While we’ve been busy following the early signing period all week, former Syracuse Orange co-offensive coordinator/QB coach Sean Lewis has been busy building his staff at Kent State.
Among the hires you’ll be immediately familiar with: former SU linebackers/special teams coach Tom Kaufman, plus Orange quality control coach Matt Johnson and (yesterday) grad assistant Macky MacPherson.
Johnson and MacPherson were obviously names that you saw with future potential at SU (especially when it comes to the latter, a former Orange player himself). But their departures aren’t a commentary on Syracuse’s situation, just like Lewis’s isn’t. What Lewis was offered -- and what he’s giving to Johnson and Macky -- is an opportunity Syracuse couldn’t match; one to get a better name gig, with a marginal pay jump.
This is how the coaching carousel works. And it’s how Dino Babers formed much of his own (first) staff back at Eastern Illinois. That method of pulling from promising risers (like Lewis) and former associates has showed staying power. But now entering year seven of his head coaching career, things are starting to branch off from the initial tree.
This is fine. And it’s a sign he’s hired pretty well to this point.
The model Lewis is following isn’t guaranteed to work just because it emulates Babers. But it seems to have a better shot at succeeding than the plan laid out by former SU head coach Scott Shafer back when he took on his first head coaching job.
Shafer’s hires weren’t all bad, but hiring his friends had some drawbacks. For every coach that may have been ready to take on a larger role in his career, there was one who was a stretch. A constant criticism was that he brought in DIII coaches before it was really “their time” to be at the Power Five level. That doesn’t matter now, as nearly all of those names are still at the FBS level now (including Tim Lester, who is the head coach at his alma mater, Western Michigan). But the most glaring issue with Shafer’s hiring strategy was that no one was ever coming to hire those guys while at SU.
You look at Babers’s staff, and it’s already happened three times with permanent coaches (Lewis, Kaufman, Mike Hart).
One sign of a good staff is that it’s in demand elsewhere. If no one wants to hire your coach, they’re probably not that good. Babers’s hiring hasn’t been perfect, but he’s hired coaches that other teams want.
Lewis, with a limited budget (even more so than the one Shafer had while at SU) seems to be doing the same — or at least the promise is there for it to look similar by the end of his debut season in 2018. You’ll notice the #FlashFAST hashtag floating around already amongst the new KSU staffers, too. It’s a subtle nod to what Babers has been cultivating already at SU. And another sign that Lewis is at least going to attempt to follow in his footsteps.