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New coach Scott Shafer believes the team can overcome its lack of star players.
Courtesy Syracuse University
Syracuse will rely heavily on running back Jerome Smith (45), who ran for 1,171 yards last season.
Courtesy of Syracuse University
Syracuse defensive tackle Jay Bromley (96) (courtesy Syracuse University)said this season’s team includes many “hard-nosed, blue-collar guys.”
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
The history of Syracuse football includes such greats as Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Floyd Little, Art Monk and Donovan McNabb.
But the current makeup of the Orange is not star-studded.
Defensive tackle Jay Bromley said the squad features “hard-nosed, blue-collar guys.”
“[The team has] guys that might have been passed over for whatever reason, but they kept that chip on their shoulder and they kept grinding, kept working hard and it shows now [with] the progress that we’ve been making,” Bromley said last week at the ACC’s preseason football media gathering in Greensboro, N.C. “We are a good football team.”
Syracuse, which makes its ACC debut this season, is coming off an 8-5 season that included a Pinstripe Bowl win over West Virginia. The Orange went 5-2 in league play in its final Big East season.
But the Orange have been picked to finish just sixth in the seven-team Atlantic Division in the ACC’s preseason media poll.
“Big East football is a little bit different than ACC football,” said center Macky MacPherson, the grandson of former Syracuse coach Dick MacPherson. “While we may not have some of the skill or some of the speed or some of the talent that these teams have, we do have a lot of hard-working guys and a lot of blue-collar guys.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how our secondary handles [ACC] wide receivers.”
Syracuse has a new coach as well as a new league. Doug Marrone, who guided the Orange to two bowl wins in the past four seasons, left his alma mater to become the coach of the Buffalo Bills. His successor is Scott Shafer, who had been Marrone’s defensive coordinator.
On behalf of their teammates, MacPherson and quarterback Charley Loeb asked athletic director Daryl Gross to promote Shafer.
“He’s connected with his defensive players so well over the past couple years,” MacPherson said of Shafer. “They will do anything for him — run through brick walls for him. That’s the kind of guy you need as head coach.”
Shafer will be able to rely upon running back Jerome Smith, who rushed for 1,171 yards last year.
“He’s a good, hard-nosed runner,” Shafer said. “He’s a self-made man. He wasn’t highly recruited.
“He’s perfect for what I believe Syracuse is — a bunch of kids that … were kind of no-names coming out of high school, that weren’t highly recruited. At the beginning of their careers, they don’t have a bunch of stars next to their names but hopefully at the end of their careers will [become] some of the better players in the country, that can move forward [to the NFL] like so many of them have prior to this group.”
Syracuse would be entering the ACC with more of a comfort level if it still had Ryan Nassib at quarterback.
“You better believe it,” Shafer said with a laugh.
Nassib, who threw for 3,749 yards and 26 touchdowns last season, was chosen by the New York Giants in the fourth round of the NFL Draft. He threw for a school-record 9,190 yards in his Syracuse career.
The contenders to replace Nassib include Loeb, Terrel Hunt and former Oklahoma backup Drew Allen.
“We’re going to have a new guy at quarterback and he’s going to have almost no game experience no matter where he’s from or who he is,” MacPherson said.
Shafer said he is concerned about the QB position.
Syracuse will host heavyweight Clemson in its first ACC game Oct. 5.
“They scare the hell out of you as a coach, but it’s a challenge that we relish,” Shafer said of the Tigers. “They’ve got more stars next to their names than we do and we may not be as big, we may not be as fast, but doggone it, we want to play a style of football where we’re knocking the hell out of people and playing a hard-nosed game against everybody.
“That’s going to be a key to our success until we can continue to improve our talent pool as we move into this ACC. We’ve got to make sure that we take advantage of the greatest part of the game, and that’s the contact side of the game — and make that a big part of how we win games.”
The team is looking forward to ACC play.
“You only get one time for a first impression. Why not make it a great one?” Bromley said. “We’re here to play with the big boys.”