Aug. 6, 2010
“This is probably the most exciting preseason we’ve had for our football team. What is really exciting to me is obviously all the preseason rankings and predictions. While it’s exciting, the greatest part of it is how the players have handled all the attention. Different coaches have different philosophies on how much exposure they want to give their players at different ages. Some guys won’t let a freshman or sophomore give an interview. I’ve always looked at each individual situation, but I believe that we have a group of kids that are getting some recognition, and they deserve to enjoy that experience and everything that goes along with it.
We took five guys with us to the Big East Media Day this year and all the talk was about the preseason, where you’re ranked and what the predictions are. I was proud with how our kids handled it all. They truly understand that all the recognition is nice, but the most important thing that we can do to make an attempt to have all those things come true is to have a great training camp.
From an eligibility standpoint, Andre Givens will not be joining us from the incoming freshman class. He’s working on some final arrangements, and will be attending a prep school for the time being.
Regarding position changes, we’re going to switch Kevin Adams, who came in here as a freshman offensive/defensive player. We had him at fullback in the spring, and now he’ll be starting off on defense this fall. As of now that will be the only position change.
We do have a few guys that will be limited from an injury standpoint. Nothing has occurred this summer. Two or three of the freshman that have reported were banged up in All-Star games, and actually before they arrived here. There were some surgeries that a couple of kids had done: Jeff Knox had shoulder surgery from a basketball injury; Arthur Doakes had something done right after the season from an old shoulder injury; Derrick Burns hurt his leg up at the Big 33 game. He (Derrick) came here , was training and suddenly couldn’t participate. We have more incoming freshmen on the injury list this year than what we’ve had in years past.
Overall, we’ve had a great offseason. Our kids have worked extremely hard — lifting, running and in the classroom. I don’t anticipate any eligibility issues at this time. The final grades from summer school are beginning to come in.
I do have great news. We have nine scholarship seniors: Dan Hutchins and Tyler Tkach have already graduated. Greg Romeus, Greg Cross and Ricky Gary will all be graduating this week as well, so five of our nine scholarship seniors on the entire team will have their degrees going into their senior year. Jabaal Sheard and Dom DeCicco were not redshirted, so they’re progressing and will need the full four years to finish up.
We have some football issues that we need to address right off the bat. On offense, it’s obviously the interior of our offensive line. We came out of spring and moved Jack Lippert from defense to offensive at center, we have Chris Jacobson working at left guard and we have Greg Gaskins internally. We have good competition in this area, but I don’t think we really walked away and said ‘we’re locked in at any one of the three positions,’ and that’s a good thing. We’re going to have good, healthy competition to get the offensive line solidified.
With graduating Gus Mustakas and Mick Williams, we’re still working on developing some depth with the interior of our defensive line. We have Myles Caragein, who will be a great player for us, but the other spot between Chas Alecxih, Tyrone Ezell and Tyler Tkach now gives us three or four guys that will now be battling for that spot.
We have to think about our two corners as well. We graduated both starting corners, so Antwuan Reed will be a great player for us this year. We also have Saheed Imoru who was a junior college transfer, Ricky Gary who has experience, Buddy Jackson who has been around here for three or four years and then we have a couple of young freshmen that will hopefully be able to make the transition and jump into the mix.
From a position standpoint, those would be the three positions (offensive line, defensive line and corners) that first come to mind, that we need to get cleaned up and address this training camp.
Two players will be on the medical list and will not be participating. Aundre Wright had a bad knee injury at camp and Aaron Smith — neither of those two guys will be out participating due to medical reasons, and will be out for the duration of the year.
On Jabaal Sheard:
“After gathering all the information and our legal system took its course, we are very comfortable with the decision we have made concerning Jabaal. You all know that we have had players that in the past, as every school does, whether they be reasons on or off the field where it hasn’t worked out. However, my responsibility to this university and to these kids is to be consistent and fair with the facts, and handle it accordingly.
He has been suspended for two weeks, and there have been things (awards, honors) for both the team and him personally that he was to take part in, but did not. He will be joining training camp while continuing on with his team discipline.”
On the overall health of the players:
“Our medical, strength and rehab people have done a great job with everybody. Coming out of the season you’re always going to have an X amount of guys that are either coming off of injuries, or need to have some things fixed to a certain degree. As I said, it’s really our freshman class that will be affected by injuries; we have three or four of them that will be slowed up from injury. Overall, we’re in pretty good shape from a varsity standpoint going into camp.”
On Tino Sunseri:
“This is Tino’s time. A year ago I stood here thinking about our quarterback situation, and Tino at that time, was splitting the first team reps with Bill Stull straight on through. He’s had a lot of repetition with the first guys from a practice standpoint thanks to that.
He has the arm to make all the throws that we need to make. He’s more athletic on his feet than what people give him credit for. He’s very intelligent. He understands the big picture of what we’re trying to do here from an offensive standpoint, and I think that’s very important.
Coming out of Central Catholic and taking his team to a state championship makes him a winner. You combine his intangible assets with his athletic ability and intelligence. Tino is going to have a good year.”
On the realistic expectations for the offensive line for the season opener:
“The offensive line probably takes longer than any other position to come together, but Tony Wise will get them ready. I am confident of that.
I’ve always believed that going into training camp, from a coaching standpoint, is that you focus in and make each player understand that he needs to get his game to the highest possible level that he can play, and I believe that can happen. If our starting center is Alex Karabin, our job and his job is getting Alex to play as well as he can. On the other side, Jason Pinkston who has been around here, better get his game playing at the level that he is most capable of, as is Jon Baldwin and Dion Lewis. That really has to be both the players’ and coaches’ focus coming out of training camp.
With opening out at Utah, there’s no margin for error. We’re going to have to go out there and play as well as we can in order to win that game, and everybody knows that. This is a very, very important training camp for us as a football team. We have a lot to get done in the next 27 days.”
On what he saw in Greg Romeus as a high school player:
“I’m being honest with you, watching his tape, I don’t think I saw him sack anybody or make any tackles. All that I saw on tape was a guy that was 6-5. I remember it as if it were yesterday, there was a play where there were two guys down at one end and he turned and he ran the guy down from behind.
Once we had the opportunity to meet him and his family, and see the type of person he was, that was more convincing than anything. He only played one year of high school football, but he was the type of person that would be coachable.”
On Chris Jacobson:
“He had a very good spring, and he played very well in the bowl game. He did start in the bowl game against North Carolina where we faced the best defensive line that we had faced all year long. Chris is right where he needs to be. He is healthy, he had a great offseason and I expect him to have a great training camp. I expect him to be the guy. It’s his job to lose, but you won’t know for sure until a guy comes in and proves himself. That’s the approach that we need to take.”
On whether or not the challenge of opening at Utah will make camp more physical:
“I don’t know about more intensity at camp. I think that if you’re going to be a physical football team, you don’t wait until the opening game to get physical. I told our players that this is going to be a tough camp. Our style of play is very physical. We won’t be able to ease into the season and knock the rust off as they say. That’s not going to happen.”
On the internal competition for starting positions on the offensive and defensive line, and corner spots:
“The great thing about college football, which I believe separates it from the NFL, is how this internal competition can help strengthen a unit. In recruiting good players, and kids that care, kids who want to be a part of this team and who want to win a championship, you’re setting yourself up for a strong team. When you recruit good kids, great things happen.
Last year at this time I don’t think I mentioned Dion Lewis, and I know that Dorin Dickerson wasn’t a big topic of conversation. It was really a situation where guys like that all of a sudden step up and have big years.
We have guys on the offensive line, we have some young defensive linemen and we have some young corners. It’s their time right now. I believe that these guys will step up. I think it’s funny when you look back at a position. If you were to look back at the beginning of last season, and ask what was going to be the weakness of this team? What are the concerns? I think at the end of the season, you look back and say that quarterbacks were a strength for us; Bill Stull had a great year, even though it may have been a concern earlier on. You don’t know, you just hope that you’ve recruited good kids, their opportunities come and they take advantage of it.”
On coming out the favorite to win the Big East title:
“I think it is great recognition for our team and players. As a coach, you want people talking about this in December. The recognition isn’t going to win any games for us. Our focus now is on training camp and preparing ourselves to have the chance to receive such an accolade.
The most exciting thing to me wasn’t being picked to win the conference; it was our players’ responses when people asked them. I have a good feeling that their feet are on the ground and they understand what they need to do in order for us to have the chance.”
On facing Utah and Miami:
“Miami is a Top 10 team. It seems like months or years from now when we have to worry about Miami. Playing a team on the road, like Utah, we’re going to find out real quick how tough of an opponent they really are.”
On redshirting the incoming freshmen:
“I talked to the freshmen last night about that. I told them that the thinking going into camp has to be that each one of you is trying to learn the system: offense, defense, special teams and prepare yourself to play to the best of your ability.
Once we’re done with training camp I’ll sit down with each kid and we’ll talk about who might have an opportunity, and opportunities come in many different ways. Someone could just excel ability wise, we could have two injuries at one position and all of a sudden a fourth-team freshman is now a second-team freshman, so he’s in the mix. I don’t want any of our freshmen sitting there thinking that ‘I’m going to be redshirted, so this year is over for me.’ I want them all competing to the best of their ability and then we’ll see where it goes.”
On Antwuan Reeds’ progression:
“We’re talking about a guy that has matured both on the field and off the field. He’s always been a very talented player. The thing that has happened with Antwuan in the last year or two is that he’s become very coachable. He’s watched Aaron Berry and some of these guys in front of him, he’s learned from what he’s heard the coaches say and what he’s watched on tape. He had a great performance last spring. I think it’s just that maturing process when the light goes on and a young man realizes that it is his opportunity.”
On Tino Sunseri’s efforts in the offseason:
“Tino did everything that you would expect him to do. The biggest thing with Tino — as it is with every quarterback — is when you haven’t been a starter, it’s gaining confidence. He has the confidence of our team, but him saying it, me saying it and somebody writing it in the paper doesn’t matter until we make it happen on the field, which only comes through game experience, playing and training camp.”
On coaching the defensive tandem in Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard:
“I think both of those guys work extremely hard, and they’re both very coachable. They both understand that they have a lot of room to improve — that’s really why Greg came back. He graduated, yes, but also he knew that he felt like he could improve his skills and improve himself from a performance standpoint. Jabaal has never been redshirted, so while he’s a senior, he was one of those young guys that were thrown into the fire and this year can definitely benefit him.”
On the high expectations that have been placed on the team:
“These are just preseason accolades that we’ve received, and I think our guys understand that. We have good guys that know what it takes to win, and don’t take anything for granted. It is a team game, and we’re only as good as our team is.”
On the offensive line:
“Greg Gaskins will be in the first group tomorrow when we line up. Ryan Turnley is at a little more of a disadvantage because he had a broken wrist. All spring he was playing right guard, but he couldn’t put his hand down which placed him in an unfair position. But I expect to see the competition placed between the two of them. I don’t know if any of the young kids will step up, but we’ll see.
On creating more depth on the offensive and defensive lines:
“On the defensive line we have Tyrone Ezell and Tyler Tkach. If you look at a guy like Tkach, a fifth year senior and smart guy, I’ve had great success with a guy like that all of a sudden showing up.
If you look at someone like Nate Nix who had a great spring and we move him to defensive end, you create opportunity. Nate is very mature. He has been around here, and winning is very important to him. A guy like that who is a fifth year senior, he may play five games against a freshman or sophomore, and maybe ability wise he isn’t Greg Romeus but because of his experience, his attitude and his intangibles, you win with guys like that. Then you look at Brandon Lindsey who can play, and we have Shayne Hale, so we have five guys that have played.
On bringing the program back to national prominence:
“As a coach you don’t take the time to think in terms like that. You’re just going as hard as you can from a day-to-day, week-to-week perspective. There’s always something on your agenda that you’re trying to improve on, and your focus is probably a lot more tunnel vision on the day-to-day things, and week-to-week issues than looking back or looking ahead at the big picture.”
MEET THE PRESS: PAT NARDUZZI PREVIEWS MARSHALL
Football hosts Marshall under the lights at Heinz Field
Pitt Falls 37-36 to North Carolina in ACC opener
Bell, Price Earn First National Bank Weekly Honors
Pitt-UNC is a Joe Moore Award “Big Ugly” Spotlight Game
MEET THE PRESS: PAT NARDUZZI PREVIEWS NORTH CAROLINA