Pitt offensive line coach John Peterson will not return to the program, Pittsburgh Sports Now reported early on Wednesday.
Peterson was one of the five coaches from Pat Narduzzi’s initial staff at Pitt in 2015 that was with the team, leaving just Rob Harley, Renaldo Hill, Andre Powell, Tim Salem and Kevin Sherman in that group.
After having a phenomenal 2016 season, but losing Adam Bisnowaty and Dorian Johnson tot the NFL, Pitt’s offensive line struggled to gel at the beginning of the 2017, despite possessing three seniors and a redshirt junior in Brian O’Neill that was recently projected to be a first-round draft pick. Though the slow start may have had something to do with Peterson’s departure, sources tell Pittsburgh Sports Now that this was more of a mutual parting.
So, who will replace Peterson? With the amount of upheaval happening in college football coaching ranks thanks to the addition of a 10th assistant, it could be almost anyone, but we’ve identified three candidates with Pittsburgh ties that could be in the mix.
Patton just finished his first season at Pitt as an offensive quality control coach, and he worked extensively with Pitt’s offensive line last season. Patton came to Pitt along with offensive coordinator Shawn Watson from Indiana. He served in a number of jobs with the Hoosiers, including tight ends and fullbacks coach, assistant defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator.
Patton also has worked at Oklahoma, Northwestern, Miami and Rhode Island, where he first coached under Pat Narduzzi. Narduzzi coached Patton when he was a tight end at Miami. Patton has already been on the road recruiting for Pitt, so it seems like a natural fit for him to become established as a full-time assistant, but his versatility means that it could be as an offensive line coach or somewhere else on the staff as the 10th assistant.
Patton has a fiery demeanor as a coach that seems to be a good fit personality-wise with Narduzzi. He is an Ohio native.
Janocko, a Pitt alum, is the current offensive quality control coach and assistant offensive line coach for the Minnesota Vikings. He just finished his third season in Minnesota and fifth in the NFL, but has yet to rise to the level of a full-time position coach.
He’s also worked with the tight ends at Minnesota and was the quarterbacks coach at Division II Mercyhurst in 2014. He worked with wide receivers, kick returns and quarterbacks as an offensive assistant at Tampa Bay from 2012 to 2013.
Janocko came to Pitt as a walk-on in 2007 and ended up earning a scholarship and was a three-year letterman as a backup quarterback and holder. He is a Clearfield, Pa. native.
Bucar was a Pitt graduate assistant twice, in 2012 and from 2015 to 2016 before leaving to join former offensive coordinator Matt Canada at LSU as an offensive analyst
A Penn-Trafford grad, Bucar played offensive line at the Division III level at Washington & Jefferson and was a two-time all-PAC first-team selection. Between stops at Pitt, he coached at Tiffin College.
Canada has left LSU and is heading to Maryland, and it’s possible that Bucar could follow him again, or return to Pitt, where he was well-thought of by the players as a technical instructor of offensive line techniques.
Ruffing has spent eight of the last nine years at Michigan State, where he worked alongside Narduzzi as an assistant offensive line coach, assistant strength coach, offensive analyst, graduate assistant and video intern.