After Saturday’s Blue-Gold Game, Pat Narduzzi met the media to break down the scrimmage and more. Here’s a full rundown of what he said.
Narduzzi: 15 down. It’s just awesome that we were able to get 15 practices in and the atmosphere that we’re in. The kids did a great job since the pause and we got a lot of work done. The development this spring was more than we’ve seen in the last six springs. Obviously a lot more than last year. But with the super seniors we had, the extra players there, and then the 12 incoming freshmen made it possible to go out and get a lot of reps in our scrimmages. The guys laughed: today was the shortest scrimmage of the year.
But I think overall we had a great spring and it’s a launching point for our summer conditioning program and get it cranked up for the ’21 season.
Is that what you’ve been seeing out of Izzy over the last couple weeks? Narduzzi: Yeah, it is. He’s been running with some patience. He almost looks like Leveon Bell at times, as far as the patient and running and vision and finding holes. And Vince had a nice day as well, and, really, all the backs did. I think we ran the ball well on both teams – probably more the Gold Team than the Blue Team – but I saw some good things out of all the backs.
Izzy’s been strong all spring. He’s bigger; I think he put 80 pounds on his squat and 40 pounds on his bench. I mean, he’s jacked up, he’s playing fast and I was surprised that P.J. O’Brien tackled him that one time on the Gold sideline; I thought he was gone. Maybe he had an angle on him.
On the left side of the Gold offense, you had Carter Warren and Marcus Minor working together. What did you see from those two guys? Narduzzi: Both of them were great all spring, and again, they’re going to be better when we get to September. Again, I think overall, I think there was a lot of questions about what our offensive line was going to be going into the spring. It seemed like a lot of people had questions about that, you know, on the outside that I talked to. I’m happy with where our o-line is. I really am. They’re getting push, they’re playing physical, they’re attacking people and they’re playing with a lot of confidence.
The tight ends as a whole had a pretty good day today. How big would that be for the offense to see some consistent production from that position, which hasn’t been there for a couple seasons? Narduzzi: Yeah, it hasn’t been since, really, I guess Flanagan, maybe. But Lucas Krull had a great day; he obviously didn’t get many reps like Kenny didn’t and we took Jordan out as well. I was really shocked we didn’t get the ball to Gavin Bartholomew as well. Kyi Wright had a nice day. Kyi Wright’s had a nice spring. So really, at this point it looks like there are three guys who can go out and play some quality football for us, so we’re excited about what that tight end can do. And again, we talk run game: you have to have tight ends in the run game. It’s hard to run the football without it. So if we can get out there in some two-tight end offense and even one really good tight end out there, it changes things for defenses and it gives you an opportunity to run the ball better.
You seem to be deep at the linebacker position. Did Brandon George help himself today? Narduzzi: I think he did. You know, we’ll look at the videotape; I hate to – I saw a couple plays out there that you obviously don’t like. I always see the bad stuff. I’ll see the good stuff when I watch the videotape. But I think overall, Brandon George did a nice job. So did Wendell. Wendell had a nice sack, sprinting through the line of scrimmage. I think Chase Pine played well. Phil Campbell. And we have some guys that are going to come that didn’t get a chance this spring that will be out in the fall with us.
Speaking of that, there were a handful of guys that weren’t drafted or were drafted in that injury category – Deslin, Shocky, guys who you didn’t mention as being fully out for spring. Were those more preventing, cautionary? Narduzzi: Yeah. We’ll be full go when August comes. All of our guys will be back. Obviously, you knew the pre- one’s, and then anything that we got bumped and bruised near the end of the spring, we held out and they’ll be fine.
You talked about how you wanted to see your quarterbacks deal with getting hit and being in live situations. You saw Davis and Nick kind of run a little bit. What did you see from your quarterback group and what did you like and didn’t like? Narduzzi: Again, you look at the Gold Team, it starts with the Gold Team, really, Nick Patti and I thought Davis did a great job moving their offenses down the field, leading the offense, and I think it starts with the leadership in that huddle and the guys playing for them in there. Both of them made plays with their feet when they had to get out of trouble and made some people miss back there. I think it looks like, passing-wise it looks like Nick ended up getting sacked once; I don’t remember seeing one in the pocket. But he made some plays with his feet and scrambled and made some plays on the run throwing the ball. So we saw a little bit of both. Looks like Davis was 6-for-6 and Nick Patti was 7-of-10, so their completion percentage was pretty good.
Do you think that’s a competition that’s going to go into the final days of training camp? Narduzzi: It may. I was hoping we’d at least have some good decisions right now. But they’ve all showed signs. I mean, Joey Yellen had a great spring. He really did. Obviously it didn’t show with the Blue Team, and again, you look at it and you don’t put it all on the quarterback, as you know. I think this spring game is tough because he doesn’t have his tools and who is he throwing to compared to the other side? So I think you have to throw that in there. But I think the most important scrimmage was a week ago, because he had his people with him and was running the offense and clicking with a one or two squad. They’ve all shown signs and it is going to be something that goes into fall camp, for sure.
MJ Devonshire, I don’t think he has played a lot of safety before he got here. How do you think he has taken to that position and they used him a little bit on offense; is that something you’re hoping he’ll be able to contribute for you in different ways? Narduzzi: Maybe. I think it’s more of a spring game stuff. We have to get him 100% solid at safety. But MJ’s a great athlete, he can make plays, he’s got great ball skills, so I think that’s why they threw him on offense, see if they could get him a couple catches. Again, the receivers are all split up so we didn’t have a ton of depth at the receiver position, so it was smart by them to stick him in there and throw him a fade ball, which was uncatchable out of bounds. But he’s a good football player and he’s got a ways to go. I know Damar Hamlin was out there coaching him up today. It’s good to get Damar back. But 15 days as a safety and 30 overall as far as the coaching in-between and the video sessions we’ve had watching practice tape – I think he’s where he needs to be after 15 but he’s got to be a lot better as we get into fall camp and move into the season.
Has Owen Drexel solidified himself as the starter there, not only on the field with what he does blocking as stuff, but as a leader off the field, too? Narduzzi: Owen’s really learned – I think we’ve talked about this before – from Jimmy, and he does a great job. He leads the offense. He leads – they call themselves the hogs – and he’s been leading on the field and it’s his position right now to lose. He just continues to play at a high level, and there are some other guys that can go in there and play as well.
I wanted to ask you about Rashad Battle. You haven’t had a ton of cornerbacks that are good blitzers over the years. It seems like you used him a couple times in that; is that something he’s particularly good at? What’s made him able in that area? Narduzzi: We put him in that position to be able to blitz because really smart. I think he’s got the ability to be that. He told me he had two sacks today; I don’t know about that. He might have chased one down out of bounds, I think, which was for a loss. But I think someone might have lost contain on that one particular blitz.
He’s been good. He’s got a chance to be that nickel back, as well as some other guys. He missed a few days being banged up, so it was good that he was able to finish strong and get some reps. But with the amount of days that he missed during spring ball in the middle, he’s really made a great comeback. He had a great scrimmage last week and it looked like he was pretty productive today.
Is MJ a guy you think could play nickel or do you want him to get solidified at safety? Narduzzi: MJ can play corner or safety. I think he can do both. We wanted to put him at the safety position this spring and then we may move him to corner – who knows? Because I think he can play that as well. He’s fast and athletic and maybe more natural there. With Hallett being out this spring, we thought him and Jud and let those guys battle it out with P.J. O’Brien at the field spot. We know we have to find a way to get him on the field; we have to find a way to continue to progress him through the defensive terminology and doing everything exactly the way we want it done.
Your defense has a lot of guys who made contributions last year. Did they play like that in these 15 practices this spring – did they play like a team that looks like they’re coming together on defense? Narduzzi: I think they will. Again, when they’re all together – you can imagine what a scrimmage looks like when you’ve got your one defense out there and your two defense out there together. I think it’s pretty good.
I think they’ll get there. We lost some guys on defense. We’ve got to rebuild some of those pieces, especially on the defensive line losing – Patrick Jones and Rashad Weaver aren’t easy to replace, and John Morgan is taking the reins, Haba Baldonado’s having a great spring and Devin Danielson’s been really good in there as well. So we’ll be fine on defense.