Panthers preparing for bowl game without defensive coordinator

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The past two seasons, Pitt has traveled to the BBVA Compass Bowl without a head coach. This year, the Panthers likely will travel to Birmingham without a full-time defensive coordinator.

Dave Huxtable resigned Friday to take the same position at North Carolina State. Pitt coach Paul Chryst said Tuesday he didn't anticipate having a permanent replacement by the time Pitt takes on Mississippi Jan. 5.

"We've got good coaches," Chryst said. "We'll put a plan together, players will know it and we'll go execute it."

The Panthers only have three defensive coaches in place for bowl practices: linebackers coach Chris Haering, defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield and secondary coach Matt House.

Chryst said he would work with those three to come up with a defensive game plan.

"It's a good group effort right now," Chryst said. "Certainly, we can build on a lot of things we've done. This is the 13th game. We've been starting that, and it's been good. We certainly appreciate what [Huxtable] did, but it's time for us to move on."

As for the bowl itself, Chryst said he has not decided who will call the defensive signals against the Rebels.

He acknowledged that he might be "slightly" more involved on the defensive side of the ball than usual.

Linebacker Todd Thomas said House and Haering have been primarily responsible for setting defensive alignments and calling plays during bowl practices.

Chryst said he was not concerned with the ability of the players or coaches to adapt to the transition.

"I think any transition can be smooth or rough. It depends on all the people involved, their willingness to make it smooth or rough," he said. "I feel good."

Thomas echoed his coach, noting that if any group of players has learned how to handle a coaching transition, it's this one.

"We know what we're doing, we know our alignments. The only difference is [Huxtable's] not calling the plays, somebody else is. It's basically the same thing," Thomas said.

"It doesn't [faze us]. We've been through so much, if somebody leaves, we're like, 'OK, rally together, we've just got to do it.'

"We're not really disappointed -- it happens."

Chryst did not specify a timeline for hiring a full-time replacement and didn't say whether it would be an internal promotion or external hire. Most indications, though, point to a new coach coming in.

"You're looking for a football coach. For me, that's a small statement, but it means a ton," Chryst said. "A guy that fits this place, fits this program and we feel good about the ability to get someone like that."

NOTES -- Junior receiver Devin Street said he submitted paperwork to the NFL to receive an evaluation of his draft stock but intends to return to Pitt for his final year of eligibility. The NFL allows draft-eligible underclassmen to submit paperwork to receive a draft grade and projected spot.

"We'll figure it out. I doubt I'm going to leave," Street said. "I still have a lot of things I want to accomplish here."

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Sam Werner: or on Twitter @SWernerPG First Published December 19, 2012 5:00 AM


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