It’s that time of year again. Spring training for the Syracuse Orange is right around the corner and that means TNIAAM personnel are doing a deep dive into position groups. We’re halfway through and giving you a break before the start of defense next week by giving the coaching staff a preview of the offseason.
If you missed the other pieces of the puzzle, you can find quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers/tight ends, and an offensive line in the archives. Upcoming previews will be coming to you weekly for the rest of the spring.
Babers left Ohana. What will it look like?
Who has left ?
Sterlin Gilbert, Reno Ferri, Vinson Reynolds and Terrence Samuel have all left the coaching staff this season. Gilbert’s maligned offense will be out the door, opening up the positions of offensive coordinator and quarterback coach. Reno Ferri opens a spot with the inside tight ends/receivers, Reynolds on the defensive line and Terrence Samuels with the outside wide.
Who is new to campus?
New blood through much of the offense. If you’ve been living under a Syracuse football-based rock, the Orange brought in Robert Anae and Jason Beck from the University of Virginia to try to right the offensive ship. Anae will be the new OC and will also handle tight ends and lunge receivers. Beck is the quarterbacks coach with a few credentials including coaching Brendan Armstrong and Bryce Perkins at UVA and Taysom Hill during his time at BYU. They’ll be joined by wide receivers coach Michael Johnson, another addition with a litany of work and college experience.
The other addition, and welcome after last season’s performance, is new special teams coordinator Bob Ligashesky. Ligashsky has been a name in special teams coaching for years and fills the void left by Justin Lustig when he took the job from Vanderbilt. He’s looking to transform a unit that has gone from being a reason Orange was winning games to being a reason that could have cost a few in a single season.
Who is still there ?
As you can imagine, head coach Dino Babers returns to the sidelines for his seventh season at the helm. Mike Lynch also returns as running backs coach for his seventh season as well as in various roles. The only other returning offensive coach is offensive line coach Mike Schmidt. He got the Run game coordinator job, so that’s good for a confidence boost and I’d take his paycheck.
Returning to the defensive side, defensive coordinator Tony White, who is adding linebackers to his tenure this year, defensive line coach Chris Achuff (formerly linebackers), cornerbacks coach Chip West and safeties coach and new defensive passing game coordinator Nick Monroe.
How will the change in offensive staff affect the scheme?
These are the notes of the cliff. If you want more details, come along for the rest of this ride. As everyone knows who has followed the Orange for the past few years, Coach Babers was a student of the Baylor tack and shoot tree. He has tried over the years to implement it with varying degrees of success while pushing the tempo. Often times he was as successful, or even more so, when he was forced out of his favorite storyline (see Dungey, Eric). With the change of offensive coordinator to someone outside of his coaching tree and the promotion of Mike Schmidt to play coordinator, I think we’ll see a more collective approach to offense and Anae will have the reins to do what he needs.
Anae has consistently adapted the pieces he has at his disposal to the puzzle at hand, executing option-heavy looks at BYU with dual-threat quarterbacks, tossing the ball all over the field with Kurt Benkert and Brendan Armstrong from professional style in Virginia, with a more balanced offense with Bryce Perkins in between. Basically, it’s going to make the pieces match the puzzle.
What is the impact of the return of a special teams coordinator?
When Justin Lustig left, the Orange had a huge void in what was a program strength. Syracuse actually fell exactly one hundred spots in special teams effectiveness versus number 17 (2020) for 117 (2021) in FEI for special teams. I would be lying if I thought it was that bad until I looked at the numbers. I would say that the “task forces by committee” approach has been a dismal failure.
That said, the addition of famed special teams guru Bob Ligashesky hopes to bring Syracuse back to the levels they saw during Lustig’s tenure here. He is a superbowl winner with the Steelers and has coached special teams at the college and professional levels for 36 years at this point. His track record should testify to the fact that this team should turn the tide.
Can Tony White and his staff keep catching lightning in a bottle?
Defense over the past two seasons has been the hallmark that has kept Orange in a few games. As well as becoming DB-U, Tony White’s implementation of the 3-3-5 kept opposing attacks on their toes, assuming they weren’t on the court the entire game.
Chris Achuff will have his hands full with a very raw front three as all four rotating linemen have graduated. White faces a group of veteran linebackers and Monroe and West continue to do what they do at fullback. It looks like if the issues in the trenches can be resolved, the pieces are there for the Orange to repeat the success White has enjoyed throughout his tenure.