Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer spoke with reporters Tuesday at the ACC Media Days in Pinehurst, North Carolina about the upcoming season with the Orange, his friendship with Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi, and a variety of other topics. All quotes below courtesy of ASAPSports.com.
Q. Cost of attendance, everybody has been sort of talking about it. Specifically with the difference between public schools, private schools. Every financial aid office calculates, the numbers are different. Do you anticipate that being a problem for you, for other schools? The term that some coaches have used is it feels on some level almost like free agency. Do you anticipate it being maybe more trouble to start than it was intended to be?
COACH SHAFER: Sure. I sure do. Anytime you get into the recruiting process, a kid can say, Why does this school have this much available money for me to attend and this school not as much? Anytime you have that, you’re going to have some interesting recruiting processes that move forward, unfortunately. But fortunately the kids are going to have more regardless. Unfortunately it’s not going to be a balanced playing field. There’s nothing we can do about that right now. You live in the now, you live in the reality of what it is. That’s what we’ll do. It will cause some recruiting things to come up over the course of time.
Q. Coach, talk about your expectations. Last year you kept throwing out eight wins because it was one more than the year before. Obviously you want to win more than four this year.
COACH SHAFER: For us, expectations and goals going into a season are a funny thing. I think sometimes they’re more for the outsiders than the insiders. My best seasons over the years as a coach for 25 years have been the ones where we stayed true to what we practiced and preached. That is, Let’s get better every single day. Let’s go out and try to win every game in front of us. But let’s make for damn sure we’re making improvements daily. We talk to the kids a lot about winning the day one day at a time. That will be our approach moving forward. We look forward to a challenging schedule, a challenging season. We have some great people coming into the Dome, LSU. It will be a great challenge for us. But really the goal is to win the day one at a time.
Q. Terrel Hunt, he’s back, his last go-around with you. What do you look for from him this year?
COACH SHAFER: I’m excited to have him back. He’s an extremely passionate young man that has a love of the game. I think all kids that go through injuries realize how much they love it when it’s taken away from them. That definitely happened with Terrel. So for me it’s extremely exciting to see him back, to see that energy that’s kind of reinvigorated his movement forward in his last season playing for us. I’m excited to have him back. The biggest thing is with any competitive quarterback, that he plays within himself and within the system, not try to do too much too early. I think Coach Lester will have him doing that early and often. It’s great to have Terrel Hunt back.
Q. To look at year three, the recruiting trail, this becoming more and more your team, guys that you’re bringing in, what can you say about how recruiting is going as far as the response you feel you’re getting, this team becoming more of what you and your staff are putting together.
COACH SHAFER: Sure. The recruiting process has gone extremely well for us. I think we continue to upgrade. Our focus point is always bringing kids of like value systems, like mindedness, that has a true appreciation for an education as a school such as Syracuse, and to get to play in a great conference that we have here in the ACC. I’ve been pleased with it. Our full recruiting class this past year that has gone through, I’m excited about. When we had a difficult season, we still posted a GPA that was the highest since they kept records at Syracuse in the fall.
A lot of that has to do with some of those young kids. Freshman year is the most difficult year for those kids to get through, succeed. Those kids ended up with a 3.29 GPA, that freshmen group. I’m pleased with the recruiting. I think our assistant coaches have done a great job of targeting the right kid that fit with the formula that we look for at Syracuse. We look forward to continuing as we move forward. I’ve been excited about the movements we’ve had in recruiting.
Q. You lose eight starters off of your defense from a year ago. Are you seeing your younger guys step up and own those roles?
COACH SHAFER: Sure, I’m excited about it. I think defense is about attitude and effort. Coach Bullough, that defensive staff, have done a great job getting our kids to play tough, hard-nosed football. The faces with the jersey numbers will be different. But the attitude, the effort, the attacking mentality we’ve always had will continue to be the same. So great opportunities for a bunch of young kids that have done well, busted their tails in preparing for this chance to play at Syracuse and the ACC. I’ve been pleased with the movement we’ve had moving into spring ball, coming out of spring ball, and the work they’ve been doing this summer.
Q. As I’m looking down the roster, I count eight schools that not only return a quarterback, but return a quarterback that is mobile. Obviously Terrel is one of those. How does that challenge the defenses in this league to have so many guys who can beat you multiple ways?
COACH SHAFER: Boy, it challenges you. I was a defensive coordinator my whole career. Anytime you have to defend all 11 rather than 10, it changes the mentality. The thing I’ve loved about Terrel Hunt is the fact that he can move the chains with his feet. I’m not talking about a breakaway 60-yard touchdown, I’m talking about just moving the chains. I was really lucky when I was at Stanford, we were watching recruiting videotape, Joe Walsh comes by. Coach Harbaugh talks him into coming in and talk about quarterback play. One of the things he talked about was to find a quarterback that can move the chains with his feet. You look at the guys he coached, Joe Montana could definitely do that, Steve Young. I think it adds a dimension that the defense has to always has to take into account when they’re game planning. We’ll always try to have a guy that can do those kind of things, as will most of the teams in our conference.
Q. Can you talk about getting back to winning at the Carrier Dome, the opportunity you have to get big wins against big opponents this season at home?
COACH SHAFER: We’re excited to get back into the Dome, back into the fans. I’ve been taken back at our fans in central New York, all the positive comments they’ve given us. Our kids do a lot in the community. We feel like we want to give it back to those folks back in Syracuse and central New York. What a better place to do it than the Dome. We’re excited. We kick it off Friday night against Rhode Island, then go through the schedule, hit Wake Forest. Obviously we have LSU coming to town, which will be a great opportunity for us. Then we’ll jump into that conference play with a lot of great teams coming into the Dome. A great opportunity. We’re excited for it.
We’re looking forward to putting a great product on the field for our fans. (Audio interruption.) They had a nice spring ball. I think the systems and the concepts are in. We have some young guys we need to teach, get them up to speed. I think it will be an exciting offense. I’m looking forward to the different things he’ll be doing with our H back, or as many are talking, the express back, named by the people of the community more than the coaching staff, a guy like Erv Phillips. Different formations, same plays. Different plays run throughout the course of a series to set up different things. Tim is an extremely smart young coach. I’m excited to watch him do his thing.
Q. Just wanted to get your gauge on where your program is. Third year as a head coach. People are talking about pressure with the new athletic director. Where do you see this program right now?
COACH SHAFER: Well, college football is about pressure every single year. Nobody really cares about the injuries you had, all those things, they’re just going to look at the bottom line year in, year out. I understand that. What we have to do as coaches is we need to peel off those layers and look at those things that mean the most in creating a program we can be proud of. That starts with integrity, character, the ability to graduate kids at a high level with meaningful degrees.
We’re doing all those things. We had a very difficult season, but our kids prevailed off the field and in the classroom. That shows true character. It’s like all of us in this room. We all have families. You’re going to have highs and lows throughout the course of your livelihood with your families. It’s how you get through the tough times that make the high times even higher. That’s how we are right now. We have a bunch of young kids coming in that are going to play football earlier than we thought they would have to, especially on offense. The program is at a good place because of those things I just mentioned.
Q. Coach Narduzzi was in here talking about how far you guys go back. Tell us about that relationship.
COACH SHAFER: Me and Duzzer go back a long way. We raised our kids together at the University of Rhode Island when we were in our mid 20s. We had an opportunity to rebuild locker rooms, cleaned light fixtures, put up white board over green board, chalk. We built that program. I moved on to Northern Illinois. As soon as I had an opportunity to give him a chance to come in and coach for Coach Novak, he ran our linebackers. Did an unbelievable job. Great coach. Couldn’t be more proud of his success. He and Donna and the children. It’s just exciting for me to look across the table and see my old buddy Pat Narduzzi coaching in the same conference right now.