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Syracuse football: Potential Orange defensive coordinator hires, round two

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Okay, Zach Arnett’s gone. Now what?

NCAA Football: Boston College at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Nearly two months ago, we looked at a long list of names for the Syracuse Orange football staff to consider on both sides of the ball. They wound up picking none of them, as Sterlin Gilbert left his head coaching post at McNeese State to come aboard and Dino Babers managed to hire away San Diego State defensive coordinator Zach Arnett.

Of course, the latter move didn’t last long, as Arnett was off to Mississippi State in less than two weeks. So now we’re looking for a DC yet again. And with National Signing Day just seven days away, it’s nearly impossible for this move to really impact recruiting much/at all for the 2020 cycle.

Still, we need to make a hire soon so we can get the new defensive scheme up and running this spring. Below are the coaches that could potentially come in to handle said set-up. Would also note that the list is only slightly adjusted to account for what’s potentially more money to throw at a DC than we previously thought, as well as Brian Norwood ending up at UCLA.

NCAA Football: Temple at South Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Charlie Strong - former head coach, USF

Clearly tops on the list since he’s (somehow) still available. Strong struggled as a head coach at USF and Texas, but decidedly didn’t at Louisville nearly a decade ago. Given the fact that he’s excelled as a defensive coordinator (Florida, South Carolina) and is still an excellent recruiter in the state of Florida, it would make sense to give him a call at the very least. Also, he runs a 3-3-5 scheme, which is probably what we need to given the current personnel (and is what Arnett was set to bring in).

Charlie Partridge - assistant head coach/defensive line coach, Pitt

Though not a sitting defensive coordinator, Partridge has served in the role at Wisconsin and was also a head coach at FAU (hey, more Florida experience). He’s been at Pitt since 2017 as well, so has likely built some ties in the Northeast and Midwest that could come in handy. Pitt’s increased their sack total each year Partridge has been on campus, netting an impressive 51 last season.

Dave Huxtable - (former) defensive coordinator, NC State

Huxtable’s defense struggled quite a bit in 2019, but also had to make up for an offense that was MIA for long stretches. That caveat wasn’t enough to save his job, though, which should give us at least a little pause. His previous DC experience at a variety of ACC programs (State, UNC, Pitt, Georgia Tech) is a plus, as is his emphasis on linebacker play.

Marcus Freeman - defensive coordinator/linebackers coach, Cincinnati

Now that we know Syracuse has a bit more cash available than we thought, Freeman seems at least slightly more attainable (if he wants to leave Luke Fickel’s staff, that is). The Ohio/Midwest ties aren’t necessarily what we’re looking for, but the defensive success certainly is. His Bearcats defenses have been ranked 17th (2019), 14th (2018) and 117th (2017), according to FEI. So clearly things have improved significantly. We could use some significant improvement on defense.

Clayton White - defensive coordinator, Western Kentucky

White’s spent a decent amount of time in the Carolinas, having both coached and played at NC State. He’s also spent time at UConn and Stanford, and played in the NFL. Like Freeman, he’s improved a G5 team’s defensive efficiency year over year since 2017, getting WKU all the way up to 22nd in FEI in 2019. He’s a rising name, with some quality selling points to talent (NFL experience, in particular).

Brian Borland - defensive coordinator/cornerbacks coach, Buffalo

Right off the bat, not sure if Borland’s looking to leave Buffalo, since he’s been on Lance Leipold’s staff dating all the way back to 2007, when both were at Wisconsin-Whitewater (DII) — and he was at UW-Whitewater starting in 1994 before that. So while money talks, I wouldn’t bank on it talking here. If he’s interested, however, you have to like how he’s improved Buffalo. After four years of hanging around the 80s or 90s in defensive FEI, the Bulls jumped to 24th in 2019. UB’s been top-25 in sacks for the last two years and intercepted 25 passes over those same two seasons.

Jeff Knowles - defensive coordinator/linebackers coach, Temple

Though Knowles hasn’t been at this long at the FBS level, he’s succeeded at his recent stops. NIU was top 30 in defensive efficiency the two years he was on staff there (2017-18) — though he was just the DC for 2018. However, that 2018 team managed 50 sacks and allowed 2.7 yards per carry. It was enough to encourage Rod Carey bring him along when he took the Owls job. Last year, Temple was a top-40 defense (via FEI) and top 20 in sacks.

Who’s your pick? Anyone else you’d add to the list?