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Former BYU football quartet is helping lead a resurgence at a Power 5 program

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Offensive coordinator Robert Anae as BYU opens their first day of football camp Aug. 8, 2015, in Provo.

Offensive coordinator Robert Anae as BYU opens their first day of football camp Aug. 8, 2015, in Provo. Anae is now an assistant coach at Syracuse.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

The Syracuse Orange football program hasn’t exactly been a model of sustained success in the 21st century.

The Orange have finished above .500 just six times since 2000 (twice they’ve finished exactly there), and only once since going 7-6 in 2013. After finishing the 2001 season ranked No. 18 in the country, Syracuse didn’t crack The Associated Press Top 25 a single time until 2018, when it finished the campaign ranked No. 15.

The Orange then were ranked for two weeks to start 2019, but haven’t been since.

Until this week.

Yes, there is a bit of a resurgence happening at Syracuse, as the Orange find themselves with a 5-0 record and a No. 22 national ranking.

Helping to lead the hot start is a quartet of coaches who used to be part of the BYU football program. At the top of that group is offensive coordinator Robert Anae, followed by quarterbacks coach Jason Beck, offensive graduate assistant Koy Detmer Jr. and offensive analyst Micah Simon.

Anae was the offensive coordinator at BYU from 2005-2010 and then again from 2013-2015, Beck was quarterbacks coach from 2013-2015, Detmer Jr. played there from 2015-2017 and Simon played there from 2015-2019.

After the 2015 season, Anae and Beck followed former BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall to Virginia, where they were until Mendenhall abruptly resigned after last season.

To be sure, it’s not as if the Syracuse offense is lighting the world on fire. Before a 59-0 drubbing of a hapless Wagner team of the FCS ranks last week, the Orange were pretty middle of the road nationally from a statistical perspective.

Additionally, two of Syracuse’s five wins have come by a combined five points, including a two-point dramatic victory over the Virginia program Anae and Beck just left.

Truth be told, the Orange defense has been great, as it is ninth in the country in points given up per game and 12th in yards given up per game.

All of that being said, the offense under Anae and company is improved over the one last season that finished in the bottom third in the country in points and yards per game.

After the first contest of the season, Syracuse.com’s Brent Axe wrote about his first impressions of Anae’s offense and concluded, “We’ve only scratched the surface of what Anae’s offense will bring. Pre-snap motion. (Wide receiver Sean) Tucker as a receiver and a decoy. Throwing to the tight end. Moving offensive lineman around. The first impression certainly left its mark.”

The major caveat in all of this is that Syracuse has had a rather easy schedule so far, as its opponents to date have a combined record of just 9-16, and things are about to get a lot tougher.

To illustrate that point, ESPN’s Bill Connelly earlier this week ranked the 16 remaining unbeatens in FBS and slotted the Orange at No. 15, writing, “Their wild, last-second upset of Purdue is their only win over an SP+ top-75 team to date, and the memory of their narrow home win over a pretty mediocre Virginia team lingers. (And again: Wagner is quite bad.)”

That said, Connelly concluded, “This is still a hell of a story, and while Dino Babers’ resurgent Orange are probably not long for the unbeaten world — after a Week 6 bye, they face six straight opponents ranked from 18th to 45th — they are still likely to reach at least seven wins by season’s end.

“Considering they went a combined 6-17 in 2020 and ’21, that’s a remarkable turnaround.”