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April 19, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


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One more look at Pitt’s spring drills

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Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi officially put a cap on spring drills Tuesday when players gathered on the South Side for lunch:
Steak and lobster for the winners (the Blue defeated the Gold, 19-17).
Franks and beans for the losers.
Meanwhile, I appeared on TribLive Radio with Tim Benz and Josh Taylor and offered this possibility for the Pitt season: The Panthers could have a better team, but with an inferior regular-season record to last season’s 8-4.
Road games against Oklahoma State, North Carolina, Miami and Clemson give Pitt, perhaps, the most difficult schedule in the ACC.
If Pitt loses all four, it must do no worse than 8-0 in its other games to reach 8-4. That’s still a good season because it would include victories against Villanova, Penn State, Marshall, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Duke and Syracuse.
But if Pitt manages to win two of its four most difficult games and takes care of business against the others, you’re talking about the first double-digit victory total in the regular season in more than three decades (1981).
Let me know what you think. Tweet your predicted victory total to @JDiPaola_Trib.
The day of the spring game, I presented questions that need answered at every position. Here are the questions and how they were answered:
Quarterback
Finding a backup is important, but the more pressing need is to ensure senior starter Nathan Peterman takes the next step in his development: Throw deeper, maintain accuracy, spread passes to people not named Tyler Boyd, including those who play running back and tight end.
SATURDAY’S RESULT: Peterman completed 11 of 22 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns. He played much better in the second half.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: If Peterman develops some rhythm with Dontez Ford, Jester Weah and Quadree Henderson, the passing game will perform better than most people expect.
Running back
Quick-learning freshman Chawntez Moss has turned into a nice story, but what about the veterans?
Narduzzi initially will lean on Qadree Ollison, Darrin Hall and Rachid Ibrahim. If James Conner returns and runs with the same power and passion he displayed two years ago, the four others become backups. In any case, the running game has a chance to be Pitt’s biggest asset.
SATURDAY’S RESULT: Moss carried only seven times for 28 yards and Hall and Ollison combined for 29 attempts. Overall, the running game was a disappointment (83 yards from four running backs).
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Don’t forget about James Conner, whose recovery from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is going well.
Wide receiver
Pitt’s offense could become imbalanced if the Panthers feel the loss of Boyd too acutely. Injuries this spring to Dontez Ford and Zach Challingsworth didn’t help, but they are expected to recover.
If Ford plays Saturday — he still is an uncertainty — he can make an impact. He’s smart and athletic, a combination coaches love.

SATURDAY’S RESULT: Ford had a good day, especially considering he missed most of the 14 previous practices with a leg injury — four catches, 55 yards.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: I get the feeling Ford will have a big season, enough that opposing defenses will need to know where he is at all times, thus, opening up lanes for the running game.
Tight end
Short on numbers, this position will go as far as senior Scott Orndoff can carry it and offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s play-calling allows.
Orndoff knows how to find the goal line. More than one-third of his receptions have been touchdowns.
SATURDAY’S RESULT: Orndoff had a touchdown and a 20-yard reception among his three catches.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Orndoff will compile more receptions, yards and touchdowns than former tight end J.P. Holtz did in any season (somewhere north of 23 receptions, 209 yards and four touchdowns).
Offensive line
Assistant coach John Peterson has as many as seven players he can call on without losing sleep, and the left side with seniors Adam Bisnowaty and Dorian Johnson might be the best in the ACC.
Center? Alex Bookser manned it in the spring, but Alex Officer could grab it back when his injury heals. Both can play right guard, too, and John Guy will be there Saturday. Narduzzi believes sophomore right tackle Brian O’Neill can play at the next level.
Where does Jaryd Jones-Smith fit? No. 1 backup at tackle and guard, perhaps, but with experience as a starter.

SATURDAY’S RESULTS: Too many sacks (four) and TFLs (11).
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Officer’s recovery will do wonders for this unit’s stability. When Narduzzi settles on five starting offensive linemen, Pitt’s ground game will be just fine. From left, it will look something like this: Tackle Adam Bisnowaty, guard Dorian Johnson, center Alex Bookser or Alex Officer, guard Officer or Bookser and tackle Brian O’Neill
Defensive line
Keep an eye on Bisnowaty at left tackle when he lines up opposite end Dewayne Hendrix. It might be the highlight of the day: Pitt’s best offensive lineman against a potentially destructive pass rusher.
In the fall, it will be interesting to see how opponents block Pitt’s line because Ejuan Price has 16 1⁄2 career sacks at the opposite end. Plus, tackles Tyrique Jarrett at 335 pounds and former end Shakir Soto offer a blend of beef and a burst.
SATURDAY’S RESULT: Bisnowaty and Hendrix had good moments, Hendrix ending up with a sack and two quarterback hurries.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: This could turn out to be a disruptive front four, with more quickness than Pitt opponents have seen in a long time.
Linebacker
Narduzzi can’t list this position as a strength because three players he was counting on — Bam Bradley, Quintin Wirginis and Anthony McKee — didn’t practice due to shoulder injuries.
Mike Caprara and Matt Galambos are solid fixtures, but there’s a spot open at outside linebacker. Any of five players can fill it, which is good for depth, but can any of them become playmakers? Coaches hope they won’t be afraid of the answer.
SATURDAY’S RESULT: Elijah Zeise had a game-high eight tackles and Caprara added seven.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Bradley may be the most athletic linebacker on the team, so look for him to earn a starting job.
Defensive back
There is still a lot to do at cornerback, where Ryan Lewis and Phillipie Motley are competing and freshmen Therran Coleman, Damar Hamlin and Henry Miller won’t be ignored.
SATURDAY’S RESULT: Lewis was one of eight players with a pass breakup.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: One of the freshmen will play well enough to win the open cornerback job.
Special teams
Avonte Maddox, Quadree Henderson and Jordan Whitehead offer big-play potential as returners. Narduzzi has a sense of security with kicker Chris Blewitt and punter Ryan Winslow back for their fourth and third seasons, respectively.
SATURDAY’S RESULT: There were no returns allowed in the game, Blewitt made his only attempt (40 yards) and Winslow averaged 39.4 per punt.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Henderson has a knack for finding holes in the coverage.

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April 13, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


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Ford’s return, even on a limited basis, is good news for the regular season

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The good news Tuesday from the 13th day of Pitt’s spring drills was that senior wide receiver Dontez Ford was back.
Maybe on a limited basis and maybe not far enough that coaches will feel comfortable allowing him to play in Saturday’s spring game. But the leg injury suffered on the second day of drills a month ago is healing. Besides, if there was a real game Saturday, Fod said there is no doubt he would play.
“For sure, whenever it comes to the fall and it was something like this, I would be out there the same week,” he said. “I could push right through it. Right now, it’s better to be smart about it.”
The fact that Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi is handling Ford with care is an indicator that he believes the passing game largely depends on him. No sense risking further injury when there is no opponent to defeat this week.
Ford and Zach Challingsworth are the only Pitt wide receivers who caught a significant number of passes last year, and Ford led the team with an average of 19.4 yards per catch.
Pitt’s aerial game will be one of the most important focal points of the spring game. Pitt needs a balanced attack to maneuver through a difficult schedule. Among the wide receivers, Ford gives the team the best chance to reach that goal.
It’s also important for Ford to get back on the field because that’s the place where he can best fulfill his other role as a team leader.
He said he served as a mentor for younger players as early as last season, his first as a regular starter.
“I’m going to keep on getting into their heads and trying to help them become better wide receivers, which will in turn help myself,” he said.
“You can’t let little mistakes go and sweep them under the rug. You have to call them out whenever they are doing something wrong. At times, they don’t like it, but that’s what’s going to make them better at the end of the day.”
Because of Ford’s injury, first-year offensive coordinator Matt Canada hasn’t seen much of Ford on the field. But he likes what he has seen on video from last season.
“He has that ability to be a matchup issue,” Canada said. “He’s got some physicalness to him. He’s not afraid to go in there and put his face on somebody and make some tough catches.”
If you don’t see that Saturday at Heinz Field, it’s because Narduzzi wants to make sure you see it this fall at Heinz Field.
For a closer look at the things Ford can accomplish off the field, here’s a story that shows he hasn’t forgotten his roots.

Five important members of the defense — safeties Jordan Whitehead and Dennis Briggs, linebacker Mike Caprara and ends Ejuan Price and Dewayne Hendrix – wore yellow jerseys Tuesday to protect them from aggravating minor injuries.
Narduzzi said they are expected to play Saturday. “I don’t think that yellow meant anything,” he said. “If you saw (practice), you would say, `Why do we have so many guys in yellow still smacking people?’ It’s kind of an alert (to other players) that, `Hey, I’m not 100 percent.’ ”

A total of 17 players were limited or not practicing Tuesday due to injuries, but Narduzzi said he expects everyone to be recovered in time for camp in August.

Narduzzi will conduct his second spring game draft Wednesday, with seniors picking players for each team.

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April 11, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


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Conklin talks Pitt defense on TribLive Radio

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Pitt defensive coordinator Josh Conklin is one of the smartest, most candid assistant coaches I’ve run across in my six seasons covering the team, and he didn’t disappoint when he spoke to my good friend and Trib Total Media colleague Chris Peak on Monday on the “Panther Lair Show” on TribLive Radio.
Among Conklin’s biggest concerns is getting production from interior linemen, something he pointed out was missing last season.
“We all know for us to be really successful and dominant, those guys have to be really good,” Conklin told Peak. “I felt like we left some out there. I don’t think (last year’s defensive tackles) were as productive as they needed to be.”
Conklin also said he hopes to “get back to basics” this season, perhaps decreasing quarterback pressure from defenders who may be of better use elsewhere.
“We ran a lot of pressure, really too much pressure (last year), in my opinion,” he said. “We would like to play more base.”
Conklin also didn’t shut the door on using freshmen at tackle and cornerback, although he said tackle even in the ACC (not known for consistently outstanding interior line play) is a “grown man’s game.”
He didn’t name names, but incoming freshmen (still in high school as I write this) such as tackles Keyshon Camp, Amir Watts and Central Catholic’s Rashad Wheeler and cornerbacks Therran Campbell of Brashear, Damar Hamlin of Central Catholic and Henry Miller could find their way onto the field this season.
“Whoever ends up showing up and gets it and is mature mentally,” Conklin said.
Speaking of cornerback, Conklin said coaches are making some schematic changes to ease pressure on those players, who were often in one-on-one matchups with wide receivers. That was a problem, especially in the Notre Dame game when Will Fuller caught seven passes for 152 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-30 Irish victory.
“We took some heat in terms of leaving those guys matched up with the Fuller kid,” Conklin said.
But stopping the run is always the No. 1 priority in Pitt’s defense.
“If we take safeties off the run game and start double-teaming the receivers, we are picking our poison,” he said. Interesting comment.
I get the feeling senior linebackers Matt Galambos and Mike Caprara (cerebral guys who know the defense nearly as well as the coaches) are among the coaches’ favorite players.
“They aren’t sexy in terms of their look or their explosiveness,” Conklin said, “but they are good, solid players and they can have really, really good years and really, really solid years for us and be productive and do what we need them to do, for sure.”
The outside linebacker position coaches call the star (where Nicholas Grigsby played last year before graduating) could be a problem. Former wide receiver Elijah Zeise is among several young plays competing for playing time there.
“I think Elijah has a chance because he’s athletic,” Conklin said.
But Bam Bradley and Anthony McKee – two linebackers sitting out the spring with shoulder injuries – could end up there by the end of the summer.
The progress Zeise and the others have made this spring will be interesting to watch in the spring game Saturday at Heinz Field.
By the way, I appeared with Ken Laird and Josh Taylor on TribLive Radio, and we talked about many topics — football and basketball. Give a listen.

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April 8, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


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Holtz works out daily in hopes of hearing his name during NFL Draft

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When he’s not hanging out at the E Town Bar and Grille in Etna (I hear the fish sandwich kills), former Pitt tight end J.P. Holtz is getting ready for the NFL.
He has visited with several teams, including the Browns, Chargers, Bears, Bengals and Saints. Other than that, he’s working out almost every day – often with his former Pitt teammates at the South Side facility.
“It gets boring sometimes,” Holtz said Friday during an appearance on TribLive Radio. “All you do is work out all day. It’s kind of nice, actually.”
Holtz is ranked the 23rd tight end available in the draft, according to NFLDraftScout.com, after catching 81 passes for 931 yards and 11 touchdowns in four years at Pitt where he never missed a game or practice. In his freshman season, he caught three passes for 54 yards and a touchdown in Pitt’s near-upset at Notre Dame.
At 6-foot-3, 238 pounds, he could morph into a run-blocking fullback with the ability to catch short flips.
“I’m a pretty decent blocker,” he said. “I’ll do whatever a team needs me to do. I can do both. I really doesn’t matter to me. I just want to play football.”

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April 5, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


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Tyler Boyd speaks of the Bengals, Civil War and a lesson learned

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Former Pitt wide receiver Tyler Boyd showed up on TribLive Radio on Tuesday, saying he’s spending “a little more chill time” in advance of one of the biggest days of his life — the NFL Draft April 28-30.
He seemed more relaxed than he did in any of his three seasons at Pitt, poking good-natured fun at former teammate James Conner, who one-hopped the ceremonial first pitch to Pirates catcher Chris Stewart on Sunday at PNC Park.
“Once I saw him throw a dirt ball, I was a little shaky on him as an athlete,” said Boyd, who was a three-sport athlete at Clairton (baseball and basketball). “The catcher still caught it. Some people get out there and don’t even make it to the catcher.”
Most mock drafts have indicated Boyd will be a second-round draft choice, and that matches projections he received from the NFL before giving up his last year of college eligibility.
He ran a 4.58-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in February, but improved three weeks ago at Pitt’s Pro Day to between 4.47 and 4.52, depending on what NFL stopwatch you use.
“That let them know I wasn’t a mediocre guy,” he said.
He said several teams have asked him about his DUI arrest last year, and he said it was a one-and-done transgression.
“I don’t know if they trust me or not, but they have to take my word that I’m not going to do anything like that again,” he said. “My record is clean, besides that.”
When Boyd was asked by TribLive Radio’s Tim Benz about any weird questions the NFL threw at him, he said the Bengals inquired about his knowledge of Civil War history.
“They asked me what year was the battle of something,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting that. If they draft me, I’m going to ask them the same question they asked me to see if they get it right.”
Boyd said he has been in contact with several NFL teams, including the Steelers and coach Mike Tomlin. He said he plans to meet with the Dallas Cowboys and Carolina Panthers in the coming days.
Asked how he would react if he was drafted by the Bengals and became teammates with Steelers antagonists Vontaze Burfict and Pacman Jones, he gave a thoughtful answer.
“Those guys are definite warriors who would help me get better,” he said. “I know I would be hated in Pittsburgh. But, hopefully, I’ll keep the same support here.”
The draft offers no guarantees, and players projected to be picked early often spend a lot of time waiting for their name to be called.
But my pal Joe Butler of Metro Scouting Index, who has watched Boyd since he was a freshman at Clairton, believes he has what it takes.
“Tyler Boyd makes it look easy, snaps ball out of air, always looking up the field, sure fire.”

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March 31, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


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Pitt’s Idowu opens eyes on the eighth day of spring ball

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Make room in the outside linebacker competition for North Allegheny graduate Seun Idowu.
He is one of three players who came to Pitt at other positions, but have been moved to linebacker to help fill a big hole in the defense left by graduating senior Nicholas Grigsby.
At practice Thursday, Idowu caught everyone’s eye when he recognized a jet sweep by wide receiver Quadree Henderson and made the tackle.
“He was like a jet,” senior middle linebacker Matt Galambos said.
Idowu, who came to Pitt as a walkon, said he remembered the play from previous film study. Earlier in the day, he didn’t make the tackle on a similar play, but he refused to be fooled twice.
“It’s a great feeling to recognize something you saw in the film room,” he said.
Idowu said it takes time for walkons to attract attention.
“The results aren’t always immediate, but you have to keep working,” he said. “Hopefully, at the end of this spring, things will be going the right way and that scholarship is earned.”
One example of a walkon earning a scholarship is fullback George Aston, a sophomore from Stephens City, Va. He played in all 13 games last season, started four and caught eight passes (two for touchdowns).
“I look up to him as a role model,” Idowu said. “He’s a workhorse.”
Idowu, a former safety, plays the outside linebacker position coaches call star. It combines linebacker and safety skill sets.
Idowu is competing with Jalen Williams, who also moved from safety, and former wide receiver Elijah Zeise.
All three will face even more competition this summer when Anthony McKee recovers from shoulder surgery. Coaches also could opt to move seniors Mike Caprara and Bam Bradley from the other side (the money position), if they determine those two, plus Galambos, are the team’s three best linebackers.
That would give Pitt three seniors starting at linebacker (not a bad idea, considering the position is so cerebral). But that decision is a long way off, and will depend on Bradley’s and McKee’s recoveries from their shoulder surgeries and the development of Idowu, Williams and Zeise.
Just another example of how spring ball isn’t always a true indicator of what will happen when the season starts. It’s an important way for coaches to set a base for summer camp, and it keeps players close to the game. But performances and opinions are always subject to change.
It’s five months and two days until the opener against Villanova. That’s a long time.

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March 30, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


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Halfway home: A quick look at Pitt’s spring roster

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I appeared on TribLive Radio on Wednesday with good friends Guy Junker, Tim Benz and Josh Taylor, and part of the conversation revolved around Conner, his chances of playing this season and the news that he will throw out the first pitch Sunday at PNC Park when the Pirates open the Major League Baseball season against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Here’s the link.

Halfway through spring drills — the actual midway point arrives about 10 a.m. Thursday — Pitt is lining up as a team with question marks at wide receiver, tight end (no depth), outside linebacker and cornerback.
Quarterback looks good in terms of bodies and a seasoned starter in Nathan Peterman, and running back is strong (even without James Conner). The offensive line is OK, and will get even better when Alex Officer returns this summer from his foot injury.
Defensive end? I believe Pitt’s coaches will be disappointed if Dewayne Hendrix doesn’t have an All-ACC season. And there also are veteran hands such as Ejuan Price (All-ACC himself) and Rori Blair.
At defensive tackle, Tyrique Jarrett takes up a lot of space (6-foot-3, 335 pounds), with impressive athleticism. He’s a senior now, and coaches will expect more consistency from him this season.
Outside linebacker (the one that is a hybrid safety/linebacker position) also has a lot of bodies, most of them inexperienced. It could get one more if coaches decide senior Bam Bradley can fill it after his shoulder heals or if they talk themselves into moving Mike Caprara from the other side.
One thing about Caprara: He’ll seldom have a mental lapse. The senior constantly has his nose in his I-pad.
There’s nothing wrong with the secondary that another player such as strong safety Jordan Whitehead couldn’t fix. Will Central Catholic’s Damar Hamlin be this year’s Whitehead — that rare freshman who plays like he’s much older. I get the feeling Pitt will need Hamlin at the cornerback spot opposite Avonte Maddox.
That about covers it. Except this prediction: Chris Blewitt will become the first kicker in school history to hit from 60 yards. If I know Pat Narduzzi, he won’t be afraid to let Blewitt try. Maybe it’s just me, but Blewitt looks a little bigger this year.
And, by the way, who made up this schedule? Oklahoma State and North Carolina on the road after playing Penn State, and back-to-back games at Miami and Clemson. Pitt needs to win one of those five just to have a chance at matching last season’s 8-4 regular-season record.

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March 24, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


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Injuries, position shift trim Pitt’s depth chart at wide receiver

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Pitt’s wide receiver depth chart is so devoid of experienced pass catchers that the best news is this: It’s only March.
With Elijah Zeise now practicing at outside linebacker, the remaining wide receivers on the Pitt roster who caught passes last season total three.
Remaining wide receivers on the Pitt roster who caught passes last season and are currently going through a full practice: 1.
Projected starters Dontez Ford and Zach Challingsworth are slowed by injuries.
That left Quadree Henderson (two catches, 1 yard) as the most accomplished wide receiver to line up Thursday for scrimmage plays in practice.
At the bottom of the depth chart, Gentry Ivery, a lightly regarded 2015 prospect from Texas, left the program this week.
Losing Zeise and Ivery thins the crowd in wide receivers coach Kevin Sherman’s room, but is it necessarily a good thing for that side of the ball?
Zeise has the right mix of athleticism and a work ethic, and he was working his way up the depth chart. I think Zeise would have contributed on offense this season.
If he emerges on defense — and he made a few tackles in practice Thursday, including a TFL — that helps on one side of the ball.
The hard truth: Zeise is needed at linebacker, at least until Anthony McKee and Bam Bradley get healthy. If he remains there through the end of the spring, it wouldn’t make much sense to return him to wide receiver this summer.
Meanwhile, quarterback Nate Peterman is running out of reliable targets. The injuries to Ford and Challingsworth aren’t helping because they are losing valuable practice time with their quarterback. There’s a reason schools conduct spring drills. It helps build on-field relationships, especially in the passing game.
The good news is Ford and Challingsworth are expected back before summer camp. They work out on a limited basis now and Challingsworth (shoulder surgery) went through calisthenics with his teammates Thursday morning.
The wide receiver to watch, in my opinion, is Tre Tipton. One of the more confident athletes to come through the Pitt program in recent years, he already runs sharp routes and impressed last season as a freshman to the point that he appeared in four games before hurting his knee. Coaches felt comfortable moving Zeise to linebacker because they have high hopes for Tipton.

UCLA assistants Tom Bradley (there’s a name from the past) and Rip Scherer, a Pittsburgh native and former graduate assistant at Penn State, visited practice Thursday.
Bradley is entering his second season as UCLA’s defensive coordinator and Scherer is the tight ends coach.
Several people asked me why coaches from another Power 5 school would be welcome at practice. Actually, it happens all the time among teams that don’t play each other.

Speaking of UCLA, former Bruins tight end Chris Clark has made a good impression since transferring to Pitt. It looks like he will help, but probably not until 2017.
He experienced a bout of mononucleosis last year at UCLA, slowing his development even though he played in the opener. He is petitioning the NCAA to be eligible this season, but all the paperwork hasn’t been submitted. Sadly for Clark, his petition is expected to fail because he did take 11 snaps last season.
But there will be a holes at tight end next season when seniors Scott Orndoff and Jaymar Parrish are gone. Clark would be in line to start.
Parrish, by the way, suffered an injury recently and will miss the rest of spring, coach Pat Narduzzi said. Narduzzi refused to reveal the nature or extent of Parrish’s injury.
“That’s a personal thing, I think,” Narduzzi said.
Narduzzi is not unlike most coaches (probably closer to all coaches) when it comes to releasing injury information. They hate doing it.
One thing I learned from the NFL — and Todd Graham backed this up to me one day five years ago — is that opposing teams will target a player’s body part if they think it’s weak or injured.
If player X has a shoulder injury, for example, and he plays, anyway, and is involved in blitz protection, do you think the defense might try to test that shoulder with repeated blitzes? Of course, it will. Then, all of a sudden, you might have another injured player — your quarterback.
But there are flaws in that theory:
— Keeping information secret these days, even from the other team, is difficult. Players talk amongst themselves, their friends and family members, and are constantly on social media. So, in many cases, it gets out, anyway, even without telling reporters. (So, Pat, you might as well tell us and eliminate the middle man.)
— Also, Pitt doesn’t play a game until September, so maybe spring injuries should fit in a different category.
Coaches don’t like to dish out too much information about anything. The bar is usually low in that regard, especially when it involves body parts, so Narduzzi going light with the details is no surprise.

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March 22, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


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The search for a backup quarterback

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Pitt has plenty of arms throwing footballs at spring practice, but finding the appropriate one to back up starting quarterback Nate Peterman is an ongoing quest.
Coach Pat Narduzzi doesn’t seem concerned about the battle among Adam Bertke, Ben DiNucci, Manny Stoker and Ryan Adzima.
“There are a lot of people around the country trying to find out who that No. 1 (quarterback) is,” Narduzzi said. “At least, we’re talking about who that No. 2 guy is.”
This summer, freshman Thomas MacVittie and Central Florida transfer Bo Schneider will join the fray. Schneider must sit out the season, however.
Narduzzi hasn’t said, but I assume he doesn’t want to burn a season of eligibility for MacVittie and make him the backup in the event of a short-term injury to Peterman.

The Ivy League and the Big 12 have moved to limit hitting in practice, but Narduzzi said there will be no change at Pitt.
“We are always trying to be smart,” he said. “I don’t know what the trend is, but we’re not changing. We are trying to play tough football. Remember, we’re in Pittsburgh, right?”
The NCAA allows 12 padded practices in the spring, and current plans are to take advantage of all of them.

Jordan Whitehead will be the starting strong safety and an occasional weapon on offense. But don’t expect him to necessarily rest on special teams.
Narduzzi hasn’t settled on his kick and punt returners, but Whitehead is significantly in the conversation.
“Some people have the philosophy of resting their starters on special teams,” Narduzzi said. “That’s a major phase, a third of the game. We’re going to play our best guys like we did with Tyler Boyd back there as a punt returner a year ago.”
Don’t forget: Pitt may not have recorded its only bowl victory in the past five years if Boyd wasn’t available to return punts in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in 2013.

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March 15, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


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Narduzzi unsure about road trips in the spring

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When Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi met reporters Tuesday after the first day of spring drills, I couldn’t resist asking him the question that has circulated throughout college football this year:
What does he think of college football teams going on the road for spring practice as Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh did with his team?
Narduzzi didn’t totally reject the idea for Pitt in the future. But it doesn’t sound like he’s begging athletic director Scott Barnes for permission.
“Let’s see if we can go to Hawaii,” he said, obviously kidding.
Then, he added:
“It’s a great idea if it works and you’re allowed to do it. If we’re allowed to do it, we may look at it.”
On the other hand:
“One of the big things throughout the country is time demands put on student-athletes,” he said. “It puts more demand in the off-season. Some people say, `Baseball does it.’ But it’s their season.”
Then, without mentioning Michigan by name, he added:
“They got away with it. If it’s allowed, I think a lot of people will have spring break together. Everybody is going to bend the rules as much as they can.”

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