Narduzzi deflects job talk, focuses on MSU bowl game

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — There's no doubt Pat Narduzzi's focus the next couple of weeks is on how Michigan State's defense can contain the Baylor offense in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1.

But the Spartans' defensive coordinator, as has become the norm the last couple of years, finds himself a top candidate to become a head coach. With Pittsburgh head coach Paul Chryst expected to become the next coach at Wisconsin, Narduzzi's name is near the top of the list to replace Chryst at Pittsburgh.

However, as Michigan State's coaches and players met the media on Tuesday, Narduzzi attempted to deflect any talk that wasn't about the Cotton Bowl.

"I don't talk to anybody about it really," he said. "But we're focused obviously on the Cotton Bowl and Baylor and our preparations for them. But things like that are going to happen at times. You'll have opportunities just with the success we've had here at Michigan State. With the multiple 10, 11, 12, 13‑win seasons, you're going to have opportunities, and that's because of Michigan State.

"We'll deal with things like that when it's time to. … The most important thing right now is our kids and winning this football game, really. Those other things will come."

Narduzzi was in a similar position last season and was offered the job at Connecticut before turning it down to return to Michigan State. But Pittsburgh might end up being too good to pass up.

The Panthers play in the ACC, a Power Five conference, and with his recruiting experience in the region, Narduzzi would have a chance to have them competing in the Coastal Division fairly quickly.

There's no doubt it would be a hit for Michigan State. In the last four seasons, Narduzzi has helped turned the Spartans' defense into one of the best in the nation along with producing several NFL draft picks, including first-rounder Darqueze Dennard last season.

But Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio isn't about to hold Narduzzi back.

"When you're successful as a program, that is the nature of it," Dantonio said Tuesday. "People want to say, 'How are they doing that at Michigan State? How is that happening there? What turned that? These guys must be responsible for that,' and they are. They want to hire people like that, and I think that's a good problem to have. … Part of my job is to try to build opportunities for other people, whether it's players or whether it's coaches. So when those things happen, I think that's a positive for us.

"In regards to Pat, I think he's been up there and talked about quite a lot, and I've continually said it's going to happen at some point in time. When that point in time happens, it's going to be right for him and he's going to be prepared. We've had this happen enough for us that we'll be prepared. Up until that time it's status quo."