Chryst promotes House to defensive coordinator

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Pitt filled its defensive coordinator vacancy after a two-month search and the man for the job was just down the hall from coach Paul Chryst the entire time.

Chryst announced Monday that secondary coach Matt House would be promoted to defensive coordinator. He also hired former Tennessee assistant John Palermo to work with defensive ends and linebackers, and former Pitt cornerback Hank Poteat as a graduate assistant to coach cornerbacks.

Chryst said he interviewed three other candidates for the coordinator spot, but that House "set the bar pretty high."

"Just getting a chance to be with him for the whole year, to see him work in all different situations, that's what leads me to feel not only comfortable, but excited about what he can bring in that role," Chryst said.

Pitt's defensive coordinator job had been vacant since Dec. 14 when Dave Huxtable resigned to take the same position at North Carolina State.

When asked why it took two months to make a promotion from within the staff, Chryst said the search didn't really kick into full swing until after Pitt's bowl game Jan. 5 in Birmingham, Ala.

"There was a window after the bowl where we kind of in earnest interviewed guys for the coordinators job, and then once we did that, we had to kind of finish out the recruiting [of high school players]," Chryst said. "And as that was finishing up, we started compiling a list of guys that would be good fits in the assistant role.

"[We] didn't feel like we were going to get anybody in that was going to impact recruiting anyway, so that's why it wasn't the strong push to try to get someone in at that time."

House served as interim defensive coordinator for the BBVA Compass Bowl this year, but Chryst said he didn't view that as an audition for the full-time job.

House's college resume includes two years as a graduate assistant for Michigan State, two years as a defensive assistant at North Carolina and two years as the defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator at Buffalo.

As for the type of defense he plans to use next year, House didn't offer many specifics Monday.

"Without tipping too much off -- we want to have a little bit of an element of surprise going into camp -- the main thing is we want to be a fundamentally sound, tough defense that runs to the ball," he said. "We want to be tacklers and ball-hawkers."

House said he anticipated using a mix of 4-3 and 3-4 formations, as well as changing up between man-to-man and zone pass coverages. The Panthers worked almost exclusively out of a 4-3 base with man-to-man coverage last season.

The biggest adjustment House will have to make is calling defensive plays. He made most of them in the BBVA Compass Bowl and said he was looking forward to the challenge.

"I definitely think there's a learning curve, just like any new job," he said. "To me, the preparation comes down to how much work you put in during the week to prepare. It comes from a feel thing, as well as studying tendencies."

House will continue to coach the safeties and Poteat, who played for Pitt from 1996-99, will work with the cornerbacks. Poteat was a third-round pick of the Steelers in 2000, and played for five teams over his nine-year NFL career.

"I'm really looking forward to our players being around him and him being able to share knowledge and lessons about him," Chryst said of Poteat. "He's certainly walked in the steps that these guys are doing."

Palermo will join the staff to coach defensive ends and split linebacker duties with Chris Haering. Palermo coached at Wisconsin from 1991-2005 and was part of the Badgers' rise to prominence in the Big Ten Conference. In addition to serving on several other college staffs he was defensive line coach of the Washington Redskins (2008-09).

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Michael Sanserino and Ray Fittipaldo contributed to this report. Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter: @SWernerPG.


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