GREENSBORO, N.C. — Syracuse coach Scott Shafer spoke with reporters on Day 2 of the ACC Kickoff. Here are a few nuggets we learned about the Orange today.
•Shafer said the biggest difference between his first year and this coming season is knowing who his quarterback will be. “Any time you have some guys coming back who have played some football for you, it helps,” Shafer said. “That continuity — I think it’s extremely important.”
•Shafer is tired of all the talk that Syracuse is a basketball school and that the football program doesn’t have passionate fans. “We have great fans at Syracuse,” Shafer said. “A lot of guys talk about the ones who don’t show up. The thing I’m thrilled with are the ones who do show up.” He stressed throughout his time with the media how much emphasis he places on the program being involved in the Syracuse community.
•Offensive lineman Ivan Foy was suspended from team activities this spring due to academic concerns, and he was later reinstated this summer. Does that mean he got to take the spring off while the rest of the team put in all the hard work? Nope. To make up for the conditioning that he missed during the spring, he’s been waking up earlier than the rest of the team and doing all the drills he missed in the morning. Once he’s done, he takes a short break before joining the rest of the Orange for normal summer conditioning. Shafer said he’s down to around 290 pounds after playing in the Texas Bowl at nearly 330. He will compete with Michael Lasker this fall to reclaim his starting spot.
•Senior running back Adonis Ameen-Moore has lost nearly 30 pounds to break into the 230-range. Shafer said he would like him to get into the 220s before the season, but he thinks he can fill the big-back role that Jerome Smith vacated.
•Shafer was hesitant to say that the gap between Florida State and Clemson and the rest of the Atlantic Division is small. “They’re bigger and faster than us — it’s as simple as that. And they’re a little deeper, too,” Shafer said. “But the great thing about that football is that it is oblong, and it does funny things, and on any given day you can steal a game.”
•Despite the rules change that allows coaches to spend more time with their players during summer, Shafer and his staff hardly took advantage of it this year. He thinks it’s important not to burn anyone out during the offseason, and he would rather his players be excited to see the coaching staff when fall camp begins. He believes it’s more beneficial for the players to spend that time with each other instead of always being near the coaching staff.
•Shafer and his staff did a study to see how strength of schedule translates to high rankings in the polls. He found out that the teams who were playing in the biggest bowls weren’t playing difficult nonconference schedules for the most part. Because of that, he’s hesitant to seek many difficult opponents for future schedules. “There’s got to be common sense for us,” Shafer said. We’re playing in, arguably, the best conference ... so we’re going to play some powerful people in-house. Let’s be smart about it. You take on one big — like we have LSU coming to town — but then you have to be smart and sensible about it.”
•Shafer thinks his linebacker corps is ready to make a statement that they’re one of the conference’s best. “They think they can play with anybody,” he said. The Orange return two outside starters in Cam Lynch and Dyshawn Davis, and Shafer is excited about the potential of sophomore Marqez Hodge in the middle.
•One of the biggest lessons Shafer learned last season is to keep everything as simple as possible. It’s better to limit the number of plays and let the players master those, he said, than to use a complex gameplan that slows them down and makes them think. He said he lost the Penn State game for Syracuse last year because he didn’t limit the number of play calls and checks. “It’s the truth — the best tackling team and the best blocking team usually finds a way to win more than lose,” Shafer said. “Sometimes we get too creative and forget about blocking, tackling, passing and catching.”