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Who can Syracuse football hire to replace Justin Lustig’s special teams prowess?

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Dino may have his work cut out for him.

Syracuse v Florida State Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Obviously losing Justin Lustig as special teams coordinator is a tough start to 2021 for the Syracuse Orange football program. Special teams has been a strength for the Orange in recent years, and Lustig was a large part of that. Finding a quality name to fill that spot is a priority for Dino Babers as the offseason hiring season really gets rolling.

While Babers plucked Lustig out of relative obscurity (he was the head coach at D2 Edinboro University) to take over SU special teams back in 2018, there’s a chance he opts for more of a known commodity this time around. As noted, special teams has become a bit of a calling card for Syracuse at this point, and Lustig also handled assistant head coach and outside receiver duties as well. Needless to say, this is no small job.

Rather than a fully exhaustive list of who could be Babers’s hire, we’re instead going to list out a handful of names that seem likely to get looks. Some of these you’re aware of already. Others, perhaps not so much. TBD on when the job actually gets filled, however — though one would hope soon.

Jeff LePak, offensive analyst, Syracuse

LePak came back to Syracuse this past season after spending some time with Sterlin Gilbert down at McNeese State. He was an offensive analyst this past year, but spent three years as a special teams quality coordinator for SU from 2016-18. LePak also played for Babers at Eastern Illinois and worked as a grad assistant under him at Bowling Green. If the Orange aren’t opting for a bigger hire, LePak’s not a bad option who has a handle on the importance of special teams already for this program.

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Steve Gregory, defensive backs coach, Detroit Lions

Another familiar name is former Syracuse player and special teams quality control coach Steve Gregory. Gregory was on staff for what wound up being the start of the special teams revival at SU back in 2015, but has since been in the NFL. With Matt Patricia out with the Lions, he’s likely looking for a new role and could be interested in a reunion with his alma mater should it come with the assistant head coach title as well.

Blair Cavanaugh, special teams quality control coach, Syracuse

Personally, think this is shooting too low if you’re the Orange. But Blair — son of offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh — is already on staff as a special teams quality control coach and knows plenty about the systems Lustig had in place. Blair’s been around the program for the last couple years, and his playing career isn’t too far in the rearview. For me, just think we could use a bit more experience (coaching and recruiting) at the position.

George Ricumstrict, defensive tackles coach, Buffalo

Ricumstrict is an experienced coach around the MAC, and also played for CMU in the late 1980s. He’s spent these last couple years coaching the D-line for Buffalo, but also had a previous stop working under Babers at Eastern Illinois back in 2012 — where he coached special teams. Perhaps he’s not looking to get back to that aspect of things, but SU should at least be able to offer more money. Bonus points that he already knows New York and Northeast recruiting.

Larry Porter, special teams coordinator, Auburn

This one’s more of a Hail Mary. Porter is likely a casualty of the coaching change at Auburn and the Tigers have had one of the top units in the country. Since he’s a former recruiter of the year and an experienced hand on special teams, it would be a huge coup to add him to the staff... if we can afford him, of course. Perhaps an SEC program is able to bring him aboard. Just seems like it’s worth a phone call, at least, since he checks a lot of needed boxes.

Sean Saturnio, special teams coordinator, Army

Saturnio’s been at Army for seven years in various capacities, including special teams — which went pretty well for the Black Knights this past year, ranking 13th overall according to SP+. Recruiting for Army’s a bit different, obviously, but he does know the New York/Northeast area and has clearly found some success on special teams. Additionally, he attended Hawaii, which could have him on Babers’s radar as a fellow alum.

Jay Nunez, special teams coordinator, Eastern Michigan

Another established special teams coach, Nunez has been a big part of EMU’s vast improvements there since 2017. He’s been part of special teams staffs at Southern Illinois and Minnesota (ST quality control) as well. It seems like Nunez has carved out a bit of a niche for himself there, and that could make for a high-quality add for SU to pick up right where they left off. Also provides for some great co-#BRANDing opportunities here with the blog.

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There are plenty more names that you could throw out there, but figured this at least gets the conversation started. Have others in mind? Share your own shortlists below.