SYRACUSE, N.Y. (SYRACUSE ATHLETICS) – Tony White, disciple of defensive guru Rocky Long and a two-time Scout.com Mountain West Recruiter of the Year award recipient, has been named Syracuse’s defensive coordinator, Orange head football coach Dino Babers announced on Friday.
White served as the cornerbacks coach and defensive passing game coordinator at Arizona State the past two seasons. He arrives in Syracuse after a short stint as the Sun Devils’ defensive coordinator, a position he was appointed to in December. White ran the defense in ASU’s 20-14 victory over Florida State in the 2019 Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl, a game in which the Sun Devils shut out the Seminoles for nearly three quarters and scored a defensive touchdown.
“Tony has coached in some elite defenses during his career and we’re happy that he, Angela, Anthony III and Ava are now part of the Syracuse family,” Babers said.
“My family and I are thankful to Coach Babers and [Director of Athletics] John Wildhack for this opportunity,” White said. “To be able to coach at a first-class institution like Syracuse University is a great honor. Coach Babers and his staff have a vision for this program and I’m committed to helping them make it a reality.”
In White’s two seasons at Arizona State, the Sun Devils allowed just 13 passing plays of 40+ yards – a marked improvement over the 34 such plays ASU gave up in the two years before White got to Tempe. The Sun Devil secondary made dramatic gains in White’s first year, climbing 50 spots in the NCAA’s passing defense rankings. That growth continued in 2019, as ASU finished the year 12th in the country with 65 passes defended. Three of White’s cornerbacks – Kobe White (2019), Jack Jones (2019) and Aashari Crosswell (2018) – garnered All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention.
Prior to his arrival at ASU, White cemented himself as one of the nation’s top rising assistant coaches during a nine-year stint (2009-17) at San Diego State under the mentorship of Long. While helping the Aztec secondary consistently rank as one of the elite groups in the nation, White was named the Scout.com Mountain West Recruiter of the Year twice (2011, 2013). He was also recognized as the top recruiter among non-Power-Five schools in 2014 by Rivals.com.
White’s tenure with the Aztecs coincided with one of the most successful eras in SDSU history. The Aztecs went to eight bowl games in White’s nine seasons and won three Mountain West Conference championships (2012, 2015, 2016).
SDSU finished with a pass coverage grade ranked 31st or better in three of White’s last four years with the Aztecs, according to Pro Football Focus. In 2017, the Aztecs were 11th nationally and first in the Mountain West in total defense (314.5 ypg) and 15th in passing yards allowed (178.7). The strong showing followed a 2016 campaign in which San Diego State led the FBS with 26 interceptions.
One of White’s star pupils, Damontae Kazee, was instrumental in the success. Kazee became the first cornerback in conference history to win Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year honors twice, capturing the award in 2015 and 2016. Kazee also garnered 2015 USA Today Second Team All-America recognition and was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
White also aided the development of J.J. Whittaker during that period. Whittaker earned All-Mountain West Second Team honors in 2014 and 2015 and was an All-MW Honorable Mention pick in 2013.
In 2015, the Aztecs authored one of the top defensive seasons in program history en route to the Mountain West title. San Diego State ranked second nationally with 23 interceptions and was No. 10 in passing efficiency defense (108.71). The performance came after a 2014 season in which SDSU ranked third in the FBS in defensive passing efficiency (112.1) and surrendered just 10 touchdowns through the air (second among Mountain West schools).
In 2013, White earned Scout.com Mountain West Recruiter of the Year honors for the second time in three seasons. On the field, Whittaker had a breakout first year under White’s tutelage. Whittaker led the Aztecs with 14 passes defended (three interceptions, 11 pass breakups), good for the fifth in the conference.
The first time White’s recruiting prowess was formally recognized was in 2011 when he was tabbed Scout.com’s Mountain West Recruiter of the Year. Again the award was coupled with on-field success by his protégés. Both of SDSU’s starting cornerbacks, Leon McFadden and Larry Parker, earned first-team all-league honors. Parker, who was also named an honorable mention All-American by SI.com, led the Mountain West with seven interceptions to tie for fourth nationally in his first season as a starter. McFadden, who led the Mountain West in passes defended twice in his career, went on to become a third-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2013.
White came to San Diego State after spending the 2008 season with Long at New Mexico. White was in charge of the Lobos’ linebackers and mentored two all-conference selections (Zach Arnett and Herbert Felder). The 2008 Lobos ranked 26th nationally against the run, 45th in total defense and 46th in scoring defense.
Before moving to Albuquerque, White got his start in the college ranks as the graduate assistant for football operations at UCLA in 2007. White assisted with the day-to-day running of the program, recruiting administration and distributed player information to pro scouts. In 2006, White was the head football coach at St. Genevieve High School in Panorama City, California, where he led the team to its best record in 13 seasons and coached two first-team All-CIF selections.
As a player, White was a three-year starter and four-year letterman at outside linebacker for Bob Toledo at UCLA from 1997-2000. White made 64 tackles as a senior captain in 2000 and earned the program’s N.N. Sugarman Award for Best Leadership. After his collegiate career ended, White played four seasons in the Canadian Football League for the Calgary Stampeders, Ottawa Renegades (now the Redblacks) and Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
A 2002 UCLA graduate, While holds a bachelor’s degree in history.
He and his wife, Angela, have a son, Anthony III, and a daughter, Ava.
THE WHITE FILE
Hometown: El Paso, Texas
Alma Mater: UCLA ‘02
Family: wife, Angela; son, Anthony III; daughter Ava
2006: St. Genevieve HS (Calif.) – Head Coach
2007: UCLA – Graduate Assistant
2008: New Mexico – Linebackers
2009-17: San Diego State – Cornerbacks
2018-19: Arizona State – Cornerbacks/Defensive Passing Game Coordinator