New-look Syracuse inks 19 players, including 2 QBs

Scott Shafer’s first head coaching job came in the blink of an

eye.

When Doug Marrone abruptly left Syracuse for the Buffalo Bills a

month ago, Shafer gladly took the position, but the new Orange boss

had to hit the recruiting ground running after Marrone took most of

his coaches with him to the NFL.

So many recruits, so little time.

But Shafer quickly filled out his new staff, then took the trail

of trying to convince prospects to come aboard a team that has

resurfaced as a postseason player but is headed for a new

conference.

That’s a difficult row to hoe, but Shafer did what he could. And

on Wednesday, national signing day, it was announced that the

Orange had 19 new members.

Not bad, all told.

”I’m really excited about this class,” Shafer said. ”We had

to rekindle the approach. They did a great job of getting out

there.”

Shafer’s biggest void as the Orange prepare to leave the Big

East for the Atlantic Coast Conference in July is at quarterback

with the departure of record-setting starter Ryan Nassib. He

thrived under the Orange’s up-tempo, no-huddle attack installed

last season. With a run game that began to excel at midseason with

Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley, the offense helped lead

Syracuse to an 8-5 record.

But first things first. Shafer wants to start up front, as this

class includes four offensive linemen and three defensive linemen.

There are also three linebackers, three wideouts, two quarterbacks,

two defensive backs and two tight ends. The recruits hail from 13

states, with Florida topping the list at four and New York,

California, and Illinois with two apiece. Five are junior college

transfers.

Austin Wilson of Pennsylvania and Mitch Kimble of Illinois will

be in the mix at quarterback in the competition to replace Nassib.

Wilson was a senior team captain at East Pennsboro, completing 111

of 202 passes for 1,800 yards and 25 scores.

Tight end Tyler Provo will try to follow in the footsteps of his

older brother, Nick, also a tight end who played four years for the

Orange and had a school-record 51 catches as a senior in 2011.

”It’s great to continue the legacy of having a Provo in the

program,” Shafer said.

Shafer, who said Marrone had been a big help, said one of the

other focuses was to add depth at linebacker and felt that had been

addressed with the addition of Luke Arciniega, Josh Kirkland, and

Marqez Hodge.

Last year, Marrone lost three prospects at the 11th hour.

Shafer’s biggest setback was the decision by quarterback Zach Allen

of Texas to switch from the Orange to Texas Christian after

Syracuse offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett joined Marrone in

Buffalo. Kimble, who originally committed to Northern Illinois,

fills Allen’s spot.

Marrone did a good job addressing the team’s needs in 2012,

inking 22 players last year in a class that included two four-star

athletes. And like last year, Shafer lost a couple more besides

Allen. New York City-area running backs Augustus Edwards and Laray

Smith, who were headed to Syracuse before the coaching shake-up,

signed with other schools.

”Any time you have a change, you have to adjust, see if they

want to play for us,” Shafer said. ”Some of the kids we lost, I’m

happy for them, too. They all get a piece of the pie. We’ve lost

some battles and we’ve won a few. You’re never going to win them

all. We’ll look forward to playing against them. There’s no hard

feelings.”

Still, Shafer and his new staff managed to hold their own

considering the circumstances. It wasn’t easy.

”At one point, there was only three of us on the road,” said

wide receivers coach Rob Moore, a former Syracuse star. ”It’s

almost impossible to touch every kid that you want to, so we were

scrambling for a while. I think, given the situation, we came out

of this thing pretty good.”

The Orange pretty much stayed where they were before Marrone’s

departure. Syracuse was ranked No. 73 on Wednesday on recruiting

service Scout.com, just behind future ACC partners Duke and Georgia

Tech but ahead only of Boston College. The Orange’s class was

ranked No. 71 on Rivals.com.

Shafer was quick with a counter when questioned about that.

”You take that five-star guy and a two-star guy and let my guy

just go after your guy with a chip on his shoulder and I’ll be

excited to see where we turn out,” Shafer said. ”Yeah, we may not

be the fastest, we may not be the biggest, we may not be the

strongest, but we’re going to play our butts off here.

”We’ll play in this conference with a chip on our

shoulder.”