If you think the life of a college football coach slows down when the shoulder pads are packed away, you haven’t had to keep up with Pat Narduzzi this month.
Pitt’s coach has been busy since a 34-30 victory against Eastern Michigan on Dec. 26 in the Quick Lane Bowl.
He turned down ESPN’s request to help analyze the national championship game, partially because of the need to interview candidates to replace strength coach Dave Andrews.
Andrews left for Iowa State and took most of his staff with him. He was replaced by former Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistant strength coach Michael Stacchiotti, who also has worked at Mississippi State, Cincinnati and Colorado State.
That interview, like the one with transfer quarterback Joey Yellen before he signed, was done via Facetime. Narduzzi also has been out of town recruiting, and he was at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., on Thursday to see former Pitt cornerback Dane Jackson, who will play in the game Saturday.
Narduzzi returned to town Friday in time to make his annual visit to the ice house in Market Square, where he and several members of the team helped the Dollar Energy Fund raise funds to help low-income households pay utility bills.
Narduzzi even planned to attend a high school basketball game Friday night. No details, other than he was there to see “a great athlete.”
He hasn’t had much time to analyze Pitt’s schedule, but he is not a fan of Friday night games at Heinz Field. He said the American Football Coaches Association voted unanimously against playing Friday night games.
“As coaches and as athletic departments, as universities, we don’t get to choose. That’s a high school football night, especially in the city of Pittsburgh. ESPN dictates and obviously the ACC. I feel bad. I don’t like doing it,” Narduzzi said.
“There are only so many times we can tell them we don’t want to play on Friday nights.”
Back in his office, he had to deal with the normal offseason attrition every college team faces.
He’s lost defensive backs Bricen Garner and Therran Coleman and running back V’Lique Carter but added some prospects. Yellen, formerly of Arizona State, has been joined by tight end Lucas Krull (Florida), who already has formed a bond with starting quarterback Kenny Pickett on and off the field.
“I don’t think they get any better looking,” Narduzzi said of the 6-foot-6, 257-pound Krull. “He’s an older guy who can catch the ball.”
Yellen is an intriguing prospect who wants to play this season and plans to petition the NCAA for a waiver to bypass the rule that demands transfers sit out a season. Worst case, he would be in line to compete for the job in 2021 after Pickett leaves.
Whether he plays this season or not, Yellen was one of Pitt’s most important offseason targets. Offensive coordinator Mark Whipple was on the phone with him within hours of Yellen’s name appearing in the transfer portal. Soon after, former Pitt offensive lineman Mark May, who lives in Arizona, texted Narduzzi with the words, “You might want to get on this guy.”
Pitt is supporting Yellen’s effort to play this season, saying, “We’ll do our best to (help him) get what he feels like he deserves. Either way, it will work out the way it’s supposed to.”
Narduzzi was pleased four players who could have entered the NFL Draft — Damar Hamlin, Paris Ford, Patrick Jones Jr. and Jaylen Twyman — decided to make “business decisions” and return to Pitt.
He said Pitt’s defense was “statistically” the best he’s built at the school, but he admitted he was “disappointed in the way we finished up the last two games.”
Pitt allowed 56 points in the last two games and allowed Boston College’s A.J. Dillon to rush for 178 yards.
“Let’s finish it the way you started,” he said.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .