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October 16, 2013

Opponent Coach Q&A: Shafer

Syracuse head football coach Scott Shafer spoke with the media on Wednesday about the challenge of playing Georgia Tech on the road.

COACH SHAFER: Looking forward to heading down to Georgia Tech. It will be a great opportunity for our kids to get down to Atlanta, a great venue, and give us our best shot to go after a well-coached Georgia Tech team. With that, any questions.

Q. Your ability to run the ball has been evident the last two weeks or so, is that the best defense against these guys, control the clock and continue to keep that up?

COACH SHAFER: To some degree I think it is. You know, Coach Johnson does a great job. And you're not going to get as many shots on offense as you do against a lot of teams because they do a good job of controlling the football. You're looking at 60, at best maybe 70 plays in the game. If we can move the ball, regardless whether it's rushing or throwing the ball, but continue to have good drives and keep them off the field, it's definitely a big part of the success in this type of a game.

Q. On the flip side, what's your evaluation of the passing game been?

COACH SHAFER: Ours or theirs?

Q. Yours.

COACH SHAFER: I think that we have struggled a little bit the last couple weeks. You know, obviously Clemson did a great job, very talented team. They covered us up pretty good. And then last week, we missed a couple opportunities here and there, and we were running the ball well. So it's a combination of things, but I think we need to continue to ramp up our passing game. I think Terrel (Hunt) is a work-in-progress from week-to-week. But he's shown signs of steady improvement and we just need to keep going.

Q. Do you get too concerned about becoming too one-dimensional or is it one of those things where you're like, look, we are running for over 300 yards a game, that's our game plan, that's our fine.

COACH SHAFER: Well, you have to be multiple this day and age. I'm sure Coach Johnson will have a good plan to try to stop the run. A big part of that is adjusting to the elements throughout the course of the game. If people take one thing away, you have to exploit the other, so you want to try to create some balance and that will be key as we progress forward, not just in this game but for the rest of the season.

Q. I was wondering how the process is going of kind of getting people at Syracuse, fans, alumni, things like that, to think ACC, rather than Big East or something like that. And does a week like this, where Clemson and Florida State have the spotlight, Miami is in a Thursday night game, can that help speed up the process to kind of imprint the ACC on the Syracuse fan?

COACH SHAFER: Well, I think first off, we have a great fan base. People up in central New York do a lot of things. We have a highly-educated group of people up here that lives in this community, and they are multi-dimensional. But they have been great to us. We had a great showing of support at the Clemson game, and, you know, for our fans, the biggest thing is, trying to put a good product on the field that they can be appreciative of and say it's ours and they own it. And that's the goal here. And then outside of that, and then it goes back to controlling the things that we can control on a daily basis, and that's the way we play on the football field, so the focus point starts there. The second part of it would be the excitement of being in such a great conference, and I think each year and each game we play, as the fans become more and more familiar with the brand of football in the A CC, I think it will continue to ramp itself up to the point where, you know, our fans are anxiously exci ted about each week that we play, as well as we get into all the other sports. I know basketball, we had such a great run in the Big East, and what a great conference it was in the basketball court. But now I look at some of the matchups that Coach Boeheim will be going into, and I know as a fan living here in central New York myself, I'm excited to see our boys go up against Duke and North Carolina and work up-and-down the Eastern seaboard. So I think it's an exciting time to be part of a great conference.

Q. Can you use this week maybe to, will it help in recruiting? Can it help to say, look, this is what the ACC is doing, and you can be a part of it at Syracuse?

COACH SHAFER: I think every game is that, once again, as we move up and down the coast. But Georgia, especially for us, we have some good Georgia football players. We have some young kids that are playing well from Georgia and have great futures ahead of them. But for us to go down there and compete in that environment, it will definitely help the recruiting.

Q. Paul Johnson was saying yesterday that he was not able to find any games where either you or -- had played an option team like his; is that actually the case?

COACH SHAFER: I've been so many places in so many years. We've played option teams back when I was at Northern Illinois. Coach Grobe was the head coach at Ohio University and they did a great job of running the option and all the different things that you can do out of it. But I haven't had an opportunity to coach against a team at the level that Coach Johnson has his kids. I've always admired Coach Johnson and the job he's done, everywhere he's been, especially at Georgia Tech. You know, he's as smart a coach as there is out there, and you know, we have a great challenge upon us. We won't know until we get on that football field Saturday whether or not we have a good plan, and the key is execution. It will be a hell of a challenge for us.

Q. Did you kind of basically take the same game plan that you had back then, or did you really kind of start over?

COACH SHAFER: No, that was enough years back that there will be changes made and that sort of thing and I wouldn't want to put anything out there in Atlanta about what we're doing, anyway.

Q. With this process, I'm guessing you looked at a lot of Georgia Tech film and other teams that they have played and talked to people that have played against them to get a sense of -- to know how to best teach this week?

COACH SHAFER: Yeah, you take all the different people that have played them and you try to figure out the best way to go about it. You take pieces and parts, but the most important thing is what fits your personnel group, your kids, and gives them the best ch ance to be successful against a well-coached Paul Johnson team.

Q. When did you actually start this process of trying to formulate a plan? Was it in the spring?

COACH SHAFER: Yeah, it was probably a couple weeks after I got hired. I started going through teams we were going to play, and obviously that one was really important because you had to think outside of your comfort zone, outside of the box and take a look at a very unique offense and a group of c oaches that really know what they are doing under Coach Johnson. So early on we started looking at it and started talking to people that have defended it or run it in similar ways and try to come up with ideas that fit the personnel that we have on our team.

Q. Working on a future story about Cameron Lynch; do you have a good Cameron Lynch story you can share with me?

COACH SHAFER: Oh, boy, I don't know. Not necessarily one that jumps out at me right now. I think the world of Cameron. He's a very good student. He plays really hard. He's been extremely productive this year, and I've been proud of the way he's worked sinc e the day he got here. He's always been strong. We inherited a kid that knew how to move weights in the weight room before he even got here and Coach Hicks has done a nice job of ramping up his ability to get stronger and faster every year he's been here. But he's an excellent team player and he's got a great personality. He's fun to coach. Q. Your two runners, (Jerome) Smith and (Prince-Tyson) Gulley, how are they similar, how are they different, and do you try to -- how do you determine the number of touches each one of them will get in a game?

COACH SHAFER: You know, we feel like -- well, to answer the first part of the question, they are both very similar when it comes to their vision. They both have very good vision. The difference between the two is Jerome is a big, strong back, a little bit faster than people realize. He's physical, north/south. Whereas when you go to Prince, Prince has the ability to put his foot in the grass and cut it back on you quickly, as well as bounce it. He's a little bit more of a scat-back, but he's developed into a good inside the tackle runner, as well. So both have great vision. One is a little bit bigger, stronger than the other. But I've been pleased with the way both of them have played. But I think it's a good combination because it starts off with the similarities, the vision side of it, and running the different types of tracks that we ask them to run. They ca n see it and take it front side or back side with similar abilities, the difference being just the jump cut type of thing that Tyson can put on tape. But just pleased that both of the kids and their performance thus far in the season and look forward to continuing forward.

Q. And do you go into a game thinking, well, I'd like to see a certain number of touches for Smith, a certain number of touches for Gulley, or do you just sort of do that by feel affording to how the game goes?

COACH SHAFER: Yeah, it's more how the game goes. We want both of them touching the ball a bunch, but depending on the game plan and depending on the defensive game plan against us, some of those things can change as we go, and you're always in that position to adjust to the elements as we move through the game, first quarter, second quarter. And sometimes the game will be such that one guy has more touches than the other by coincidence. It just kind of depends on the flow of the game and how it's going. But both those guys have the ability to get a hot hand, fast. So we want to give them both an equal opportunity to do so.



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