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Pittsburgh's Pat Narduzzi anticipates 'a more resilient football team' this year

As Pitt spring football practice nears its end, Pat Narduzzi expressed confidence in his team.

As the Pitt spring football practice nears its end, Pat Narduzzi stated on Tuesday that he is optimistic about his team.

Certainly, all coaches express similar sentiments when the season is about to begin, but Narduzzi’s thoughts are based on the potential return of an attitude that was absent during the 3-9 season of 2023.

The statement in question could come back to haunt him if his team doesn’t live up to their confidence. Alternatively, it could indicate a promising season ahead, featuring old-school physicality in football, which Narduzzi inherited from his father, Bill.

“We currently have a more resilient football team than we did last autumn. That reassures me and makes it easier for me to sleep at night,” Narduzzi remarked as he finalized preparations for the Blue-Gold Game on Saturday at Acrisure Stadium.

His assessment, along with input from an outsider, put the coach in a positive mood when he met with reporters after practice.

Pitt hosted several high school prospects and their coaches during the 13th spring practice. After observing the proceedings, one coach approached Narduzzi and commented that the practice resembled the ones run by Ralph Friedgen.

Friedgen, now retired, had a coaching career spanning a total of 47 seasons in college and with the San Diego Chargers. He was a two-time ACC Coach of the Year at Maryland, winning an ACC championship 20 years before Narduzzi achieved the same at Pitt. By all accounts, he earned a reputation as a stern coach who cared for his players.

“To me, that’s a compliment,” Narduzzi said in response to the high school coach’s comparison. “It’s a compliment as it reflects an old-school approach. We’ve had a very physical spring and rigorous winter workouts.”

How this translates to the offense recovering from its struggles under a completely revamped coaching staff, and the defense returning to its strength in stopping the run, is a question that won’t be answered until at least six months have passed.

Nate Matlack, a senior transfer from Kansas State and a defensive end, is impressed with what he has observed so far, particularly with the way new line coach Tim Daoust is conducting practice.

“Since coach Daoust arrived,” Matlack noted, “we have even shifted from what I was informed during the recruitment process. We’re aiming to play more vertically, focus on getting off the ball, and not worry too much about what the offense is doing. Our goal is to penetrate and make plays.”

While it's accurate that the decline in sacks is disappointing for a proud defense, Matlack mentioned that it's just one area of concern.

“First, we prioritize stopping the run,” he emphasized.

The number 150 is prominently displayed in a meeting room for players to see, as it represents the average yardage per game that Pitt allowed on the ground last season.

“Unacceptable,” Matlack remarked. “The first step is to stop the run, and then we can focus on crucial plays.”

A simple calculation reveals that the rushing yardage allowed saw a 53% increase from 98 in 2022.

This explains the pursuit of more physicality.

“It boils down to playing football the way it's meant to be played,” Narduzzi stated. “We have to do it as intelligently as possible, but you have to play the game. Our aim was to be even more resilient than before. It's necessary to win this conference.”

He mentioned that this kind of attitude was evident during practice when the players were not afraid to collide with each other, which is what coaches mean when they say “guys getting after it”.

Narduzzi said that every day involves a physical battle and they have not held back. They have been assertive but not excessive or insufficient.

He stated, “We will provide them with the necessary tools to become a strong football team and achieve victory in a championship.”

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