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Pitt football notebook: Pat Narduzzi having tough time keeping freshman Paris Ford off field

Jerry DiPaola
| Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, 8:09 p.m.
Pitt's Paris Ford practices for the first time this year Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt's Paris Ford practices for the first time this year Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
Pitt's Paris Ford practices for the first time this year Monday, Aug. 21, 2017 at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt's Paris Ford practices for the first time this year Monday, Aug. 21, 2017 at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said it hasn't been easy resisting the temptation to play freshman safety Paris Ford.

“Every week, we get closer to saying, ‘Let's just put him in. What do we have to lose?' ” Narduzzi said.

So far, Narduzzi's better judgment has won the battle, and Ford, who missed training camp while tending to his academics, has stayed on the sideline.

“I don't think you can put him in on defense right now,” Narduzzi said, “just because we haven't had time to coach him. Not that he can't learn. It's just hard.”

When Ford joined the team in late August, Narduzzi said it would be “miracle” if he played this season. But he dressed last week for the Rice game, and he continues to impress coaches in practice with his attitude and his ability.

“He's going to be a phenomenal player,” Narduzzi said. “He's as good a freshman as I've seen.

“I would play him at receiver tomorrow or tailback, for that matter. You should see him as a punt returner. He causes our offense problems on the scout field.”

Narduzzi said Ford intercepted two passes recently, one time stealing the football from sophomore wide receiver Maurice Ffrench.

“Made Ffrench look silly,” Narduzzi said.

Narduzzi tested Ford recently, asking him what he would call in Cover 4 if the receivers were lined up close together.

Ford didn't know, but Narduzzi didn't expect him to have all the answers after missing camp.

Ford might dress Saturday at Syracuse, but it's unlikely he'll get in the game unless the team suffers an unprecedented series of injuries in the secondary.

“If I'm going to use him, I'm going to use him all the time,” Narduzzi said. “You don't want to waste a kid's redshirt for a few plays a game.”

Ford could play special teams, but Narduzzi said, “It's not like we're dying to have guys do that.”

The coach did let his mind wander for a second, though.

“But we could use another wideout,” he said.

Clark improving

Tight end Chris Clark will back at Carrier Dome on Saturday for the first time since he verbally committed to Syracuse.

“For a minute,” Narduzzi said. “He committed to a lot of places.”

Clark, a sophomore who has experienced a shaky start to his college career, caught his first touchdown pass last week against Rice. He appears to have found a home at Pitt after committing to Michigan and signing with UCLA.

“Chris grows every day,” Narduzzi said. “He's always a work in progress, whether it's academically, going to study table, paying attention, keeping his chin up, the whole deal.

“He's one of those classic guys you love to coach because you can see the improvement every day.

“Chris is a guy with a lot of ability who sometimes forgets the details. He'll just run. He's like Forrest Gump. He'll keep running and running and running and never stop and forget he has to look back for the ball.”

But Narduzzi appreciates the enthusiasm and passion. ”He's a great kid, and we love him.”

Clark tested Narduzzi's patience when he tried to recruit him to Michigan State.

“He came to Michigan State for a visit,” Narduzzi said. “We spent every minute with him and his mom and dad, great people. We showed him everything. He loved it when he left. Then, by noon the next day, he was committed to Michigan.”

Who's at RB?

There is no clarity at running back, with Narduzzi continually hinting freshman A.J. Davis, who has only six carries for 14 yards, might get more opportunities.

Qadree Ollison (221 yards) and Chawntez Moss (113) are Pitt's leading rushers. Moss caught a 48-yard touchdown pass against Rice, but Narduzzi said, “Some days you're impressed, and some days you're not.

“He had a great catch-and-run, but he hasn't really tucked the ball much. We haven't really run the ball like we need to.”

Asked if Moss would start Saturday, Narduzzi said, “We'll find out Saturday. He did OK. Qadree is a good player. A.J. Davis continues to get better every week. He's been impressive. Remember I said that.”

Injury update

Pitt's injury report lists freshman wide receiver Dontavius Butler-Jenkins and junior cornerback Phillipie Motley as probable. Declared out are linebackers Anthony McKee Jr. and Quintin Wirginis and fullback George Aston, who played for the first time last week only to suffer another injury.

“I don't know when George is going to be back. It's not as bad as we thought, not as ugly as it looked,” Narduzzi said.

He doesn't use Nair

Syracuse coach Dino Babers partially refuted a story told this week by Pitt defensive line coach Charlie Partridge when both were Pitt assistants in 2003.

Partridge said Babers showed up for his ride to work one day with Nair lathered on his face. Babers told Syracuse.com it was actually Magic Shave, a product for black men to reduce bumps.

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

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