Now that we have run through each position for the 2015 Pitt Panthers football team, we’ll now provide an overview of the coaching staff.
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Aside from hitting the recruiting trail hard, this staff has utilized social media to revive the Pitt football excitement that has been missing as of late. I suggest giving these guys a follow on Twitter for updates regarding the football team.
The man in charge of the 2015 Pitt Panthers is head coach Pat Narduzzi (@CoachDuzzPittFB) who left Michigan State this offseason. He inherited a squad with the most freshmen and sophomores in the country last season. On Twitter, Narduzzi, who now has nearly 35,000 followers, has been mentioning “PITT IS IT! #H2P” to indicate a new verbal commitment, and he adds inspirational quotes and pictures of former and current Pitt footballers. Narduzzi will face his hometown squad, the Youngstown State Penguins, in his first game at the helm of Pitt this Saturday.
Josh Conklin (@CoachConklin) is Pitt’s defensive coordinator. Conklin, 35, was the defensive coordinator at FIU this past season, leading a defense that ranked fourth in FBS with 33 forced turnovers, and 35th in total defense (363.8 yards per game). This is a welcome change for Pitt football, as fans heavily criticized former defensive coordinator Matt House, in which players seemed out of position during crucial moments of the game. An added bonus is that Conklin has some Florida ties in the recruiting aspect. I expect Conklin to play a crucial role in improvement of the Pitt secondary, which showed severe vulnerability last season.
Jim Chaney (@CoachJimChaney) is the offensive coordinator, as he made a lateral move to Pitt from Arkansas. Chaney coached at Purdue when Drew Brees emerged, and his offenses have relied on pro-style attacks and strong passing games. Chaney noted that Pitt was a great job to take based on working with Narduzzi and the pure talent on the roster, as he departed from the SEC West. He will look to make Pitt a more dangerous offense, utilizing Conner and Boyd, as well as additional weapons. I expect Chaney to utilize the tight ends, as well as additional running backs like Chris James.
John Peterson (@CoachJPete) is the offensive line coach that brings experience to Pitt. Peterson was the offensive line coach at Akron last season, the same Zips team that defeated Pitt. Peterson was a starting guard at Ohio State in 1990. He’ll look to work with a large, powerful offensive line that was constructed under the Paul Chryst staff. The offensive line looks to be a strong unit for Pitt, led by Adam Bisnowaty, and hopefully they can protect quarterback Chad Voytik.
Tim Salem (@CoachTimSalem) is the tight ends coach. He was the Illinois special teams coach last season, and he has 20 years of experience. He has been an offensive coordinator at Purdue, Eastern Michigan, and Phoenix College. Salem will work the position that returns upperclassmen J.P. Holtz and Scott Orndoff, who need to be used in the passing game more often.
Rob Harley (@robharley34) is linebackers coach. Harley, a former safety at Ohio State, coached an impressive and surprising FIU linebacker corps this past season. Coach Harley has been deemed a recruiting “closer” and he’ll look to revamp a Pitt linebacker corps that lost Anthony Gonzalez and Todd Thomas to graduation. As we have seen with the Steelers, the linebackers will play an important role on the toughness and success of the Pitt defense.
Renaldo Hill (@CoachillPitt) is the cornerbacks coach. The former Michigan State Spartan and Miami Dolphins defensive back spent the last three years at Wyoming. He doesn’t have much college coaching experience, but playing in the NFL for ten seasons isn’t too bad, eh? Narduzzi specialized in developing defensive playmakers in the secondary, and I expect Hill to take some pointers from Pat and quickly build a fast, hard-hitting secondary with Jordan Whitehead as one of the emerging leaders.
With the First Pick
Tom Sims (@CoachTomSims) is the defensive line coach. He is a former Pitt player who played seven seasons in the NFL. He was the defensive line coach and assistant head coach at Youngstown State last season, and he has coached defensive lines for almost 20 years. He’ll get to work with seniors K.K. Mosely-Smith and Darryl Render, as well as JUCO-transfer Allen Edwards, who hopes to instantly contribute to a pass-rush that was non-existent at times last season.
Kevin Sherman (@coach_ksherman) is the wide receivers coach. He brings much experience, as he recently coached wide receivers for two seasons at Purdue and seven seasons for Virginia Tech. Aside from the talented Tyler Boyd, who will be suspended for the season opener, Sherman will look to develop other wideouts such as Jester Weah and transfer Rafael Araujo-Lopes.
Andre Powell (@CoachAPowell) is special teams coordinator and running backs coach. Powell has known Narduzzi for more than 20 years, and led an impressive unit at Maryland this past season. Coach Powell will look to bolster a fundamentally sound Pitt special teams unit this season.
Another guy worth mentioning is Dave Andrews, the head of strength and conditioning. He was at Notre Dame the past season for strength and conditioning. A former player at Ohio State, Andrews will provide immediate toughness and experience to the young Pitt Panthers. Narduzzi indicated that the team gained 362 pounds of “horsepower” and lost 230 pounds of “cargo” when discussing muscle gain and fat loss this offseason. Of note, senior cornerback Lafayette Pitts dropped 17 pounds, and running back James Conner dropped 15 pounds of “cargo” according to the staff.
I have faith that this staff was given the correct tools by the University to succeed. With a staff full of recruiters hungry to win a National Championship, Pitt should be much more successful in the future than in years past. I am looking forward to the opener on Saturday.