Pitt interviews with Coaches Josh Conklin, Tom Sims and Rob Harley. Plus all the Panthers Training Camp coverage you need.


From Pitt PR- Head Coach Pat Narduzzi

Opening statement:
“We’ve got three [practices] in the bank. Two great shorts days and a really good day yesterday. There were a lot of good things. Obviously there are things that we need to try to get better at; but overall, I was happy for us yesterday. We played smart I think. We stayed off the ground. You worry about guys falling down when it’s in between. It’s not live, and you’re not really hitting anybody, but you still need to get some of that good work done. Our kids did a great job of focusing, but there are a lot of places to get a lot better.”

On the remaining schedule this week as it pertains to pads:
“We’ll be in full pads tomorrow, and they’re in shells again today. As you see them walk out there, they’re ready to go.”

On if he’ll continue tinkering with what spots guys on the offensive line are lined up on:
“No question about it. I think it’s great for competition. As coaches, that’s what we do. You have to have competition in camp. In different spots there is better competition than others, but we’re going to continue to tinker—offensive line especially. Jaryd Jones-Smith looked really good yesterday. It’s kind of like—wow—where’s he going to be? We’re going to continue to find those spots on the offensive line and see who’s where. Same thing on the defensive line. We put in some sub-packages on defense today. We’re going to try to find out who fits where. I’m excited about one [sub-package] that we’re putting in. I can’t tell you, but I’m excited about it. I’m excited about what I saw in a meeting today, so it should be fun.”

On if there is still competition for spots in the defensive backfield:
“I think those battles continue. I think it’s too early. You’re not changing too much on the depth chart on day one or day two. I tried to look for some changes yesterday, and I didn’t get much out of the staff when we had our meeting. It’s hard for me to say in your shorts if you can make that tackle, or if you would have made that play. It comes down to you either do it or you don’t. Until you go live it’s hard to move too many guys around the depth chart, but you’re seeing good things and bad things and guys are pointed out. Eventually things get moved around, but we’re making our moves without changing a whole lot on the depth chart.”

On what Reggie Mitchell and Terrish Webb do well at the safety position:
“Obviously they are very smart in what they do. I think they are both interchangeable. I think they can both play the field and the boundary. Reggie [Mitchell] being a little bit of a bigger guy might fit into the boundary more than Terrish [Webb]. He is a little bit more physical than Terrish [Webb], but they’re both athletic. In our defense, they understand what we do, and they’re able to play man to man on the number two vertical, and that’s what we ask them to do. They have great knowledge. Right now they are both co-starters in my opinion. Who lines up on that first play against Villanova? I don’t know, but at this point, that’s what they’re fighting to be: the first guy out there.”

On if cornerback is a position where he could see freshmen developing a significant role:
“Yeah, it is. There’s a lot of competition out there. Damar [Hamlin], Henry Miller, and Therran Coleman are some of the young guys, but some of the other guys like Malik Henderson, who has shown some improvement from a year ago, are physical. We aren’t tackling, but you can see that he is snapping on people. The weight room has really helped him this offseason, and Dane Jackson has really done a nice job. Those are two guys who are redshirt freshmen that are not only going to help us on special teams this year, but are fighting to get a role in that defense.”

On how Jordan Whitehead’s knee has held up through the first few practices:
“He looks like a million dollars out there. He really looks good. We’ve got to keep him healthy. It was a very minor surgery. I say minor because I’ve had some major ones. I’ve had some major issues, but it was a minor thing that we were able to catch and just clean it up. He could have probably gone without it, but he looks really good.”

On how Rachid Ibrahim’s progress coming his injury has gone:
“He looks good. I was teasing him about him limping a little bit, but he was like, ‘Coach, you limp too.’ He looks good. He has not been slowed down at all by it.”

On big defensive coaching changes from year one to year two in a system:
“I think every year is different, but I kind of talked about it at the media day press conference the other day. It really comes down to the knowledge. Structurally you’re not doing a whole lot different, but it’s their understanding of what we’re doing and why. I think the why is so important. We can tell a guy to do this, but when you know why you go, ‘Okay, I get it now.’ It’s not just a, ‘Hey, do this.’ You’re like a robot doing that. We can’t have robots on the field. They’ve got to understand why, and things change too during the game, so they’ve got to see, ‘Oh, I see why we don’t want to do it that way,’ because they did that. The why is so important for our kids—offensively and defensively—to understand.”

On when he will get game-plan specific for Villanova:
“We’ve already game planned for Villanova, as well as a few other teams. We’ve watched tape on every opponent. We’ve got a lot of our game plan already in. A lot of the things that we are doing in our game plan we have already installed, so we don’t have a problem. We don’t want to install it the week before the game. A lot of the first things we’ll install are based on who you are playing the first two games. That way, nothing is changing. Unless you guys go to their scrimmage, we’re not going to see what they do.”

Defensive Line Coach Tom Sims

On the potential of defensive end Dewayne Hendrix:
“Dewayne [Hendrix] has an excellent upside because he has an excellent work ethic. He is fighting through this heat. He’s pushing himself, and he hasn’t asked out of anything. I’m excited to see where he will be when we tee it off this season. I think he’ll be a key contributor for us.”

On what Dewayne Hendrix brings that is unique:
“All day—if that makes sense. Not that he is where we want him to be. I want to be clear about that. There’s room for improvement, and it’s our job to get that improvement out of him and get him as good as he can be. He is progressing and he is getting better.”

On the work ethic of Dewayne Hendrix:
“In the offseason, I would come in on a random day and he’d be in here watching film. During camp, I get to work early in the morning, and he’s sitting in the meeting room watching film. He’s trying to do the things that will help him get better. He’s a raw kid. He hasn’t played a whole lot of football, but he has some upside to him.”

On the combination of Dewayne Hendrix’s attitude and athletic ability making him a special player:
“This is what I’ll say: You don’t want to put that pressure on him. I want him to work every day and improve every day, and we’ll see where he is when it’s all said and done. And that could be a good place.”

On Shakir Soto’s move to defensive tackle:
“Shakir is doing a good job for us. He’s another kid that put on a considerable amount of weight without losing any athleticism. The key for us is to get him out here in this hot sun, and let him work, train and get used to carrying that extra cargo he has. Actually, we call it horsepower; it’s not cargo. I expect big things from him. I expect him to step up and be a leader on the defense.”

On what Tyrique Jarrett needs to do in order to finish strong in his last season at Pitt:
“Tyrique [Jarrett] needs to do what Tyrique is capable of. That will be impressive if he does it all the time.”

Defensive Backs Coach Ronaldo Hill

On if he’s seen any separation in the competition battles in the secondary so far:
“Not yet. We just want the best guys on the team competing. I’m sure that once we get to the scrimmage on Saturday that some things will start to even their way out. But right now, we just want those guys to go out there and compete. We know that if we do have competition that it only makes our group stronger on the back end.”

On challenging the players to take advantage of this position battle in the secondary:
“We talk about having a standard. Our standard is not allowing long plays and not allowing deep balls to go over our heads. So with those guys holding themselves to that high standard, it only creates that competition battle because they know if they didn’t do well on that play that I’m looking to the sideline to get the next guy in.”

On how quickly the freshmen have been able to pick up the defensive schemes:
“I don’t know if I can necessarily pick out one moment or one time where it happened, but I know that if I install it that day, that those guys have got it. They’ve got it. They can go out and perform it, and as a coach that’s the one thing that you look for: guys who can take the classroom out to the football field. And those guys have been able to do it consistently so far.”

On the leadership of senior Ryan Lewis:
“He sets the example. He sets the tone by coming out here early, working on his footsteps, getting the young guys out here and staying after practice so they can see how a veteran does those things. He understands that it’s his last year, and he wants it to be special. He’s putting all his eggs in the basket, and I believe that he’s ready to go.”

Running Back Qadree Ollison

On the battle at the running back position:
“There’s only one football on the field. We’re all working really hard every day to try and perfect our craft. Coach Canada challenged us as an entire room to go outside of our comfort zone, and learn different positions—whether it’s coming out of the backfield, running routes, going in the slot. They’ve challenged us to do that. We are all trying to become more versatile so we can make more plays as a room.”

On the backs becoming more involved in the passing game:
“Coach Canada has a very diverse offense. We have a lot of different ways we can play. He always tells us we can put our subs in and play three running backs, or you play with five wide outs. He wants to put the best 11 guys on the field to give us the best chance to put up points and win. That will make it easier on our defense.”

On his mindset going into practice given the competition at RB:
“My approach is to take it one day at a time. Don’t try to rush it. If you work your butt off, you’re going to be happy with yourself and happy with the results. I don’t worry about touches or how many carries somebody else is getting because I just want to win. And that’s the great thing about our entire team: we all just want to win. It doesn’t matter who gets the ball. If we have to run the ball 60 times or throw the ball 60 times, it doesn’t really matter as long as we score more points than the other team at the end of the fourth quarter.”

On what he has improved in the offseason:
“I’ve gotten a little leaner and lost some weight—about 16 pounds. I’m faster. I worked on my route running and hands. That’s pretty much it. I wanted to get leaner and faster to try to put myself in situations to succeed.”

Quarterback Nathan Peterman

On the red zone being a point of emphasis this season:
“For sure. When an offense gets in the red zone, you have to get points. Obviously we want 100% touchdowns. You have to protect the ball in the red zone, which is something I need to do a little bit better job of right now.”

On what he has seen from the defense so far:
“They’re doing a good job. They’re improving every day fundamentally. We’ve got a lot of good players on the defense and they are a challenge to go against every day.”

On how ready he feels James Conner is:
“James is always impressive to me. I’ve got to worry about myself. I can’t start worrying too much about other players, but I think he looks great out there and I’m really excited to keep working with him.”

Running Back Darrin Hall

On his takeaways from playing regularly last season:
“It helped me a lot. The game is moving slower for me. I’m taking my time and I’m making the right decisions.”

On what he did well in spring practice to move up the depth chart:
“I’ve just focused on the fundamentals, the little stuff, like staying low and carrying the ball high and tight. I’m trying to do that now because that’s what really matters. I used this offseason to make sure my jump cuts are right and that my routes are going smooth. I’m just trying to make plays.”

On the depth at the running back position:
“We’re all good. We all want to play, so we’re all competing out there, trying to get better. The best guys will play.”

On feeling he can be the backup RB:
“Right now I’m fighting to get that number two spot. I’m really focusing on playing as much as I can, so I’ve just been going into each scrimmage making sure I do the best I can to make plays.”

On the highlight plays he made today:
“I had a couple good runs. I did a great job on my fakes today which helped open up the offense and my routes were smooth. Coach Powell always focuses on making guys miss and getting those extra couple yards, and that’s about taking your time, making sure your feet are under you, and using your techniques.”

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