Orange Watch: Second year of Shafer era begins at Syracuse this weekend

Year 2 of the Shafer era starts this weekend

Item: Off the momentum of a 2013 bowl game victory against a power conference opponent (Minnesota) and the program’s best recruiting class (Top 50 range) in over a decade, there’s plenty to look forward to with the spring game kickoff Saturday in the Dome.

On a Syracuse radio show last week, head coach Scott Shafer established the first line of success for his second season, a victory total that he would like to see his team accomplish or exceed, and that number is eight.

Year 2 of the Shafer era starts this weekend

That’s against a schedule that not only includes defending national champion Florida State, headed inside the Dome for a third time in its program history on Oct. 11, but Orange Bowl winner Clemson, Notre Dame, Louisville and new Big Ten member Maryland which make up nearly half of the regular season opposition.

And, when you base the strength of schedule on paper using only opponent’s won/loss records from the previous season, which is how the NCAA establishes its criteria, the Orange will be seeking those eight victories as members of the ACC Atlantic Division against the eighth toughest schedule nationally, one of three conference teams (Virginia and Wake Forest) in the NCAA’s Top 10 of toughest schedules.

“The goal is to get better each season,” Shafer said on 97.7 ESPN Radio.

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“We won seven (games in 2013) so I want to win eight, eight or more this year, that’s the first thing,” Shafer continued in listing the first tangible sign of improvement. “But I also believe that the better we are academically, and the better we are at learning how to improve ourselves as well-rounded individuals, the better we’ll be on the football field.”

We may get a tiny taste of just how better if game situations allow a demonstration of up tempo play and exhibition of speed from both sides of the ball on Saturday afternoon (kickoff 1:00 p.m. ET), although fiercely private coaches never like to reveal too much of their playbook in the spring, while injuries/academics and recruits who have yet to arrive on campus limits the personnel that suits up in the intra-squad game.

During his infrequent media interaction heading into spring practice, Shafer has replayed the theme of accentuating the positives of last season to grow his version of a traditional Syracuse program (“Staying true to who you are.”) of strong academics and character, and developing the athleticism of primarily non-four and five star recruits to excel over the span of a college career, one year at a time.

“Ultimately, we want to win an ACC Championship, that’s the goal,” Shafer said on the radio program, and before he wears a wireless microphone on Saturday to share his thoughts and insights of the spring game proceedings with the Dome attendees.

“We want to do that with kids graduating, that’s where the bar is set right now. We know we’ve got some big folks coming in here (Florida State) that we have to fight against to win, but it’s the challenge we signed up for.”

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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.