Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi likes to often provide as little clarity as he can. That is generally done to gain an advantage on an opponent, which, of course, is admirable. But it often means a lot of confusion for the media and fans in terms of trying to figure out what exactly is going on with a certain player.
Typically, that’s mostly surrounding injuries. But sometimes, it’s other things, such as was the case today.
After a breakout performance by receiver/defensive back/running back V’Lique Carter against Duke on Saturday, Narduzzi was pretty clear in saying that Carter would be playing against Virginia and potentially in as many as five or six games, depending on what Pitt’s postseason fate was. Specifically, Narduzzi said, “Obviously, he’ll get a few more carries this week.”
That, however, seems to be in doubt now, as Narduzzi had a different tune in today’s press conference.
“I don’t know,” was Narduzzi’s black and white answer today in response to how much Carter would be used this weekend. Note that the question was, how much he would be used as opposed to if he would be used at all. That is, of course, because Narduzzi clearly said he would get more carries this weekend following the Duke game.
But Narduzzi made it clear that Carter’s use this weekend in a big game against Virginia was not a given.
“I’m not going to obviously reveal whether we’re using him this weekend or not,” the head coach added. “We’ll find out.”
Part of the reason for that is Carter’s redshirt status. He can play in three additional games and still preserve his redshirt but the Panthers have four regular season games left, possibly a bowl game, and possibly even an ACC championship game. Narduzzi then referenced the redshirt as very much a possibility. “We only get so many games with him,” Narduzzi said. “We got to pick and choose when it’s important to use him.”
Narduzzi wasn’t done there, however.
“You’d like to preserve it (the redshirt) if you could,” he continued. “I think we got other good players that can make plays happen. You’d like to preserve it.”
In between there, Narduzzi added quite a bit of other contextual stuff in saying that Pitt has other guys that can do those same things and even that Carter’s future effectiveness was a question. Narduzzi added, “Was he lucky? Is he good? I don’t know. Maybe he just got lucky that day. I don’t know. Maybe just set up perfectly for him.”
I know this will bother some people but I don’t really mind the shell games Narduzzi likes to play. As I’ve said before, all coaches are trying to gain an advantage and they are free to do that any way they choose. I don’t think Narduzzi is really getting over on coaches or really even hiding anything of great importance. But it’s 100% his call on what he wants to release/not release.
After the Duke game, I think Narduzzi’s instinct was to play him. But one of two things is probably at play here. First (and, more likely, in my opinion), this is gamesmanship. Narduzzi has every intention on using him on Friday but wants to float the idea to Virginia that maybe they don’t have to prepare for that guy at all. The other thing is that Narduzzi could have had a real, honest-to-God change of heart where he thinks that maybe sitting him a game or two going forward to preserve the redshirt is actually in the best interest of the program.
I’m really fine with either strategy (redshirt or no redshirt), to be honest. As I said earlier, however, Pitt is very clearly playing for something here. If playing Carter helps the Panthers reach a bowl game or, especially, the ACC title game, you’ve got to do it no matter what. Ideally, you’d love to keep his redshirt. But if there’s a case where Pitt needs him to win a game, you play him. It’s pretty simple.