Narduzzi settles in as Panthers get spring drills off to energetic start

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PITTSBURGH — Pat Narduzzi has spent the last three months itching to get to the best part of his job at Pittsburgh. The first-year head coach found out Sunday his players were just as eager.

The Panthers opened the first spring drills of Narduzzi's tenure with a spirited workout that included the ever-energetic Narduzzi hopping from spot to spot.

"Day one was a pretty good day," Narduzzi said. "We are looking to keep stacking practices like this and getting better every day. It is good to be a head coach and just move around and plug holes. I am just trying to make myself useful and use a little of my knowledge."

Narduzzi arrived at Pitt in December following an eight-year tenure at Michigan State where he served as the defensive coordinator and assistant coach. He earned the Broyles Award in 2013 given annually to the nation's top assistant. Narduzzi and his staff are focused on reshaping the recent tradition at Pitt, a concept that has defensive back Lafayette Pitts ecstatic.

"He always preaches about how the corners are the biggest position for him," Pitts said. "You have the guys inside the box controlling the run so if we can control what we are doing then it makes it easier on them."

Pitts is one of seven starters on defense returning, and one of the players that will be counted on to emerge as a leader with the departure of linebackers Anthony Gonzalez and Todd Thomas.

"Guys are going to need to step up," Pitts said. "There are rooms for a lot of improvement."

Offensively, the sky's the limit with eight starters returning, including reigning ACC Offensive Player of the Year James Conner at running back and star wide receiver Tyler Boyd.

Conner is coming off a historic season where he became the Panthers all-time leader in rushing touchdowns (26), total touchdowns (26), and points (156). All records eclipsed the mark Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett set back in 1976.

Boyd is one of two receivers in Panthers history to record two 1,000-yard seasons in his first two years, joining Larry Fitzgerald.

Leading the charge behind center for the second year in a row will be Chad Voytik. Although we are only one day into spring practice, Narduzzi knows he has himself a winner in Voytik.

"One thing you love about Chad is that he is a competitor and he is tough," Narduzzi said. "He is probably the most competitive guy on the team from what I have seen. I don't think he lost a race or competition all winter. He is a super kid."

As for Voytik, the feeling is mutual with his coaching staff.

"I love them," Voytik said. "I think it is a staff that everybody is going to enjoy playing under and be coached by. I am trying to learn this offense the best I can. The relationship has grown since we started."

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