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Syracuse football: Looking at possible offensive line coach replacement hires

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Mike Cavanaugh’s departure becomes an opportunity to address an area of need.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

As was reported on Wednesday, Syracuse Orange offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh is headed to Arizona State. If you were a frequent critic of SU O-line play in recent years, you’re probably pretty alright with this development. If you’re concerned about its effect on O-line recruiting, I think that concern is likely mitigated should a better coach replace him (which one would assume is the plan).

While I mentioned this in the comments yesterday, it’s worth repeating here: During an offseason where two Syracuse coaches (Cavanaugh, Justin Lustig) left for Power Five jobs, it would seem like a disappointment to add UNLV’s wide receivers coach — no offense to Terrence Samuel — and promote from within to fill those spots.

So though the easy solution here is to shift OL duties back to Mike Lynch, put Reno Ferri in charge of running backs (where he has experience) and promote Jeff LePak to special teams coach, that’s not necessarily the recipe for an upgrade this staff needs following a 1-10 season.

With that in mind, here are some names that could come up as part of Syracuse’s search, assuming they’re looking for an offensive line coach to fill out the staff.

Kyle DeVan, offensive line coach/Arizona

DeVan was recently let go with Arizona’s head coaching change, so he’s now looking for a new gig. And while he doesn’t have a lot of connections to our typical recruiting areas — he’s from California, played at Oregon State, then coached at Oregon State, USC, Ball State and with the Saints — there is a tie to our current coaching staff. DeVan just finished working under Kevin Sumlin, who was on the same staff with Dino Babers at Texas A&M.

While at Arizona, DeVan’s lines were good. Per Football Outsiders, line yards and standard down line yards were average last season, but were top-third in the country across the board in 2019 (probably the better measuring stick since it was a full season). At the very least, it’s worth gauging his interest.

Jack Bicknell Jr., offensive line coach/Auburn

To little surprise, Auburn’s O-line was pretty solid last year, so it may be helpful to bring in the position coach responsible. Bicknell’s a been around the SEC for the last three years, and has NFL experience, so there’s likely demand there. However, he’s from New Jersey and went to Boston College, plus he served on the Giants’ staff from 2009-11 — meaning he’s certainly familiar with Syracuse football from his time working under Orange alum Tom Couhglin. That’s probably the strongest link between this current ‘Cuse staff and him.

Matt Mattox, offensive line coach & run game coordinator/UTSA

Of all the names on this list, Mattox is probably the most likely due to his direct ties to this staff — specifically Babers and OC Sterlin Gilbert. Mattox coached the O-line with Babers at Eastern Illinois, then followed along to Bowling Green for a year before joining Gilbert at Tulsa, then Texas, USF and McNeese prior to his divergence to UTSA last season. The Roadrunners allowed 23 sacks last year, but the run game was top 20 in the country (in terms of yards per game). He’s far from a home run hire given how uncertain we are about Gilbert, but a name that’s definitely going to come up.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 16 Purdue at Missouri Photo by Scott Kane/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Glen Elarbee, assistant head coach & offensive line coach/UCF

Admittedly, this one could be a stretch right away, should Josh Heupel decide to take Elarbee along with him to Tennessee (a job he just took this week). But if not, Elarbee will be a free agent and one that should be in demand given how prolific the Knights’ offense has been while he’s been on staff. He’s spent time with a number of other highly capable offenses as well, including Missouri, Middle Tennessee, Arkansas State, Houston and Oklahoma State.

(update: as we were putting this list together, Adkins was announced as the new OL coach at South Carolina, so he’s off the list)

Greg Adkins, offensive line coach & recruiting corodinator/Marshall

For the folks looking to upgrade recruiting with this hire, perhaps look no further than Adkins, who may be looking for a new gig after Marshall moved on from Doc Holliday. Adkins is already very familiar with Syracuse, having coached up some very good offensive lines (and handling recruiting) with the Orange from 2009-12. While he’s originally from West Virginia, there’s plenty of ties to New York. A reunion here could be an interesting one.

Herb Hand, offensive line coach/Charlotte

Hand, who lost his job coaching Texas’ offensive line after Tom Herman was let go, already got a new role coaching the O-line at Charlotte this offseason. Yet, one would hope that Syracuse can pay more to get him to come aboard, should they want to. Hand’s from New York originally, has spent the last 21 years in the P5 ranks and last year’s Texas O-line was ranked in the top half of the country. He’d be an excellent addition likely to help make some immediate upgrades (and perhaps he’d even help land Longhorns transfer target Willie Tyler).

Pete Rossomando, offensive line coach/Vanderbilt

Rossomando may be retained by Clark Lea and if so, the ‘Dores can outpay Syracuse. If not, though, the former Central Connecticut State and New Haven head coach could be an interesting addition. He’s a New York (Staten Island) native, spent a lot of time at Albany, even coached the O-line for Rutgers for a year back in 2019. The Northeast ties are interesting, as is the fact that he has a couple years of P5 roles under his belt now.

Bill Durkin, offensive line coach/Coastal Carolina

Part of the Chanticleers’ impressive 2020 campaign was due to a quality offensive line led by long-time assistant Bill Durkin. Durkin doesn’t have overlap with Babers’s staff, but was at Bowling Green shortly before he arrived, and also has time coaching special teams in the past. He’s been at Coastal for a bit, though he’s a UMass grad and spent a bunch of time at both Richmond and Hofstra (before the Pride shut down the program). Definitely not the most obvious name, though could be a fit.

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Anyone have other names in mind? Share your own thoughts below.