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Pitt spring game notebook: Narduzzi heaps praise on LB Zeise

Jerry DiPaola
| Sunday, April 16, 2017, 12:39 a.m.
Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi looks on during the spring game Saturday, April 15, 2017 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi looks on during the spring game Saturday, April 15, 2017 at Heinz Field.

Great entertainers always leave their audiences wanting more, and that appeared to be the case Saturday in Pitt's Blue-Gold game at Heinz Field.

Coaches named outside linebacker Elijah Zeise and offensive tackle Jaryd Jones-Smith winners of the annual Ed Conway Award as the most improved players in the spring.

Fans must wait until the fall to see Zeise. He didn't play Saturday because of an injury suffered late in the spring, but he had impressed Narduzzi and his staff almost from the start of drills in March.

“He just continues to learn,” linebackers coach Rob Harley said. “He continues to increase his knowledge.”

Said Narduzzi of the former wide receiver: “He's huge (listed at 230 pounds), and he's playing well and he understands the game of football.”

In summer training camp, Zeise will battle the starting outside linebackers, Seun Idowu and Saleem Brightwell, for playing time. But Harley said he believes Zeise can play both sides.

Said Idowu of his former North Allegheny teammate: “He has a little more dog in him. He's making big hits, big plays. He's a guy I always keep in the back of my mind.”

Narduzzi said Jones-Smith finally has recovered from what he called “a traumatic” knee injury suffered two years ago.

“He came back last year, but he wasn't right,” Narduzzi said. ”He is like a totally different guy. That's about a bad a knee injury as you can have.”

Too many penalties

Narduzzi was not happy with the nine penalties for 79 yards called against both teams, especially when senior linebacker Quintin Wirginis was called for roughing the passer against freshman Kenny Pickett.

Narduzzi said he asked Wirginis, “What are you doing?”Wirginis answered: “What do you want me to do?”“Not get 15 (yards),” Narduzzi shot back.

Careful, Ben

Backup quarterback Ben DiNucci completed all six of his pass attempts for 60 yards. DiNucci wore a red pinnie to keep the defense away from him, but he still was blocking on one running play.

“I was a little shocked by that,” Narduzzi said. “I think it was with his right (throwing) shoulder, too. That's the decision-making we are working on.”

Remembering Dan

Pitt players wore helmets with a Steelers logo in remembrance of Dan Rooney, who died Thursday.

“He's Mr. Pittsburgh,” Narduzzi said. “I'm going to miss him walking down the balcony by my window (at the training complex both teams share).”

By the numbers

Alex Kessman hit three field goals from 32, 38 and 35 yards, but he missed from 60. … Ryan Winslow punted well, compiling an average of 42 yards, with two dropped inside the 20-yard line. … Chawntez Moss averaged 7.1 yards per carry.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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