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August 25, 2017

A hallmark of a Pat Narduzzi defense is being disruptive upfront. Not simply being able to stop the run, but penetrating in the backfield to keep pressure on the quarterback whether simply dropping back or those running the option or spread. The linebackers are going to play closer to the line, and look for chances to make plays up-front rather then contain.

The risk to his defense is that it also leaves the corners on an island with little help. It’s one of the reasons Pitt was so bad against the pass and led the conference in surrendering passing plays of 20 yards or more. (The other reasons included injuries and issues around talent in the secondary.)

It was a source of frustration for myself and many others that Narduzzi and Defensive Coordinator Josh Conklin refused to change — or even tweak — the system to account for the fact that the D-line simply couldn’t generate the pressure up-front that was needed.

Since the system isn’t going to change, the D-line needs to be better this year for the secondary to have less chance to be exploited.  And, oh god, is that going to be true early with Whitehead serving a suspension. D-line Coach Charlie Partridge is publicly, very positive about the direction.

Partridge allowed that he might have forgotten someone, but he ticked off a grocery list of names who have impressed him at various points. Redshirt freshman Keyshon Camp, junior-college transfer Kam Carter, sophomore Amir Watts and even 6-2, 315-pound true freshman ball of fury Jaylen Twyman have stood out at tackle along with Roy. At end, Partridge name-dropped redshirt junior Dewayne Hendrix, redshirt senior Allen Edwards, redshirt freshmen Patrick Jones and Rashad Weaver, redshirt junior James Folston, all the way down to redshirt sophomore walk-on Jim Medure, a Neshannock High School graduate.

That indication of a surplus of game-ready linemen lines up with what the players themselves have mentioned throughout camp, many of them itching to get a chance even if it’s just as part of an inclusive rotation to keep each other fresh.

“The fun thing is, we’re building depth,” Partridge said.

The depth matters  nearly as much as the talent. Part of the problem last year was a lack of depth meant the d-line did not rotate players out nearly as often as coaches would like. The drop-off was too great. Fatigue was yet another factor in the struggles of the defense to hold on late in games.

I’d feel even better about the depth if Taleni and Blair hadn’t gotten themselves dismissed from the team, but that is on them for blowing the opportunity.

As for the future, Pitt got a commit yesterday from a defensive end.

It is considered a good year for linemen in WPIAL football, and another one of the best has decided he will play for Pitt.

David Green, a standout defensive lineman at Central Catholic, announced on Twitter that he has made a verbal commitment to Pitt. He is the fifth senior lineman in the WPIAL to commit to Pitt.

Green, a 6-foot-2, 260-pound defensive end, is in his third year as a starter. He also plays fullback for Central Catholic.

When discussing Green’s attributes on the field, Central Catholic coach Terry Totten said, “I think he actually uses his lack of height to his advantage. He stays low, stays under the pads [of offensive linemen]. But it’s his motor that sets him apart. That and his work ethic. I don’t think I’ve had a better leader.”

The other four WPIAL linemen who have chosen Pitt are Thomas Jefferson defensive tackle Devin Danielson, Butler offensive lineman Jake Kradel, Belle Vernon offensive lineman Blake Zubovic and Thomas Jefferson defensive end Noah Palmer.

Virginia Tech, Rutgers and Temple were among the final choices for Green.

 





We can only hope…I am still stinging a little bit from last season’s experience of watching a Pitt team’s prolific offense have to try to compensate nearly every game for its horrible defense. The head coach has to fix this. Saying I don’t have the talent is not an acceptable excuse. The HC has to assess the talent he has and design his defense accordingly. I know that it is cliche, but the old saying about the definition of insanity definitely applies to our defense last season. We did the same thing game after game expecting different results. C’mon coach Duzz, be accountable and improve this defense no matter what it takes!

Comment by HbgFrank 08.25.17 @ 8:29 am

See where it’s been decided that “Sweet Caroline” will no longer be a fixture between the 3rd & 4th Quarters.

Good!

How about a little ACDC?

Comment by PittofDreams 08.25.17 @ 8:59 am

or Beastie Boys?

Ya, that would do it!

Comment by PittofDreams 08.25.17 @ 9:08 am

POD the song “Back in Black” is one that just fits for Pitt Football seeing that they have been mediocre for decades. The song is about resurrection and is about time Pitt rises out of the ashes!

Comment by kiskiminetas 08.25.17 @ 1:00 pm

We shall see. Not sold on this defensive line one bit.

Comment by Reed 08.25.17 @ 3:52 pm

Great article, Charles! Finally, someone talks about the elephant in the room! Why do you think HCPN fired his DL coach last winter, instead of his DC??? It’s the trenches, baby!!

Not so worried about lack of PT for these guys. Last year, we had a plethora of experience on the D!! Coaches are installing (teaching) THEIR system. Last year they had a D full of guys recruited for a totally different system. I think we’ll see a real improvement in D over last year. Not where we need to be yet, but definitely moving in right direction.

Comment by Savannah Panther 08.25.17 @ 5:29 pm

Agree with you Reed in respect to the D line. With so many young (inexperienced) players having to play there it is a crapshoot for sure.

Comment by kiskiminetas 08.25.17 @ 5:50 pm

The partridge family will be just fine this year after they get some game experience. My biggest concern on defense is if the secondary will have any confidence left after ped state and okie state have record setting days throwing against them.

Comment by grizzly1 08.26.17 @ 7:51 am

Still need more blitzes from the linebackers and safeties, when the D-line isn’t providing pressure. Coaches need to adapt to the talent they have, not only rely on their system.

Still concerned about a young D-line with transfers that haven’t shown anything on the field yet.

Will know in two weeks if they are good enough.

Comment by gc 08.26.17 @ 9:13 am

How about the band with the aid of the Heinz sound system playing the Pitt Fight Song (LOUD). Alle genee genac genac, LETS GO PITT!

Comment by gc 08.26.17 @ 9:18 am

Nardizzi doing much better in the WPIAL after crashing and burning last year. Much better optics for the program to keep young talent at home.

When the local schools and players don’t respect the program, why should the fans? Home town kids create lifetime fans.

Comment by gc 08.26.17 @ 9:21 am

The wpial, ala Pcc didn’t look too good vs Erie Prep last night 40-7.

Comment by alcofan 08.26.17 @ 11:29 am

Too many mistakes in the PCC vs Erie Prep to know what kind of team PCC will be. Erie Prep will likely play in Hershey again this fall.

Comment by Dinosaur 71 08.26.17 @ 5:36 pm

Game 4 opponent Rice vs Stanford tonight. First future opponent we get to see.

Comment by Pitt1972 08.26.17 @ 8:46 pm

gc – he didn’t crash and burn. Pitt had lost credibility and other schools moved in. We’re still seeing it with ND’s presence in the area. It’s going to take a few years and some consistency to get it done but it’s trending the right way. The new recruit is just an average get talent-wise but important WPIAL-wise.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 08.27.17 @ 10:00 am

DiPaola (Trib Review) wrote an article a couple days ago that reflects what I assume many of us think. The defense this year will be inexperienced but faster and more athletic. Nobody knows what will occur but I highly recommend patience.

Comment by wbb 08.28.17 @ 7:13 am

Patience, cause that’s what Pitt Fans are known for.

TT, Tomato-Tomahto, it was a bad year for Pitt locally. We did well the year before and well this year. At least we got Ford, but we missed on a lot of big guys and I include Halsey in that group.

What makes it worst is that it was ND that did the damage, and they got the best guy from this year too.

Comment by gc 08.28.17 @ 7:30 am

PSN has Pitt depth chart:

OFFENSE

QB: Max Browne, Ben DiNucci
RB: Quadree Ollison, Darrin Hall
FB: Colton Lively, Erik Sellers
WR: Jester Weah, Ruben Flowers or Aaron Mathews
WR: Quadree Henderson, Maurice Ffrench
TE: Matt Flanagan, Chris Clark
LT: Brian O’Neil, Tony Pilato
LG: Alex Officer, Brandon Ford
C: Jimmy Morrissey, Connor Dinitino
RG: Brandon Hodges, Mike Herndon
RT: Jaryd Jones-Smith, Jerry Drake

DEFENSE

DE: Dewayne Hendrix or Rashad Weaver
DT: Shane Roy, Rashad Wheeler, Jaylen Twyman
DT: Keyshon Camp, Amir Watts, Kam Carter
DE: Allen Edwards, James Folston, Patrick Jones
Money LB: Elijah Zeise, Jalen Williams
Mike LB: Saleem Brightwell, Chase Pine
Star LB: Oluwaseun Idowu, Anthony McKee
CB: Avonte Maddox, Jason Pinnock
SS: Dennis Briggs, Phil Campbell, Henry Miller
FS: Jay Stocker or Bricen Garner
CB: Dane Jackson or Damarri Mathis

SPECIAL TEAMS

P: Ryan Winslow
K: Alex Kessman
PR: Quadree Henderson, Avonte Maddox
KR: Quadree Henderson, Maurice Ffrench

Comment by kiskiminetas 08.28.17 @ 11:25 am

Is Chris Clark hobbled by injury or did Flanagan beat him out for the position?

Comment by HbgFrank 08.28.17 @ 11:36 am

I don’t think it matters much who is #1 vs #2 TE–both will play a lot. Probably a blocking vs pass catching thing. I suspect we will keep it heavily on the ground (plain vanilla) vs Youngstown and the more experienced Flanagan probably run blocks better. This will probably vary game by game. At least that is how I see it.

Comment by Pitt 1972 08.28.17 @ 12:10 pm

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