Offensive Coordinator /Quarterbacks Coach Shawn Watson
On fitting into his role with the team:
"It's going great. I've been really impressed with the job the coaching staff and Pat [Narduzzi] have done here and really it's easy to come in and fall in love with the guys. There is not a selfish bone on this team, and the guys are into what the team is trying to do and that's being ACC champions. We are getting on the same page. I have come in and not tried to change anything for the kids in terms of nomenclature of football, and I have needed them to teach me and they have been awesome."
On his relationship with the quarterbacks:
"It's really important. We spend so much time together just by the nature of the position and the need the position has. What you are trying to do as a quarterbacks coach is trying to develop another assistant coach on the field. That position makes, in this game, so many critical decisions for the entire team. We spend a lot of time together and I love them already because they want to be around football, so when they have free time, they spend it with me, which has been pretty cool. It's been awesome, we have gotten to know each other really well and I really like that room."
On his impressions of quarterback Max Browne:
"I think what I've grown most appreciative about him is how humble he is. He came in here and just really cared. He is very respectful of the team, very respectful of the job Nathan [Peterman] did a year ago, very respectful of everybody in the room. He wants to earn his way. That's what's really cool about him. He obviously is a very talented player. I remember him coming out of high school as a very, very talented kid. He is so humble and I think that everybody gravitates to him because of that. We are going to keep building and advancing and every day we are going to press him with more install and see what he's got."
On the running backs corps:
"Honestly, I'll have a better opportunity to see when they put pads on, but watching them in the conditioning period, athletically they are very skilled guys, all of them. Seeing them out here today, they've got a real work ethic. In their assignments, they're smart and are really detailed guys. Andre [Powell] does a tremendous job with them. They are very detailed players and it's a highly competitive room too, which is really good, because those guys need to take a lot of pressure of the pass game by being effective in the run game."
Defensive Coordinator Josh Conklin
On the biggest things that stood out looking at last year's tape:
"For the most part it came down to guys making plays. I felt, to be candid with you, as we go through the season we are going to hang our hat on what we do. We've always said that. The thing we have to do a better job is finding ways to put guys in better positions, and then we have to coach to finish better than we have. It's a two-way street, we understand that. The coaches have to coach it better and the players have to play better. When you look at some of the breakdowns we had, I told the guys this today before we came out, it's one or two guys on any given play. The level of consistency we play at has to heighten. We did some things well. We defended the run well. But the big passes hurt us. I think the guys are eager to get out here and do some of the things we put into place. We haven't wholesale changed, but we've done a few things to help ourselves out and put guys in better positions to finish on those plays."
On how many major changes have there been to the defensive scheme:
"We started last season. When you struggle, your reaction as a coach is to make it right. You want to give your guys a chance to make plays. What happens is, when you start implementing things that you don't do, you start to struggle in other areas and it opens up Pandora's Box. We need to stay consistent with what we do."
On how he "coaches to finish":
"When we evaluated, we looked at all of the deep balls [against us]. Here's an example for you, we do a study every year and we look at how many fade balls were thrown. The last few years the number has always been under 100. This year was 144. It's a good thing and it's a bad thing. What I mean by that is offenses look at you and they can't run the football, so what's their other option? Their option is the fade; it becomes their best viable option. The way we play, we know how people are going to go after us. When you get that, you have to bring that percentage down. This year was a 36% completion rate on the fades, which isn't good enough. There's been years where opponents would throw 100 fade balls and have two or three completions. You're seeing offenses that are willing to throw it up a lot more, so when we looked at those all those fades, you can start to see things we need to do better to finish."
On working with new defensive line coach Charlie Partridge:
"When I was down at FIU, whatever you hear about Charlie is he is a great recruiter. Charlie Partridge is an unbelievable football coach. He is a tremendous teacher. He brings great energy to those guys, a great focus to those guys. For us, that's where it starts, when those guys walk on the field they have to have a certain swagger to them, a certain confidence about them. If they don't, you're going to have troubles defending the run and defending the pass. He is a great teacher, a great motivator and he makes a great connection with the guys. He's a great addition to our staff."
On if Saleem Brightwell can play the middle linebacker position:
"He is going to. He going to have to and he can. We will move him at Money and at Mike. With injuries and guys moving around, we will get those guys into position. They all have to learn it."
Quarterback Max Browne
On developing a relationship with offensive coordinator Shawn Watson:
"It's been great. We are both the new guys here, but we have both seen a lot of ball and been at different places. It's been going getting to know each other on a personal level, so we can translate positively on a football level, but we are both learning the ways here--simple things like where to go on the field after each period. But I'm sure in a week or so we will get used to it."
On developing a relationship with his new wide receivers:
"We have worked out together. We've also had some 7-on-7s after fourth-quarter workouts and the chemistry is going to come with time. That is the beauty of spring ball, you get a jump start on that and we have some weapons. Today was my first time seeing these guys in live action. We definitely have weapons, and my job at the quarterback position is to distribute."
On if any specific receivers have stood out to him thus far:
"I knew all the names, but I never saw anything other than highlights. Aaron [Mathews] and Tre [Tipton] had a great day today. That corps is as solid as it gets. I'm coming from a place (USC) with a lot of weapons, and they are right up there. It's fun to see guys that are big and physical. The ability to win one-on-one battles is crucial, and they definitely showed that ability today."
On continuing to wear No. 4:
"I was thinking about switching it up, but I knew No. 4 was going to be open. I've been No. 4 since sophomore year of high school, so I decided to stick with. I didn't want to step on [Nathan] Peterman's toes by any means; but at the end of the day, it's what I've been for a while. I was a big Brett Favre fan back in high school when I chose it. He is a good guy to look up to as a gunslinger."
On learning a new offense:
"You just have to put the time in. This one is relatively easy to learn as a new guy because every word makes sense. There's a reason to every little detail in the play, and I think huddling up in general makes it easier. I am coming from a no-huddle offense where you have to learn the offense and how to signal that, which is a whole other animal. Huddling has been helping me. The process is going to take time."
Wide Receiver Quadree Henderson
On becoming acclimated to the new playbook:
"The process has been going well. Being a football player, you've got to come in and learn. If you're willing to play, you're willing to study. Just being in the film room with Coach Sherman and Coach Watson, just learning the playbook and learning conceptually. The process has been going well. I'm learning a lot of new things. The offense is pretty spread out. Similar to last year, somewhat different but pretty much spread out."
On his impressions of new quarterback Max Browne:
"Our lockers are right next to each other so we bust it up every day, but the chemistry with Max is like me and Nate [Peterman]. We were out here throwing after workouts before spring ball even happened so the connection is like that already. We were out here at least twice a week getting our timing down and working on routes. Max has a nice arm on him. He goes through all his reads well and makes sure the ball is there on time. I like Max a lot. He's really laid back and we just laugh and make jokes a lot."
Safety Jordan Whitehead
On how he spent his time recovery from injury:
"I came in after the season and just started weightlifting and I've been doing everything in the weight room. It's a different perspective watching from the sideline, it's almost like a coach's perspective. So I could see things I might have missed and learned something different."
On his 2016 season:
"I struggled. I missed more tackles than I did my freshman year. I need to take on this role and be a leader on defense, learn multiple positions and just get comfortable with every position because you never know the depth you have at a certain position. A couple of times I was thinking, `Just try to make a play,' without really being focused on my assignment. Happens here and there to everybody but keying on my assignment will be better than trying to do too much."
On becoming a leader for the team:
"I think that it won't be too challenging. I kind of feel like I'm getting older and I am fitting into that role. I feel a difference from freshman year to now, coming out here and practicing and with game day, everything. I take ownership and responsibility that I need to do something and step up. I definitely see myself as a leader. Everybody, juniors and seniors, should take ownership and step up to fill that role."
On the struggles of the defense last season:
"The mentality of the defense is definitely going to change. We were giving up big plays whether I was there or not. It wasn't like we weren't in position. We were in position, but we didn't finish. Everybody has to come in with a different attitude to try to change the culture. You can't just be okay with eight-win seasons. We can't be thinking ahead."
Defensive Lineman Jeremiah Taleni
On his role as a leader of the defensive line group:
"We have a group of guys on the defensive line who are inexperienced. We have a younger group. I feel like I need to step up and try and help teach. They've never been through the transition of getting a new position coach. I've been through it once so I just try and guide them through it."
On his first practice working with Coach Charlie Partridge:
"It was awesome. He breaks everything down, he's good at teaching and he's a really good person to begin with. He's done a great job of preparing us for practices, drills and breaking down film."
On the dynamic of the line with a few veterans and a lot of young talent:
"Reps will get the young guys where they need to be. I believe in every one of them. They all have talent. I've seen what they can do in terms of drills. The next step is to see them face an opponent and I'm excited to see that."
On if the defensive line can still be a strength of this team despite losing three starters:
"Definitely. We have three [key players] coming back, and we have guys coming back from injury. Collectively I think we are very strong. We have some young, fresh guys who are excited to play and it is good to get them in there and see what they can do."
#H2P | Twitter | Instagram
Q&As With Pitt's Recent NFL Draft Picks
Four Kickoff Times Announced for Pitt Football
Pitt Places 10 on Athlon's Preseason All-ACC Team
Pitt Student-Athletes Share Experiences from Haiti Trip
Pitt Football Unveils Young Alumni Ticket Program
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Donates $20,000 to Pittsburgh Charities