Pitt defensive coordinator Josh Conklin is expected to be announced as the next head coach at Wofford College on Wednesday.
The departure sets up a coordinator vacancy for the third straight offseason for Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi, but he’s yet to have one on the defensive side of the ball.
With news of Conklin’s departure just breaking late on Monday, there hasn’t been much time for external candidates to come to the forefront. But Pitt has a pair of quality internal options in defensive line coach Charlie Partridge and linebackers coach Rob Harley.
Partridge, 44, came to Pitt in 2017 after spending three years as the head coach at Florida Atlantic. He was also the assistant head coach at Arkansas in 2013 and the associate head coach and co-defensive coordinator at Wisconsin from 2011 to 2012.
Partridge’s defenses at FAU were a mixed bag. The Owls finished 70th in the nation in yards per game in 2015, but were 113th in 2014 and 124th in 2016. Arkansas was No. 76 in 2013. Wisconsin finished No. 15 in both years Partridge ran the Badgers’ defense.
Harley, 35, worked with Narduzzi at Michigan State in 2012 and 2013. He was then linebackers coach at Florida International under Conklin in 2014. He’s been at Pitt since Narduzzi was first hired and was recently promoted to recruiting coordinator before the 2017 season.
Both men seem to be viable options for the coordinator opening. Partridge has more experience calling defensive plays, while Harley brings more years of knowledge of Narduzzi’s defense to the table.
One of the main reasons that an internal candidate would be an attractive one for this opening is the level of control Narduzzi exerts over the defense. The scheme Pitt played under Narduzzi and Conklin more closely resembled what Narduzzi did as defensive coordinator at Michigan State than what Conklin did at Florida International.
A promotion from within would allow Narduzzi to fill out the staff without having to deal with a coordinator that is new to the defense he prefers to run. There will undoubtedly also be external candidates for the job, some of which may have experience running Narduzzi’s scheme.
The American Football Coaches Association will have its annual convention Jan 7-10 in Charlotte, North Carolina, which is a time of year that many coaches interview for positions and coaching changes are finalized.
Pitt will also have another opening on the staff to fill this offseason thanks to a chance in NCAA rules, which will now allow Division I teams to have 10 full-time coaches on staff. The previous maximum had been nine.
Partridge replaced former defensive line coach Tom Sims for the 2017 season and Shawn Watson in Narduzzi’s third offensive coordinator but the rest of the staff — Harley, defensive back coach Renaldo Hill, tight ends coach Tim Salem, offensive line coach John Peterson, wide receivers coach Kevin Sherman and running backs coach Andre Powell — have been with Narduzzi since the beginning of his tenure at Pitt.