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Narduzzi on Wirginis, Notre Dame and more

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Pat Narduzzi talked about the loss of Quintin Wirginis and looked ahead to Notre Dame at his Thursday press briefing. Here’s a full rundown of what he said.

Narduzzi: Again, another solid week of practice. Three days getting ready for Notre Dame. I think our guys are ready to go and we’ll find out what we’ve got on Saturday.

How much of an emotional loss is it to lose somebody like Quintin, especially the way he’s playing and what you have coming up?
Narduzzi:
You know, Quintin is playing well. He’s really the heartbeat of our defense, he’s smart, he gets it all done, but that’s part of the game of football. We’ve been fortunate to be healthy, really, most of the season and sooner or later the injury bug’s going to hit you. The last couple weeks, it’s hit us a little bit and Quintin’s just the next one. So I’m excited - I’m sad for him and his family; he’s had, like you said, a great year. But we can’t sit there and worry about it and Quintin knows that. Elias Reynolds and Chase Pine will take over and we’ll find out who the dude is going to be at that position and we’ll go from there.

It will be one of those guys; you won’t look at Saleem moving back there?
Narduzzi:
Not right now. Those guys have been taking significant reps the last few weeks. They’ve been in the game. Those guys weren’t ready a year ago, so that’s why we went with Saleem. But they’re ready now. They’re ready now for that role and if crazy things happen, Saleem could go in there and take it over as well.

Speaking of crazy things, there’s no way to get a sixth year for Quintin?
Narduzzi:
I don’t know. If there’s a way, we’ll work it. That’s for sure.

Pinnock gave up maybe two catches on Saturday and they tried to throw a lot of passes his way; is that his representative of the kind of game he played? Did he stick out on tape when you reviewed the game?
Narduzzi:
No question about it. Jason’s played well, really, the last couple weeks. He’s back. He was banged up early in the year and it just took him awhile to get back and get his swag back, and I’m happy with where he is. He needs to have another great day this week against some of these big tight end/receiver-type guys.

You made a point of talking about their receivers and tight ends. Your corners are pretty decent-sized; does that give you a little bit of an advantage?
Narduzzi:
It does. You’re looking for matchups and that’s why we switched our nickel-back from a week ago, from the Central Florida game - it wasn’t because they weren’t getting the job done; it was just based on who they are and who we feel good with in matchups. So we do feel good with some of our big corners going against their big receivers, so we’ll see how it goes.

It won’t always be that way; you know, Phillipie’s playing well. We’re going to give him a shot to see how he does out there. He’s obviously not as big and physical as some of the other guys, but he can run. He’s got the makeup speed. But we’re not going to get pushed around or bullied out there.

You said on your show last night that Quintin’s injury took the breath away from some guys; how have you seen your guys recovering today?
Narduzzi:
I think our guys are fine. Our guys were fine that day; matter of fact, half the team didn’t know that day, on Tuesday, that it even happened. Probably the lineback group, maybe some of the defensive guys. But our guys are good. It just takes your - it’s just kind of how it happens. You expect a guy to get hurt in a team period, not in an individual period. So when those happens, it’s kind of a fluke. I had to look up and see if it was a full moon that day. Crazy things happen like that.

Can one guy make up for Quintin, or do you need a little bit from everybody to help pick it up?
Narduzzi:
I think everybody’s got to step up a little bit. I think those D-linemen know that they have to play a better game than they may have had before. But I think Reynolds and Pine are the two guys that - they have to play the position. We talk all the time about, ‘You can’t do too much, you can’t do his job, you have to do your job.’ Really, that’s the way it is. Reynolds has to take over. Pine has to take over. And when they’re in there, they have to show up and play for Quintin.

They have to make the calls, too, right?
Narduzzi:
Yeah. I’m not going to make them.

I mean, not just play the game physically; they have to be able to know -
Narduzzi:
They’ve been doing that, so they have the ability to get everybody else lined up. It should not be a problem.

I think Keyshon Camp has been your most productive defensive tackle so far. What’s he been doing this season well?
Narduzzi:
Keyshon’s been paying attention to detail. He’s very detailed. He gets extra time in the video room with Coach Partridge. And he’s a really explosive football player. He has a lot of athletic ability. I think it’s just the effort he puts into playing a good game.

As far as the tight end position, do you see more opportunities for Will Gragg, Jim Medure?
Narduzzi:
Yeah, Jim Medure, Will Gragg, all of those guys are going to get - Carrigan is going to get some reps. We have three tight ends in there. They’re going to get more reps and we’ll be fine there.

What has kept the numbers down for the tight ends this year, as far as receptions?
Narduzzi:
You know, maybe ability to make a play, catch the ball, whatever it may be. But we’ll just play it. If you have a big dude that you can get the ball to, that makes a difference.

We were talking about the depth at cornerback and you have enough guys to mix and match like you’ve been doing, so when you look at Paris Ford and you’ve talked about him moving back to safety at some point, is that a move you consider making this year to get him a head start and start working that spot again?
Narduzzi:
Not really. I mean, it’s too hard to - there’s a lot of mental stuff that goes on. I just want to get him really sound. Paris is a great athlete. He’s got ability to play corner. We know he can play safety as well. I mean, if you have the ability to play corner - he’s a big corner right now that really matches up well against these guys. So it comes down to doing the right thing. I just want to get him sound. Once he learns what the corners are doing, he’ll understand how important it is to tell them what to do when he does play safety.

I know you guys practiced with a lot of noise; do you feel like your guys are ready for that part of the environment?
Narduzzi:
Yeah, it is. I’ve been in a lot of noisy stadiums and the first thing we have to do is make sure that the band’s not playing when our offense has got the ball. So you guys can look at that and make sure that gets done. But playing there enough times and actually playing away on the road - shoot, they’d come to our place at Michigan State and have our band on the sideline playing music all the way up until almost the ball was snapped, until I’d go crazy or someone goes crazy. So we have to keep their band playing when they’re supposed to be playing, not when our offense is under center trying to play and call a cadence. I think that’s a big factor that we’re going to have to get under control as well.

Brian Kelly says he learned a lot about you from playing Michigan State. What about you? How well do you know Brian and what looks like a typical thing you know from a Brian Kelly team?
Narduzzi:
I’m not going to tell you what I know. This is Brian Kelly’s offense. He’s got his fingerprints all over it. You can tell that. I can go back - which we have gone back to whatever it’s been - it helps when you know the history of what they’ve done through the years, even when it comes down to “rocket” plays at the end of the game when they’re trying to - maybe they’re down and there’s a minute to go in the game and “What are they going to do?” We’ve got a lot of history as far as what they do, how they like to do it, and those are all things that help. It’s really, “What do they like? What’s he going to go to if this doesn’t work?” And those are the things that you hope help you, unless they’ve totally changed and Long’s calling everything. But you see that he’s got his prints all over, I think.