In the sensitive days following the massive changes in the coaching staff, it would be smart for Syracuse to replace Nate Hackett with former Orange star David Walker. The quick promotion of Scott Shafer to head coach may have lacked patience, but acting swiftly has its benefits. Under ideal circumstances, Daryl Gross would have held a widespread search for Doug Marrone’s replacement and found the perfect candidate. But these are not ideal circumstances.
In the world of college football you’re always tentatively holding onto the commitments of recruits. Talent is every program’s life blood. In the NFL, preparation, scheme and coaching can often push an organization from average to winner. In college, you have talent and win. You recruit poorly, you lose. Simple as that.
So the desperate grasp onto commitments is a strong pull. And even if Shafer is merely the safe choice, he also gives you the best chance at holding onto those recruits. But losing Hackett provides another gut punch for SU. He developed an offense players saw working, and were enticed to sign. He brought quarterbacks Zach Allen and Austin Wilson to the Hill. He was a draw.
So how do you remedy that? SU should give Walker an offer to come back to his alma mater. He’s the running backs coach for the Colts, and served in the same capacity under Coach P from 1995-2004. In that time he mentored six running backs who went on to play in the NFL. He’s a bright mind, who’s been around a strong organization and the inspirational Chuck Pagano story this year. Watch a video from this summer of Walker.
As The Fizz dissected this season, the NCAA limits staff size. So you need your recruiters to be serviceable coaches, and your coaches to be serviceable recruiters. Walker would fit both these roles. How could high school players not be impressed by a coach who’s coming from coaching in the NFL? In the same locker room as Andrew Luck, Dwight Freeny and Reggie Wayne. And would anyone bleed Orange like Walker? He’s a former Syracuse team captain, ran for 2,643 yards in his career, led the 1992 team to a 10-2 record with a Fiesta Bowl victory.
The backfield will be the strength of the offense next year since SU will be breaking in a brand new quarterback. How much could Walker get out of Prince Tyson Gulley and Jerome Smith? Add Adonis Ameen Moore and George Morris. Wouldn’t Gus Edwards keep his commitment to SU if he was being coached by a guy who was just working with the Colts backfield?
He also knows New York State and specifically the SU region. He’s a Rochester native and has been inducted into the Section V Hall of Fame for the NYS Public High School Athletic Association. He’s familiar with the SU football dynamic from both a player and coaches viewpoint, just like Marrone was. And Walker would be a valuable piece to a staff who could use a natural successor to the HC slot should Shafer ever leave or be fired. Syracuse needs to fill Hackett’s void with an impressive hire. Shafer provides the stability, Walker would bring the sizzle.