Syracuse's offense was bad in 2014 -- a fact which you're well aware of and we don't need to rehash. Yet, our offensive coordinator for the latter half of the season will be retained in the role for 2015, according to head coach Scott Shafer. Maybe that's all talk, but for now it's true, so we can assume the Orange are not looking for a new OC. But what if they ARE? I mean, they certainly SHOULD. So if they're actually looking to fill that spot with a new face, who are some folks who may be worth looking at?
This is by no means a piece calling for Tim Lester or George McDonald to leave -- if anything, they could both continue to serve the program very well as quarterbacks coach and wide receivers coach, respectively. But we can't ignore the issues with Syracuse's ball movement and scoring, so it's worth exploring some other options to improve.
We'll also note that many of these names were included in a 2013 piece on replacing Nate Hackett as well. Two years later, it's interesting that many of those coaches are still options -- some more viable than others.
Your candidates, using the obvious starting point:
Scott Shafer Coaching Tree
Calvin Magee, Co-Offensive Coordinator/Running Backs Coach, Arizona
Magee has been at Arizona since 2012, following stints with Pitt and West Virginia, as well as Michigan, where he coached with Shafer in 2008. Magee's spent an extensive amount of time with spread-option offenses (stay with me here...), coaching a successful number of elite running backs and dual-threat QBs, including Pat White, Steve Slaton, Denard Robinson, Ray Graham, Ka'Deem Carey, Anu Solomon and others. The Wildcats have been a top-30 offense each year he's been with the program, and if that doesn't sell you, his recruiting connections in the Northeast and Midwest should. His CO-offensive coordinator title is really the only reason he'd make the jump (other than the Shafer connection), so while he's the best candidate, he may also be one of the longer shots.
Bill Cubit, Offensive Coordinator, Illinois
Cubit was the head man at Western Michigan when Shafer was on the staff (2005-06), and this sort of thing would be unlikely to surprise you, even if it may not be the best move for the Orange right now. Cubit's Illini offense ranked 106th overall last season, but 52nd in passing yards. So on the one hand, it could help the passing game get going, but on the other, this is a run-first team and we need to be conscious of that. He's another guy with a ton of Midwest ties, and if we intend to continue those recruiting inroads, he's a good bet to help us there. If Syracuse makes a move, I'd consider him among the most likely candidates right now.
Reggie Mitchell, Running Backs Coach/Recruiting Coordinator, Kansas
Mitchell has hung around the position coach ranks for awhile now, with major stops at Kansas, Illinois, Michigan State and others as both a running backs and wide receivers coach. His recruiting coordinator position could be a draw, and again, he comes with a lot of Midwest ties. Mitchell and Shafer coached together with the Illini in 2004, if you were still pondering where the link comes from. His recent stint with the Jayhawks doesn't scream "effectiveness" but previous stops have led to some rave reviews -- he was responsible for that Juice Williams/Rashard Mendenhall Illinois team that tortured us at the Dome several years back. Like Cubit, another likely candidate, and one who would be making a jump to come to SU (though worth noting he has no play-calling experience).
Dan Roushar, Running Backs Coach, New Orleans Saints
Roushar and Shafer go way back to 2002, when both worked on the Northern Illinois staff (and Roushar was offensive coordinator). Since then, he's been at Illinois, Cincinnati and Michigan State, calling plays at one point or another for both the Illini and Spartans, respectively. His current gig with the Saints has been fairly successful -- New Orleans in ninth in the NFL in rushing yards per game right now -- but you have to assume he's looking for a road back to his roots at some point. The OC gig would be a promotion and link him right back to Midwest kids and of course, Shafer. The two coaches above may be more likely, but Roushar's a name to keep an eye out for, especially if the Saints miss the playoffs.
Matt Canada, Offensive Coordinator, NC State
FYI, this one isn't happening, but it's worth noting if only because it highlights the fact that Syracuse really should be spending more money on its coaching staff. Shafer and Canada go back to NIU, where the latter was OC in 2003. He's not leaving Dave Doeren's side down in Raleigh, but if Syracuse had some real money to offer him... who knows what could be instead.
Hiring a Syracuse alum worked pretty well back in 2009, right? So why not try it again?
David Walker, Running Backs Coach, Indianapolis Colts
Walker played running back for Syracuse, and has coached the same position for the Colts since 2011. Obviously his current team has the benefit of having Andrew Luck at QB, but the guy knows what he's doing and has for years. He's been a running backs coach since 1995 with Syracuse, and sports a resume of elite backs from his team with the Orange, Pitt and the Colts too. He's also from CNY, so if you're looking for a way to never lose an offensive recruit in the area, it's not a bad place to start. HOWEVER, he hasn't called plays, which is a slight detractor.
John Reagan, Offensive Coordinator/O-line Coach, Kansas
Reagan had a rough first year with the Jayhawks, and since they now have a new head coach in Kansas, who really knows if Reagan will be retained. Prior to being at Kansas, he was a rising star at Rice. His 2012 Owls team scored over 31 points per game and was one of the fastest-paced offenses in the country, despite a significant talent disparity compared to many opponents. He gets the area, being an SU grad and CNY native, and the offense would quickly resemble what we saw from Nate Hackett back in 2012. Those times were good, right? Let's go back to them,
Brian Scott, Associate Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator/O-line Coordinator, Old Dominion
Scott's from the Northeast (played QB at Maine), and has been one of the key reasons for Old Dominion's surge since renewing its football program. In just their first year at the FBS level, the Monarchs ranked 41st in total offense and could hang with any opponent on the scoreboard. This is the type of mind Syracuse should be bringing in. He's obviously loyal, so it may be a tough sell to get him to leave ODU. But if the Orange can convince him, that's a huge program boost and one that can help them make inroads in the growing Virginia recruiting area. Call this guy!
Mario Cristobal, O-line Coach, Alabama
It's not happening; I'll preface it with that. But it should at least be a thought for Syracuse to call the former FIU head man, since he's nowhere near calling plays down at Alabama right now. Last time we were in need of a head coach, Cristo's name came up, and for good reason. He basically created Florida International out of scratch, knows Florida (hey, that solves the potential George issue!) and the Northeast better than just about anyone and has play-calling experience. Doubt we can pay him more than 'Bama is right now, but we can dream, right?
Tony Levine, Former Head Coach, Houston
Levine was just let go at Houston the other day after three seasons with the Cougars. While the resume doesn't look OVERLY impressive, he did lead them to a 21-17 record and two bowl games (including this year). Houston's offense wasn't rave-worthy in 2014 (63rd in total O) but at least it was balanced -- nearly 50/50 run:pass ratio. He knows Texas, which could be interesting from a recruiting perspective, and has also spent time with Louisville and Louisiana Tech, as well as the Carolina Panthers. I wouldn't bank on it, but still, a name that's looking for a job.
Tyson Helton, Offensive Coordinator, Western Kentucky
In one season with WKU, Helton guided an offense that ranked SIXTH in FBS, and threw for nearly 4,400 yards. No, we're never going to be that type of offense, but at least they ran for 1,900 as well. He's another rising name (similar to Scott) and he's worked at UAB (RIP) and Cincinnati, getting involved in recruiting at both spots as well. The Ohio link is a possible draw for Shafer and our recruiting efforts. He may only have one year of play-calling, but again, one hell of a year at that.
Tim Brewster, Recruiting Coordinator/Tight Ends Coach, Florida State
People around here HATE bringing Brewster's name up, but without any ability to call plays down at FSU, why not at least hear him out? He has experience in North Carolina and kills recruiting for the 'Noles. We can't afford him, but we should really free up funds if he's available. While he may seem to have similar problems to those McDonald presents, he's recruiting at a MUCH higher level than George ever has/will and that sort of talent can off-set a lack of play-calling prowess/experience.
What do you think? Any winners here? Anyone else we may want to check out? Share your thoughts below.