EAST LANSING - It's been 22 years since Pat Narduzzi wore shoulder pads in a game situation. But he'd like to put them on for just a couple of plays on Friday in the season opener against Youngstown State, the school that fired his father. Narduzzi said Youngstown State in the recent past has operated out of the shot gun close to 80 percent of the time. "They are mostly spread," he said> "They will be zone reads, guys in motion where there is a pitch guy as well."
Narduzzi, now Michigan State's defensive coordinator, was a freshman linebacker at Youngstown State in 1985 when YSU released Bill Narduzzi as head coach.
Pat Narduzzi has fond memories of his time in Youngstown, but the sting of his father's final days there won't be forgotten on Friday when the 2011 season kicks off.
"For me it's a big game, just because my dad was a coach and A.D. for part of that time when he was there for 11 years," Narduzzi said on Wednesday afternoon at Michigan State's Skandalaris Center. "So it's a big game. They fired him back in 1985. I played for him as a freshman, so, you know ... I wish I could play."
Bill Narduzzi went 68-51-1 as head coach at Youngstown State.
"Favorite memory? There is plenty of them," said Pat Narduzzi. "When we played in the National Championship in 1979 in the Zia Bowl in New Mexico against Delaware, and got beat by Scott Brunner, a great NFL quarterback who played for the Giants for a bunch of years. There are plenty of memories but probably the best one was when I got to be a Penguin, I played there as a true freshman, playing for my dad, that was special."
But Pat Narduzzi played for him for only one season, as his father was fired at season's end.
"You don't forget. You don't forget," Narduzzi said. "You never forget that."
Narduzzi finished his playing career at the University of Rhode Island. His father passed away, due to cancer, just three years after his firing, at age 51 in 1988. He was defensive coordinator at Columbia University at the time.
Whole Lotta Tape
Narduzzi said preparation for Youngstown State's zone read option spread has been serious and anxious.
"There is a lot of tape," Narduzzi said. "We have a whole year; we have every game they've got. Preparation is going good. We are doing what they do; I'm sure they will have some new things, we will have some new things for them, but preparation is going good."
"Oh yeah, you should feel my stomach right now," Narduzzi said. "I just had a couple of alums up there (in the office) saying, 'Oh yeah, it's going to be good.' No, I want to get a win. That's all that matters.
"There is a nervousness any time you are putting a new guy out on the field at any position, I don't care if it's a long snapper or a punter, it's a football game. We were in there talking depth chart and I said this is a Big Ten championship game in my opinion. You guys can overlook 'em, we certainly aren't."
Linebacker Shuffling Could Continue
Narduzzi revealed that junior Chris Norman has been taking reps at Sam linebacker. Norman started at 'star' linebacker last year and there were plans in the spring to move Norman inside to Sam linebacker, which is a more physical position.
But Norman missed the spring due to an arm injury. Coaches decided to keep him at 'star' for August camp, mainly to retain as much familiarity as possible at the linebacker position, where the Spartans are having to replace two starters
Denicos Allen has repped as a No. 1 and No. 2 Sam linebacker, and also as a No. 2 'star' linebacker behind Norman. The Spartans have been shuffling things a bit in order to find the best combination of three. Apparently, the combination of Allen at 'star' and Norman at Sam is a possibility again.
"There is a three-way battle (at Sam)," Narduzzi said. "Chris Norman, Denicos Allen and Steve Gardiner all get reps at that position. In the next four weeks, we are going to find out who is in there. You guys will be able to pick the depth when you watch the games out there on Saturday, and say, 'wow, that guys made plays; oh that guy missed a play.' We will probably see something similar."
Allen spent the spring outside at 'star' linebacker. He moved to Sam for the first time at the outset of August camp. He has a base of knowledge at both positions. Narduzzi said any combination that includes Allen and Norman on the field at the same time gives the Spartans their most athletic linebacking unit.
Rush, Gholston Looking Good
Narduzzi hinted that redshirt freshman Marcus Rush could be the choice as a starting defensive end.
"It's been about a week and a half that he has been steady in there, just doing good things and making plays," Dantonio said. "He has been the darkhorse guy that you kind of say, 'Okay, he'll be the fourth or fifth wheel.' And all the sudden he is up there with the first team."
MSU headed into training camp with William Gholston and Tyler Hoover as strong favorites to start at d-end. Now, one of them may come off the bench in the opener.
"We're not going to play favorites," Narduzzi said. "We are going to play the guys that get it done on the field and that's what it comes down to at every position."
The starting nod is a little overrated at defensive end.
"We really have five ends that could play for us, that could rotate in there that we feel pretty good about," Narduzzi said. "With Denzel Drone and Rush, two good pass rushers, two guys that can get to the quarterback, play with leverage. You have Gholston and Tyler Hoover and Corey Freeman.
"It's just trying to play our two best players. It's daily. It's what did you do for me lately? They are all going to play. I have told they are all pretty much starters, it's just who is going to have their name called out and who prepares better. So that's where it sits today."
Gholston is revved up.
"He's excited," Narduzzi said. "He has been making more plays. So it is going to be a big day for William."
Gholston missed the last three games of his sophomore season due to a shoulder injury. The highly-touted sophomore has shown a good level of consistency lately.
"He's just been steady," Narduzzi said. "Maybe his technique is getting a little bit better. The big thing with William was getting into that gameplan week. He played against our offense, he knew what was going on, he could play with good technique. All the sudden now you get into a spread offense and all the sudden we put something else on his plate that he has to have discipline for option football and he has been able to do that the last couple of days."
Narduzzi is ready to handle day-to-day operations at any time this week as head coach Mark Dantonio returns to Zanesville, Ohio for his father's funeral, today and Thursday. Many members of MSU's athletic department will be present at visitation hours tonight in Zanesville.
"Nothing dynamically changes," Narduzzi said about taking over head coaching duties on a temporary basis. "Our kids feel bad for Coach Dantonio. We do what we do, and the program runs."
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