Pitt made it official on Thursday, announcing that Iowa State assistant Troy Douglas has been hired as defensive backs coach.
"Troy Douglas is an outstanding addition to our program, on and off the field," head coach Paul Chryst said. "Troy is an energetic teacher of the game. He has extensive experience that includes time coaching and recruiting in the ACC. I think Troy will be an immediate asset for our players and staff."
Douglas comes to Pitt with an extensive 26-year coaching career. A native of Jacksonville, Fla., Douglas spent the last two seasons at Iowa State where he coached three All-Big 12 performers.
He has coached 16 players that have gone on to the NFL, including cornerback Tracy Porter (Oakland Raiders), cornerback Mike Jenkins (Oakland Raiders), safety Nate Allen (Philadelphia Eagles) and safety Da'Norris Searcy (Buffalo Bills).
A big item of interest is which geographical area Douglas will be responsible for, in terms of recruiting. He seems like a natural selection for Florida, being that he's from there, but he says that is yet to be determined.
"We talked about it briefly, but it don't think anything has been etched in stone," Douglas said. "My first job was at West Chester. I was in Philadelphia for a few years, I was in Maryland, DC and northern Virginia for a few years. Pennsylvania has some prospects. I suppose I'm going to Florida, but we'll see."
A big selling point for Douglas, on Pitt, was returning to the ACC. He was an assistant at North Carolina for three years, where his secondary intercepted 38 passes over the 2009 and '10 campaigns, ranking among the nation's top 12 in that category each season.
"Coach Chryst has a program in an upwards cycle, and it's back in the ACC," Douglas said. "The Big 12 is a great league, but this league is more to my liking. In order to get back in the ACC, Paul Chryst has the Panthers rolling.
"Pitt has a reputation as a tough-minded football team. The difference is, in this league, in the ACC there are a lot of spread teams, there are a lot of finesse teams. This team will hit you in the mouth, and that's what I'm excited about. You have big running backs, a big-time receiver, then you have to stop the run on defense. The toughness on defense, they have the same mentality they had at Wisconsin. That's how you have to win football games. You watch our neighbors across the way win six Super Bowls, that's how they did it. That's what go me excited."
There's a but of familiarity to him, with some guys on the current Pitt staff he was worked with before, and a couple of key coaches at Iowa State who were once at Pitt.Douglas worked with House at Michigan State in 2001 and 2002. Palermo was the assistant head coach at Appalachian State when Douglas was a freshman receiver.
It was some initial contact with House that led Douglas to getting this job.
"It really was Matt House made the initial contact," Douglas said. "I met Paul when I came up here, but House was my initial contact. He was our graduate assistant when I was at Michigan State. Then he went to North Carolina, and other places. He let it be known he was looking for a DB guy."
Douglas had high praise for Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads, who served as a Pitt assistant from 2000-07, and the late Curtis Bray, who passed away last month. Mark Mangino, recently added to the Iowa State staff, also had some high praises for Pittsburgh.
"Curtis obviously played here, God rest his soul, great guy," Douglas said. "Curtis, he was the rock of the staff. He kept his mind clear, or made clear statements. Whenever we were all going crazy on the headset, he calmed us. He had a commanding presence.
"Coach Rhoads taught me a lot. I enjoyed working with him. When I told him I was taking the job, he said I might have his old office. He told me about the areas to live, any some of the staff that work here, but nothing really football-wise.
Douglas will be brought it, looking to retool a secondary that loses Jason Hendricks and K'Waun Williams; Hendricks who started in games for all four of his years, Williams for three. Returning are honorable mention All-ACC performer Ray Vinopal and cornerback Lafayette Pitts, who is already a two-year starter.
The corners were responsible for just two interceptions last year, both by Williams. If the current personnel can follow in the footsteps of his philosophy, Douglas has a chance to make an immediate impact on this group.
"I have two rules," Douglas said. "One, the ball is the issue. Our job as a defense is to get the ball back to the offense. There is no such thing as a defensive back or a receiver who can't catch the ball. If they throw the ball, we have to make a play. You are what you put on tape. If you're playing poor, playing soft, everybody is going to know it. That's your resume. That's my resume."
He says he hasn't had a chance to look to closely at the personnel he'll be working with, but he did give an idea of the type of body and abilities he likes to work with.
"I don't know anybody's name yet, but I know they have a couple of smart safeties," Douglas said. "I met a couple of them, but it was a whirlwind. They were long. I like the way everyone's looks. I like tall DBs. At least they look the part. I like these long guys, rangy."
Pitt employed a lot of zone coverage last year. As for his background, or his choice, Douglas says you have to be prepared both man and zone. It sounds like he's comfortable coaching both.
"You got to be able to do both," Douglas said. "If you can master that in your craft, you can really do anything else you want to do. It is what it is. Man is the base thing you start with."
This past year at Iowa State, Douglas coached All-Big 12 performer Jacques Washington, a highly active safety who sparked the Cyclones' come-from-behind win at West Virginia with three takeaways (two interceptions and a fumble recovery).
Prior to Iowa State, Douglas coached the defensive backs at North Carolina for three years (2009-11). From 2006-08, Douglas worked with the defensive backs at South Florida, helping the Bulls to three bowl games. In 2007, USF led the country in fumble recoveries and turnovers gained, while ranking fourth in interceptions. In 2008, the Bulls ranked 10th nationally in total defense. USF corner Mike Jenkins was a first team All-American and 2008 first-round draft choice of the Dallas Cowboys.
In 2004 and '05, Douglas coached at Indiana and worked with corner Tracy Porter, who went on to become an All-Big Ten performer and second-round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints. Douglas' additional coaching stops include South Carolina State (2003), Michigan State (2001-2002), SMU (1997-2000), UTEP (1995-1996), East Tennessee State (1992-1994) and West Chester (1989-1991).
As a college player, Douglas was a four-year starter at wide receiver for Appalachian State, compiling 90 receptions for 1,401 yards. He earned his bachelor's degree from ASU in 1988.
In other personnel moves announced on Thursday, defensive coordinator Matt House will now work with the linebackers. He coached the secondary this past season. Chris Haering will coach the outside linebackers and serve as special teams coordinator. Inoke Breckterfield will continue to coach the tackles and John Palermo will focus on the ends.
Desmond Robinson, who coached the running backs in 2012 before serving as player personnel director this past season, is not returning to the staff.