It is November 30th, 2021 and Sterlin Gilbert is no longer the offensive coordinator for Syracuse football. Nothing personal against him, but look he just didn’t do anything. Fans never heard from him, saw him, and media could never get a hold of him. The offense he was running is outdated and not set up for success in the 2021 realm of college football. Some of the biggest complaints against him include the lack of efficient passing game, questionable play calling, and NEVER utilizing the tight ends in the aerial attack.
Keep in mind he was here for just two seasons and the same problems from 2020 carried over into 2021. If not for Sean Tucker’s excellence and Garrett Shrader’s nose for the end zone in the red zone, this offense would’ve struggled to hit double digits. Syracuse may have gone 2-10 and winless in the ACC as well.
Okay, Gilbert is gone so let’s just move on. Before though, take a look at this incriminating tweet from Tucker if you haven’t seen it. This tells you everything you need to know.
Alright, that’s the last you’ll ever hear of the name Sterlin Gilbert from us. Let’s identify six potential candidates for the open offensive coordinator position. These names aren’t in any particular order.
Mike Hart, Michigan RB’s Coach
This would be the dream hire. Hart is a Syracuse native and spurned the Orange to play at Michigan (much to my enjoyment) and is now the running backs coach at U of M. Hart is still the all-time leading rusher in school history in Ann Arbor. His work speaks for itself, the Wolverines average 225 rush yards per game and 5.26 yards per carry. The dominant ground attack just pulverized Ohio State’s defense this past Saturday. In his coaching career he’s groomed four different 1,000 yard rushers and has already added a fifth this year in Hassan Haskins, potentially a sixth in Blake Corum.
It would take a lot of incentives and a big time salary to get him but this would be a home run hire. Hart has also served in associate head coaching roles before so perhaps offering that position would entice him even more. The Onondaga Central product served as SU’s running backs coach back in 2016 so he’s familiar with Babers and he has all the recruiting connections you could want in the northeast. Get the hashtags going now Fizz Nation, #bringbackmike.
Willy Korn, Coastal Carolina OC
The Chanticleers can absolutely light up the scoreboard and they do it with no-star, two-star, and maybe some three-star recruits. The system they run is like what the military academies do with the triple-option but it also has a ton of spread concepts and mis-direction fueled by creativity. Korn is in his fifth season at CCU and while he may not be the mastermind of this offense, he could definitely bring some of that philosophy to Syracuse.
Coastal led the Sunbelt Conference in scoring in 2020 averaging over 37 points per game. Additionally, the Chanticleers led the conference in third-down conversions (52%), team passing efficiency (177.2), and red zone offense (88% score rate). These are all categories that SU was just horrendous in this season. In 2021, this offense is even better as it currently sits at 6th nationally averaging just a little under 500 yards per game and 7th nationally averaging over 43 points per game.
It’s also important to keep in mind that Korn’s offense did this with a young, dual-threat quarterback in Grayson McCall. Garrett Shrader’s game is very comparable to his. Korn needs to be someone SU goes after because the offense he coordinates could be lethal in the ACC.
Andrew Sowder, Kent State OC
Dino Babers has a history with Kent State’s current coach, Sean Lewis. Getting Lewis to come to the Hill would be a tall order because it wouldn’t really be an upgrade for him to leave an HC position for an OC spot. However, that doesn’t mean Syracuse couldn’t target his offensive coordinator Andrew Sowder.
As everyone knows, the strength of the SU team is the ground game. Well Sowder has coached the nation’s third-best rushing attack with the Flashes this season. Kent State averaged just south of 250 yards per game this year while averaging about 491 yards per outing in total offense which is good for 8th in the country. The passing stats aren’t as good as the Flashed are outside the top 50 but perhaps some of his principles could the run game even better at SU. Plus, Babers might be able to get a solid recommendation from Coach Lewis to solidify interest.
Jake Moreland, Western Michigan OC
Moreland is a former tight end at WMU and has an extensive history coaching the position. Want to get the tight ends more involved? Hiring this guy is a great way to do it. Moreland’s 2019 offense ranked third in the MAC averaging 33 points per game, second in total offense with over 445 yards per contest, and was top-25 nationally with more than 205 yards on the ground per outing.
In addition, Moreland has a proven track record of developing skill position talent. He coached 2019 Doak Walker semi-finalist Levante Bellamy (RB) as well as Mackey Award finalist Giovanni Ricci. The 2021 version of WMU’s offense checks in at 15th in the nation averaging 462 yards per game. Oh and he coached the Broncos to a win over ACC Coastal division champion Pittsburgh. Syracuse recruits Michigan pretty hard so snagging Moreland would be a plus for that as well.
Zach Kittley, Western Kentucky OC
Kittley is a rising star. He helped mentor Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes when he was at Texas Tech serving as the assistant quarterbacks coach. Kittley then went to Houston Baptist as the offensive coordinator and qb’s coach. While at HBU, his offense ranked 12th nationally in the FCS averaging about 427 yards per game and 334 passing yards per game.
Now Kittley may not be a great fit as Shrader isn’t as polished of a passer to lead and offense like this. However, Kittley worked with Mahomes so he understands how to fit a dual-threat qb into a system. Plus, Shrader won’t be here forever, maybe SU snags a better pocket passer from the recruiting trail or transfer portal. As a former coach in Texas, Kittley assuredly has some connections in the talent rich Lone Star State.
The Western Kentucky offense is ranked 2nd nationally in the FBS averaging about 525 yards per game and 43 points per game. Making the jump from WKU to SU is plausible.
Eric Eidsness, Northern Illinois OC
Eidsness might be a diamond in the rough. He spent several years at South Dakota State, one of the perennial powers in the FCS. In his final season there in 2018, the Jackrabbits ranked fifth in the nation scoring 42.5 points oer game and tenth gaining 480.5 yards per contest. While at SDSU, he mentored Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert who is one of the best in the NFL. He also coached running back Zack Zenner who played for the Lions and ran for over 2,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. Zenner is the only running back to accomplish this feat in NCAA D1 history.
In 2021, the NIU offense checks in at 49th in the nation averaging 426.5 yards per game. That may not be very impressive but what is is the fact his ground attack slots in at fifth in the country averaging 231.5 rush yards per game. Perhaps he could coach up Sean Tucker and develop him like he did Zenner.
Much to fans chagrin, Babers is back for at least 2022. It might turn out to be a good thing that he is because that means the program has more money to offer a dynamite offensive coordinator instead of forking over Babers’ buyout. With this extra revenue, the athletic department must go big because if they don’t, the future of this program is inevitable.