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Pitt defensive coordinator Josh Conklin takes head coaching job at Wofford

Jerry DiPaola
| Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, 9:54 p.m.
Pitt defensive coordinator Josh Conklin is leaving to take over at Wofford.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt defensive coordinator Josh Conklin is leaving to take over at Wofford.

Pat Narduzzi's off-season will be interesting. But aren't they all?

For the third consecutive year, Pitt's coach must replace one of the most important members of his staff after defensive coordinator Josh Conklin accepted the head coaching position at Wofford College. Wofford associate athletic director Brent Williamson confirmed Conklin's hiring Tuesday morning.

Wofford, an FCS school in Spartanburg, S.C., has scheduled a news conference for 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Narduzzi lost offensive coordinators after his first two seasons at Pitt when Jim Chaney went to Georgia in 2015 and Matt Canada was hired at LSU in ‘16. This will be the first time Narduzzi will replace a defensive coordinator.

For Conklin, 38, Wofford represents his first head coaching opportunity. He was defensive backs coach and special teams coach there from 2007-2009 under coach Mike Ayers, who retired in December after 30 years at the school.

Conklin, who was one of several people to interview for the Wofford job, has held coordinator positions at The Citadel, Florida International and Pitt. He also spent the 2012 season as the safeties coach at Tennessee.

Conklin, who joined Narduzzi on his first staff in ‘15, helped direct a Pitt defense whose results have been up and down over the past three years. Pitt was ranked 37th in total defense in ‘15, slumped to 101st in ‘16, but rose last season to 69th after Conklin and Narduzzi rebuilt the unit with several young players in key positions.

Under Conklin, Pitt's defense usually has been strong against the run -- a philosophical emphasis he shared with Narduzzi -- finishing 16th in the nation in ‘16, allowing 119.6 yards per game. That year, Pitt was tied for sixth in the NCAA with 3.31 sacks per game and scored four defensive touchdowns.

Pitt was 40th against the run this season (142.4), and the defense punctuated its effort by holding ACC Coastal Division champion Miami to 14 points in the season finale, a stunning upset of the previously undefeated Hurricanes.

Narduzzi has a coach on his staff who has been a coordinator at Power 5 school. Defensive line coach Charlie Partridge, who was hired a year ago, was co-defensive coordinator at Wisconsin in 2011 and 2012 and head coach at Florida Atlantic from 2014-2016. He also served as an assistant under former Pitt head coaches Walt Harris and Dave Wannstedt.

Former Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer, now the defensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee, has served with Narduzzi on staffs at Rhode Island and Northern Illinois. Shafer, who visited Pitt's training camp in 2016 when he was out of coaching, has been coordinator at Syracuse, Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, Stanford and Michigan.

Wofford won Southern Conference this season with a 10-3 record, its seventh championship since 2003. Ayers led Wofford to eight FCS playoff berths in the past 15 seasons.

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