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Wednesday, January 5, 2005
Henderson in first year as Jets' D coordinator

Associated Press

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross has returned to his professional roots in search of the Orange's new football coach.

Gross, a former scout for the NFL's New York Jets, made a call to the agent for Donnie Henderson, who's in his first year as defensive coordinator of the Jets.

Henderson said Wednesday that he had not spoken directly to anybody from the university but was willing to listen.

"I've got a great job right now. I'm happy where I'm at. We'll wait and see how everything else transpires," Henderson said as he prepared for Saturday night's playoff game at San Diego. "I think you've always got to talk."

Henderson, who was born in Baltimore and went to high school in Los Angeles, was with the Baltimore Ravens from 1999-2003 and worked primarily with defensive backs. He also was an assistant coach in college at Utah State, Idaho, California, Arizona State and Houston.

"When you get in this business, you aspire to be at the top and run your own program," Henderson said. "If that opportunity comes along, you've got to listen. At this particular time, I can only assess the situation. We've had inquiries. We've just got to wait and see how this all factors out."

Henderson stressed that he's very satisfied with his current job.

"I couldn't ask for more from an organization," he said. "I'm having fun."

Gross, who was hired in December to replace the retiring Jake Crouthamel, fired former Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni last week after the Orange lost 51-14 to Georgia Tech in the Champs Sports Bowl to complete their second straight 6-6 season.

Gross has said he wants to name his new coach as soon as possible, and if the Jets go far in the playoffs that could eliminate Henderson from consideration.

Still, Jets head coach Herman Edwards thinks his assistant would be a good choice.

"I think he would do an outstanding job, it's just according to where he wants to go, if he wants to do it at the college level or pro level," Edwards said. "If he has an opportunity to interview, he should go in if he elects to do that. He has all the qualities."

Other possibilities from the pro ranks include two other defensive coordinators -- Tim Lewis of the New York Giants and Jerry Gray of the Buffalo Bills. Oklahoma assistant Bo Pelini, Texas assistant Greg Robinson and Connecticut head coach Randy Edsall also have been mentioned.

Gray just finished his fourth year with the Bills and eighth overall in the NFL. He was a two-time All-American at the University of Texas from 1983-84 and played nine seasons in the NFL with the Rams, Oilers and Buccaneers. He began his coaching career at SMU and spent four years with the Tennessee Titans. The Bills finished second in total defense this season, and Gross has emphasized he is looking for a defensive-minded coach.

Attempts Wednesday to reach Gray and Pelini for comment were unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, George DeLeone, an assistant football coach at Syracuse for two decades and the man who designed the Orange's freeze option offense, has accepted a job as offensive line coach at Ole Miss, according to The Post-Standard of Syracuse.

Syracuse officials said Wednesday they could not confirm DeLeone's departure, and the director of sports information at the University of Mississippi said Wednesday that he could not comment.

At Mississippi, the 56-year-old DeLeone will be reunited with Ed Orgeron, another former Syracuse coach. Orgeron, who coached the defensive line for national champion USC, was hired Dec. 16 to replace David Cutcliffe following the Rebels' 4-7 season and is expected to announce his staff this week.