PITTSBURGH – Pitt backup safety John Petrishen probably never imagined he would become such a focal point in the run up to this Saturday’s game against Penn State.
Yet both James Franklin and Pat Narduzzi have mentioned Petrishen, who transferred from Penn State to Pitt this summer. Petrishen’s transfer led to the Nittany Lions changing all of their signals, as Franklin disclosed in his press conference on Tuesday.
“We didn't wait till this week to do it. We did it right when that was announced, but obviously, we had to change all of our signals,” Franklin said. “Especially on defense and on offense, as well, but especially on defense because he knows all of our signals and those types of things.”
Narduzzi met with the media on Thursday and was stunned that no one had yet asked him about Franklin’s comments on changing signals.
“Can’t believe you guys didn’t ask any signal questions,” Narduzzi said incredulously with a grin on his face, nearly 10 minutes into his Thursday press briefing.
“Let’s just talk about that for one second so I can get this off my chest,” Narduzzi said as he launched into nearly 3 minutes of what he termed a “signal clinic” for the assembled media.
“I haven’t said anything about – they have Eric Thatcher at their place, right? He sat in the defensive meeting rooms here for two years, do you guys know that? So Eric Thatcher’s in recruiting. I’m sure he’s a ball coach this week, trying to fill them in on what we do,” Narduzzi said.
Thatcher currently is recruiting coordinator for Penn State, but served on Narduzzi’s staff for two years as defensive quality control coach.
“Defensively, you can’t steal an offensive signal cause we have no time. We’re busy getting our own signals (in). I hope guys can get our signals,” Narduzzi said.
“Think about this. Are we going to signal our defense and tell them what the offensive play is? There’s no time for that. Our eyes are on our kids. I mean, signals; we could have their notebook. If I had their notebook sitting right here, which maybe I do, I don’t know, do I have his notebook? I don’t know,” Narduzzi said with a smile.
“I could have the notebook, that ain’t gonna help me win a football game, I can promise you that, OK? Defensively, your hands are tied. You can’t steal signals. That’s me. Maybe I’m just a dumb defensive coach. OK?”
Narduzzi then talked about how hard it would be for his offense to steal signals from an opposing defense.
“Let’s go to the other side of the ball, our offense. Can our offense – like John Petrishen’s a defensive guy. Can John Petrishen give us their defensive signals and help us? How is Coach Whipple gonna get that defensive (play) – I mean, there’s a play clock. It’s not like they give us 2 minutes to take a snap; if that was the case, maybe we could.
“Maybe we’re just all not very good coaches and haven’t been thieves, I guess. But usually, the people that are paranoid are the people stealing them.”
Narduzzi did admit that signal stealing does occur on offenses in college football, but said the Panthers do not engage it.
“The team that looks to the sideline, they’re doing it for a reason. They’re trying to steal your coverage signals, whether it’s your safety signal and stuff. It doesn’t matter what it is … Have you seen (quarterback) Kenny Pickett ever look to the sideline to get a second call?
“People that look to the sideline usually are the ones stealing signals, people that don’t look to the sideline are usually just running a play.”
When asked why he thought Franklin had specifically mentioned changing signals, Narduzzi replied while throwing up his hands: “I don’t know. Cause, whatever.”
Narduzzi admitted he is paranoid himself about certain things and said every team has “dummy signalers.” He also said it can be easier to just run the offense as called and said stealing signals is “just hard to do.”
The Panthers will have a walkthrough at their South Side facilities before they leave for State College at noon on Friday, exactly 24 hours before Pitt and Penn State kickoff their 100th and final scheduled meeting.