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4-1-Zoo: Early Pitt Coaching Candidates

By: Chris Gates
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(File photo: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

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PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — This feels so familiar, and that’s because it is.

It’s so hard to start these pieces any other way. If it feels like you were just reading this, it’s because you probably were.

Yep, we’re off on another coaching search, and once again it starts with mapping out who the candidates are. Many of the names circling around this search should — just as the feelings you have right now — be familiar ones.

Others are new to the search and some that I’ve found seem completely out of the blue.

Let’s start with the candidates that are CONFIRMED. Of all the writers in this town, nobody covers Pitt better than Paul Zeise. If you’re not reading his Redshirt Diaries blog or following him on Twitter then you’re not doing your logical duty as a Pitt fan.

Moving on, he has a list of candidates he can confirm have been in talks with Pitt. They are Luke Fickell, Paul Rhoades, Mark Stoops, Paul Chryst and Ron Zook.

UPDATE, 12:37 p.m. — A television station in Iowa, ABC Channel 5, is reporting that Rhoads has signed a 10-year contract extension at Iowa State. That almost surely rules him out of the Pitt head coaching search.

Fickell served as the interim head coach at Ohio State and actually did a pretty good job. He dealt with a heavy mess — one far worse than at Pitt — and is a great recruiter. We didn’t see his name before, obviously, but he appears to be a very strong cadidate for the job.

Rhoads is a familiar name. He is currently at Iowa State and, while not putting up a staggering record, has done well and recorded some high-profile wins there (see this season against Oklahoma State). And if you’re wondering about his passion and committment — who wouldn’t after Todd Graham? — watch this video. Many regard him as the top candidate of the bunch.

Stoops is at Florida State and is a solid defensive coach and is going to take a head coaching job somewhere in the near future. He’s from Youngstown and apparently has an interest in the job.

Chryst is another familiar name, as the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin. He has shown ability to adapt as a coordinator and has been very successful in engineering the Badgers offense in his time at Wisconsin.

Zook is a name that completely blows me away. I’m shocked to see he is part of this. However, he and Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson are apparently very close and he has loads of head coaching experience. Zook held big jobs at Florida and Illinois but never lived up to expectations. He definitely can recruit, but he’s yet to prove much by way of championships (sounds a lot like Dave Wannstedt, eh?).

There are others, and you can put most of them in the “Pitt guy” category. Frank Cignetti, Sal Sunseri, Teryl Austin, Mark Whipple, Greg Gattuso and Tom Bradley are all rumored to be targets.

Of those, Teryl Austin is the most intriguing to me. He has a ton of college experience as a coordinator and success has followed. He currently coaches defensive backs with the Baltimore Ravens.

Many regard Austin as an incredibly intelligent person and he played at Pitt, so alumni and boosters would likely be a big fan.

One more big name that is being thrown around is Florida International coach Mario Cristobal. He reportedly hasn’t had an interview to date, but many name him as a top candidate for this job.

Time will tell to see if Pitt eventually reaches out to him.

This, just as last time, will have twists and turns and news will be outdated by the hour. I’ll do my best to keep you updated on all the happenings, so keep stopping by the blog for updates.

Other names: Dave Doeren, Keith Patterson, Curt Cignetti, Greg Roman, K.C. Keeler.

Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog
Twitter.com/Chris_Gates
Chris.Gates@cbsradio.com

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