Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi will have a decision to make in the next few weeks when it comes to his defensive coordinator.
The first decision he’ll have to make is whether to make an internal promotion or an external hire. With a pair of intriguing internal candidates, he very well could pick the former.
If it’s an external hire, the pool expands quite considerably, but we can use Narduzzi’s other hires at Pitt to try to narrow down the field and see who he might be looking at to replace Josh Conklin.
Narduzzi has made four coordinator hires since taking over at Pitt: Conklin and offensive coordinators Jim Chaney, Matt Canada and Shawn Watson.
All four came to Pitt with previous coordinator experience. All four were fairly young — between the ages of 35 (Conklin) and 58 (Watson). Three of the four are from the midwest, with Conklin being the exception. Two of the four (Canada and Watson) previously worked with Narduzzi.
So if we use those criteria of middle-aged coaches with coordinator experience that previous worked with Narduzzi, who does that leave? Well, not a whole ton of options, but it’s quite a short list.
Tressel followed Narduzzi from Cincinnati to Michigan State and worked with him as a linebackers coach for 11 years before Narduzzi came to Pitt. The Spartans gave Tressel a raise and elevated him to co-defensive coordinator alongside Harlon Barnett. It’s possible that with a larger pool for assistants, Narduzzi will be able to lure Tressel away. But there’s a potential complication. Florida State is trying to hire Barnett, which could give Tressel a path to calling the plays in East Lansing.
Shafer and Narduzzi go way back to their days together at Rhode Island in the early 1990s. The two have remained close friends and Shafer moonlighted with Pitt as a consultant while he was in between jobs after being fired as head coach at Syracuse following the 2015 season. Shafer spent last year as the defensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee State. The Blue Raiders finished the year 7-6 and Shafer’s unit finished No. 35 in the country in total defense.
Daoust isn’t a big-name pick like the ones listed above, but he checks most of the boxes. He worked with Narduzzi, Barnett and Tressel at Cincinnati and is currently the defensive coordinator at Western Michigan, where he had the Mustangs finish No. 55 in the country in total defense.
George coached the defensive line for Narduzzi at Miami in 2003 and later spent six seasons as the co-defensive coordinator at Indiana. He’s now just finished his second year as the coordinator at Toledo, where he led the MAC champs to a No. 59 mark in total defense.
Of course, there are a whole lot of coaches out there that don’t have ties to Narduzzi or whose ties are less obvious that are more than qualified for the job. With a talented young defense that improved as 2017 went on, it should be a position that attracts a good deal of interest.