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Lay of the Land: Shafer’s New Staff Tries to Set Groundwork During Spring Ball

As Syracuse basketball dances into the Sweet 16  against the Hoosiers, some may have been distracted that spring practice is underway for SU football. The Orange carries momentum into Manley Field House with a tremendous win in the Pinstripe Bowl and the construction of a solid 2013 recruiting class.
Syracuse is four practices deep into its spring session, and the clear difference between Doug Marrone and Scott Shafer’s approach is energy. The liveliness and excitement is extremely high. Shafer has elected to follow in The Dougie’s footsteps in two ways: the majority of spring practices are closed from the fans and media. He also laid a heavy hand on nonsense within the program. Two players were dismissed from the team before Shafer ever coached his first game.
Shafer has elected two practices to be open to the public prior to April 20th‚Äôs Spring Game at the Carrier Dome. It’s a different vibe this March because Syracuse enters on a big finish down the stretch, not a five-game losing streak. Marrone also didn‚Äôt have the luxury Shafer has with the move to the ACC adding spark to a highly motivated, younger group of players. With Marrone out, Shafer looks to establish his own identity. He recapped last Tuesday‚Äôs first practice of the season:
“First off, I like the way the kids came out. I like their attitude and the approach they had when they walked out on the football field. There were a lot of sloppy things and things we need to work on. I like the effort and I like the approach the kids took. I like the way that they tried to respond to the coaches as they were getting coached hard at time. We got day one in. All in all, I feel good about day one.”
Responding to a new coaching staff will be key. Will the Orange have the same reaction to a new group of coaches, all who are getting their taste of the ACC?
“It was great. It was a blast. I really enjoyed it. It was fun to get back down and spend some time with the offense. It was extremely enjoyable to be right behind the quarterbacks and look at things from a different perspective. Whenever I started missing my defensive guys, I ran over to that sideline and got a little bit of this and a little bit of that.”
The offense will be in the crosshairs all season. Not only was the attack humming by the end of last year with Ryan Nassib, but there’s a whole new play-caller in town. How will George McDonald’s offense differ from the quick tempo one of his predecessor? And who will lead the offense under center?
“We have a new group of coaches that are meshing together. A lot of us have worked together so that will be good. Now it will just be the dynamic of how the flow of the practice works. How the flow of going to practice to a meeting situation and the dynamics of the new personalities meshing, just like any group would take time to get those personalities to mesh. That’s what makes it so much fun ‚Äì all those firsts. You want to try and do the best you can with each first and each opportunity that’s a new one.”
Another underrrated storyline. How will this new staff work together? We know it can take time for the players to bond with the coaches and take their direction. But the coaches are a team as well, and need to be familiar with each other’s tendencies.
“You always like to finish the season on a high note and that Pinstripe Bowl was a great win for us with the way the kids played. But, every season is a new season too so you have to careful. You look at momentum. Usually momentum is based on guys that won those games for you and won those situations. A lot of those guys are gone so we are looking for new guys to create a new momentum as we inch our way toward Penn State.”
Can the Orange capitalize on that momentum? Compared to the even keel and conservative Marrone, Shafer was upbeat and pumped from his opening presser. Syracuse’s hoops season is still underway, but soon the spotlight shifts back to football, and Shafer’s troops are already in gear.
Posted: Brendan Glasheen
The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.


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