We’re still waiting to hear who the Syracuse Orange football team will hire to replace either Justin Lustig (special teams) or Mike Cavanaugh (offensive line) on the coaching staff. But in the meantime, it appears one of the potential solutions there is off the table:
Looks like Syracuse staffer Jeff LePak is joining Clark Lea’s staff at Vanderbilt.— Stephen Bailey (@Stephen_Bailey1) February 14, 2021
LePak returned to SU as an offensive analyst in 2020 after serving as an operations/recruiting assistant & special teams QC from 2016-18. He previously played for Dino Babers at EIU, GA’d at BGSU. pic.twitter.com/2mAfwdC63x
As Stephen Bailey notes above, Orange offensive analyst Jeff LePak has left for Vanderbilt, joining Lustig and former SU linebackers coach Clark Lea, who’s now the head coach for the Commodores. While it wasn’t the only solution for the coaching staff hole, moving LePak up to special teams coordinator was an option for Syracuse this year, while giving O-line duties back to Mike Lynch, with Reno Ferri handling tight ends and running backs.
Losing LePak not only removes that option, but also means SU— one of the nation’s best special teams groups of the last three seasons — loses two of its three most experienced special teams coaches on the roster this offseason. The remaining name is special teams quality control coach Blair Cavanaugh (son of departed O-line coach Mike), who could move up into a special teams coordinator role similar to the idea above with LePak.
If Dino Babers opts to go a different route, though, there are still external options as well. Of the offensive line coach names we ID’d just a few weeks ago, most have now been spoken for. Glen Elarbee went to Tennessee, Jack Bicknell was hired by Louisville and Kyle DeVan was recently hired as an analyst by Michigan. Herb Hand signed on the dotted line at Charlotte, so is potentially out now unless SU wants to pay a buyout. However, Pete Rossamando remains a free agent, while the Orange could also conceivably make a play for Bill Durkin (Coastal Carolina) or Matt Mattox (UTSA, but used to work with Dino). Those aren’t the only names in play, but that original list at least appeared to be the most obvious ones.
Should they hire a special teams coach instead (and shift Lynch to the line), most of the names we mentioned in January could still be hired. Orange grad Steve Gregory’s a long-shot but available, or Syracuse could try to hire away a name like Sean Saturnio (Army) or Jay Nunez (Eastern Michigan).
Though we don’t have a date for spring practice yet, one would assume that’s happening soon, so that should mean a coach is installed soon as well. Ideally, the final hire is a “name” who can make a major impact on recruiting as well as on-the-field outputs.