The question of who was going to replace Brian Ward as Syracuse’s next defensive coordinator was seemingly answered weeks ago.
The Orange seemingly made a splash when they hired Zach Arnett away from San Diego State as the young DC was set to bring his unique 3-3-5 scheme to Central New York. But, as we all know that wasn’t the last splash that Arnett was set to be a part of as he wound up spurning SU for the SEC and Mississippi State less than two weeks later.
Quite honestly, panic mode started to set in a bit as Syracuse scrambled to try to find a new DC as National Signing Day 2.0 quickly approached. Much like Eric Dungey, SU scrambled well.
Much like Arnett was lured away from a Power 5 school by a superior conference, Tony White comes to SU with some big-time experience under his belt and yes, he too will bring the unique 3-3-5 defensive look that Arnett would have brought. In fact, ESPN’s Matt Barrie says that White was the preferred candidate in the first search before turning the job down to stick around at ASU before deciding to come to CNY in the end.
White’s most recent stop came out in the Pac-12 where he served as the defensive backs coach at Arizona State for each of the last two seasons. He was recently promoted to defensive coordinator by Sun Devils’ head coach Herm Edwards in December.
His units at ASU had considerable success in his time in Tempe as the entire defensive side checked in as a Top 40 unit in the country according to scoring defense while his secondary slotted in at 12th in the nation with 65 passes defended in the 2019 season.
One quick side note, for any fans praying for the end of SU giving up big plays, White can also help you there. ASU allowed just two plays of 50+ yards this season, tied for the fifth fewest in the nation.
Before Arizona State, White enjoyed success as the secondary coach at San Diego State where he worked in tandem with Arnett who was then the linebackers coach at SDSU. In the season before heading to ASU, the Aztecs pass defense ranked 15th in the country under White’s supervision. He coached up NFL DB Damontae Kazee during his tenure.
While his units’ on-field performances have been impressive, perhaps the biggest bonus in hiring White is how good of a recruiter he is. While at San Diego State he was a two-time 2011 Mountain West Recruiter of the Year by Scout.com and was considered to be a Top 5 non-Power 5 recruiter in the country while he was with the Aztecs.
Much like new OC Sterlin Gilbert, White also has ties to and has coached with Dino Babers in the past. While Dino was serving as the running backs coach at UCLA in 2007, White was a graduate assistant. He played for the Bruins from 1997-2000 as an outside linebacker and team captain.
It’s never easy to make two coordinator hires in one offseason and it becomes even more difficult when somebody you thought you had locked down is lured away by another program. With that being said, though, the Orange may have just gotten a pair of steals in Gilbert and White.
We know how important Gilbert was in locking down QB commit Dillon Markiewicz and with White’s reputation as a talented recruiter out west, SU could become a much more serious contender for talented recruits in the near future.
Keep in mind, the Orange’s 2019 roster featured just six players who went to high school west of Texas with only three of those (Sean Riley, Lakiem Williams and Jawhar Jordan) making any significant impact on the season. That could easily change with White and Gilbert and staff and makes the former’s hire a really exciting one for SU.
ANOTHER COACHING ADDITION
As this article was being written, some more coaching news broke for Syracuse football.
Chip West will replace Kim McCloud who had served as the cornerbacks coach for each of the last two seasons and was the wide receivers coach at SU for the two years prior. McCloud had served under Dino Babers at each one of Dino’s head coaching stops from 2012-2019.
As for West, he brings some more recruiting pedigree to SU. From 2010-2015, West was the cornerbacks coach at Virginia where he also served as recruiting coordinator from 2012-2015. He was named the ACC Recruiter of the Year in 2014 by Rivals.com and Scout.com and in 2011 by 247Sports.com where he was also a finalist for national recruiter of the year.
After leaving UVA in 2015 in the midst of a head coach turnover, West went on to serve as the co-defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach at both Howard and Charlotte before heading up the corners at Marshall in 2019.
Another big off-the-field win for Syracuse football. Who said this offseason wasn’t a good one?