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Pitt to get all new assistants

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By John Grupp
Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010
 

The Pitt football coaching staff is starting to take shape, but don't expect any familiar faces.

Newly hired coach Mike Haywood announced Tuesday he will be bringing along 74-year-old offensive coordinator Morris Watts from Miami (Ohio) and doesn't plan to retain anybody from Dave Wannstedt's staff.

"We're bringing in nine new assistant coaches," he said in an interview with Rivals Radio.

Haywood, who's on the road, couldn't be reached for comment. Haywood had earlier said Bill Elias, an assistant head coach at Miami (Ohio), would be joining the Pitt staff.

Pitt third-year defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, who has coached at nine different schools since 1979, said cleaning house for a new coach is "totally understandable."

"It's a changing of the guard," Bennett said. "Mike's got to have his guys, and that's totally understandable. It's the way of the business.

"Sometimes, you have a connection, and some get to stay. But there's not any (hard feelings) when this happens. I don't think anybody is upset. They know it's standard."

Pitt secondary coach Jeff Hafley was offered a job on Haywood's staff, but he instead accepted a position on coach Greg Schiano's staff at Rutgers. Hafley, a New Jersey native whose father is battling an illness, is regarded as one of the top young recruiters in the Big East.

Haywood, 46, said he's keeping two or three administrators — director of football operations Chris LaSala and director of relations Bob Junko are two likely candidates to stay — along with all of the graduate assistants and interns.

The new staff is expected to be completed by the end of the week, Haywood said.

"Guys are starting to come in," he said.

The first staff meeting is Jan. 9 — the day after Pitt's bowl game with Kentucky — and the first team meeting is Jan. 12, Haywood said.

Watts, who will coordinate a New England Patriots-style offense, is the third-oldest coach in Division I college football, behind only Penn State's Joe Paterno (84) and Florida Atlantic's Howard Schnellenberger (76).

Haywood said he's met a couple times with Wannstedt, who was forced to resign after a 7-5 season. The two have talked about recruiting, existing personnel and the future of the team.

"I appreciate his efforts because I understand his situation," Haywood said during the radio interview. "He has been nothing but a true gentleman, and I truly appreciate that."

Pitt hasn't announced if Wannstedt will coach the Panthers in the Jan. 8 BBVA Compass Bowl against Kentucky (6-6).

As for the rest of the current Pitt staff, they will be sending out resumes.

Bennett, a highly regarded defensive coordinator, likely will be on a sideline somewhere next season.

"First, I'm going to do everything I can to win this bowl," he said. "I have some opportunities. Fortunately, I can be selective; hopefully, somewhere down in the south."

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