Item: Welcome to the ACC. Scott Shafer joined his 13 new conference counterparts on a media call for the first time Thursday to wrap up spring ball and gaze into the future of their programs, personnel, and with some coaches the upcoming College Football Playoff starting after next season.
Below are the opening comments and most of the subsequent responses from the ‘Cuse first-year head coach:
“First off, thanks for having us on. Spring ball went well. We went into it with the goal and objective of creating a high intensity and high level of competition bar, and want that bar to be set high, and I felt like the kids did a nice job especially the second half of spring ball playing with great tempo and the competition moves forward. We’re excited to get started in the next phase.”
Q: How important was the class that just graduated (2009 group with Doug Marrone) since you’ve been there to the school and the revitalization of the program?
SS: They’ve been essential to the success of the program. When we first got the job here under coach Marrone, that was our first class and we inherited some redshirt freshmen, and then went out and recruited that class (2009) that really you can argue is the best class we‘ve had. Start with Ryan Nassib, (who) broke a lot of records here at Syracuse, and threw them to Alec Lemon, who broke Rob Moore, our wide receivers coach now, he actually broke Rob’s records when he was a player here, and then Marcus Sales.
So, with the passing game we lost really the three most influential people. Up front we lost two starters that you could argue were our best players in Justin Pugh and Zack Chibane. And, then on defense we lost our leading tackler (Shamarko Thomas), so we have an uphill battle to replace those kids as football players, but as you mentioned essentially they were also our leaders that took the program from really the depths of the NCAA to winning a couple of bowl games, having success on offense and defense, and winning a piece of the Big East championship this past year.
Q: Has their success opened doors for you (in recruiting) that may not have been opened four years ago?
SS: Yes, I think anytime you have success a couple of things happen. It’s easier to ask for money and people give it up. So also it’s a little more sexy on the recruiting trail. Our program is extremely excited to be part of the ACC, work up and down (recruiting) the eastern seaboard, we do a good job (of) recruiting and getting around and hitting some pockets that we’ve worked at in the past, and now look forward to working at with a little more familiarity with the schedule we’ll be playing.
Q: How does the QB position look to you coming out of the spring?
SS: It’s definitely a lot of competition. You know, I was asked the other day: Is it controversial? I said hell yeah, we got a quarterback controversy we don’t know who we’re starting yet. I’ve seen good progress; I think Coach Tim Lester and Coach McDonald our offensive coordinator have done a nice job with the kids in house. Terrel Hunt, John Kinder, Charley Loeb are the three guys in house that are competing right now, and they know that we got help on the way. We have some freshmen coming in, and some transfers (former Oklahoma Sooner Drew Allen not mentioned by name), so it will get all more the merrier.
I think competition is the best motivator for any position, the one that gets talked about the most is the quarterback position. Coming out of spring ball, I’d say Terrel Hunt probably has a little bit of a lead. But its 15 practices and not all in pads, and we don’t want to put all our marbles in 15 days, but I’ve been pleased with the progress. We have three quality young men competing right now for that position, and we look forward to the newcomers getting in here and increasing the value of the quarterback position.
Q: Does your approach as head coach at Syracuse change as you go from being a Big East program to an ACC program?
SS: I think first and foremost you’ve got to know who you are and who you aren’t, and you’ve got to embrace who you are and not really worry about who you aren’t. That’s going to be our focus. Starting off it’s going to be a new territory, but we’ve played a lot of teams from the ACC over the years both here at Syracuse and at different schools I’ve been at so we’re familiar with the quality of athletes and the quality of coaches in that conference, so it will definitely be a hell of a challenge for us, a challenge we can’t wait for though.
Q: (Asked by Orange Watch) Four months into the job how do you feel settling into the job in leading this program, and what would you say is the state of the program now as you see it as compared to when you came aboard with Coach Marrone back in ‘09?
SS: Yeah, big question, but you know I expect that from you, you’ve got a lot of juice (did he mean Juice?) and so do we so I’ll answer as best as I can. I think the state of the program is at a great place because I think the kids know who we are and what we expect of them. I think being a part of Coach Marrone ‘s staff the last four years, he laid a great foundation for what we expect out of our kids and wanting to develop them as people first and players second, and we’ve kind of taken that ball and run with it.
Now, with that being said, we’ve lost some really good football players. As you look at the productivity of the players moving forward and hoping to get into the NFL, you say boy, there’s a lot of voids there how do you replace it? That’s the beauty of college football, there are replacements, there are kids that have been working their tails off to get on the football field and we’ve got a bunch of them.
The state of that is; they’re competing their ass off and we can’t wait to see who’s going to win or who we’re going to have to share time with at all of those different positions.
The state of the union is good!