While discussing the Syracuse Orange's two new football coaching staff adds the other day, we mentioned that there were still two more coaching staff spots left to fill. If we assume that assistant head coach Kim McCloud takes on the wide receivers, and Chris Beatty handles running backs, that leaves openings at tight end and defensive line, respectively.
We'll try to go through some potential candidates at tight end in the next week, but since it was a bit easier to pull Dino Babers's extended coaching tree around defensive line candidates, that's where we start. Babers and the staff have been pretty tight-lipped about any moves before they occur. And without official announcements on any hires since Babers was announced, we've just been going off Twitter updates. So all of the names below are guesses at who could fill these roles and nothing more. But they are educated guesses based on previous stops for Babers and defensive coordinator Brian Ward -- which makes them at least a bit better than wild speculation and name-dropping... right?
Your maybe-possible-defensive-line-coach candidates:
Chris Achuff, Assistant Head Coach (Defensive Line), Baylor
Of all the candidates on this list, this is probably the longest shot. Achuff's been down at Baylor for eight years, but has also remained largely in place since his arrival under Art Briles. Over the course of his tenure, the Bears have been able to recruit better athletes along the line, and improved abilities to rush the passer. And while the group may have taken a small step back in 2015, the 2014 team featured all-conference players galore and a top-20 unit that almost put Baylor in the College Football Playoff. Babers worked with Achuff during his own Baylor stint, so that's why this is here. As mentioned, Achuff's handled the same general role for a long time, plus he's not a Texas guy. Despite the long tenure in Waco, he's originally a Bloomsburg College (Penn.) and Bryant University (Rhode Island) coach before moving on to University of Tennessee-Martin. Perhaps he's looking to head back North?
George Ricumstrict, Defensive Line Coach, Central Michigan
Ricumstrict's credentials largely come through via his short stint working under Babers at Eastern Illinois. He's a former Chippewa player, and is now in his second go-around as a CMU coach too, which makes the move at least a little questionable since he's obviously loyal. Ricumstrict's coaching career has been centered on the Midwest, with stops at Miami (Ohio), Indiana, Michigan State and others along with EIU and CMU. Like Achuff, his unit took a bit of a step back in 2015 (the Chips had one of the nation's lowest sack totals), but in 2014, the group was top-30. Price won't be an issue here, so it's really about his loyalty to his alma mater (not to be discounted) and how well he got along with Babers the last time around.
Dino Kaklis, Defensive Coordinator, University of Virginia at Wise
TWO Dinos? I know, it could potentially happen.... if UVA-Wise wasn't so bad on defense this year, that is. This is one of those "had to mention, but don't really want to see it" candidates, as Kaklis is a holdover from Babers's Eastern Illinois days and perhaps he could've gotten the call-up if the DII Highland Cavaliers had a higher level of performance. Instead, UVA-Wise was among the worst defenses in DII during a miserable 1-10 campaign. Kaklis probably brings some quality knowledge of Virginia recruiting, but we also have that already with Chris Beatty on staff. The jump from DII to P5 is feasible for a select few, and I don't see Kaklis being a name to consider for that right now.
Theo Young, Scout, Buffalo Bills
Young, like Achuff, is a great mix of Babers's time down at Baylor (Young coached defensive ends there from 2008-2010), and his new home in the Northeast. Since leaving Baylor five years ago, Young has worked as a scout for the Bills, handling scouting for Missouri, the plains and upper Midwest areas. No, not a perfect fit by any means, but on the other hand: he does get Babers's system already, he understands the challenges of the Northeast and could potentially bring Syracuse into some new (debatable if necessary, however) recruiting ground. Seems like he's content being off the sidelines, but never say never on a reunion here.
A.J. Cooper, Defensive Ends/Special Teams Coach, Wyoming
Cooper previously worked with Brian Ward at his alma mater, North Dakota State, and was part of the first three of the Bison's four-season championship streak. When Craig Bohl left NDSU for nearby Wyoming, he brought Cooper along, but it's been quite a struggle since. Bohl, once a promising name in the business, is now staring at a 6-18 record in 24 games with the Cowboys. Cooper's line had some of the lowest sack numbers in the country (just 10 all year) and this staff could all be done if poor play continues in 2016. BUT, if Cooper is willing to remove himself from the Bohl/NDSU tree and rejoin Ward now at Syracuse, perhaps there's a chance he benefits from a fresh start. When he was with the Bison, Cooper's lines were regularly among the best in FCS. And with much more appeal and resources at Syracuse vs. Wyoming, he might be able to recapture that energy.
Nick Goeser, Defensive Tackles/Recruiting Coordinator, North Dakota State
Goeser's been at NDSU for awhile (since 2010), but made his way into football coaching through lower-level Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin stops first. Like Cooper, he worked with Ward while with the Bison, and assisted in coaching a line that regularly ranked atop FCS from 2011-13. While Cooper hasn't experienced the same fortunes with a change of scenery, Goeser's NDSU group was one of the best defenses in the country and top-25 in sacks. He's also won championships already at multiple stops -- NDSU (four) and Minnesota-Duluth (one). It's not a perfect fit, per se. But it could be one worth exploring if Ward wants to bring in someone he trusts and that he already knows how to work with.
Admittedly, none of these are home runs, and again, they're based solely on relationships and nothing more. One might think that if Cooper, Kaklis or Ricumstrict was the pick, it would've already happened (potentially) since those teams' respective seasons are over. But for the rest, we might want to wait and see once their 2015 campaigns come to a close first.
Sure, there are plenty of "sexier" picks for potential coaches, but with Syracuse's budget in mind, it's not a bad place to start yourself at relationships-only, and then be surprised if hires extend outside of that group. In all likelihood, we end up completely wrong, though. So feel free to suggest any and all other possible candidates below.