Though Pittsburgh hired Pat Narduzzi as its head coach in December, he has spent all of two weeks in his office.
Yet, his world has not slowed down. Not even close. Not with so much to do.
Between the time he was hired until now, Narduzzi coached his old Michigan State defense in a bowl game; scrambled from city to city to sign his first recruiting class; hired his first full staff; set up early morning workouts; attended speaking engagements; sat in on various facilities meetings; met with staff to discuss offensive and defensive playbooks; and began meeting individually with each of his new players. On the docket for Wednesday: quarterback Chad Voytik.
It is a never-ending cycle, but it also is one Narduzzi is happy to spin on as he tries to put his stamp on a program eager to make a return to prominence. When discussing early workouts, Narduzzi said, “We’re focused on toughness and attitude.”
Those are two important attributes Narduzzi wants to instill, trademarks that his Michigan State defenses played with for so many years. Expect the same aggressive defensive philosophy to take hold with the Panthers in due time.
Narduzzi plans on continuing his work on that side of the ball with his new defensive coordinator, Josh Conklin. Though the two have not worked together previously, Narduzzi first got to know him one year ago.
Conklin, the FIU defensive coordinator at the time, called up Narduzzi looking for some advice.
“He said, ‘Listen, we’re struggling on defense. I love what you guys do defensively.’ That’s probably one of the best compliments you can get,” Narduzzi said in a recent phone interview. Narduzzi said Conklin went on to tell him: “We have a linebacker job open, and I want someone who’s worked in your defense who knows what you do and how you do it.”
Narduzzi gave him two names. Conklin hired one: Rob Harley, who served as a graduate assistant under Narduzzi at Michigan State. With Harley on board, FIU installed about 90 percent of the Michigan State defense last spring and fall.
The end result? A radical turnaround for the Golden Panthers’ defense in 2014. FIU ranked No. 1 nationally in fumble recoveries (19), second in defensive touchdowns (six), fourth in turnovers gained (33), eighth in turnover margin (plus-11) and No. 35 in total defense.
Compare that to the numbers from 2013: FIU ranked No. 94 in total defense, tied for No. 112 in turnovers gained (14), tied for No. 97 in turnover margin (minus-6) and tied for No. 93 in fumble recoveries (seven).
When he got the job at Pitt, Narduzzi decided to make a run at Conklin and Harley. Both are on staff now. Though Narduzzi will keep working with the defense, Conklin will make the defensive play calls on game days. Creating turnovers is one major area that needs improvement on a Pitt defense that has been sorely lacking in that department.
“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 said.
Narduzzi has never worked with offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, either. But Chaney came highly recommended. “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.”
The fun truly starts mid-March, when Pitt opens spring practice and Narduzzi can get a good look at the players he has and what they can do. But the work will not slow down.
Not even close.