As has been the case with most of Pat Narduzzi’s coaching searches, there hasn’t been a lot of noise coming out of the South Side in terms of potential candidates for Pitt’s offensive coordinator since Matt Canada departed for Louisiana State in late December.
That was the same way when Narduzzi hired Canada a year ago and most of his other assistants, as well. He doesn’t interview a ton of candidates, the vast majority of the ones he interviews, he hires, and he keeps those names pretty close to the vest.
But there are some signs that the time for a hire is nearing. First is the calendar. Narduzzi hired Canada on Jan. 8, 2016. His predecessor, Jim Chaney, was hired on Jan 15, 2015. So this is the time of year that Narduzzi has historically made some hires, and it makes sense. The recruiting dead period ends in less than a week, and it would be pretty useful to have an offensive coordinator in place for the stretch run of recruiting season.
The other factor is the annual American Football Coaches Association conference, which is taking place this week in Nashville. The AFCA meetings are a place where are lot of coaches go to network and job search and it would be an easy place to discreetly interview a coach that already has a high-profile job.
One such coach could be Alabama wide receivers coach Billy Napier. Though Napier is probably not in Nashville, as the Crimson Tide just lost in the National Championship game Monday night, he has a more direct link to Pitt. He just followed Narduzzi and defensive coordinator Josh Conklin on Twitter in the past few days.
Napier is an interesting candidate that seems to check off many of the boxes of what Narduzzi would be looking for in an offensive coordinator. He’s in his late 30’s, is very energetic, and has the type of experience that Pitt is looking for.
Though a receivers coach at Alabama, he has offensive coordinator experience at Clemson, where he was on Dabo Swinney’s original staff. He also coached quarterbacks, tight ends and was a recruiting coordinator at Clemson in two different stints and has coached at Colorado State and South Carolina, as well.
His experience as an offensive coordinator was somewhat mixed. In his first season at Clemson in 2009, his offense set a school record with 436 points scored and made a trip to the ACC Championship game. In 2010, things fell apart, with the offense averaging just 16.7 points in Clemson’s seven losses. There were also rumors of Napier and Swinney not always seeing eye-to-eye and Napier was dismissed after the season. Also a part of that Clemson staff and also dismissed after the 2010 season was current Pitt running backs coach Andre Powell, another connection Napier has with Pitt.
That’s not a ton of track record to go on as far as playcalling experience, but the experience of coaching at big-time programs like Clemson and Alabama is a pretty big draw. So is Napier’s ability to recruit in the talent-rich areas of the Deep South. Historically dominated by the SEC schools and Pitt’s more-southern ACC rivals, the Panthers have made inroads in that area recently, landing 2016 linebacker Cameron Bright from Alabama.
At this point, it’s just a name, an old coaching connection and some Twitter follows, but he’s certainly someone to keep an eye on as the process comes to a conclusion.