Rhoads leaving Pitt

Expected to take position at Auburn

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Pitt defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads is expected to be named the new defensive coordinator at Auburn, perhaps as early as today, according to sources close to the situation.

Rhoads was offered the job yesterday by Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville.

Rhoads did not return phone calls last night seeking comment.

Sources within the Pitt athletic department and the football program expect Rhoads to accept the offer and leave the Panthers.

Pitt football coach Dave Wannstedt did not release an official statement but as of late yesterday afternoon said he expected Rhoads to take the job with Auburn.

Wannstedt now will have to replace two assistant coaches. Offensive line coach Paul Dunn was relieved of his duties in December.

The leading candidate for that job is expected to be Tony Wise, a longtime NFL offensive line coach and Wannstedt's close friend.

Possible replacements for Rhoads could include Pitt defensive line coach Greg Gattuso and Carolina Panthers defensive line coach Sal Sunseri.

Rhoads, who is known as a tireless worker, a highly organized and intelligent coach and an excellent recruiter, was actually offered the defensive coordinator's job at Auburn in 2002 by Tuberville but turned it down because Pitt made a strong counteroffer that included a hefty pay raise and a contract extension.

At that point, Rhoads was considered an up-and-coming star in college football as his first three defenses at Pitt -- 2000, '01 and '02 -- were among the best in the nation.

It was assumed he'd be a strong candidate to be a head coach, but the Panthers' play slipped in 2003 and he wasn't hired for either head coaching position for which he interviewed.

The defense rebounded in '04 but fell off the following two seasons, and Rhoads' star had started to fade.

But the defense rebounded this year in a big way and finished ranked in the top 10 nationally in a number of categories, including No. 5 in total defense (297.67 yards per game).

The Panthers also ranked No. 1 in the Big East in total defense and turned one of the most impressive defensive performances of the college football season when they held high-powered West Virginia to only one touchdown in a 13-9 upset win to end the season.


Paul Zeise can be reached at pzeise@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1720.


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