Last week, running backs coach Mike Hart left the Syracuse Orange for the Indiana Hoosiers. The news was both surprising (he’s from the area) and not (he’s obviously a rising name in the coaching ranks).
This week, we found out another coach is leaving the SU staff. Linebackers and special teams coach Tom Kaufman is headed to Chattanooga to be the Mocs’ new defensive coordinator.
Syracuse.com’s Nate Mink was the first to report the news.
Kaufman came over with Dino Babers from Bowling Green, and Eastern Illinois before that. His Ohio (Cleveland) roots helped the Orange in that region, and helped color a lot of the early Midwestern feel of the last two classes.
While Syracuse linebackers took a few games to really feel out their role in this defense last year, they did eventually find success. However, the special teams group was up and down in 2016, after a very strong effort in 2015. The Orange were 86th overall in special teams S&P+. SU’s field goal kicking became a liability at one point, and kickoffs and kick returns were among the worst in the country. The lone bright spot remained punting, though. Both punts and punt returns were top-30 in FBS.
Even with Kaufman moving on to a promotion, and to work with former John Carroll teammate John Arth (the head coach for Chattanooga), this is still a much bigger surprise than Hart’s departure. FBS-to-FCS moves are not the norm, and you have to wonder how much (or little) budget Syracuse has for assistants if Kaufman’s willing to make the move.
Mink reports that Orange defensive coordinator Brian Ward will take over linebacker duties, so it’s possible that Kaufman’s replacement is far more special teams focused. There’s been no timetable set for the now two hires this staff will need to make, but with spring practice about to begin, time is of the essence. It would seem most likely Babers adds either former associates or makes promotions from within.
We’ll have more on the Orange football staff’s moves as news appears.