Pitt coach Paul Chryst continued to shake up his coaching staff Friday, adding John Settle, a former Wisconsin coach, as the Panthers’ running backs coach.
Settle, a former NFL running back, spent the past three years in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers and Cleveland Browns. He coached Wisconsin’s running backs from 2006-10 while Chryst was the offensive coordinator.
To make room for Settle on the staff, Chryst also announced that quarterbacks coach Brooks Bollinger resigned to pursue non-coaching opportunities.
Chryst said Bollinger’s departure was “not something that just came up,” and that Bollinger took some time to think about his future last week after national signing day. Ultimately, Bollinger, a Grand Forks, N.D., native, decided to move with his family back to Minnesota.
“He loves the coaching part, but also there’s a part of him that wants to sink deep roots into a community and truly be a part of a community,” Chryst said. “That’s hard to do as a coach.”
Chryst will take over as quarterbacks coach, a position he held at Wisconsin when he was offensive coordinator. Pitt offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph, who coached the running backs last year, will shift to tight ends to make room for Settle.
Settle was the running backs coach in 2010 when Wisconsin almost became the first Division I-A program to have three backs rush for 1,000 yards. James White (1,052 yards) and John Clay (1,012) pulled off the feat, but future NFL running back Montee Ball (996) was just short.
In his time at Wisconsin, Settle coached backs to six 1,000-yard seasons.
“I just think Set, he truly knows and can communicate that knowledge and share that knowledge,” Chryst said. “All the little things, the big picture, to the little details of playing running back. I think he’s got that kind of a good balance.”
Pitt will enter 2014 with virtually all of its running backs returning, plus some newcomers who have a chance to make an impact. James Conner (799 yards last year) and Isaac Bennett (797) are back, and the Panthers add four-star running back recruit Chris James.
“We’ve got a young group of running backs and an eager group to learn and I know that Set’s looking forward to getting back into college,” Chryst said.
He added that all the coaching moves the past week were done to try to maximize the ability of his staff in 2014. Last season, Pitt had only eight coaches on the field with Desmond Robinson serving as a full-time recruiter.
Chryst said he felt more ahead in recruiting for next year’s class, so the Panthers can get back to having nine full-time coaches on the field.
Particularly, Chryst wanted to address special teams, which were an area of concern in 2013, and he did so by naming Chris Haering special teams coordinator earlier this week. Haering will focus his efforts on special teams, but also help with the outside linebackers.
“You get nine positions, how do you best use it?” Chryst said. “An area where we’ve got to improve is special teams and [I wanted] a guy that can completely focus on that.
“Really, you’re trying to best utilize everyone’s strengths. Now I feel good that all your positions are going to be really well coached.”
Sam Werner: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @SWernerPG