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Jeremy Darveau: ‘I’d Have to Not Have a Pulse to Not Want to be Here’



Pitt defensive line coach Jeremy Darveau.

Jeremy Darveau is a 42-year-old man who has spent his entire life playing — and coaching — football. It’s hard for him to be starstruck, but when he spent 15 minutes talking to Pitt legend Jimbo Covert at the National Signing Day event earlier this month, it was unforgettable.

Darveau was regaled with old stories from Covert’s glory days, his All-American days in Pittsburgh and his eventual Hall of Fame career with the Chicago Bears, and it was that history that stood out.

“It was the coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of,” Darveau said Wednesday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. “It was awesome, and that history that we have here, not just offensive line play but defensive line play, how could that not attract an offensive line coach? It would be impossible. I’d have to not have a pulse to not want to be here. So, to me, Pitt is a dream job for any line coach or either side of the ball, and I’m just grateful to coach Narduzzi and coach Bell.”

Pitt was a dream scenario for Darveau, who was hired away from Western Carolina in January, and it largely boils down to the storied tradition of excellence in Pittsburgh.

But of course, it isn’t just the history. It’s the opportunity to work with new offensive coordinator Kade Bell (who he worked closely with at WCU and will continue to do so at Pitt) and revamp a Panthers offensive line that failed to meet expectations last season. Covert had a few ideas on how to get back to the dominant line play.

It would be an understatement to say that Pitt struggled in both run blocking and pass protection last season.

Covert wants Pitt to play more physically. And that’s what Darveau said Pitt is going to do in 2024. The up-tempo scheme will not impact the offensive line’s ability to be maulers — not playing laterally but setting and pushing the line of scrimmage.

Of course, the offensive line will need to stay healthy to establish that. Darveau admitted that injuries were a problem last season, perhaps the biggest issue facing the offensive line, and it’s true what they say: availability is the best ability. The starting five will be important, but the depth — running two or three deep in some cases — is obviously important, too.

Pitt is returning a solid core of experienced linemen, which was helped along by the sheer number of injuries last season, ironically, and the two tackles — Ryan Jacoby and Branson Taylor — are perhaps the most experienced. Darveau is excited by not only their potential play on the field but their willingness to do what is needed.

“Whenever you’ve got athletic tackles like they are, it opens up your run game,” Darveau said. “Now your protections are opened up, your outside zones, your counters, you can pull them, you can do all sorts of things with them instead of just running straight ahead like a bulldozer. So, it allows us to be a little more multiple in our playbook and multiple in our run game and multiple in our protection.

“If we need to do something special with them, we can because one, they’re experienced, and two, they’re both really athletic, and three, they’re great people who want to be great offensive linemen so they’ll learn whatever we ask of them.”

It’s not just Baer and Taylor who are returning though. Terrence Moore is returning at center, and there is a glut of interior linemen including BJ Williams, Ryan Jacoby, Lyndon Cooper and Jason Collier Jr. There are six returning linemen who made starts last season, and there are two more with in-game action.

They’re all going to have to adapt to the new up-tempo offense together. Darveau said that the coaching staff will need to whip the unit into shape, and strength coach Michael Stacchiotti will be paramount in that role. But it’s still a process that requires the mind and body working together.

Pitt is practicing a really high tempo in practice, moving fast, working no-huddle and making sure the offense is firing on all cylinders, but even if the body can withstand the tempo, there’s no guarantee the mind will, too. So, it’s about getting in the best of shape in the weight room and on the field while also ensuring that the playbook and all responsibilities are memorized like the back of one’s hand.

“You have to be a tough player, not just physically but mentally, because college football, playing offensive line at this level, is a grind,” Darveau said. “It’s a grind in going out there and hitting every day, it’s a grind in learning the playbook, it’s a grind in the weight room, it’s a grind over there in the training room there with the meals and pulling back every once in a while. Maybe saying, ‘One less chicken wing, one less chicken breast.’ So, it’s about the toughness, and then from there, we build our technique and our assignments. Buy everything starts with toughness all the time.”

It should help the linemen that Darveau is intuned with exactly what Bell wants from his offensive linemen. Darveau confirmed that he would be working closely with Bell when it comes to game planning. Of course, it’s Bell’s offense and Darveau will defer to a “great play-caller,” but Bell values his input.

The spring will be important as the install continues, but it will be the first chance to hear the pads pop and watch the aggression bleed out on the practice field for the first time — that’s when Darveau will be able to see who his leaders actually are. But the install is about halfway done. He’s starting to see his linemen’s heads spin a little bit.

It’s about clearing the install “hump” now. It can be difficult to clear that hump sometimes, as it is in any offensive install, but that’s what the spring is for — preparing to clear the way for the running backs and protect the quarterback as long as possible. It’s better when an offensive lineman doesn’t have his name called during a game than the alternative.

“You’ve got to really not have an ego because as you and I both know, the glory is not in the offensive line play,” Darveau said. “It’s in the receivers and running backs and those guys. We celebrate their victories. That gives us happiness. When one of coach (Lindsey Lamar’s) running backs goes for 70, that’s like eating the greatest chicken wing buffet in the world to an offensive lineman.”

It’s not about the glory. Toughness, intelligence, and as Darveau said, the best looking guys on the team, too.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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