Pelini, Narduzzi are focusing on jobs they have right now
But the LSU and Michigan St. aides have good shots at becoming head coaches.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN — They’re football lifers, All-Ohio high school players who had good college careers and worked their way up the college coaching ranks to become defensive coordinators at two of the top programs in the country.
They’ve both served as interim head coaches. And, if you’re a betting man, you’d have to say Bo Pelini and Pat Narduzzi will become head coaches at some point.
“Someday, maybe,” said Pelini, a Mooney High graduate who is now the defensive coordinator at LSU. “We’ll see what happens. But I don’t get caught up in that. I don’t look at my next job.
“I’m focused on this one.”
“You can’t worry about your next job,” Narduzzi, an Ursuline High graduate in his first year as the Michigan State defensive coordinator. “You worry about that one, you might not keep this one.”
Attended Ursuline camp
Both coaches were in town Friday for the Ursuline Irish Skills Camp. Narduzzi, who came to the Spartans with Mark Dantonio from Cincinnati, gets back to the area quite a bit since he handles the Spartans’ recruiting in the Mahoning Valley.
“We’re trying to bring an attitude change up there,” said Narduzzi, adding the school is making $20 million worth of upgrades to the football facilities. “We expect great things the next few years.
“It’s great to be in the Big Ten. Best conference in the country.”
Narduzzi, who played college football at YSU and Rhode Island, has coached for 17 years, getting his big break at Miami (Ohio), where he was the defensive coordinator for one season, helping the RedHawks to a No. 10 finish in the polls in 2003.
He was hired at Cincinnati the next season and coached defense for three years. When Dantonio got the Michigan State job, Narduzzi temporarily served as interim head coach for the Bearcats before heading north. He’s hoping his progress will inspire other Youngstown kids to fulfill their football dreams.
Ursuline important to him
“Ursuline means a lot to me,” Narduzzi said. “Hopefully I can be a role model.”
Pelini, meanwhile, has emerged as one of the nation’s hottest head coaching prospects. After a standout prep career at Mooney, he played at Ohio State until graduating in 1990. He’s since coached for the San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, University of Nebraska (where he was interim head coach in 2003 and was a finalist for the permanent job), Oklahoma and, since 2005, LSU.
“It’s good; we really like it there,” said Pelini, who is married with three kids. “It was an adjustment at first. A different culture. But we’re really happy with the schools the kids are in and it’s a nice place.”
And the Italian food?
Credits coaches for help
“Well, it’s not quite like here,” he said, smiling. “But there’s one good place.”
Pelini has played and coached under some of the nation’s best over the past 20 years and credits those influences for his success.
“I’ve been really fortunate,” he said. “That’s where it all starts.”
Serving as a guest instructor each summer gives Pelini a chance to give back, he said. He doesn’t try to do anything fancy — just teach kids the fundamentals.
“That’s what makes a kid and a program successful,” he said.