Scott Shafer

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Former Syracuse coach Scott Shafer hired as Middle Tennessee’s defensive coordinator

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Middle Tennessee is giving former Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer a chance to get back in the game. Shafer has been hired to be the new defensive coordinator for the Blue Raiders, the school announced Friday.

“We are all very excited about Scott and his wife Missy joining the Blue Raider family,” said MTSU head coach Rick Stockstill in a released statement. “Scott brings a wealth of experience as a defensive coordinator and we can’t wait until he gets started and puts his plan in place. He will have a positive impact on the program and university as our defensive coordinator.”

Shafer was out of coaching during the 2016 season after being fired by Syracuse after the the previous season. Shafer coached Syracuse to a record of 14-23 in his three years on the job. Now, he returns to a familiar role as defensive coordinator. Shafer has held the title of defensive coordinator at Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, Stanford (under Jim Harbaugh), Michigan (under Rich Rodriguez) and Syracuse (under Doug Marrone; Shafer replaced Marrone once the coach was hired by the NFL’s Buffalo Bills).

Middle Tennessee ranked 96th in the nation in total defense in 2016, allowing 449.5 yards per game. The Blue Raiders also allowed an average of 35.8 points per game (which ranked 109th in the nation).

Syracuse fires Scott Shafer

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Monday morning comes and another head coach heads to the unemployment line just before Thanksgiving. Syracuse has fired head coach Scott Shafer. Shafer will coach Syracuse’s final game of the season this weekend against Boston College.

Shafer was promoted to head coach of the Orange after Syracuse lost head coach Doug Marrone to the NFL’s Buffalo Bills in 2013 (Marrone is currently an offensive line coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars) after serving as defensive coordinator from 2009 through 2o12. Syracuse has struggled since Shafer became the head coach. Syracuse has gone 13-23 under Shafer and has had a losing season each of the past two years. After winning seven games with a Texas Bowl victory in 2013 in Syracuse’s first season in the ACC, Shafer’s Orange won three games in 2014 and is currently sitting on a 3-8 record with one game to play. Shafer’s contract was good for one more season.

Winning at Syracuse is a difficult task for any college football coach. The university is invested in improving facilities on campus, which may be long overdue from a football perspective. Syracuse continues to play football games in a decrepit Carrier Dome, and competing in the ACC Atlantic Division with Clemson and Florida State (and Louisville) is not easy. Where Syracuse goes from here should be interesting. Syracuse needs a coach that can build a program and embrace the amenities Syracuse has to offer. It is not one of the more attractive coaching jobs currently on the market, and is the third best of the three in the ACC alone. As with most power conference programs in need of a coach, there is always some potential to build something at Syracuse, but finding the right coach for the job is rarely easy.

the coaching change at Syracuse is the 14th to occur in this coaching carousel cycle, and the 10th from a power conference. Syracuse is the third ACC program to make a coaching change, joining Miami and Virginia Tech. Miami let go of Al Golden in late October. Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer announced his retirement in early November.

Syracuse QB Terrel Hunt has right Achilles injury

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Syracuse opened the 2015 season with a big victory over Rhode Island Friday night, but the Orange may have taken a significant loss anyway. Quarterback Terrel Hunt suffered a right Achilles injury, according to Orange head coach Scott Shafer.

“He just cut really hard, and that Achilles just popped on him,” Shafer said, via Syracuse.com. “They said it was an Achilles injury, and it’s not good.”

How long this injury will keep Hunt out of action remains to be seen, depending on the severity of the injury. Achilles injuries can be extremely difficult to recover from in a timely manner, so it would seem this could bring a premature end to the season for the Syracuse quarterback for a second straight season. Eric Dungey took over on offense for the injured Hunt, and will likely continue in that role moving forward this season at Syracuse.

Hunt’s 2014 season was brought to an early end last November when he broke his leg in a game against Louisville.

CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: ACC Predictions

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The ACC is starting to gain some confidence as a conference based on success in recent seasons. Florida State won a BCS title and Clemson defeated Ohio State in the Orange Bowl two postseasons ago. Last year the Seminoles were invited to the College Football Playoff and Georgia Tech topped the SEC’s Cinderella team from Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl, and Clemson smacked Oklahoma up and down the field in the Russell Athletic Bowl. The ACC will work the numbers to their liking to prove they are among the elite power conferences right now, but the numbers can just as easily tell a different story as well. Regardless, things look to be lining up for a fun season in the ACC with Clemson a preseason favorite of many, Florida State likely to remain in the hunt and Louisville proving to be a tough out. And then there is the ACC Coastal Division, where mediocrity across the division makes for another wide-open division race this fall.

Let’s put my money where my mouth is and go on the record with some predictions for the ACC this season. Feel free to hold me accountable at the end of the season when these surely go wrong.

ATLANTIC DIVISION

1. Florida State (Last year: 13-1, lost to Oregon in College Football Playoff semifinal)
Florida State has entered the stage of program development where it is appropriate to suggest the program is reloading, rather than rebuilding. The Florida State offense returns just three starters from last year’s squad, but it does add Notre Dame transfer quarterback Everett Golson. With Dalvin Cook recently being found not guilty of battery charges, he should remain a featured asset in Florida State’s offense . Getting at Louisville in Tallahassee will be key, but the road game at Clemson could prove difficult. I have Florida State, Clemson and Louisville all ending the season with identical division records and splitting game sin the three-way head-to-head. This one comes down to the 27th ACC division tiebreaker, which may end up in Florida State’s favor when all is said and done.

2. Clemson (Last year: 10-3, beat Oklahoma in Russell Athletic Bowl)
The Clemson Tigers are returning perhaps the top quarterback in the conference with Deshaun Watson. Many are already pegging him as a strong Heisman Trophy contender, and having one of the top wide receiving units in the ACC will certainly help his case. The offensive line returns just two starters from last season though, and the entire offense has just four returning starters. The defense is in even more of a shaky ground with a pair of starters back in 2015. But place some trust in Brent Venables to have the defense up to speed enough to work things out along the way. An early Thursday night game at Louisville could be tricky, and the final game of the regular season at South Carolina is rarely easy. But Clemson gets Florida State at home in Week 10, by which most of Clemson’s concerns could very well have been put to rest.

3. Louisville (Last year: 9-4, lost to Georgia in Belk Bowl)
Another team that has a bunch of starters to replace, Louisville returns just seven starters from last season’s team. And things could very well get off to a bumpy start with Auburn in the season opener and Clemson just a couple of weeks later. But I think they manage to split those games, winning the important ACC Atlantic Division match-up on Thursday night in Week 3. The addition of defensive end Devonte Fields should be a really good addition to the defensive line. Louisville’s defense should be very good, and perhaps one of the best in the ACC, but the secondary will have to step up and make some plays if Louisville is going to make the kind of noise I expect from them this season.

4. Boston College (Last year: 7-6, lost to Penn State in Pinstripe Bowl)
Boston College is going to be one of those teams that gives opponents a tough game, but ultimately will not have enough offense to make the Eagles any serious threat in the ACC. The defense can hold its own, but Steve Addazio has just three returning starters this season. None of them are on the offensive line. I suspect Boston College will try trusting the running game with Jon Hilliman capable of going for 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. Things may very well improve at Boston College as the season progresses, but there is a brutal stretch that includes back-to-back road games at Clemson and Louisville and that is followed by a home game against Virginia Tech. Playing Notre Dame in Fenway Park late in the year should be interesting as well. Boston College should have what it takes to go bowling, and a return trip to the Pinstripe Bowl may not be unlikely.

5. North Carolina State (Last year: 8-5, beat UCF in St. Petersburg Bowl)
North Carolina State is a team many people think is capable of making some noise in the ACC this season, and they very well could. The reason is the Wolfpack return seven starters on offense and seven more on defense. If experience is the key, no team in the ACC Atlantic Division has more of it heading into the 2015 season. There is not one thing NC State does exceptionally well, but they are pretty well-rounded in all areas of the game. Jacoby Brisset is back to start at quarterback, after helping the team improve dramatically last season. Now we will see if he is capable of taking NC State to the next step forward. The Wolfpack should get off to a good start with a favorable schedule, but I’m seeing some bumps in the road once they get into ACC play. NC State gets Louisville and Clemson at home, which is good and easily a recipe for potential upset alerts. I still will go with the favorites for now.

6. Syracuse (Last year: 3-9)
It looks to be a long season at Syracuse. The move to the ACC has not shown much improvement in the recruiting game under Scott Shafer, who could very well be coaching for his job this season. Syracuse could get off to a quick 3-0 start this season, but even that might be difficult. Then LSU comes to the dome in Week 4. Syracuse will get a bye after the big game with the LSU Tigers, and a road trip to USF comes after that, but then ACC play resumes and Syracuse’s next win may not come until 2016 at that point.

7. Wake Forest (Last year: 3-9)
If you thought Syracuse had it rough, take a look at Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons will be a young team in 2015, giving head coach Dave Clawson some more expected growing pains this fall. Wake Forest could get off to a 2-1 start with wins over Elon and Army (losing to Syracuse), but it will be a long stretch of demoralization after that. If Wake Forest manages to get to four wins to improve on last season’s win total, that should be considered a solid victory for Clawson and company.

COASTAL DIVISION

1. Virginia Tech (Last year: 7-6, beat Cincinnati in Military Bowl – they also beat Ohio State, in case you forgot)
Virginia Tech has the best defense in the ACC this season, and that should be enough to push the Hokies ahead fo the rest of the seemingly always up-for-grabs Coastal Division. The biggest question for Virginia Tech is whether or not the offense can avoid giving it away. Having Marshawn Williams back and healthy at running back should help. I look for the Hokies to give Ohio State a respectable fight in the Labor Day season opener, bu the Buckeyes leave with revenge after last season’s meeting in Columbus. From there, things look good for Virginia Tech with no Clemson, Florida State or Louisville on the schedule. Pittsburgh and UNC are both at home too. The schedule and defense should come in handy this season in Blacksburg.

2. North Carolina (Last year: 6-7, lost to Rutgers in Quick Lane Bowl)
No offense in the ACC returns as many starters this season than the North Carolina Tar Heels. A total of 10 starters are back for UNC, including a healthy Marquise Williams at quarterback, but how much will he have to carry the offense this season? In addition to being the leading passer, Williams is also UNC’s leading returning rusher from a year ago (788 yards, 13 touchdowns). I’d like to see others take some of the pressure off Williams to do everything if UNC is going to make a serious run to the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte. Looking at the schedule, I see real potential for a possible 7-0 start, but I also see the possibility of a rough finish to the season. That would seem to be the opposite of what happened last season after UNC closed on a hot streak to overcome a dismal start to the season.

3. Pittsburgh (Last year: 6-7, lost to Houston in Armed Forces Bowl)
I seem to have said this the past couple of years and I will do so once more; Why not Pitt? Pat Narduzzi takes over the Pittsburgh program and that should help lock things down on defense, with seven returning starters. The former Michigan State defensive coordinator also inherits some of the top offensive players in the ACC with wide receiver Tyler Boyd and running back James Conner, but it will be up to quarterback Chad Voytik to keep things moving consistently for the Panthers. If the Panthers can get off to better than a 2-2 start (as I predict), they could make a run in the wide open division.

4. Miami (Last year: 6-7, lost to South Carolina in Independence Bowl)
Another year, another season of wondering if this could possibly be the year Miami finally plays in the ACC Championship Game. They have yet to do so since leaving the Big East to provide the ACC with more football balance, and it looks as though this could be another season that sees early promise and hype ultimately fizzle out in an up-and-down second half of the season. They have the quarterback in Brad Kaaya, but do they have the ability to pull it together everywhere else? I have Miami getting out to a nice little 4-0 start before visiting Florida State in Week 6. From there it should be on-off-on-off for the Hurricanes. That could put head coach Al Golden on as hot a seat as possible at the end of the season.

5. Georgia Tech (Last year: 11-3, beat Mississippi State in Orange Bowl)
The formula for Georgia Tech’s success never seems to change, although the effectiveness of it seems to have mixed results. Paul Johnson‘s offensive style picked up 11 wins last season and gave Florida State one of many close calls last season in the ACC Championship Game. Playing in this wide open division, you can easily make a case for Georgia Tech to make a return trip to Charlotte at the end of the season, and a steady defense helps support that argument. I just think there are some tough battles ahead this season with a road trip to Notre Dame followed by ACC contests against Duke, North Carolina, Clemson, Pittsburgh and Florida State all in a row. That can be a tough stretch for the Yellow Jackets, as could the final two games of the season, at Miami and home against Georgia. Georgia Tech will still be a decent team, but they may skate on thin ice en route to the postseason.

6. Virginia (Last year: 5-7)
Virginia has had a rough stretch under Mike London, and this might be the final straw for the head coach if things do not show potential moving forward. Unfortunately for London, there may not be much progress shown with a three-win season. Yet, I have them somehow managing to avoid last place and staying ahead of Duke? Strange, I admit, but I think Virginia manages to win a pair of home games in ACC play, against Syracuse and Duke, and that is good enough to sneak just ahead of the Blue Devils in the standings. It may not, however, be enough to assure London a job in Charlottesville next season. Early games against UCLA, Notre Dame and Boise State (and William & Mary) might be rough to watch at times.

7. Duke (Last year: 9-4, lost to Arizona State in Sun Bowl)
Do not be fooled by a last-place finish in the ACC Coastal. As you no doubt have learned by now, I view this division as a wide-open race, and I still predict Duke will be bowl-eligible this year. That will be because Duke has a very favorable schedule this season with likely wins in non-conference play and no Clemson, Florida State or Louisville on the conference schedule. Yet I still see Duke struggling to find much consistency in conference play. David Cutcliffe has done a remarkable job in Durham, but this year’s team may be lacking in enough playmakers outside of safety Jeremy Cash to find enough wins to make a run at the division.

ACC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Florida State over Virginia Tech
After coming out on top of a clouded three-team tie in the ACC Atlantic Division, Florida State once again manages to win the ACC championship game for a fourth straight season. As will be the story all season, the Hokies defense keeps them in the game but the offense simply will not have enough firepower to get by a team with as much talent as Florida State. But will this Florida State team have done enough to convince the College Football Playoff selection committee it deserves a second straight invite to the postseason party?

Syracuse shakes up coaching staff and loses QB Hunt for 4-6 weeks

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Life is pretty good for Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer, or so he says, but Monday saw the head coach of the Syracuse Orange change some things up with his coaching staff. Tim Lester will now be assigned the role of offensive coordinator, which had belonged to George McDonald. Shafer also announced the loss of starting quarterback Terrel Hunt for four to six weeks. Hunt suffered a fibula fracture in Friday night’s game against Louisville.

“I’ve had to make a tough decision that has been less difficult to make because of the unselfishness of our teammate and coach George McDonald,” Shafer said in a statement released by Syracuse. “I’ve made the decision to change roles to use our staff’s talents together more effectively.”

McDonald remains a part of the coaching staff, and he will continue to work with the offense as Lester takes on more control of the play-calling on offense. McDonald will continue coaching the receivers for the Orange. Lester previously served as an offensive coordinator at Elmhurst College, a Division 3 program, from 2008 through 2012 before joining the Syracuse coaching staff. He also served as the offensive coordinator at Saint Joseph’s College, a Division 2 school, in 2004 following another two-year stint as Elmhurst College’s offensive coordinator.

“Tim will take charge of the play calling and the development of our young quarterbacks as we move forward without Terrel Hunt as he works to rehab his injury,” Shafer explained. “We are committed and unified to take the actions necessary to maximize the talent and drive of this football team.”

Syracuse ranks 13th in the ACC in scoring, 10th in passing offense and eighth in total offense. through five games, Syracuse ranks 9th in the ACC in red zone scoring percentage, but just 13th in red zone touchdown percentage. In 19 trips to the red zone, Syracuse has just nine touchdowns (but seven field goals). Only Wake Forest has a lower red zone touchdown percentage in the ACC. Every other ACC school besides Syracuse and Wake Forest has a red zone touchdown percentage of at least 52.0 percent (Syracuse is 47.37; Wake Forest is 38.89 percent), according to CFBStats.com.

All is not terrible for the Orange. Syracuse leads the ACC in sacks allowed with just 3.0 and the ORange have only lost a total of five turnovers, which is tied for second best in the conference with Duke. Only Georgia Tech and Clemson have had fewer turnovers.