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Sam Werner | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | July 22, 2016

Pitt football: Pat Narduzzi setting the bar high for year two

  While the Panthers posted a 8-5 record, Pat Narduzzi expects more in 2016.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- ACC media days has no shortage of people projecting big things for Pitt in 2016.

The Panthers seem to be a trendy sleeper pick to win the Coastal Division, and a number of those in attendance this week were impressed with the eight wins Pat Narduzzi put up in his first season as head coach.

Narduzzi just isn't one of those people.

"Did we win so much?" Narduzzi said when asked about his success in year one. "I'm glad you're happy with it; we're not happy with it."

Yes, Pitt's 8-5 record last year did represent a relative high-water mark. It was the Panthers most wins since 2010. They also finished second in their division.

But for Narduzzi, the goal heading into year two is to raise the bar higher.

"I guess it's all how you look at it," Narduzzi said. "We don't feel like we won as many games as we wanted to win. We wanted to win them all. If you don't win them all, you're not happy and you don't sit there and say, 'Hey, we won eight!'"

Even if the win total isn't where he wants it, Narduzzi said the wins and relative success last season gave his players motivation heading into 2016. He's not a first-year coach preaching an idea anymore, he has game tape and experience to back up his message.

"I think a year ago at this point, down [at media days] in Pinehurst, our kids really didn't know what to expect," Narduzzi said. "I don't think they knew what they were getting into or what they could do. I think there's the unknown. I think now they know, and that's propelled them to even work harder in the offseason, knowing that, 'Hey, we can do it.'"

Three losses last season came by a touchdown or less, so the Panthers know they could be close to achieving loftier goals.

"There's some confidence that came from last year," quarterback Nathan Peterman said. "But, at the same time, it's a new team. I think we just feel like we have a lot to prove still.

"Our goals are extremely high, but definitely feel like we can attain them."

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In addition to big-picture dreams of playing in the ACC championship game, there's more confidence on a play-to-play basis heading into 2016.

Narduzzi pointed to defensive tackle Tyrique Jarrett, who sat in Narduzzi's office earlier this summer raving about how comfortable he felt in the defense going into the second year. Jarrett wondered what could've happened if he had been able to play in the same defensive system his entire career.

Even defensive end Ejuan Price, one of the stars on defense last season, admitted it took a little bit of time for him to totally buy in.

"The first couple of games, I wasn't really trusting the system," Price said. "I wasn't trusting it all the way. There were a couple of times where I would do my own thing, I would take myself out of the play. If I'd have done what they told me, I would've been in a good position."

Price said he expects to have a more consistent 2016 because he is "100 percent confident" in the coaches' instructions from the first whistle of training camp next month.

The increased knowledge isn't just coming from the players, either. Narduzzi said he feels like he and his staff have a better handle on the abilities of their roster to try and maximize their skills.

"There's different scales as far as when guys are ready and when they aren't ready," Narduzzi said. "Who'd have known Jordan Whitehead was ready to do what he did?

"Little by little, we gave him a little bit to see. If he handles it, give him another one. If he can handle that, give him some more."

Narduzzi hopes the Panthers will be able to bite off a little more as a team this season, too

If nothing else, he's not afraid of setting the bar too high.

"You've got to win games, and it doesn't happen overnight," he said.

"I think we can win a lot of football games and be a top-25, top-10, top-five, top-two team.

"We can do that. But it takes work and it takes belief and faith in what we're trying to get done."

This article was written by Sam Werner from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.



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