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Was Todd Graham The Best Choice To Lead Pitt?

Pitt's next coach has a history of winning, but can he build a defense?

Approximately one month after forcing Dave Wannstedt to resign, the Pitt football program has its next head coach in Tulsa's Todd Graham.

Pitt thought it had its man in former Miami-Ohio coach Mike Haywood, but that fell apart when a domestic violence charge was brought against him. So now that the Panthers have moved on with Graham, did they make the right decision? Pitt fans can't possibly know for sure, but here are some things we do know.

Graham has a history of winning as a head coach. He led a horrific Rice program to a winning season in 2006, then led Tulsa to 10-win seasons in three of the next four years. One of the knocks against Haywood was that he had a single season of success as a head coach under his belt. Graham has had several, and other than a 5-7 season in 2009, his teams have been consistently good.

The coach also has a reputation for running the kind of high-octane offense that many Pitt fans have desired. His offenses have been among the best in the nation and his teams score points, no doubt about it. But Graham will not be bringing his offensive coordinator from Tulsa, Chad Morris, along with him. Morris has taken the offensive coordinator position at Clemson.

Graham has a lot going for him, but there are also the negatives. His defenses haven't been very good, and last year, Tulsa's unit ranked among the worst in the country. While his teams were putting up 50+ points against Tulane, Rice, and Hawaii, they were giving up 50+ to Oklahoma State, Southern Miss, and East Carolina. Graham's defenses will need to improve significantly to compete in the Big East.

And while Graham did coach at West Virginia for two seasons as a defensive coordinator, his experience in the area is likely limited and it will take some time for him to build up relationships with local high school coaches. I've heard the point made on my site, Cardiac Hill, that relationships with coaches are a very small part of recruiting. That may be true, but what about the years spent by other teams recruiting the players in the area? Pitt's assistants who had been recruiting players for 2011, 2012, and beyond are no longer around and Graham's staff will be starting over.

Further, while Graham's offense has been tremendous, he'll need to recruit a different type of player. That will take some starting over and he'll likely be at least two to three years before he has his own kids in place.

The good thing about this hire is that Pitt looks to have ended up with a coach with more experience than Haywood had. Graham could be the right fit for the Panthers, and even if he eventually moves on, could be the best coach for the team right now. But only time will tell.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.