Pitt’s Pat Narduzzi praises Deslin Alexandre, ‘the next man up’ at defensive end
Perhaps Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi was focused more than usual on the vacated defensive end position.
But he did have praise Tuesday for Deslin Alexandre, who gets first shot at replacing injured Rashad Weaver.
“That guy played his tail off,” the coach said, referring to the first scrimmage of the summer last Saturday. “That’s a guy who really stood out to me, as far as just details and (showing) more than we’ve seen.
“That’s what you expect when something like that happens. All of sudden you see a window opening and you get a new breath of fresh air. (And the player says) let me inhale this.”
During his first media briefing of the week, Narduzzi was quick to emphasize that Alexandre has competition from redshirt freshmen John Morgan and Habakkuk Baldonado.
“It’s certainly going to be a battle,” he said.
Narduzzi didn’t mention it, but Alexandre, a third-year sophomore, has an edge in experience. That might allow him to play quicker and more instinctively than his competition.
Narduzzi said he isn’t coaching the replacement ends any differently because of the urgency of the situation. He said that’s something they can sense on their own.
“I don’t think we need to add any pressure to their plate,” he said. “You coach the way you coach.
“Maybe they have a little bit more urgency because they look and go, ‘Ooh. I could be the guy.’ It gives guys a little bit more juice.”
Narduzzi said the scrimmage was “pretty intense.”
“Some really good things on both sides of the football as you can imagine. Still, focusing on all the details. I wasn’t as happy with our punting game, just the consistency and how we’re punting it.”
Of sophomore punt Kirk Christodoulou, he said, “He’s not a rookie anymore.”
Narduzzi also mentioned that there were some “dropped balls” in the passing game.
“I guess I’m focusing on all the negative stuff,” he said. “Missed tackles, angles, all those things that come up in your first scrimmage, naturally.”
Some freshmen made an impression in the scrimmage.
The first to pop into Narduzzi’s head was running back Vince Davis (5-foot-8, 170 pounds).
“He’s a guy you’re really going to look at for four games (the number he can play and still save his redshirt),” he said. “He’s the one guy who really stood out.
“Matthew Goncalves (offensive lineman) has done a nice job. Is he going to play this year? No, but he’s done a nice job of picking stuff up.
Other freshmen who played well included walk-on wide receiver Gavin Thomson (Central Catholic), defensive tackle Calijah Kancey, defensive back Brandon Hill and linebacker Leslie Smith.
Of Smith, Narduzzi said, “He’s very smart, has picked up the defense. I can see him playing four games, maybe five, maybe six, seven, who knows?
“As a rookie, he has to finish plays. But he knows what to do as a young guy.”
Players were off Monday, and many of them went bowling, Narduzzi said.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .