Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi says Panthers' quarterback position up for grabs

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (TNS)
  • Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi says the quarterback position is up for grabs.
  • Max Browne transferred to Pitt from USC with the hopes of landing job.
  • Sophomore Ben DiNucci will offer legitimate competition.

USC transfer Max Browne may be the starting quarterback when Pitt opens its season Sept. 2 against Youngstown State. He certainly didn't travel cross-country from the West Coast to sit on the bench.

But, with players reporting to training camp Monday, Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi is making no promises — to anyone.

Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi wants to win an ACC football title.

In fact, he emphasizes there will be legitimate competition that includes sophomore Ben DiNucci when drills begin Tuesday.

Narduzzi made that point when he appeared on KDKA-FM (93.7 The Fan) on Thursday morning, July 27.

“If Max Browne thinks he has it all by himself, he'll have another think coming,” Narduzzi said.

Narduzzi finally has the depth all coaches covet at the quarterback position, and with it comes flexibility and options — both in camp and during the season.

He mentioned that the loss to Northwestern in the Pinstripe Bowl might have been reversed if tight end Scott Orndoff hadn't dropped a pass in the end zone that DiNucci threw into a tight window.

He also mentioned redshirt freshman Thomas MacVittie and (for the future) freshman Kenny Pickett.

Narduzzi also said when he finally makes up his mind, he hopes circumstances allow him to stick by his decision. He said having Nathan Peterman and then-incumbent Chad Voytik share the position early in the 2015 season — Narduzzi's first at Pitt — might have cost his team a victory in the Iowa game, a three-point road loss.

He said he wants to give his quarterbacks the freedom to make throws downfield, and he has confidence that Browne and DiNucci are capable in that area.

“Max Browne has that confidence. Ben DiNucci has that confidence to put the ball where it needs to be, make that big throw,” he said.

But there are limitations in any game plan.

“You have to be accurate,” he said. “Ultimately, you want to keep your offense on the field. Those guys with long drives make life a lot easier for everybody. Those 5-yard gains are good, too.

“Many people think it's the big ball, big ball, big ball. Big balls that are incomplete put your defense back on the field.”

Narduzzi also touched on a number of other topics:

Fiery demeanor: Asked about his often fiery sideline demeanor, he made no apologies.

“I'm going to try and always protect our football team,” he said. “I don't ever want to be that guy that (people say), 'He doesn't really care. He looks disengaged.'

“I'm going to be engaged. I'm going to try and show my personality. I'm not going to get a 15-yard penalty. I can tell you that. That's not going to be me. I'll have to control that.”

But he admitted, “I took it as close to the edge as I could.”

James Franklin: On the matter of Penn State coach James Franklin refusing to acknowledge the Sept. 9 Pitt game and referencing only the opener against Akron, Narduzzi mentioned the Penn State game as one of 12 in the regular season, saying all games (especially those in the ACC) are important.

Heinz Field attendance: No interview with a Pitt coach or official would be complete without a question about the poor attendance at Heinz Field. Narduzzi danced around it.

“I let the athletic department take care of that,” he said. “I let wins take care of that.

“My job is to put a great product on the field and hope (fans) show up for it. I can't bother myself with those issues.

“If I'm looking up (in the stands), there is probably something I'm ignoring or missing (on the field).”