Pitt Spring Game at Heinz Field Saturday

Panthers ready to have fun, battle for positions

Jeff Hathhorn
April 13, 2018 - 4:52 pm

93.7 the Fan

While it’s a new experience at Heinz Field for many Pitt teenagers Saturday at 1, it’s the same for defensive coordinator Randy Bates.  Not just because it’s first time in the stadium with the Panthers, but he’s never had thousands watch a spring practice.

“It’s so much more fun, truthfully,” Bates said of the Blue-Gold Game.  “It’s funny because this is my first experience where the staff are in rooms plotting against each other.  Where I’ve been before, because there are very few walk-ons, there are no spring games because there is very little depth.”

Bates says he’s been able to hold his own trash-talking the other assistants as the team was split during a player-led draft on Wednesday.

“I’m just looking for the kids to play hard,” Bates said.  “I’m looking for guys that are competing to be the starter.  We have so much depth and so many guys that are in similar positions.  This will be their last opportunity to see them for three months.  You don’t ever want to leave a game feeling bad and then have to live with it for three months.”

Along with the position battles, the move of Steel Valley star Paris Ford, if only for the spring, to corner will be worth a watch. 

With nearly four decades of coaching experience, Bates says it’s also a chance for the starters to play against the starters, which rarely happens in a regular practice.

“I would hope they would treat it in a professional manner and go and play like they would in a real game,” Bates said.  “That’s the way we are treating it.  I think it’s good for younger guys to learn how to prepare for a game and this is their opportunity to do that.”

“I think they are going to see some different players out there,” head coach Pat Narduzzi said of what the fans can expect.  “Everyone saw Kenny (Pickett) against Miami, but where is he now?  They are going to see another quarterback in Ricky Town, who I think is going to be a really good player.  He just keeps getting better. 

“They are going to see new faces all over the field.  Hopefully see them play at a high rate.  They’ll be mixed up, strengths and weaknesses out of both teams so it won’t be as clean as we want, but the important thing is to have fun.”

For redshirt freshman defensive lineman Rashaad Weaver it’s not only a chance to prove himself, but to catch the football.

“Coach Salem (TE coach) said if I get 4 sacks I can play tight end,” Weaver said.  “So now I have to get four sacks so I can play (offense) in the Spring Game.  So that is my mission.”

Weaver also knows the stakes involve steaks for the winning team.  The victors eat steak and lobster and for the first time, the losing team gets only vegetables. 

“I won’t eat here if we have a vegetable plate.”