There has been a lot of gnashing of teeth and frustrations vented at what has happened in the aftermath of Doug Marrone’s departure from Syracuse to the NFL. First, just he was leaving. Then, just as speculation was floated that defensive coordinator Scott Shafer would be named the head coach and Nathaniel Hackett would remain at offensive coordinator, Marrone called and Hackett departed for Buffalo, too. Since that time, Marrone has dipped into the remnants of the SU staff and plucked enough coaches to fill a large object of your choosing.
For fun, choose that large object to be the gaping hole Prince-Tyson Gulley ran through up the field for his first touchdown in the Pinstripe Bowl. Isn’t that nice to think about?
In any case, so much for the “continuity” Shafer mentioned during his invigorating introductory press conference, right?
Actually, while many were thinking continuity in the sense of as much of the previous staff staying on board as possible, particularly since is seemed likely at the time, Shafer used a different version of continuity when it appeared the preferred version was unavailable: bringing in coaches with whom he has worked with before and can entrust to run his defensive system and keep the previous offensive attack. There are direct connections on both sides of the ball.
Returning defensive line coach Tim Daoust and linebackers coach Steve Morrison were both imported by Shafer during his tenure as defensive coordinator because they served under him at Western Michigan. New defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough and reported incoming linebacker coach Clark Lea? Bullough coached under Shafer at Western Michigan, then moved on to UCLA, where Lea served under him. By the way, recruiting connections in talent-rich California cannot hurt.
The coaching staff on the offensive side of the ball suffered greater losses, but the coaches reported to be coming in all appear to aim for a similar high-powered offense that the Orange had this year.
George McDonald is reportedly leaving Arkansas after being named the wide receivers coach there about a month ago to take over the offensive coordinator role at SU. Prior to that, he was the passing game coordinator at Miami of Florida and, going even further back, he was the offensive coordinator at Western Michigan when a guy named Scott Shafer was the defensive coordinator… and even further back, he was the wide receivers coach at Northern Illinois when a guy named Scott Shafer was the defensive coordinator.
McDonald’s strength as a recruiter has been documented. He helped Miami of Florida secure a top ten recruiting class in 2012, primarily securing talent in south Florida. While being located in a recruiting hotbed made collecting commitments from talented players easier, McDonald also helped Minnesota put together a top 20 class in 2008 while on their staff.
In addition to Florida, McDonald has worked in the Carolinas. Syracuse’s schedule for the ACC includes a trip to North Carolina every year (either Wake Forest or North Carolina State) and a guaranteed trip to either South Carolina (to play Clemson) or Florida (to play Florida State) every year. Being able to tell a recruit from either of those regions that their family will be able to see them play is a nice chip to have in your pocket.
Tim Lester, most recently the head coach at Elmhurst, a Division III school in Illinois, is reportedly the quarterbacks coach. Lester was a four-year starter at quarterback at Western Michigan, eventually leaving the school as its all-time leading passer with over 11,000 yards and 87 touchdown passes, and spent time in the Arena Football League.
In this past season, Lester’s Elmhurst squad averaged 31 points per game, posting 35 or more points a half dozen times, and rolled up over 5,000 yards on offense. The year before, it was over 34 points and 454 yards per game. With those numbers, it is fair to guess he knows a little something about high-powered offenses. Throw in his playing experience, and this knowledge of offense should extend to the passing game.
By the way, Lester also coached at Western Michigan with Shafer as a quarterbacks coach… under George McDonald.
Not only are these unconfirmed moves on offense an example of continuity, they are also a living, breathing example of one of the other buzzwords of Shafer’s press conference – aggressive. And that aggression is already showing some potential results. The Orange have suddenly revved up their recruiting in advance of February’s commitment date, including a pair of recruits saying they have been contacted on behalf of Syracuse by McDonald.
The Orange have offered a scholarship to John O’Korn, a three-star quarterback from Fort Lauderdale who recently claimed a state title and previously verbally committed to Houston. O’Korn’s coach is Rocco Casullo, the son of Bob Casullo, who spent two years on the SU coaching staff with Shafer. It has been reported that McDonald checked in with three-star wide receiver (and former Louisville verbal commit) Corey Cooper, who also tweeted that he was contacted by Lester. Defensive back Brisly Estime from Palm Beach, Florida also tweeted that McDonald is now trying to bring him north to the Carrier Dome.
For those who have concerns about the inexperience of some of these coaches, particularly McDonald and Lester, please remember that Shafer was a quarterback when he played. With a defensive coaching staff in lockstep with what Shafer wants, the head man will be freed to have more input on the offensive side of the ball, which, again going back to that introductory presser, he wants to have juice. The incoming coaches certainly will be required to carry out Shafer’s wishes.
Maybe this unexpected version of “continuity”, when combined with aggression, will work out better than the more common one after all.