the network watched Pitt football practice and got to see what this team has to offer coming into the 2023 season.
Mark Richt had great words to say about Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi and how he has built this program in the nine seasons at the helm. Richt coached for 15 seasons at Georgia from 2001-15 and then three seasons at Miami from 2016-18, where he finished with a 26-13 overall record and a 16-8 record in ACC Play.
“I could hear the coaches coaching, getting after them,” Richt said on Pitt practice Wednesday morning. “I could hear the players have the enthusiasm. I could hear the crack of the pads. It just brought back good memories for me as a coach to hear and smell football and coach Narduzzi does it the right way here. I think our practices were very similar in how we structured them and it’s fun to be around a bunch of guys that love the game.”
Richt also noted that the Pitt players trust the staff and the vision they have for them in the program. He credited much of this to their ability to develop players that might not receive much hype out of high school. The best example of this was defensive lineman Calijah Kancey, who came in as an undervalued three-star and just signed a contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as a first round draft pick in 2023.
He said that recruits see that anyone can make it to the top if they join Pitt and also, players on the team are constantly working to try and reach the same feats that players like Kancey once achieved.
“We do talk about culture a lot, but it is important and when you set a certain standard that the players understand and they’re the ones pushing instead of the coaches, that’s when you have a special program and that’s what is happening here at Pitt,” Richt said.”
Dallas Wesley “Wes” Durham also spoke on the brilliant work the coaches at Pitt do to help nurture their players and build them up into some of the best in the country. He noted that whenever great players have left, like defensive linemen Patrick Jones II and Rashad Weaver, there have been players to step up in their place, like Habakkuk Baldonado.
“You got guys who can fill those gaps,” Durham said on the Panthers’ ever-changing roster year-by-year. “I think that’s a big part of who this program is. Their player development, it’s second to none.”
Durham also found it ridiculous that Pitt finished No. 6 in the ACC preseason media poll, despite finishing with 10 or more wins twice in the past two seasons and featuring as one of the most consistent teams in the conference in the past few years.
He said that there is no reason, as long as Pitt reaches their full potential, that they shouldn’t finish much better and, potentially, make a run at the ACC Title.
“I expect them to be involved in this,” Durham said. “I think that we were all easy to put Clemson and Florida State in some order, right? And then the question was, “Who’s going to be the third team?” And they’re clearly capable of being the third best team in this league. Maybe even one or two depending on what happens around them.”