It’s a new day, a new era, accompanied with a new field of expectations. It has been years since Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has been filled with the amount of hopeful optimism when pondering Pitt football. Sure, their is new head coach, Pat Narduzzi, a new athletic director in Scott Barnes, and rumblings of new uniforms to be unveiled in 2016. But beyond the cosmetics of the hype lies a new breed of relentless, high motored, and unrivaled attitude.
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CL: What has been the largest and most rewarding aspect of coaching from the past that you feel has had the greatest return/impact on your time so far at Pitt? How do you see your experience making an impact at Pitt?
RH: I’ve been fortunate to be around some unbelievable leaders, motivators, and coaches in my football career. My experiences as a player and a coach with guys like Jim Tressel, Mark Dantonio, Jim Bollman, Bill Conley, Darrell Hazell, Paul Haynes, Ron Turner, Pat Narduzzi, etc. have helped shape who I am and what I believe as a coach. It’s those interactions with those amazing teachers that have helped me grow well beyond my years, and I think it’s the main reason I’ve had a good amount of success.
CL: With the assortment of coaches picked from various conferences and their experience, including yourself, how significant was the learning curve to become accustomed to each others strengths and preferences for practices, tape review, etc.?
RH: At the end of the day football is football, so getting into a flow with the other coaches happens fast. The good news for us on defense is that Coach Conklin and myself worked together for a season at FIU, so we are very familiar with how eachother operates. We really enjoy working together and we have a good relationship on and off the field, which makes working together a lot of fun.
As a whole, this staff has been the closest staff I’ve been around. The connection between all of us was immediate, and it felt like we had all been coaching together for years. These strong relationships will pay dividends as we chase championships here at Pitt.
CL: Being a new staff, it may be difficult to comment, but how has the addition of Dave Andrews in the weight-room made a difference? From the outside it looks like it could be as much mental as physical, any truth?
RH: I can’t speak to the difference Coach Andrews has made because I just arrived on campus, and I was not at Pitt with any of the other previous staffs. However, I can speak to Dave’s insatiable work ethic and energy with the 2015 Pitt Panthers. He’s as intense as they come and he demands maximum effort on every rep. I think he creates an environment that is hard to ignore. It’s like a tidal wave, if you’re around it you will get swept up in it. I think our players have bought into Dave and his staff because they see how much those guys care.
With the First Pick
CL: The linebacking core lost some key leadership through graduation in Todd Thomas, Anthony Gonzales, and David Durham, how do you replace their charisma and ability to lead with a young team behind them? Through spring practices/scrimmages, who has stood out to step up and make a viable impact in their absence? Matt Galambos, Jamal Davis, or maybe a freshman in Saleem?
RH: The entire Linebacker unit really stepped up this Spring. They’ve had to learn some new defenses and intricacies, but they’ve accepted that challenge and are pushing every day to be perfect. You never like to lose significant members of your unit, especially leaders, but I feel like we’ve got some guys in this LB room that have been in the fire and can help us compete at a high level. I think the shared focus that these guys have right now as they learn our defense is something that is bringing them closer, and has given them a specific purpose to circle the wagons and bond as a group.
CL: What makes this Pitt defense a contender from the get-go and conversely what could hold them back from the get-go?
RH: The beautiful thing about college football is that you are a contender every year. We will always get as our works deserve, so our preparation through Spring and the offseason will align us for success. Right now, these guys have been unbelievable in their training. They understand that the stakes are high, and that success doesn’t come at bargain prices. Consistency will always be the critical factor with any team or defense. Can we operate a high level longer than everyone else? That is the question that burns in our stomachs every day, and it’s the reason we do what we do as coaches and players.
CL: Getting through one spring as a staff, what has been one of the biggest take-aways from coach Narduzzi and how he approaches each day?
RH: I’ve had the good fortune to work with Coach Narduzzi for two years prior to Pitt so I’m very familiar with how he operates. He’s a tireless competitor, an expert teacher, and a demanding leader. He cares about his players and staff, and there’s nothing he won’t do for one of his own. I think it’s his energy and fire that set him a part from a lot of others. Our players feed off his emotion, and our entire team will be a mirror image of Coach Narduzzi’s passion as we move forward.
CL: Being all over the country on different days and having the strong ability to connect via Twitter with fans, recruits, etc., what has the importance of connecting via Twitter meant for you and the program as a whole? – – Where do you muster the energy to keep going like that?
RH: I personally feel like connecting with the Pitt fan base is part of my responsibility. I want to make sure the fans feel close to the process and can forge a bond with our program at all times. Fans are an enormous part of what makes college football such a special environment, and shame on me if I don’t help foster that relationship with the fans. The energy needed comes from those fans!! The more connected they are, the more connected I am. I expect a rabid following no matter what here at Pitt.
CL: With a lot on your plate as a coach, if you had to take a minute and think of your favorite aspect of coaching at a major D1 program, what would that be?
RH: Coaching at any level is one of the most rewarding jobs out there.
There’s something special in being a part of a group of individuals that attack a unified vision on a daily basis.
That connection bonds all of us together forever and it’s the reason I got into coaching in the first place. Being able to do this job at a place like Pitt that has such a rich football tradition is really a dream come true. I’m a big history guy, so I understand the responsibility we have as coaches at Pitt to uphold the legacy of all the great teams, players, and coaches that came before us.
CL: Why Pitt? Why can this team win championships now?
RH: We have so much at are disposal here at Pitt, that we will have every opportunity to win championships. Unbelievable tradition so there’s a foundation of success here, and our current players have the opportunity to learn from that rich history daily. Quality and innovative leadership from our administration and coaches.
You always have to make sure you have everyone pointed in the same direction, and I think our leaders here at Pitt have laser-like focus on winning championships. Last but not least, our players will always be are #1 resource. We’ve got a group with great character and an intense will to succeed. I think our players are invested in the process and we can’t wait to show Pitt football fans everywhere just how good we can be.
When I had the chance to talk with Coach Narduzzi and just briefly mentioned Rob, immediately he said, “You’re going to love the guy, very energetic and knowledgeable.”
My take from the chance to Q&A Coach Harley can be described in a short phrase; Rob Harley is enthusiastically humble. Enthusiastically humble in multiple facets. One being humble for the opportunity at Pitt. Second being humble with the process he has taken to gain this opportunity and the chance to be a huge factor in rejuvenating this proud tradition.
What I enjoy the most and the aspect which I believe could pay off the most for sustained success, is his ability to display a sense of youthful discipline. I have bought stock in his ability to present Pitt as a world-class institution known for bonding with its players and recruits at a microscopic level. For instance..
Referring to himself as an historian, Harley can use that advantage on the road and air as he is shaping up to be a vital recruiter for the program. Harley has spent so much time on the road and racking up frequent-flyer-miles the last six months since his arrival in Pittsburgh. Time well spent considering he was a focal presenter and influence on recruits all over the country to resurrect the 2015 class. Making stops in California, Florida, New Jersey, and Virginia in a given stretch of time. Often times in consecutive days.
With all the information, I get the sense that a family culture is of the utmost importance. He references that he and the rest of the staff have a great working relationship and friendship out of the office. Specifically mentioning that this is the closest staff he has had the chance to experience and be apart of. Instilling that sort of relationship with the coaches is only going to rub off on the players thus driving a trusted comfort through the entire program. All of which should cater to positive results.
Lastly, we all know it is going to be a tough sled with difficult work to get the program to where the expectations demand them to be. When they encounter difficulty, they are running to confront and defeat the source as opposed to waiting on the source to present itself and dictating the pace.
This is a hard-nosed staff headed by Narduzzi, but have numerous warriors behind the immediate lines to fight to conquer their highest of goals and dreams. As a person deeply entrenched in the football mission, I couldn’t ask for a better warrior to help lead the pack going forward.
It’s going to be an enjoyable time watching Coach Harley grow within himself and the Pitt football program in the coming months and years.
He is a Pitt Panther first, coach and mentor second.
I want to take the due time to graciously thank Rob for his time and contribution to my overall effort. All of the time for this was dedicated in the midst of recruiting, various camps, and personal time and is something I endlessly appreciate.
Along with Rob, I want to thank one of the biggest “Pitt Guys” that I know, EJ Borghetti, for permitting the fabrication of the interview.
Thank you both for your steadfast dedication and the ways in which you guys represent the University of Pittsburgh and the Panther tradition.
HAIL to PITT!