As the Syracuse Orange look ahead to the upcoming season, their surrounding is not the only thing changing. With Scott Shafer being elevated from defensive coordinator to head coach, someone had to step to fulfill his former role.
Enter Chuck Bullough. The new defensive coordinator not only aided from the sidelines in his career with the gridiron but also spent time on the field himself. Bullough played linebacker for the Michigan State Spartans from 1988 to 1991 and would go on to play professionally for the Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts. He would then return to his alma mater of Michigan State to serve as the assistant defensive backs coach and offensive line coach. From there, Bullough headed back to the NFL, this time as a coach, holding the roles of assistant linebackers, assistant defensive line, and assistant secondary coach for the Chicago Bears. He would oversee the linebackers for Lake Forest, Western Michigan, and UCLA before heading the entire defense as UCLA's defensive coordinator from 2009 to 2010. After, Bullough became a defensive assistant coach for the NFL's Cleveland Browns.
Following the pattern of college to pro and back, Bullough accepted the open position to guide Syracuse's defense, but refuses to take all of the credit for what the Orange are working to accomplish. "I've always been the type of coach that it's just not my signature," said Bullough. "It's my assistant coaches. We wanna be a team as the defensive coaches. I have some great coaches and we all have our input and we all have different things. We all have great ideas we throw in there."
So far, he believes the team has taken positively to the newly-renovated defensive coaching staff, "I think the players have really grasped the idea and the concepts that we've got," Bullough stated. "Some are the same, some are different, but...these kids are really good kids in terms of they really wanna win and they really wanna pay attention. They really wanna learn what you want. All's you gotta do is guide 'em on what you want."
One of the players Bullough and the defensive staff are working to guide is junior college transfer linebacker Josh Kirkland. "I saw a couple hits [in the Spring game]," Bullough remarked. "He's done that all through practice, so as we tell 'em, the guys that are physical, that's defensive football. You gotta be physical and so he's definitely jumped out as a coaching staff in terms of being a physical player."
Looking at the defensive staff, Bullough has already seen positive signs from working with his Syracuse peers, referring back to his connection with each. "Well the staff has been phenomenal," Bullough shared. "When me and coach [Scott] Shafer got together and we talked about putting this defensive staff together, I knew coach [Tim] Daoust from a long time. I met with him, coach Shafer 10 years ago. So I knew Tim for a long time."
"And then [linebackers] Clark [Lea], obviously, I coached with at UCLA so I knew him," Bullough continued. "And then we took some time to find a DB (defensive backs) coach. We brought a bunch of DB coaches in and coach [Fred] Reed came in and hit it out of the ballpark...he was the only guy on this staff that didn't anybody coming in. Obviously everybody else on the staff knew somebody coming in on the staff, so he came in and we've been blessed with him 'cause he fits right in with our philosophy. He's very intelligent, very sharp, so I feel good as the defensive coordinator. I have some really good assistant coaches."
Focusing back on the players, Bullough provided what he took from the Spring. "The players that are here, it's been great this five weeks 'cause I tried and the other coaches on defense that knew tried not to have any preconceived ideas coming in," Bullough shared. "We told 'em first day, 'You guys, you got a clean slate. We don't know anything about ya.' Obviously coach Shafer's kinda keyed us into this guy's personality, this guy's special trait, this guy's not lacking here, this guy's strong here. But we say the staff, we wanna come in and see it ourselves and let them know that they got a clean slate and go forward. And I think the guys jumped at the opportunity."
As far as those to come, entering during the summer to Syracuse for the first time, "You don't really know about the guys that are coming in," Bullough offered. "You don't have a feel for the personalities. You have a feel for them on film, what you expect from 'em, but you never know until they get on the college campus."