Gery: Shafer the right coach to keep Syracuse’s momentum moving forward

For the last four years, Scott Shafer stuck to a simple approach. He was here to lead the Syracuse defense, here to do his job as he had at his previous seven coaching stops.

So he did – he coached his players and he worked with the Orange coaching staff to resurrect a once-proud football program. He didn’t concern himself with much else.

Simple turned out to be effective. Shafer was introduced as Syracuse’s head coach Friday, replacing Doug Marrone after serving as defensive coordinator for four years. Marrone’s departure earlier this month for the Buffalo Bills comes at a crucial time for Syracuse, as it loses many of its top playmakers just as it prepares to make the jump to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Shafer is the right man for the job. The right man to guide the team through the transition.

“I felt in my heart that this guy is already a head coach,” SU Athletic Director Daryl Gross said Friday at Shafer’s introductory press conference.

Shafer’s resume speaks for itself. He’s paid his dues in the coaching profession, gaining the respect of his colleagues since he started his career as a graduate assistant at Indiana in 1991.

He proved himself at Northern Illinois, where he led a unit that ranked toward the top in many defensive categories in the Mid-American Conference during much of his tenure. He proved himself at Western Michigan, where he helped the program go from one win in 2004 to eight in 2006 – a year in which his defense led the country in sacks and interceptions. And he proved himself at Stanford, where he worked under Jim Harbaugh, now the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

“Scott is hard working, enthusiastic and of high character,” Harbaugh said in a statement. “Great things will happen with Shafe.”

Great things have already happened with Shafer at Syracuse.

Serving under Marrone, he helped Syracuse regain respectability after a disastrous 10-37 stretch in Greg Robinson’s four-year tenure as head coach left the program in shambles. In the last four years, the Orange put together two winning seasons highlighted by a pair of bowl victories and a share of the 2012 Big East title.

Shafer left his mark on the program’s turnaround through his work with the defense. He did his job, getting the players to buy into his system and bringing out the best in them with his fiery coaching style.

In his first season, SU finished 37th in the nation in total defense – a category it ranked 101st the previous year. The Orange was seventh in the country in 2010, which was the team’s first winning season (8-5) since 2001.

It all contributed to the foundation for success laid by Marrone in the last four years – a foundation needed for Shafer to carry out his vision for the program’s future.

“We want to make one of the best teams in the nation,” Shafer said. “That is a goal of ours.”

It’s an ambitious goal, and whether SU achieves that remains to be seen. But Shafer is fired up after receiving his first head-coaching job – something that’s been a goal of his since he was 10 years old, growing up as the son of a high school football coach.

He’s dedicated his life to coaching. He understands how to motivate his players. He knows what it takes to prepare his teams to play.

He has a detailed plan for Syracuse football to achieve his goal – a vision of a hard-nosed team that plays a brand of football that’s fun to watch.

It’s Shafer’s program now, and he’s ready to pour everything he has into making his vision a reality, just as he did the last four years leading the defense with his simple, effective approach.

“I’m the type of person that always felt like you do your job and everything else takes care of itself,” Shafer said.

This Syracuse team will be a reflection of Shafer.


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