Friday, January 11, 2013 4:50 pm
It's official: Shafer takes over at Syracuse
By JOHN KEKISAP Sports Writer
"(Being a head coach) has been a goal of mine since I was 10 years old because I was influenced by my dad. I just have so many vivid memories of the influence that he had on so many young men and young women," Shafer said Friday as he remembered his father, Ron, a high school coach who died in 1994. "I came home for the funeral and I can remember as a couple of thousand people lined up outside waiting to see my dad. He touched everyone, and that's always been a goal of mine.
"It's hard not to be emotional about this sort of thing, but at a very young age I just knew it was something great."
Defensive coordinator the past four years for the Orange, Shafer succeeds Doug Marrone, who resigned and was named coach of the Buffalo Bills on Monday.
Marrone preached discipline, accountability, character, and integrity, in rejuvenating a team that went 10-37 under his predecessor, Greg Robinson, and transformed it into a two-time bowl winner. Syracuse finished 2012 at 8-5 after beating West Virginia 38-14 in the Pinstripe Bowl and earned a share of the Big East regular-season title with a 5-2 conference mark, its best since Paul Pasqualoni's 2001 team went 6-1.
Shafer promised to follow that lead with a foundation based on attitude, effort, and enthusiasm as the Orange prepare to leave the Big East and join the Atlantic Coast Conference in July.
"It's those three pillars that we will always point back to as we try to progress forward and make this community proud about the product that we put on that football field," Shafer said. "The thing that I like about Syracuse the city is that the people that live here and embrace it are tough people. They're hard-nosed people and they expect a hard-nosed football team.
"It's our job to put a product on the field that the community can say, `That is us. That is our team. They're physical, and they're going to get after you when you come to the (Carrier) Dome.' We're going to storm that conference and do better than people think we can."
Shafer said he planned to meet with the players on Sunday when they return from semester break and Marrone is expected to address the team as well.
As for his staff, Shafer tabbed Chuck Bullough as defensive coordinator. Bullough was a two-time All-Big Ten linebacker at Michigan State and joins the Syracuse staff after two seasons as a defensive assistant with the Cleveland Browns. He was linebackers coach at Western Michigan in 2005 when Shafer was defensive coordinator and also spent five years at UCLA, the last two as defensive coordinator.
A big hole remains on Shafer's staff, though. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, architect of a record-setting, uptempo offense this past season with fifth-year senior quarterback Ryan Nassib at the helm, has joined Marrone and the Bills in the same role.
"I want an offense that's fast, that's fun, and invested. I think Coach Hackett did a great job putting that on display, and we want to continue that," said Shafer, who was a quarterback in college. "What we're looking for is the right fit, that fit for Syracuse, and I'm not in a hurry to do that.
"We don't want to go about this taking the first guy that sounds exciting. We'll get the best guy in here that gives us a chance to put on a show on offense. It's unbelievable how many people want to be here."
With national signing day looming in early February, Shafer said one of his first priorities will be to reach out to recruits.
"We have to do a great job of tending to our prospects, the recruits that we're going after and trying to hold onto. You never know until signing day," he said. "I want guys that want to go to the Dome and say this is my home. All those other guys that are wavering, they'd just better make a decision that they're not going to play us if they decide to go elsewhere."
According to Rivals.com, Syracuse has received 14 commitments, nine of them three-star athletes, including quarterbacks Zach Allen of Texas and Austin Wilson of Pennsylvania. Scout.com listed 15 recruits, including five three-star athletes, and both websites had the class ranked No. 71 on Friday.
Prior to Syracuse, Shafer was an assistant at Michigan, Stanford, Western Michigan, Illinois, Northern Illinois, and Rhode Island. A 1990 graduate of Baldwin Wallace University, Shafer was one of Marrone's first hires.
Shafer's defenses have ranked among the nation's best in various categories during his four-year tenure with the Orange. In 2010, the Orange defense was No. 7 in the nation and he was nominated for the Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant.
Even though he won't be running the defense next season, Shafer doesn't expect the Orange to skip a beat.
"I envision an Orange crush defense that makes the opponents' families cringe when their child is about to get hit," he said with a smile. "I want to put the fear of God in the opposing football player that happens to have the ball underneath his arm. That's what we want to do, play an aggressive style of defense that people love to watch.
"When we get the opposition in the loud house (the Carrier Dome), we lock the doors behind them and we don't let them out."