Luke Rafferty | Asst. Photo EditorFootball
Shafer publicly introduces new coordinators, assistants from past jobs at Northern Illinois, Western Michigan
Scott Shafer reached into his coaching past to build his new staff at Syracuse. The Orange’s new head coach hired coaches who share his football values and philosophies, but also on-field systems and schemes.
Shafer introduced the bulk of his staff at a press conference Monday in the Iocolano-Petty Football Wing of Manley Field House. He hired George McDonald as his offensive coordinator and Chuck Bullough as his defensive coordinator. Shafer also named DeAndre Smith as his running backs coach, Tim Lester his quarterbacks coach and Clark Lea his linebackers coach.
“It’s great to get the band back together with people that have the same philosophical view on how you develop a young man through this great sport,” Shafer said.
McDonald worked with Shafer at Northern Illinois and Western Michigan. McDonald was hired as Arkansas’ wide receivers coach in December after spending two seasons at Miami (Fla.) in the same role, but left the Razorbacks only a few weeks later to join Shafer.
“I’ve been chasing this dream for a long time. I’m very excited to be here,” McDonald said. “This has been my dream, to be an offensive coordinator.”
Former Syracuse offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett left the Orange early this month to join Doug Marrone and the Buffalo Bills, but his system will remain in place. McDonald and Hackett worked together at Stanford and developed a philosophy together on how to learn offense.
McDonald said Hackett was in town last night to visit his family, and they had a chance to speak. But McDonald said they’ve always spoken about once a month.
While he’ll have a new-look offense with the Orange, McDonald said Hackett brought the assistants here for a reason.
“There’s really good wide receivers here, maybe some that nobody knows about. There’s really good quarterbacks here, maybe some that nobody knows about,” McDonald said. “I think this is exciting to me because you actually get to come in on the ground floor and develop a quarterback, develop a receiver.”
McDonald said he’ll keep the up-tempo offensive approach, but will also build an offense that’s physical.
McDonald also brings a strong recruiting background to Syracuse. With his coaching at Miami, he knows the coveted South Florida area well, a place where the Orange has recruited in the past. McDonald was also named a top-25 recruiter by Rivals.com, and Miami’s Class of 2012 was ranked eighth nationally by ESPN.com.
Bullough spent the last two seasons as a defensive assistant with the Cleveland Browns. He was the linebackers coach at UCLA from 2006-2008 and the Bruins’ defensive coordinator in 2009 and 2010.
The Bruins’ defense struggled in 2010, giving up an average of 30 points per game in UCLA’s 4-8 season. Rick Neuheisel fired Bullough after the season, and told reporters he wanted the Bruins to use a 3-4 scheme, not Bullough’s 4-3.
Bullough was also the linebackers coach at Western Michigan in 2005, when Shafer was the Broncos’ defensive coordinator. He said his defensive scheme will look a lot like the one Shafer has run for the last four seasons.
“It’ll be very familiar. We’re both 4-3. We both have the third-down package, it’s going to look very familiar,” Bullough said. “ … It’ll look the same, but there will be little things in there obviously.”
Lester, Syracuse’s new quarterbacks coach, spent the last five seasons as the head coach at Division-III Elmhurst College in Illinois. Lester was the quarterbacks coach at Western Michigan in 2005 and 2006.
He said Monday he hasn’t seen much of the quarterbacks already on the roster, but is planning on calling Hackett to get more information about them.
One of Lester’s first tasks will be to develop the Orange’s next starting quarterback, with Ryan Nassib graduating after a record-breaking season.
“Playing a first-time starter is not easy, but it can be done. It can be done successfully. You see it in the NFL, you see it in college,” Lester said. “I’m excited to get to work with those guys physically and mentally as soon as we get done with recruiting.”
Shafer and his new coaches have been on the road recruiting, which will wrap up with signing day Feb. 6. They’ll get to know their players better after that, and perhaps most importantly, learn the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“Obviously, going into the ACC, we’re going to have our work cut out for us,” Bullough said, “but we’re going to be ready for that.”
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