All Rhoads Lead To Auburn

Paul Rhoads' eight years as Pitt's defensive coordinator was like a roller-coaster ride, with his units ranked intermittently among the nation's best and worst, but after ending this past season on an upswing he has decided to move on.

Paul Rhoads reportedly has accepted an offer to become Auburn's defensive coordinator, but it's hardly a lateral move. Rhoads salary is expected to nearly double what he made while coaching the Panthers.

Rhoads interviewed this week with Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, who has been searching for a replacement for Will Muschamp, who left to become defensive coordinator at Texas. Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt now will have to replace two assistant coaches, because offensive line coach Paul Dunn was let go in December.

"I was looking for a college guy who had been a defensive coordinator on this level and had success doing that and Paul Rhoads was an obvious choice,'' Tuberville told Inside the Auburn Tigers. "I am very excited that Paul will be joining our staff at Auburn. He is an excellent defensive coach.''

The leading candidate to replace Dunn is Tony Wise, a longtime NFL offensive line coach and Wannstedt's close friend. He recently coached the offensive line with the New York Jets. Possible replacements for Rhoads are Pitt defensive line coach Greg Gattuso and Carolina Panthers defensive line coach Sal Sunseri.

Rhoads, 40, who has been Pitt's defensive coordinator since 2000, already had turned down Auburn twice, when offered the same position by Tuberville in 2002 and 2005. Pitt made a counteroffer and extended his contract, and Rhoads was retained when Dave Wannstedt replaced Walt Harris in 2004. Rhoads also interviewed to be the Panthers' head coach at that time as well. After he didn't get the top job at Pitt, Tuberville came after him again.

Tuberville said he only considered candidates who had success as a coordinator on the college level.

"That was very important to me, and it was important to find somebody who had a lot of experience recruiting,' Tuberville said. Tuberville noted that Rhoads will get a two-year contract at Auburn. Rhoads was not available for comment.

Rhoads spent seven seasons as Pitt's secondary coach, developing NFL talents such as Torrie Cox, Shawntae Spencer, Josh Lay and Darrelle Revis, before taking over the linebackers this past fall, where he totally rebuilt the group and redshirt junior Scott McKillop developed into a third-team All-American in just his first season as a starter.

Under Rhoads' direction, Pitt's defense struggled for a few seasons before recovering this fall to rank first in the Big East Conference and fifth nationally -- actually one spot ahead of Auburn -- in total defense at 297.67 yards per game. Rhoads' stock soared after the Panthers upset then-No. 2 West Virginia, 13-9, Dec. 1 by holding the high-powered Mountaineers offense to just 183 total yards, nearly 300 less than their average, and 104 rushing yards.

Rhoads was considered to be a shooting star in college football, as Pitt's defense corps from 2000-2002 were ranked among the nation's best. In 2003, however, the Panthers' fortunes dropped, and so did Rhoads' stock. After a slight upswing in 2004, Pitt's defense dropped off in 2005-06, and Rhoads was not hired for either head coaching position for which he interviewed.

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