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Nevada Football to hire Brian Ward as next defensive coordinator

NCAA FOOTBALL: DEC 23 GoDaddy Bowl - Georgia Southern v Bowling Green Photo by Scott Donaldson/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

According to multiple reports, Nevada Football is expected to hire former Syracuse defensive coordinator, Brian Ward, as its next defensive coordinator.

He will replace Jeff Casteel, who was let go, along with two other defensive assistants, last December. Footballscoop.com was the first to report the hire.

Ward served as Syracuse’s defensive coordinator from 2016 to 2019. He was let go after Syracuse’s 58-27 loss to Boston College. The Eagles rushed for a season-high 496 yards on 65 rushes, gaining 691 yards of total offense.

Syracuse’s defense made a tremendous breakthrough during the 10-3 campaign in 2018. The Orange ranked No. 87 in total defense at 426.5 yards per game — an improvement over the 444.0 yards the year prior.

In 2018, the Orange ranked in the Top-5 nationally in turnovers gained (31), interceptions (18), fumbles recovered (13), while being in the Top-10 in opponents’ third down percentage (28.57%) and sacks (3.31 per game). Syracuse set a school-record for total sacks in 2018 with 43, ranking No. 7 in the country.

Ward’s defenses didn’t just sustain growth from 2017 to 2018. In the 2017 season, Syracuse surrendered 57.1 fewer total yards (501.6 to 444.0), 28.3 fewer rushing yards (225.5 to 196.7) and 6.4 fewer points per game (38.6 to 32.2) than it did in 2016. They also finished No. 13 in third down defense in 2017 — 69 spots better than it did in 2016 — allowing opponents to convert at a 31.1 clip.

Previously, Ward held a head coaching job at his alma mater, McPherson College, from 2007 to 2009. His coaching record there was 17-14 (.548), named the 2009 College Fanz National Coach of the Year after leading them to the playoffs for the first time in school history.

He served as the defensive backs coach at North Dakota State in 2010, then both the defensive coordinator and the linebackers coach for Drake (2011), Western Illinois (2012-14) and Bowling Green (2015).

After Dino Babers — who was Bowling Green’s head coach in 2014-15 — was hired as Syracuse’s next head coach in 2015, Ward became the interim head coach for Bowling Green prior to its bowl game versus Georgia Southern. Bowling Green lost the game, 58-27, the only game Ward would serve as the interim head coach before following Babers to Syracuse.

The announcement hasn’t been made official by Nevada yet.