Pitt’s Pat Narduzzi says he tries not to meddle with offense
It’s not often you hear a head coach admit he’s not capable.
But Pat Narduzzi said Thursday morning he stays away from the offense for that reason. Plus, as the Pitt coach pointed out, “Offensively, Whip’s going to run it. It’s his show.”
Narduzzi played linebacker at Youngstown State and Rhode Island and has coached defense his entire career, except for the 1992 season when he was the Miami (Ohio) wide receivers coach.
His offensive coordinator, Mark Whipple, has coached offense since 1980 — he’s nine years older than his boss — and Narduzzi said he gives him room to breathe (and coach).
“I hope none,” Narduzzi said when asked how much influence he exerts on the offense.
“As far as the structure of practice and knowing that we want to run the football, that’s about the extent of it.
“If coach (Mark) Dantonio (at Michigan State) would have meddled in me, it would have hurt me and I couldn’t call a great defense. I learned that. Let those guys coach.
“Even on defense, I go in and give little tips because I’m capable of doing that. I’m not capable on the offensive side of the ball. I’ll give my things on what hurts the defense, and we’ll talk about that, and if they want to do it, that’s great. If they don’t want to, that’s great, too.”
Whipple is Narduzzi’s fourth offensive coordinator in five seasons. The first two — Jim Chaney and Matt Canada — left for jobs in the SEC, and the third, Shawn Watson, was fired last year after two seasons.
Watson was hired as an offensive quality control assistant at Georgia shortly after he left Pitt.
Narduzzi said he was happy with practice Wednesday after questioning some players’ focus the day before.
“I challenged the guys. They came out and really played well. I challenged our coaches (Thursday), ‘Do it again.’
“We have an hour and a half, hour and 45 minutes, whatever it is, and we have to go. We have work to do. Don’t look back and say, ‘I wish I would have.’ ”
Narduzzi doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to name starters at the money and star outside linebacker positions.
Kylan Johnson and Chase Pine are battling at money. Narduzzi said, “I didn’t expect there to be a decision (Thursday) or (Friday).”
Phil Campbell III and Cam Bright are fighting at star. Perhaps Saturday’s second and final live scrimmage of the summer will provide more clarity.
Narduzzi did mention a newcomer to the fray: freshman Leslie Smith, one of the many recent Florida recruits and a product of Miami powerhouse Northwestern High School.
“We talked. He has not hit the wall (mentally) yet,” Narduzzi said. “Most freshmen, it’s like boom!
“He’s still engaged. He’s still having fun. He’s not going, ‘Oh, my gosh.’
“That guy may be one of the most impressive freshmen so far, just the way he’s hung in there and gotten a lot of reps.”
Smith is working at money with Johnson and Pine.
Smith, 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, said he doesn’t believe he will hit that freshman wall. He said he made up his mind before he signed with Pitt that he wanted to play early.
“That was one of my goals, for people at home to see me play and know it’s possible to do,” he said. “The only reason I don’t think I hit the wall is I work too hard. I put a lot of time in film (study).”
He also doesn’t mind burning his redshirt this season.
“I want to play at least eight games,” he said.
Of the teammates he is competing against, he added, “They might be a little bit bigger, but in my head size doesn’t mean anything.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .