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Pitt Will Rely Upon the Bond of Sons of College Coaches

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Pitt.

Kade Bell can admit now that it was probably the most stressful time of his rather young life (Yes, he’s still young. He’s 30). He spent just about an entire day, 24 hours, being grilled by Pat Narduzzi.

When Pitt parted ways with Frank Cignetti Jr. following a wildly unsuccessful 2023 season, Narduzzi was faced with the most important hire of his nearly decade-long tenure with the Panthers. He couldn’t afford to miss after such a poor season — a season in which a slow, plodding offense held back any sort of progression.

It remains to be seen whether or not Bell will be a success in Pittsburgh. The offensive install, a new up-tempo offense at that, hasn’t even begun. But Bell is the new Pitt offensive coordinator, and he couldn’t be any happier to be in Pittsburgh.

Bell is a bit of a curveball but a much needed one. He’s certainly young, but he wouldn’t have been hired if Narduzzi hadn’t wanted to play fast and score points. And it just so happens that they share a common connection.

Bell and Narduzzi share a unique, although maybe not all that uncommon, trait. They’re both the sons of coaches.

“He went through the same situation playing for his dad, right? His dad was a coach, and I think that was an awesome connection because he knows what it feels like to be a coach’s son,” Bell said last week at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. “I think the biggest thing that was the best learning experience for me when I was young was not just playing for my dad, but living with the players and seeing how they view him as a head coach.

“I think that gave me a great perspective on what kids think about their coaches, and things they do well and what they don’t do well. And I experienced that as a college player.”

Bell played for his father Kerwin for four seasons at Jacksonville. The younger Bell played quarterback for his father, serving as a four-year starter for the Dolphins, but the two butted heads the whole way. So much so that the elder Bell finally hired a quarterbacks coach following his son’s sophomore season.

They were — and still are — one and the same. Stubborn, competitive and fiercely loyal to their beliefs. It’s not unlike the bond forged between Narduzzi and his father Bill. Narduzzi spent a season under his father at Youngstown State in the 1980s. Many kids begin their athletic journeys with their father leading the way, fewer can call their father their head coach at nearly the highest level.

Bell’s father believed in him at a young age, and now Narduzzi believes in him, too. That means something to Bell — it means the world to him, actually. Coaching is his calling. And he’s been afforded a major opportunity in Pittsburgh.

“I feel like I’m put on this earth to (be a coach),” Bell said. “I love the game. I love football. I want to be the best at it. You know, that’s kind of who I am every day. I’m kind of choking up a little bit because my dad just, you know, he believed in me young, when I was 24 years old.

“I was a GA. It’s kind of crazy, I don’t know why I’m crying. But you’re 24 years old and you’re a GA, and next thing you know, he’s telling you halfway through the season, ‘Hey, man, I want you to go to box and call plays. I think you’re ready.’ And you know, a lot of coaches think he’s crazy.”

There were some tears as Bell stood at the podium last week. His voice wavered. He took a moment to collect himself. And he did. He’s leading the Pitt offense now.

“You always got to change, and you’re moving with it,” Narduzzi said in December. “You know, we talked about evaluation of what we do, how we do it, we’re spread anyway, and we’re gonna play good defense no matter what. I wanted to play great offense, and I wanted to get a guy who could score points, a guy that had an attitude that we’re score, we’re gonna go and push our guys to be the best they can be and have fun doing it. And I think that’s what we got.”

Bell is the sixth offensive coordinator that Narduzzi has hired, and he’s certainly not the “sit on the football, run the clock down and grind out wins” style that Narduzzi likes. But as Narduzzi faced the most important hire of his tenure, as he mentioned, he — and perhaps Heather Lyke — realized that the game has changed. Pitt’s offense is certainly going to change.

Much like Narduzzi himself, Bell has sort of built his own brand of an offensive scheme. It’s a system that will play fast, throw the ball over and force defenses to make decisions with pre-snap movement, checks at the line and a lot of tempo. But it will be tweaked and designed based on who is running the offense at quarterback, too.

The mantra is to play fast and score faster, but that’s obviously when the situation calls for it. It’s picking the right times to speed it up, and the right times to slow it down. Bell is confident in his ability to craft a system that can do both successfully — and Narduzzi is confident in his belief in Bell.

“We’re being up-tempo at times, and we’re gonna play fast, and I think maybe one of the things that sold me is, you know, defensively we’re not very complicated,” Narduzzi said. “And any normal football guy would look and say, Gosh, they line up on normal downs with four down. They line up in almost the same spots all the time. The linebackers look like this. The corners are pressed out there. I mean, everything looks the same. But then on the snap it changes. And it’s simple but complex.

“And I think that’s what our offense is. You know, when people talk about playing fast, I think they think the tempo. But I think that fast goes two ways. And you talk to a lot of our guys, and talk during spring ball and after spring ball, so our guys will say it’s simpler for them to go play faster. And again, when I say fast, you can have an athletic guy, but if you take an athletic left tackle, or a tailback, or a wide receiver, and you give them too many things to think about, they start to play slow.”

It’s a new connection, for sure, but it’s one that has laid the early foundation for what Pitt will look like in the 2024 season — and beyond. Bell was the most important hire of Narduzzi’s tenure at Pitt, and it — by all accounts — appears to be one that is already working.

“I think coach Duzz is a very open person,” Bell said. “He wants you to be honest. He doesn’t care if you believe differently than him. He likes to argue, which I like. He always has an opinion, and I do, too. I think that’s why we get along. I got to sit in every interview with him, and we kind of bounced ideas and kind of what he wanted as the head coach and what I needed to be successful.

“And when it comes down to it, what’s best for Pitt and what’s best for us as a whole team to go compete in ACC and win, right? And I think that was the best part about it, I got to see what he wanted and what his vision was. And then how do we put the best pieces together, and I thought he did that as a head coach. I think the way we’re all a little different in what we do well and what we don’t do well, I think we fit really well together.”

Time will tell if the most important hire of the Narduzzi actually ended up working out, but it makes sense why Narduzzi wound up on Bell. The Pitt offense will need to rely upon Bell now.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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Tom D
Tom D
3 months ago

Still concerned that the hire was an over-correction, but the kid is growing on me. can’t wait for FB to come back. H2P

Jeff
Jeff
3 months ago

Cool but rely on yardage and touchdowns too.

Last edited 3 months ago by Jeff

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