Syracuse, Shafer plotting out Clemson week
Syracuse's first game in the Atlantic Coast Conference is at hand, and Orange coach Scott Shafer is thankful he has a couple of weeks to prepare for one of the best teams in the country.
''It's a good opportunity to get back on track. We're starting off against, arguably, the best team in the conference,'' Shafer said Wednesday in the midst of a bye week before Syracuse (2-2) hosts No. 3 Clemson (3-0, 1-0 ACC) in the Carrier Dome.
''It's a heckuva challenge for us.''
The Orange are coming off resounding victories over Wagner (54-0) and Tulane (52-17) after an 0-2 start in Shafer's rookie season. He said the team would not practice this week with gear on and was concentrating on heavy lifting and hard running, as well as drill work that is position-specific.
''It's a week to get healthy, strong,'' Shafer said. ''Once you get four games into the season, kids get banged-up a little bit. It's a good opportunity to work the soreness out of their muscles and joints and try to get them back on track with their conditioning.''
Nursing injuries were defensive end Robert Welsh, cornerback Brandon Reddish, and offensive tackle Kyle Knapp. Shafer said Reddish, who has a lower leg injury, likely would be questionable for Clemson on Oct. 5, while Welsh and Knapp are OK and should be in the lineup. Placekicker Ross Krautman, however, is out for the season with a pelvic injury which will require surgery.
Krautman is one of the most successful kickers in school history. He ranks third in career field goals (49), fourth in career extra points (110) and fifth in career points (257) at Syracuse. In two games this season, he was 4 of 5 on extra points and 1 of 2 on field goals. He missed the Tulane game, but replacement kicker Ryan Norton was flawless, converting all seven extra points he attempted and kicking a 22-yard field goal.
Shafer said the time off also allows the coaching staff to catch up on recruiting and to keep an eye out for more talent.
''It's a big evaluation time,'' Shafer said. ''Our biggest goal from a recruiting standpoint is to get out and continue doing effective evaluations.''
Syracuse has rebounded nicely after opening the season with losses to Penn State (23-17) and Northwestern (48-27) as quarterback Terrel Hunt has emerged as the starter over Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen. Hunt has been nearly unstoppable - against Tulane in his first college start, he threw for four touchdowns and ran for another - and gives opposing defenses something to worry about.
So, too, does Clemson's Tajh Boyd, a Heisman Trophy candidate. He's 56 of 90 for 683 yards and six scores with no interceptions, and also has three rushing touchdowns.
''He understands the offense inside and out,'' Shafer said. ''When things aren't there, he does a nice job of not forcing it and lets his feet take over to try to move the sticks with his legs.''
The Tigers face Wake Forest (2-2, 0-1) on Saturday at Death Valley before traveling to Syracuse.
AP college football site: http://collegefootball.ap.org/
Reach Kekis on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/Greek1947