Orange Watch: Coaching additions make for bright Syracuse football future

Syracuse head coach Dino Babers
Syracuse head coach Dino Babers speaks with the media. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Item: Last week’s official announcements that former BYU and Virginia coaches Robert Anae (Ah-NIGH) and Jason Beck have agreed to come to Syracuse and take over molding Dino Babers offense as the Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach, respectively, is the biggest news so far of the football off-season. Simply put, under the circumstances of the dizzyingly number of college football coaching transactions each winter, getting commitments from these two experienced and efficacious ACC peer coaches makes for Grand Slam hires in the Syracuse football program.

In early December, we wrote a column about the ACC coaching class of 2016 which featured four new coaches, all of whom had been head coaches elsewhere before joining the conference. Of the four coaches in that group, only Babers remains in his job, with Mark Richt (Miami), Justin Fuente (Virginia Tech), and Bronco Mendenhall (Virginia) either having retired or been fired.

Mendenhall’s surprising, but intimately personal family decision to step away from the Cavaliers job (announced December 2) after 17 consecutive years as a head coach at BYU and Virginia to spend more time with his wife and grown children, has turned out to be Syracuse’s gain. New UVA coach Tony Elliott is a Dabo Swinney disciple, and is assembling his own staff.

It’s highly unlikely Babers, and athletic director John Wildhack, would have been able to find two coaches possessing such strong resumes and backgrounds as Anae and Beck if not for Mendenhall’s career decision. Both seem perfectly suited to install an offense that will finally start to resemble what Babers described in his 2015 introductory press conference: “You have an offense that will not huddle. And you have a game that’s faster than you’ve ever seen on turf.”

The Dome’s weather-controlled climate begs for a big-time passing offense to compliment the football constant of establishing the run, and Anae figures to deliver. His offenses gobble up yardage in the air and on the ground, in fact this past season Virginia averaged 518 yards per game, one of only five FBS teams to average over 500 ypg. In comparison, SU averaged 366 ypg last season, the high mark 623 yards against FCS foe Albany.

Cavaliers starting quarterback Brennan Armstrong threw for 4,449 yards and 31 touchdown passes in 2021 to set school single-season records, while during two stints at BYU running the offenses, Anae’s helped produce the Cougars three all-time rushing leaders. That’s balance.

» Related: Final ACC Power Rankings for the 2021 season

Beck’s background includes directly coaching three current NFL quarterbacks during his nine years at BYU (where he was a backup QB) and Virginia, and there’s no doubt his fresh set of eyes will do wonders for Garrett Shrader’s development, and reserves JaCobian Morgan, Justin Lamson, Luke MacPhail, and a potential newcomer.

Besides the stellar offensive coaching hires, the addition of new special team’s coordinator Bob Ligashesky, who came from Bowling Green and has experience as the coordinator at Illinois and as an NFL assistant, is another huge boost to Babers staff. Ligashesky’s presence will likely dramatically improve those six kicking and kick coverage units in game situations.

The Orange uncharacteristically finished last in the ACC in field goals and punting this past season, constantly giving opponents a field position advantage, but the return of one-time Lou Groza award-winner Andre Szmyt for a final hoped-for bounce back season, and the recruitment of Australian punter Max von Marburg to compete for the job provide plenty of optimism.

For more Syracuse coverage, Like our Facebook page, follow us @TheJuiceOnline and listen to our podcast.

Avatar photo
About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.