Just two weeks prior to the start of spring practices, Pitt head coach Paul Chryst promoted defensive backs coach Matt House to defensive coordinator. House fills the vacancy after Dave Huxtable was tabbed as N.C. State's defensive coordinator on December 14.
Chryst said he interviewed four candidates for the job, but felt most comfortable promoting from within, despite House not having experience in a coordinator role. Chryst declined to announce who the four interviewees were, or if House was among those four or in addition to those four.
"Matt was a guy I interviewed, and he set the bar pretty high," Chryst said. "He earned it. Matt is certainly ready for it."
Prior to being in his defensive backs role at Pitt in 2012, House spent four years in the NFL. He was a special teams and strength and conditioing assistant with the Carolina Panthers in 2008, before spending three years as a quality control assistant with the St. Louis Rams.
Even though House called the defense for the bowl game against Ole Miss, Chryst didn't label that as an audition, or a trial run.
"Our whole thing was going to get through the bowl game, then we'd start talking to people, but nothing really more than that," Chryst said. "We kind of put the finishing touches on recruiting, then there was a window after the bowl where we interviewed guys. While that was finishing up, we were compiling guys who would be good fits. We were just trying to finish out the season as best we could. We didn't feel like we were going to get anyone who could impact recruiting, anyway."
Chryst was pretty enthusiastic in talking about the addition of Palermo. Palermo comes to Pitt after spending a year at Tennessee. Prior to that, he spent two seasons as an assistant with the Washington Redskins. He also spent 15 years as an assistant at Wisconsin, where he worked with Chryst. All in all, Palermo brings 38 years of coaching experience.
"I do feel like JP will be great in the room," Chryst added. "I personally like to blend if possible. He's going to bring things to it. It is one of those residual benefits to it. John is one guy, where if ever I was in this position, he's a guy I'd bring in. He's a guy I have remendous respect for."
Poteat was an All-Big East performer at Pitt, before embarking on a 10-year NFL career. He spent the last two seasons as an assistant at Kentucky Christian University, following his retirement.
Being a Pitt guy is simply a coincidence. Chryst likes the fact Poteat, with current assistants Brooks Bollinger and Bobby Engram, are all guys with playing experience in the NFL, but also recent enough for the current players to relate to. Poteat will serve as a graduate assistant, working with the defensive backs.
"I value it in the sense, especially in the shoes he's walked in, how each guy's story is different," Chryst said. "It's a common thread--guys that truly are achievers. They have done it with a path they had to take more than anything. They're guys that want to share their experiences. They've truly chosen the coaching profession, all in a similar way."
Palermo will specialize with the defensive ends and outside linebackers. Inoke Breckterfield will focus in on the defensive tackles. Chris Haering will work with the inside linebackers.