New-look Syracuse inks 19 players, including 2 QBs
Scott Shafer’s first head coaching job came in the blink of an
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
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
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
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
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
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