Football

Marrone’s departure leaves a vacancy at head coach, here’s a look at some of his potential replacements at Syracuse

With Doug Marrone heading to the NFL, Syracuse now has to find a new head coach who can keep the program heading in the right direction. Whoever takes over is getting a team coming off a bowl victory, but also one that is going to have a new quarterback and new wide receivers. There’s a lot of change in store for Syracuse, but it’ll start with the new head coach.

Where the Orange goes from here isn’t certain, but here’s a list of potential candidates for the job:

Scott Shafer 

Shafer was one of Marrone’s first hires when he arrived in 2009. One year later, Shafer built Syracuse’s defense into one of the top units in the nation. The Orange’s defense has remained strong, capped off with a staunch effort in the Pinstripe Bowl where it held an explosive West Virginia offense to just 14 points.

Promoting Shafer to head coach would bring stability to the program and would also help keep Syracuse’s recruits interested in signing on the play for the Orange. Hiring Shafer would be proof that Syracuse is committed to making sure the program continues where it left off last season.

Shafer, though, doesn’t have any head coaching experience. He was a coaching candidate at Western Michigan this past November, but that job ended up going to P.J. Fleck.

So does Syracuse end up being the team to offer him the job? The best in-house candidate just might get it.

Nathaniel Hackett

Hackett developed Ryan Nassib, and he then transformed Syracuse’s offense into one of the best in the nation. The Orange finished this past season first in the Big East in total offense with an average of 473.4 yards per game. And in the second half of the season he adjusted Syracuse’s game plan to shift more of the load to the Orange’s running backs, and that tactic carried Syracuse to a 5-1 record in its final six games and a win in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Promoting Hackett would also bring stability to the team, but Hackett doesn’t have any head coaching experience either, and he’s only been the offensive coordinator at Syracuse for two seasons after serving as the quarterbacks and tight ends coach for one. His resume lacks the experience that would make him a good fit to be head coach. Plus, Marrone could end up taking Hackett with him to Buffalo. Hackett spent two seasons with Buffalo as the offensive quality control coach before coming to Syracuse.

While Hackett already knows Syracuse and its players, does he have enough to become the head coach this early in his career? Not likely, but he’s a possibility.

Mario Cristobal

The former Florida International head coach was fired in early December after the Panthers went 3-9 in 2012. But it came after two successful seasons at FIU. Cristobal led the Panthers to an appearance in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in 2010, and then took FIU to Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl after an 8-4 regular season.

Cristobal would be leaving the less competitive Sun Belt Conference for the Atlantic Coast Conference, which is a big jump. He would also be charged with trying to maintain Syracuse’s recruiting foothold in New York City, and that could be hard for a coach who’s been in South Florida since 2004. He did spend three seasons on the coaching staff at Rutgers from 2001 to 2003, so he has some familiarity with the area.

But is that enough to get the Syracuse head-coaching job? He has some good experience leading a team, but FIU and the Sun Belt Conference is a much different job than Syracuse and the ACC.

Bob Diaco 

The Notre Dame defensive coordinator is a popular choice for the job – and for good reason. The Fighting Irish was first in the nation in scoring defense, allowing a measly 10.3 points per game, and that unit has helped lead Notre Dame to the national championship against Alabama on Monday.

And before the 2012 regular season, head coach Brian Kelly promoted Diaco to assistant head coach, in addition to his coordinating duties. What might be among his strongest attributes for the job, though, is that he’s already coached in the ACC. He coached on Virginia’s staff from 2006 to 2008.

He has good coaching experience, and is a qualified candidate to become the next head coach at Syracuse.

Dave Clawson

Clawson has been the head coach at Bowling Green since 2009. The Falcons finished this past season 8-5, and fell to San Jose State 29-20 in the Military Bowl back on Dec. 27. Clawson knows the New York City area, having been the head coach at Fordham from 1999 to 2003. He also spent time on the coaching staffs at Albany and Buffalo early in his coaching career, so he knows Central and Western New York, too.

But coaching in the Mid-American Conference is very different than coaching in the ACC. And Clawson would have high expectations with Syracuse coming off such a strong season. He would also need to learn a lot about the Orange and its upcoming

opponents quickly. But his most challenging task would be to keep Syracuse’s recruits committed to playing for the Orange. Clawson is an outside candidate who could get a good look.

Jim Tressel

Yes, Tressel comes with a lot of baggage after the scandal that toppled him from his head coaching spot at Ohio State. But he’s Jim Tressel, and his resume speaks for itself. He led the Buckeyes to the heights of college football in his 10 seasons at the school, including two appearances in the national championship. Tressel’s also a big name, and would get people to the Carrier Dome to see him and the Orange.

And by the way, Tressel’s pretty familiar with the Carrier Dome and Syracuse. He was an assistant coach for the Orange in 1981 and 1982. Tressel’s looking to rebuild his reputation, and Syracuse could be a spot to do it. Obviously, it would be a controversial decision to hire Tressel because of his past, but he knows how to win and recruits would likely be excited to play for a coach of his caliber.

Tressel’s looking to get back to coaching and maybe—just maybe—he could do it at Syracuse.

  • BleedOrange

    “Shafer was one of Marrone’s first hires when he arrived in 2009. One year later, Shafer built Syracuse’s defense into one of the top units in the nation. ” LULZ who writes this crap. Do you even watch football?

  • M.Primus

    Even though I’ve been an ardent admirer of Doug Marrone as a former SU classmate, player and overall good person, I’ve never really been on board with his coaching style. It’s been just over 50 years since the Orange’s last and only national title. We’re long overdue in returning to major program status that we enjoyed in the early 60’s & 90’s. That’s reason enough to go head first after a quality coach and stand- up induvidual like Jim Tressel.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.centrone Steve Centrone

    Look at the defensive ranking that year. we had a top D. Absolute only reason we won 8 games.

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