After another rocky start to the season, Syracuse head coach Dino Babers’ seat is only getting hotter. The fifth-year coach is searching for answers following a disappointing 17-7 loss to Rutgers. Since winning 10 games, including the Camping World Bowl, in 2018, SU is 7-18 with a mediocre (at best) offense.
It’s only Week 3, and a lot still needs to happen before Babers would be fired, even if it is trending in that direction. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some potential Syracuse coaching candidates if John Wildhack decides to let Babers go.
Any conversation about a new head coach likely starts with Tony White. While Syracuse’s offense has been anemic, the defense seems to be as stifling as ever. White has a good track record as a recruiter as well, winning Scout.com Mountain West Recruiter of the Year. The question will be if he can recruit on both sides of the ball. SU seems to have no issue attracting solid defensive talent but finding and developing a quarterback and offensive line remains the biggest challenge for the program.
There is a possibility Doug Marrone could be persuaded to return to Central New York. Marrone led the Orange to a 25-25 record over four seasons, which included two Pinstripe Bowl victories. Something to keep in mind, though, was that Marrone’s success was prior to SU being in the ACC. Would Marrone be able to recruit at the ACC level? He has spent several years coaching in the NFL and is currently serving as Alabama’s offensive coordinator. His experience and connections could make him a good fit. It might not be the sexiest hire of all time, but it would offer some stability.
As I said, I am throwing all possible candidates, even if some of them might be a bit unlikely. Ed Orgeron has some significant ties to Syracuse. He was the team’s defensive line coach from 1995-97, a highly successful period in Orange history. Coach O had voiced interest in the coaching job way back in 2015, way before he ever led LSU to a national championship. With his seat in Baton Rouge getting warm, is there a chance he could be open to rescuing the Orange now? It feels like a long shot he even leaves LSU, just two years removed from a national championship. If the Tigers do make a coaching change and the Orange follow suit, you can bet Orgeron will be high on the list of Syracuse coaching candidates.
Up and comers
If the Orange is serious about turning around its offense, there is one name that has to bubble to the top of the discussion. Joe Brady worked wonders with LSU’s offense in 2019 and while he had a ton of talent at his disposal, there is no question he aided Joe Burrow’s development into a Heisman-winning No. 1 overall pick. Brady is now entering his second season as the Carolina Panthers’ offensive coordinator. I imagine he is interested in leading his own program at some point. Perhaps he is a bit too green at this stage. After all, he was a graduate assistant at Penn State just five years ago. It would be a bold move, but one that has the potential to pay off in a big way.
Sticking with the trend of rising offensive-minded coaches, Tony Elliott is building quite the case to be a head coach. Syracuse knows him well. Clemson scored a combined 88 points in the past two meeting between those schools. This would be a quality hire for SU, but also seems to be an unlikely one. Elliott is a household name in coaching circles and likely could have taken a head coaching job by now if he really wanted one. The chances that Syracuse will be the destination to pull him away from Death Valley feel low.
How about a name most SU fans might not know yet? Zach Wilson credited BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick with his ascension to the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NFL draft. Wilson undoubtedly had talent to work with, but that praise is a positive sign for the culture of growth and learning Roderick fosters. Sounds like that might be perfect for Syracuse. His coaching career has been primarily spent in Utah, split between the Utes and Cougars. Would Roderick be willing to leave his alma mater to come coach in CNY? I sure hope so.
Ready to lead again
Unfortunately, Joe Moorhead will probably have plenty of other schools calling about his services this offseason. The former Mississippi State head coach has made a strong impression in his first season-plus as Oregon’s offensive coordinator. However, he did coach at UConn back from 2009-11, so he has some East Coast ties. His prior head coaching experience makes him an appealing candidate, but SU might not be a big enough draw to land him. While I think he fits well among Syracuse coaching candidates, this feels like a long shot.
Todd Monken has an extensive coaching history. He coached Southern Miss from 2013-15 before jumping to the NFL. After three years as an offensive coordinator at the pro ranks with the Buccaneers and Browns, Monken landed with Georgia as their offensive coordinator. The Bulldogs took a little while to get rolling, but finished 2020 on a high with J.T. Daniels rediscovering his pre-injury form. With connections all over the industry, I think Monken could be a solid candidate for SU. His offensive background certainly helps and he does have some college head coaching experience. If Georgia fares well enough, he might have interest elsewhere, but I think he belong in the discussion of Syracuse coaching candidates.
Group of 5 leaders
Babers himself was a standout coach in the MAC before landing at Syracuse. If the Orange decide to follow in a similar path, there a couple coaches that could draw interest. Let’s start with Shawn Clark. He has not been in charge of Appalachian State long, but he has an 11-4 record, including two bowl wins. App State came incredibly close to knocking off Miami this past weekend, so he is more than capable of getting his teams to play up to the standards of a Power 5 program. It might be a bit early for him to warrant serious consideration, but his is a name to keep an eye on.
Another coach still getting his feet wet, Ryan Silverfield has Memphis off to another strong start after a solid 2020 season. He made his coaching debut in the Cotton Bowl against Penn State back in 2019. While he lost that matchup, Silverfield has a wealth of experience that includes working as Memphis’ offensive coordinator under Mike Novell and a six-year stint with the Minnesota Vikings. Far from a big-name candidate, Silverfield could move onto the radar if Memphis has a big year in the AAC.
While not technically a Group of 5 school, Liberty definitely fits the mold of a mid-major. Hugh Freeze and his team had no problem routing Syracuse last year. The two schools will be reacquainted later this month and there is no question which school with have the edge offensively. Malik Willis is a legitimate NFL prospect while it is unclear if Tommy Devito will even hang on to his starting job. And that’s not because Garrett Schrader’s play is so spectacular he deserves to start. Freeze had some NCAA troubles during his time at Ole Miss, but if the school believe he is back on the right path, this would be a really sharp hire. He has the big-time experience and offensive acumen to turn the program around.
This is far from a complete list of Syracuse coaching candidates. By season’s end, it’s possible this list isn’t even necessary. However, Babers’ days could be numbered and there is no question the athletic department really need to make a strong hire.