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Narduzzi names Pitt defensive coordinator

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New Pitt coach begins to assemble staff

PITTSBURGH—Pitt head football coach Pat Narduzzi announced the hiring of three coaches and an operations director to his staff today. The appointments include:

Josh Conklin, defensive coordinator. A 2014 Broyles Award nominee, Conklin led FIU to a top-35 finish in total defense this season.

Andre Powell, running backs coach and special teams coordinator. Powell is a 27-year college coaching veteran, including four stints with ACC schools. He served the past four seasons at Maryland.

Dave Andrews, head strength and conditioning coach. A tight end on Ohio State’s 2002 national championship team, Andrews joins the Panthers after serving on Notre Dame’s football strength staff this past year.

Ben Mathers, director of football operations. An operations assistant for Michigan State in 2014, Mathers will work closely with Pitt’s assistant athletic director for football operations, Chris LaSala.

“My first week at Pitt has been really energizing and I’m especially excited to announce our initial hirings,” Narduzzi said. “In assembling our staff, we are looking for great people and great teachers. Each of these men fit that mold and will be tremendous assets on and off the field. I know they share my enthusiasm and vision for what we can accomplish at the University of Pittsburgh.”

Under Conklin’s direction, FIU featured a highly opportunistic defense this past season. The Golden Panthers ranked first nationally in fumble recoveries (19), second in defensive touchdowns (six), fourth in turnovers gained (33) and eighth in turnover margin (plus-11 overall; 0.92 margin per game).

FIU finished 35th in the country in total defense (363.8 yards per game) and an impressive fourth in red zone defense (69.2%).

Prior to FIU, Conklin was the safeties coach at the University of Tennessee (2012) and defensive coordinator and safeties coach at The Citadel (2010-11). While at The Citadel, Conklin coached cornerback Cortez Allen, now a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Conklin’s other coaching stops include Wofford (2007-09) and his alma mater, South Dakota State (2003-06). He is a 2003 graduate of South Dakota State, where he was a starting linebacker and Academic All-American.

“Josh Conklin oversaw an incredibly disruptive unit at FIU,” Narduzzi said. “They were among the top five in the country in takeaways and defensive touchdowns. We want our Pitt defenses to have an attacking, opportunistic mentality and Josh will help us achieve that.”

Powell owns an impressive list of tailback protégés, including C.J. Spiller at Clemson, Tiki Barber and Thomas Jones at Virginia and former Steeler Willie Parker at North Carolina. Spiller was a unanimous All-American and ACC Player of the Year in 2009 before being a first-round NFL Draft pick of Buffalo. Spiller finished his career with 7,588 all-purpose yards, the second most in FBS history, and tied the NCAA career record with seven kickoff return touchdowns.

Powell is a highly regarded special teams strategist. In ESPN’s 2014 team efficiency rankings, the Terrapins’ special teams were rated No. 11 in the country. Maryland’s Brad Craddock was selected the 2014 winner of the prestigious Lou Groza Award, annually presented to college football’s top placekicker, after converting 95% of his field goals (18 of 19 with a long of 57 yards).

Narduzzi and Powell first worked together on the football staff at Rhode Island during the 1993 and ’94 seasons. Powell is a 1989 graduate of Indiana, where he lettered twice as a fullback and helped pave the way for 1,000-yard rusher Anthony Thompson.

“I’ve known Andre Powell for more than 20 years,” Narduzzi said. “In addition to coaching a lot of great running backs, Andre has a tremendous passion for outstanding special teams play. We faced him and Maryland this past season and I was highly impressed by their special teams.”

Andrews was an assistant director of strength and conditioning at Notre Dame, which defeated LSU, 31-28, in the 2014 Music City Bowl. He is a registered strength and conditioning coach by the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association (CSCCa) and certified by USA Weightlifting (USAW) as a level one sports performance coach.

Prior to Notre Dame, he spent two seasons as the associate football strength and conditioning coach at Illinois (2012-13). From 2005-12, Andrews served in various strength and conditioning capacities at the University of Cincinnati, including his final four years when he was the Bearcats’ head Olympic strength and conditioning coach. Andrews was a graduate assistant football coach at Cincinnati in 2004.

A 2004 graduate of Ohio State, Andrews was a three-year member of the Buckeyes football team and a letterman on its 2002 national title squad. He began his strength and conditioning career as a student intern on Ohio State’s staff in 2003.

“Dave Andrews is a highly disciplined coach who adds immediate toughness to our entire team,” Narduzzi said. “As a former player at Ohio State, he knows what it takes from a physical preparation standpoint to be successful in major college football. I know he is excited to get our players started with our offseason program.”

Mathers spent seven total seasons with the Michigan State football program. As an operations assistant during the 2014 season, he was instrumental in the Spartans’ recruiting efforts, especially from a social media and special events standpoint. Mathers spent two years as an operations graduate assistant Pitt football fans(2012-13) and four years as a student assistant in the video department (2008-11).

A 2011 communications graduate from Michigan State, he will complete his master's degree in kinesiology with a concentration in sports administration from MSU this spring.

“Ben Mathers was an invaluable behind-the-scenes contributor to our success at Michigan State,” Narduzzi said. “I am grateful that he has joined us at Pitt as he is going to help us in many different key areas of our program. Ben will be a great complement to Chris LaSala on our staff.”

Narduzzi will announce additional appointments in the near future.

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