Pitt Panthers

Pat Narduzzi’s offensive system at Pitt a continuation of Michigan State’s

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The Pitt Panthers already utilized a ball-control offense under former head coach Paul Chryst. Pitt fans can expect much of the same with new head coach Pat Narduzzi leading the way.

Pitt’s foundation will be built on playing strong, aggressive defense under Narduzzi’s supervision with a run-first offensive led by new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.

“It doesn’t matter what their problems were in the past, we’ve got our system we need to put in and focus on that,” Narduzzi told ESPN.com’s Andrea Adelson.

Last season, Pitt ran the ball 610 times and averaged 5.3 yards per carry. Chaney’s, who previously served as the Arkansas Razorbacks’ offensive coordinator, called 557 running plays for an average of 5.1 yards per carry.

Narduzzi clearly found the right man to lead his offense.

“When you look at running our style of offense and what we’ve done here in the past, he’s one of the top names that comes to mind,” Narduzzi said. “He’s a perfect fit.”

All of this boils down to basically one thing:  expect a ton carries for James Conner in 2015. The 250-pound back is an absolute workhorse who carried the ball 298 times as a sophomore.

The 2012 season was last time Narduzzi was part of a coaching staff that featured a running back over 240 pounds.  Le’Veon Bell carried the ball 382 times that season.

Conner should expect a heavier workload.

Pat Narduzzi plans to transform Pitt into a version of Michigan State

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Pat Narduzzi received his first opportunity to be a head coach from the Pitt Panthers. He has no qualms about stealing the blueprint from his old Michigan State boss, Mark Dantonio, and bringing it to the Steel City.

“I think there’s a lot of things we do well at Michigan State, so I would say you will see Michigan State of the city of Pittsburgh, really,” Narduzzi told the ‘Griff and Grinz’ Show on Lansing’s 92.1 FM The Team, per MLive.com’s Mike Griffith.

“Why would you change the blueprint of what Coach Dantonio has done there?” he asked. “There will be tiny little things here and there, but the blueprint has been set. I’ve been in the program for 11 years with Coach Dantonio, and I know how we’ve done it and built it, and I think that’s the way it’s going to be.”

Dantonio’s formula is simple:  play fundamentally-sound and physical defense with a ball-control offense. The Michigan State program has also been highly successful developing its talent despite lesser recruiting classes.

However, Narduzzi agreed he wouldn’t bring any fellow Michigan State coaches with him to Pittsburgh.

“That’s probably the hardest job I’ve had so far, putting together a staff and getting the right people,” Narduzzi said. “Too often you see guys, (like) Charlie Strong in one year at Texas, he’s already fired two guys and you look throughout the country and after one year, boom, they (assistants) can be gone.”

The former defensive coordinator also confirmed that he’ll have some input in Jim Chaney‘s offense.

“My initial intentions are to let it go, but through this last month, I’ve talked to a ton of head coaches that say, ‘Hey Pat, keep your hands on it early, then let it go — don’t let it go and have to come back in,’ which makes a whole lot of sense,” Narduzzi said. “My job is still to coach all the coaches and make sure practices are run the way we want them to be run and organized.”

Now that the coaching staff is set, Narduzzi doesn’t plan on making many changes during his tenure.

“Continuity has been a big thing for me at Michigan State and Cincinnati,” he added. “One of the reasons Pitt was such an attractive job is because it’s a job where assistant coaches can come and be happy as long as the head coach stays there.”

Former Pitt DC Matt House lands at FIU

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The pipeline from the Florida International Panthers to the Pitt Panthers continues to grow stronger.

Nearly three weeks after Pitt’s Pat Narduzzi hired Florida International’s Josh Conklin as the program’s new defensive coordinator, Florida International found their new defensive coordinator among the remnants of Pitt’s previous coaching staff.

Matt House, who served as Pittsburgh’s defensive coordinator under Paul Chryst, will assume the same role under Ron Turner at Florida International University.

“We are very fortunate to have Matt House as our defensive coordinator,” Turner said in a statement. “We are familiar with what he does, having played Pittsburgh last season, having schemed and scouted his defense. He’s a very sound, very thorough and very impressive coach. He will be a great fit for our staff. We are excited about our defense and believe that Coach House will take them to another level.”

After taking over as Pitt’s defensive coordinator in 2013, the Panthers presented one of the nation’s most aggressive defensive fronts and ranked 34th or better during each campaign.

In fact, Pitt finished just slightly ahead of Florida International in total defensive last season. Conklin’s Panthers finished 35th overall in total defense and gave up four more yards per game.

House leaves one good situation for another, and he’s excited about the opportunity.

“I’m excited to be the defensive coordinator at FIU,” House said. “I’m excited with what Coach Turner and his staff are doing here and the direction that the program is going in. This is a young team. And, the defensive unit is growing and getting better every day. I look forward to being part of the process and helping the defense continue to grow.”

(Photo courtesy of Florida International athletic department)

Report: Josh Conklin tasked with developing Pat Narduzzi’s defense at Pitt

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Expectations for a stout defense at the University of Pittsburgh escalated after Panthers brass hired one of college football’s top defensive minds, Pat Narduzzi, as the team’s new head coach.

SI.com’s Thayer Evans reported that Florida International’s Josh Conklin will take over as Narduzzi’s handpicked choice as defensive coordinator.

“Conklin has been Florida International’s defensive coordinator the past two seasons and is regarded as one of the nation’s brightest young defensive coaches,” Evans wrote.

It can be an intimidating proposition for the 35-year-old coordinator.

The Michigan State Spartans defense was consistently ranked in the Top 10 during Narduzzi’s tenure as defensive coordinator. Narduzzi also won the Broyles Award in 2013 as the nation’s top assistant coach.

However, Conklin worked wonders in 2014 with the Panthers defense. Florida International ranked 35th in total defense. The unit surrendered 363.8 yards per game, which was a 65.9-yard per game improvement from his first season. The Panthers defense also finished fourth in the nation in takeaways.

How much control Conklin will actually have over play-calling duties during his first season at Pitt is still in question. Narduzzi could still oversee Pitt’s defense as Conklin grows into his role on the staff. Or, the new head coach could simply let an up-and-comer take over and let him run with the opportunity.

Either way, the Panthers are expected to field a stingy defense, and people in Pittsburgh expect nothing less.

(Photo courtesy of Florida International athletic department)

Pitt stakes claim as ACC contender with 21-16 victory over Virginia Tech

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The Pitt Panthers snapped a three-game losing streak Thursday with a 21-16 victory over the Virginia Tech Hokies. In doing so the Panthers are now in the thick of the ACC Coastal division race.

Despite a 4-3 start, Pitt is 2-1 in the division, which places the Panthers just behind the 2-0 Virginia Cavaliers. The Panthers are also tied with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

Pitt’s success moving forward will be determined by the play of quarterback Chad Voytik.

The Panthers lay claim to a Top 10 defense. Their running game is among the best in college football with a massive offensive line and a workhorse running back in James Conner. And sophomore Tyler Boyd is one of the nation’s most dynamic wide receivers.

The inconsistency the team experienced earlier this season starts behind center.

Voytik was only 10-of-17 passing against the Hokies, but he added a completely different dynamic to Pitt’s offense when the coaching staff decided to place an added emphasis on the quarterback’s mobility. The sophomore signal-caller was the game’s leading rusher with 118 yards. Virginia Tech only managed 26 rushing yards as a team.

During the previous three games against the Iowa Hawkeyes, Akron Zips and Virginia Cavaliers, the quarterback had minus-three yards rushing. As the team moves forward, Voytik’s ability to run the ball should be a bigger staple in Pitt’s offense.

Pitt’s schedule also works out in the team’s favor with their two biggest games against Georgia Tech and the Duke Blue Devils will be played at Heinz Field over the next two weeks. Plus, Pitt doesn’t have to face cross-divisional foes Florida State or Clemson this season.

While Pitt has some control over its destiny, Virginia Tech isn’t as fortunate after a 1-2 start in the division with the Miami Hurricanes next on the docket.

The Hokies have been damaged on offense due to multiple injuries, but the play of quarterback Michael Brewer dropped off precipitously since the team’s Week 2 victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Hokies have a chance to redeem themselves in the coming weeks in conference play if the offense can get on track.

As ACC Coastal play continues this weekend, the Pitt Panthers emerged Thursday as one of the favorites to claim a divisional crown.