Item: It’s certainly not a surprise that on the final day of the ACC Football Kickoff, the preseason prediction poll of the 158 media members in attendance at the famed Pinehurst resort had SU in sixth place in its seven team division, and it was also no surprise that the SU head coach shrugged off the prognosticators’ gloomy forecast.
Pinehurst, N.C. – When your team won exactly one ACC game a year ago in a season scorched by injuries to many key offensive weapons, where else would the southern-slanted media members that cover the conference place Syracuse football, but ahead of the only league team it defeated – Wake Forest?
With so many new faces on the defensive side of the ball, a rushing attack that brings less than modest numbers to the backfield, and a starting quarterback who hasn’t played a down since last October, the Orange wasn’t going to be picked to be better than Clemson (selected to win the ACC title), Florida State, Louisville, N.C. State or B.C. (in that Atlantic Division order – Georgia Tech was picked to win the Coastal Division).
As he gets ready for his third year of building the program with his imprint of character, integrity, community service, and high GPA’s and graduation rates, all that’s missing for Shafer, with new boss Mark Coyle keeping a focused eye on his leadership, is winning football games, the bottom line as to how long he’ll hold on to the job he loves.
“Mike Morrison (the school’s football media relations coordinator) and I were talking walking in and he goes, ‘Did you see the preseason picks?’ And I said no, and I really don’t want to. He goes, ‘Well you probably should coach because you’re going to be asked about it.’ It’s been the same thing with me my whole career, I don’t look at those (predictions). It’s my job to get the players focused on the task at hand.”
The intensely and “one day at a time” persona of Shafer, while he enjoys promoting his program and players at events like the Football Kickoff, is really what makes his mind tick. He’s already directing his energy towards preparing for the first day of practice on August 9, and the work to assemble a game plan for the season opener against Rhode Island 26 days later.
“I talk about it all the time, controlling the things that we can control – daily,” Shafer reiterated. “You can’t control people’s opinions of where you should or shouldn’t be in the conference. We always talk about winning the day, that’s how we focus. I see the progress; we’ll find out (in the season opener) if I am right or wrong about it, but I can tell you I am extremely pleased and excited about the opportunity our kids have heading into the season.”
With the first month of games all in the Dome, and with competition that increases as September unfolds, it won’t take long to find out if progress is being made for a program looking to shake the media’s perception that it has a steep climb to complete in order to be annually competitive in the ACC.