PITTSBURGH — It seemed like Tom Bradley was a sure thing to be Pitt’s next head football coach at one point on Wednesday. It seemed like Pitt fans would have an easy-going weekend.
Not so much.
Thursday brought us a handful of other candidates, a lot of confusion over who has been interviewed and who hasn’t and the overwhelming question over when this search will end. By the end of the day we saw some targets drop out of the conversation and got word that some key players will be leaving the team. We also had some Twitter drama!
First off, KDKA-TV broke news late Thursday night that running back Dion Lewis will likely declare for this year’s NFL Draft. He was reportedly told he projects as a third-round selection and that was enough to convince him to leave. Lewis has two years of eligibility left.
Also, fullback Henry Hynoski is strongly considering leaving as well. It is reported that he is worried about the direction of the offense under the next head coach. If the next coach moves away from the pro-style set former coach Dave Wannstedt liked to run, Hynoski would likely not see the same type of playing time he enjoyed this season.
Aside from player news, Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst is now no longer a candidate for the Pitt coaching job. Around lunchtime on Thursday he appeared to be a candidate, but by the end of the day was reportedly told by Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson that he was no longer part of the search.
Now that we’ve got the immediate, need-to-know news out of the way, here’s a look at the candidates that appear to be legitimate contenders for the job…
Tom Bradley — Defensive Coordinator, Penn State:
He has become what almost every Pitt fan wants and desires. I’m not going to go in to too much detail because I wrote about him yesterday and explained why he is Pitt’s best choice and can turn this debacle in to a perfect situation.
Briefly, he has been at Penn State for 32 years and has been defensive coordinator for over a decade. He can bring Pitt back to relevance right now, give them a chance to recruit well now — and in the future — and he has the credentials to be a great coach for a long time.
He’s from Johnstown and has a ton of ties in the area. He fits the Pitt job perfectly, it seems.
Teryl Austin — Defensive coordinator, Florida:
The Gators are in flux with Urban Meyer’s recent retirement. Therefore, Austin is probably looking for somewhere else to go.
He, like Bradley, has a great resume and his name has circulated about for a few head coaching vacancies. Something else on his resume that intrigues – he played at Pitt from 1984-87.
He has a rather heralded recruiting background and has done especially well in the Western Pennsylvania area. As Paul Zeise points out in his blog, Austin was the guy picking players like Steve Breaston out of this area when he was at Michigan.
He was rumored likely to come to Pitt with Bradley as the defensive coordinator, but now has become an interviewee for the head coaching position.
Todd Graham — Head Coach, Tulsa:
Graham is probably the least known of the bunch, but don’t brush him off. He has won 10 or more games three times in four years as head coach at Tulsa. In that time he has put together one of the more potent offenses in the country.
His offense was ranked No. 8 in scoring (41.4 points per game), No. 13 in passing (288.7 yards per game) and No. 15 in rushing (216.9 yards per game) in the entire country in 2010. The Golden Hurricanes finished this season 10-3, beating Hawaii by a score of 62-35 in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.
Graham was also head coach at Rice for one season. He served as defensive coordinator at Tulsa the three years prior to coaching at Rice. Graham also served two years at West Virginia on the defensive side of the ball.
Graham was reportedly a very serious candidate in Pitt’s first coaching search but wanted too much money. Something — we don’t know exactly what — has changed this time around and he is now back in the mix.
Lastly, this coaching situation will likely last a couple more days. Paul Zeise wrote Thursday evening that Pederson expects to interview each candidate once, break the group down to a smaller pool of serious contenders and then they will all meet with Chancellor Mark Nordenberg.
Monday seems like a legitimate day, in my opinion. There appear to still be initial interviews to be had before the serious pool of candidates is confirmed. So at least two more days seems likely.
At that, Pitt probably won’t declare something during the NFL playoffs. Mike Tomlin’s press conference is Tuesday…
This thing, if I had to predict, will be done on Monday.
But stick to Area 4-1-Zoo. I will update you if anything serious happens. Follow me on Twitter or e-mail me for more immediate updates if you’d like.
As a little treat, this popped up on Twitter yesterday.
Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog