Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi made the promise on the day three months ago when he first met with his players:
No matter how soiled a player’s resume had become under the previous staff, Narduzzi said he would wipe it clean.
“Some guys who maybe hadn’t played a lot of football in the past, we might get a lot of good football out of them,” Narduzzi said.
Such may be the case for Shady Side Academy graduate Dennis Briggs.
The new coaching staff has found a new home for Briggs, who was lost in a crowded depth chart at running back.
Briggs, a redshirt freshman, has moved to defensive back where he has caught Narduzzi’s eye as a nickel, flashing what the coach called “the wow factor.”
“We had our eyeballs on him all through the Fourth Quarter (winter) program,” he said. “What has been most impressive is his knowledge. He has picked it up, almost like a natural defensive back.”
What must be understood is that position switches and depth chart adjustments in the seventh of 15 spring drills are meaningful, but by no means permanent. Narduzzi said situations can change as quickly as he can turn on the video machine.
But there is no denying that Briggs played a key role Saturday when the defense won the scrimmage over the offense to earn the right to wear the coveted blue jerseys next week.
Briggs displayed solid work in the secondary and recorded a sack, one of five by the defense.
Linebackers coach Rob Harley, who added a new player to his group when senior Jameel Poteat also moved from running back, isn’t surprised to see Narduzzi creating competition at several defensive positions.
“It’s a different atmosphere when you have a defensive head coach,” Harley said. “He has created an atmosphere for pure competition. Some guys, it kind of stunned them a little bit early, and they are rising to the occasion.
“This is the Wild West. You go get what you want.”
Overall, Narduzzi was pleased with his defense in the scrimmage, the second of the spring.
“I thought the defense did a better job of stopping the run,” he said. “If you can stop the run on defense, you have a chance.”
In another interesting position switch, Woodland Hills graduate Mike Caprara moved from middle to weak-side (money) linebacker where he is running with the first team ahead of Bam Bradley.
Harley said Caprara will compete for playing time at both positions with Bradley and Matt Galambos.
Narduzzi’s staff isn’t the first to notice Caprara’s hustle and football intelligence. When former coach Paul Chryst was unhappy with linebacker Todd Thomas two years ago, he moved Caprara ahead of him on the first-team defense.
Thomas won back the job, but the lesson is a clear one for Pitt’s linebackers: Keep an eye out for Caprara. He probably is gaining on you.
Some quick scrimmage hits:Redshirt freshmen Adam Bertke and Qadree Ollison led their positions – quarterback and running back – during the scrimmage. … Bertke completed 15 of 29 passes for 218 yards, with one interception and three touchdowns, according to Pitt statistics. … Ollison ran 14 times for 97 yards. … No. 1 quarterback Chad Voytik was 12 of 26 for 164. … The offense had no rushing touchdowns. … Narduzzi said there will be another scrimmage Thursday, the last practice before the Easter break. … Practice went more than 30 minutes past the scheduled ending time. “We were having fun,” Narduzzi said, “and they didn’t have to go to class.”