Wanny Speaks at Media Day

New Pittsburgh head football coach Dave Wannstedt addressed the media on Tuesday to talk about the opening of fall practice and the upcoming season. Check out his comments.

Opening Remarks

Head coach Dave Wannstedt: I'll just clean up a couple things with the players who will not be here and then we can talk about the guys who will be here. There are a couple of freshmen situations we're working on. Bryan Williams will not be with us because of academic reasons. Mick Williams, I believe, will be. He's in the process right now of working through the clearinghouse and we anticipate Mick will be with us. We should know something in the next day or two. Thomas Smith was excused today because of personal reasons. He will be here this afternoon, there's not a problem. He'll be ready to go tomorrow when we get started.

And I think everyone is aware of our quarterback situation with Joe Flacco. Nothing has changed there. I do not expect Joe to be with our football team this year. He's not here right now and I think that's a pretty clear message. That's an update on our personnel. We have a few guys who are working through the rehab from the spring. Everybody there is doing fine. Sam Bryant, Tim Murphy, these guys are all expected back tomorrow when we get started and ready to go.

We had a real good summer. The players did a great job I will say. Mike Kent and his staff with our off-season program did a great job. We have some players when you see them you will do a double take – they've lost so much weight and look great. Corey Davis, locally right here, lost about 30 pounds. It will make a difference in his performance and it will make a difference in his play. So I was real encouraged by the off-season program and everything that took place over the summer to get ourselves ready for training camp. That's where we're at right now. The most important thing we need to understand and the message I will pass on to the players tonight is right now we're not concerned with who we're playing in the opener. We're not concerned with who we're playing down the stretch. What we have to get done – I mean it is critical – is establish a good foundation and establish ourselves as a good football team in training camp. You don't get these days back. We've had 15 days as you all know in the spring. We have 29 practices between now and when we open up. We don't get those days back. Every practice is critical. Every meeting is critical and when you're talking about a new coaching staff with philosophy changes, you're talking about realigning players. You're talking about trying to get freshmen caught up.

There's a lot of work to do in establishing what kind of football team we're going to be. So the focus really is on us. We have to focus on ourselves and make sure we're taking care of our football team and not get ahead of ourselves at this point. The guys are excited and looking forward to getting this thing going tomorrow.

You moved H.B. Blades to the middle during spring. What did you think about that and is he staying?

Coach Wannstedt: I would expect H.B. to stay there. You know, he's one of those guys I believe lost almost 10 pounds. He's definitely one of our most experienced players. He's definitely one of our more instinctive players at that middle linebacker position. And with our scheme it is imperative that that guy is a quarterback of the defense. That player has to be a player who has a real good understanding of what we're trying to do. And with trying to learn a lot of new things, we thought H.B. could be a better player for us there. That's the whole purpose of moving everyone around. All we're trying to do is to generate as much speed as we possibly can on defense. We'll see. We've got some great battles going on. There's not one of our front seven who are lining up in the same position they lined up in last year. Everybody's new. We've got some great competition. Clint Session is not going to sit on the bench for anybody. I mean he's in there competing. The defensive line, I really don't know. I don't know how good individually these players can be yet at this point. Each guy has a lot of room to grow. We're putting guys in spots to create as much competition as possible. And that's what training camp's about. Everybody's got to show up. Everyone's got something to prove. When you line up in training camp, you're either trying to make the team, become a starter or make it into the rotation. That's the attitude you have to set. There's no ‘gimmes.' There's no comfort zone. Everyone's got to come in here and start over again and prove ourselves. On offense we're kind of facing the same thing on the offensive line. We have possibly a new center, for sure Dom Williams will be at guard. We'll move Charles Spencer out to tackle. So we're juggling things around there too. We'll try to put the players in a position which gives us the best chance to win and put them in a position to give them the best chance at success. One or two of these young receivers has to step up.

Can you talk about the quarterback situation and what you plan to do at the backup and will there be restraints on Tyler in practice?

Coach Wannstedt: The one thing for sure is that Shane Murray will not be playing safety. That's the only thing I do know. We're in a situation where it's going to be Billy Stull or Shane, where one of the two will be the backup. Does that concern me? Yeah it does because they're young. Now is it anything totally unusual? Not really. I believe that both of those kids have the ability and they both are smart enough to understand the responsibility that goes along with that. With Matt Cavanaugh, there's no one better to tutor a young quarterback in my opinion than Matt. It's going to be a challenge for us. The toughest thing when you have a freshman coming in is that the rest of the players who have been here are at one level because they've been here and gone through the spring. Now you have a freshman quarterback who is the most important guy in the huddle and has the most influence over the whole situation, and he's not there yet. So you have to be smart as a coach and not get ahead of yourself. That's going to be the challenge of having two young quarterbacks. As far as Tyler Palko, yes we will be very smart with him in training camp. Let's face it though. We're not going to put him in a situation where guys are live on him in practice. One of the best qualities Tyler has is his competitiveness. Half the time in the spring when I was screaming at the defensive guys to not hit him, Tyler was the one doing the hitting. That's going to happen when we start playing. For us to beat Notre Dame, he's going to have to make plays on his feet. He's going to have to do that for us to be a successful team. But we can control that in training camp.

As far as the freshmen go, how many are going to compete at running back and will all these guys still be at running back?

Coach Wannstedt: We're going to do some things tomorrow after practice with three or four of these freshman running backs and I'm going to have Paul Rhoads put them through some drills. Right now we're a little heavy at the running back position as far as the numbers go. But two or three of those kids could play defense. We just have to be real sure about that because we could use a little bit of help in the secondary as far as depth goes. Right now we have I think 14 running backs when you count the fullbacks. That's a good thing. The bad thing is I'm not sure who the starter is.

Where's Tim Murphy right now?

Coach Wannstedt: Tim Murphy, we better give a chance to him to win a starting job. Right now he's probably the most experienced guy we have at tailback.

Are you at all worried about the outside expectations and hype surrounding the program?

Coach Wannstedt: I think it's good. As a coach you're always trying to do the best job you can. You want your fans and your media and everyone to be as positive as you can be. But I believe you can still have that excitement for the program. Our program is making improvements. There's that fine line of catching up. It's getting our football team to catch up to the excitement. That's tough to do. It's very difficult to stand up here and talk about what kind of team we're going to have when I'm really not sure yet. I'll know more in two weeks. I'll know a heck of a lot more in three weeks. We're the only group that doesn't scrimmage another team. You know high schools can scrimmage each other. In the NFL you have your preseason games. We're going to go through training camp and the first time we find out what kind of team we have is when we step out there for the opener. That's just the way it is. There's uncertainty. Do I like the excitement? Sure. My focus is on training camp right now and that's really where it needs to be and just take it one at a time and make sure my guys play as well as they possibly can.

How do guys like Tyler (Palko) and Greg (Lee) handle that kind of individual hype and excitement and how do you ground them?

Coach Wannstedt: I think you constantly have to be talking to them about that. And they need to understand that talk is cheap and all that matters is what happens on the field. There's a time and place for everything. Right now is the time to go out and work and improve on our skills and get ready for the season. I think our guys are pretty good at not getting caught up about what's said in the papers. You face the excitement but you deal with it the right way. I'm very confident we'll handle it in the right way.

Will you keep Mike Phillips at safety or move him back to corner?

Coach Wannstedt: We moved Mike Phillips to safety. Right now Mike is also our nickel back when we go to third down situations. Mike's our third best corner and the reason we moved him to safety is to give us a chance to get our best players on the field. Will he stay at safety? That's to be seen. I think we have to take a good look and see where Sam Bryant's at. If he comes back and he's doing a great job then that's a luxury.

Will Darrelle Revis be returning any kicks?

Coach Wannstedt: He'll be one of the guys working on that during training camp and then we'll make an evaluation before Notre Dame.

How's your transition been between the NFL and the college game?

Coach Wannstedt: It's been good. You know I'm excited and anxious to get started with football. I think with the NFL starting the last couple of weeks – you see stuff on TV and read stuff in the papers – you get the bug to get started. I'm glad today's here. But I'm real excited about our players. The guys came back with a great attitude and did a great job this summer. That's always very encouraging to a coach.

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