According to both the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen is the leading candidate to replace Dave Wannstedt, who was forced to resign this week.
Holgorsen has orchestrated the type of wide-open, high scoring offense Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson believes the Panthers need to sell tickets to the eight-home game 2011 season.
A wide receiver at Iowa Wesleyan University from 1990-92, Holgorsen has been the quarterback/wide receivers coach at Valdosta State, Mississippi College and Wingate College. He served as co-offensive coordinator with Mike Leach at Texas Tech from 2000-2007 and offensive coordinator for Kevin Sumlin at Houston for the 2008-09 seasons.
Only the 2000 Red Raiders team scored fewer than 400 points (330) and the 2003 and 2007 squads scored over 500 points in 13-game seasons.
As OC for Kevin Sumlin, Holgorsen had easy pickings running up big scores on defensive challenged Conference USA opponents. The Cougars scored 528 points in 2008 and a blistering 591 in 2009.
Holgorsen, along with Temple coach Al Golden, are two candidates who have made their interest in the Pitt HC job known to Pederson.
Pederson has added Jay Norvell, Oklahoma assistant offensive coordinator, to the mix. Norvell satisfies critics of Pitt's hiring process who have asked for a competitive African-American candidate to be interviewed.
Norvell also fits into a Pederson pattern of looking at secondary coordinators. He hired Walt Harris in 1996. Harris was Ohio State's quarterback coach at the time.
Although Pederson claims to be under no timeline, he actually is. A recruiting class ranked No. 21 by ESPN Scouts Inc. is anxiously awaiting a decision. Pitt may not be competing with the candidates Florida and Miami are considering, but the Panthers certainly have a high profile BCS position on the line.
It seems safe now to eliminate Kevin Sumlin (Houston), Tom Bradley (Penn State), Teryl Austin (Florida) and Sal Sunseri (Alabama). Penn State fans can take a deep breath and focus on the yet-to-be-conducted season review of Joe Paterno conducted by Penn State athletic director Tim Curley.
Although Pitt's offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti will probably get an interview, he does not appear to be a serious candidate.
If Pederson can lure Holgorsen to Pitt, he would achieve a major victory. Holgorsen is a college guy through and through. He is highly respected as an inspirational leader by his peers and players, and he would give the Panthers the the kind of college football heavy they are seeking.