If the Syracuse Orange football team is looking for bulletin board material for the upcoming season, the past month has provided a few gems of motivation worthy of taping on every locker.
Terrel Hunt was the first clay pigeon in the chute. Syracuse’s quarterback was recently ranked as the eighth best signal caller in the ACC. Let that one fester for a moment or two. Eighth out of 14 quarterbacks. Of the seven players ranked ahead of Hunt, three were clipboard holders who played only during mop-up duty while a fourth sat out due to transfer rules. Despite the fact that Hunt gained a world of experience starting the Orange’s final 10 games, which included thrilling come-from-behind victories over Boston College and Minnesota in the Texas Bowl to close the season, Hunt is still viewed in one writer’s eyes as a second-tier ACC quarterback.
Head coach Scott Shafer’s standing among ACC coaches is considered even worse than Hunt’s among his fellow quarterbacks. The Sporting News recently ranked college football coaches. Shafer was slotted as 83 overall and 13th out of 14 ACC coaches. Most alarming, is that Shafer falls 15 spots behind NC State coach Dave Doeren and 17 tallies below Boston College coach Steve Addazio. That’s right, 17 spots behind Addazio. How does that one grab you? At least Doeren guided Northern Illinois to a BCS bowl game. Addazio has accomplished what, exactly?
If that wasn’t enough of a shot at Shafer, ESPN’s Andrea Adelson posted her own coach rankings. Like TSN, Adelson slotted Shafer in 13th place. While TSN listed Addazio two spots head of Shafer among ACC coaches, Adelson ranks him four spots at ahead at nine. This past season was Shafer’s rookie year as a head coach and only Addazio’s third year. He spent two years at Temple before landing at Boston College. Addazio does have a more impressive resume than Shafer with stops at Syracuse, Notre Dame, Indiana and a seven-year run at Florida. Shafer spent time at Illinois, Stanford and Michigan before Doug Marrone hired him to be Syracuse’s defensive coordinator.
Heading into this past season, not much was expected from the Eagles after an abysmal 2-10 campaign in 2012. Syracuse spent most of last offseason in a state of flux. Marrone and most of the staff moved shop a couple of hours down the thruway to coach the Buffalo Bills. Shafer was left to assemble an almost entirely new staff while picking up the pieces of a decent recruiting class. Shafer also had the monumental task of replacing the Orange’s aerial attack after Ryan Nassib, Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales all graduated.
Both teams had to feel good about their ground games. The Orange returned a stable of backs led by Jerome Smith and prince-Tyson Gulley while BC’s Andre Williams set the college football world on fire, winning the Doak Walker award and finishing as a Heisman finalist.
Addazio had the upper hand at the most important spot on the field before a whistle was blown or a ball was snapped. Lining up under center for the Eagles was senior Chase Rettig. Addazio knew he had a reliable, veteran quarterback. Shafer spent all of last spring and summer determining who would fill Nassib’s shoes. After the Orange offense sputtered under Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen, Hunt grabbed the job for good in the third game of the year after Syracuse opened the season with back-to-back losses. With Rettig off to the NFL and his favorite target, Alex Amidon, off to join the Navy SEALs, Addazio will experience in his second season what Shafer did in his first: trying to revamp his team’s passing game.
Syracuse and Boston College are linked by a few similarities. They’re regional rivals that recruit a lot of the same players. They both have a history of football and basketball in the Big East, which now continues in the ACC. Both schools are rebuilding their programs after a coach who was severely in over his head plummeted each to the depths of league play.
Addazio should be commended for the season BC just turned in while Shafer deserves a tip of the hat for continuing the progress Syracuse made under Marrone despite some extenuating circumstances. Results will reveal which man is the superior coach. But with each still in his head coaching infancy, ranking Addazio significantly higher than Shafer is not only perplexing, it’s also unfounded. This will be decided on the field.