Pitt’s Kirk Christodoulou ready to shoulder dual role of punter, holder
When Pitt conducted its first scrimmage of the summer, Kirk Christodoulou didn’t meet the standard he set last season. Coach Pat Narduzzi noticed during Saturday’s session, of course, and wasn’t afraid to talk publicly about it Tuesday.
“I expect more out of him,” Narduzzi said. “He’s not a rookie anymore. We have to get him a little bit more consistent.
”He’s had consistent days. But when it’s game day and it’s scrimmage day, we expect you to wake up that morning and feel good and punt it well.”
The good news is Christodoulou’s bad day happened in training camp. Last season, his worst day emerged in the rain at Heinz Field against Penn State.
Thrust into what special teams coach Andre Powell termed an unfair situation, Christodoulou was an emergency replacement for regular holder Jack Scarton, who was injured.
In his second collegiate game after matriculating from Australia in 2017, he bobbled a snap on an extra-point attempt and muffed another on a field-goal try. He also hit a low line drive punt that Penn State’s DeAndre Thompkins returned 36 yards for a touchdown and fumbled a snap to set up another PSU touchdown.
Powell took the blame, adding he believes Christodoulou can handle both duties this season now that Scarton has transferred to Oregon State.
“His first night out after three days of training, it couldn’t have been a worse situation,” Powell said. “Really a coach’s error because at that point, I had not solidified a backup. (For) anybody in that situation, it was not fair.
“He’s aware of that. We practice those scenarios now. I don’t think there would be any reason why he couldn’t handle both roles.”
Kicker Alex Kessman said without hesitation he wants Christodoulou to be his holder this season. He added they have moved past the Penn State game.
“Everybody’s asking how the Penn State game affected him, and that’s last year,” Kessman said. “He’s done such a good job this camp moving past that.
“For people to judge him off one game in a hurricane with three days prior of holding, it’s pretty unfair. Mentally, he’s in a really good spot.”
Christodoulou averaged only 36.1 yards per punt last season in Games 2-4 against Penn State, Georgia Tech and North Carolina.
But he responded in a big way over the final 10 games, averaging 43 yards. When it rained for the ACC championship game against Clemson, he averaged 42.3.
“I did struggle early in the year,” he said. “Having the experience of ups and down of how it all goes and getting some consistency to my punting, I was really happy going into the ACC championship where it was wet.
“Whereas early in the year, the wet did freak me out a little bit.”
Now, he is punting wet footballs and catching snaps off the electronic jugs machine. He also has become adept at directional punting, using the out-of-bounds line as a 12th defender.
“That takes a lot of pressure off our special teams,” he said.
In the scrimmage Saturday, he said, “I went out there maybe too excited and tried to crush every ball.”
“A couple of them came off really good, and then a couple not so good. Good reality check halfway through camp.”
Meanwhile, Powell said he is pleased with the trio of Kessman the kicker, Christodoulou the holder and Cal Adomitis the long snapper.
“It’s been a long time since I had to get on those guys,” he said. “Those guys do what they’re supposed to do.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .