Pitt notebook: Pat Narduzzi knows how to handle players who lose focus
When his team loses focus — such as what happened at practice Tuesday — Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi knows of an old-school technique that has worked for coaches for years.
“Size 12 and a half,” he said.
He was joking, of course. There’s no proof he even wears a 12½.
But he does have a way of taking care of problems tied to players’ focus and concentration. And it’s more analytical than tangible.
“First you need to know why, what,” he said. “As coaches, you kind of know why, 14th day of camp. (Players are saying) ‘Oh, man, feeling sorry. Man, I’m tired today when I wake up.’
“It’s just getting them jump-started to go. It’s our coaches’ job, each individual coach.
“We talk about stages of learning. They know what to do. There’s no question. But they can’t do it without concentration.
“They know how to do it, but they have to be focused. I’d say 75 percent of the guys have to have focus.”
WRs stepping up
There’s no question Taysir Mack and Maurice Ffrench are atop the depth chart at wide receiver. But they’ll need help.
Narduzzi said sophomore Dontavius Butler-Jenkins and Michael Smith are practicing well.
“(Butler-Jenkins) has had a really good camp,” he said. “He’s a guy who’s going to get a lot of reps, and we expect to make a lot of plays this year.
“Michael Smith does a lot of great things, still could catch the ball a little bit better than he is. But he’s got speed, top-end speed, can take the top off coverage.”
A bigger tight end
Tight end Will Gragg, who transferred from Arkansas last year, said he has added 23 pounds to his 6-foot-4 frame, now weighs 247 and hopes to use the bigger body to gain an edge as a blocker.
“In-line blocking is a thing I wanted to focus on this offseason,” he said. “I feel like I got a lot stronger. I had to put on the weight and be stable in there and be an every-down type of guy.”
He said Pitt strength coach Dave Andrews focuses on power lifting in the weight room, a switch from the emphasis at Arkansas.
“With coach Andrews, it’s a lot more weightlifting. At Arkansas, we did a lot of skill and mobility and ankle work. He’s really specific in what he wants to do with different guys, how he wants to form their bodies.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .