Syracuse Orange football coach Scott Shafer stopped by the ACC Coaches Teleconference to talk about SU's upcoming game against the Pittsburgh Panthers. Here's what we had to say...
On the respect he has for Pitt coach Paul Chryst:
I have a ton of respect for Coach Chryst. I've known him for a long time. Coached against him in years prior at different schools when he was offensive coordinator at Wisconsin. I was at Michigan. We went head-to-head back then. He comes from a football family. His father was a coach. His brother is a coach. So great respect for Paul. He's a great guy. He cares about the kids first and he understands that football is a tool to help kids better themselves in life. And I think we would both share the opinion that we are extremely fortunate to be coaching college football. And really like Paul. Got a lot of respect for the way he coaches the game and his kids.
On how he feels about the off-field success of running the SU football program:
Anytime you're managing 115 kids in this day and age you're going to have all kinds of issues that you're trying to deal with. The thing I'm most proud of with our kids is we don't have very many off the field issues. And our kids go to class. They earn their education the old-fashioned way by going to workday to day and putting in the effort.
And I think that they appreciate the opportunity they've given themselves with their athletic ability, as well as their academic, to be a part of Syracuse University, one of the better schools in the nation that you can get both unbelievable education and still play in the ACC football conference. Play football at the highest level.
I've been extremely pleased with the way our kids have worked through a difficult season. As you well know with all the injuries we've had and playing freshman quarterback, third and fourth string guys, I've been pleased with the demeanor of the team and the way that they continue to fight and the fact that you can turn on the fourth quarter of any game, win or lose, and it looks the same. The kids continue to play extremely hard, tough football.
And Paul believes those same things over at Pitt. And that's what I mean by being fortunate to work with these young kids. They keep me feeling young, as well. And I've just been extremely pleased with the integrity of our kids.
On the importance of Sean Hickey:
It's been tough for Sean this year. We've had a ton of injuries, and he's been the one guy that's been able to play through most of the season. He's had a little bit of time where he missed some pieces and parts of games, but for the most part he's been the one guy that hasn't been taken off the field. And he's been around. He's been a big part of the program since Day 1. He's a Pennsylvania kid, not far from Pittsburgh, who's excited to go back home and try to get a victory back on his home turf. And he's done a nice job in our program for his five years. I'm excited for him to go back home and play in front of his family over there against a well coached Pitt team. And I know Sean is anxious to do so.
He's a very bright young man. He's smart. He analyze things well. He likes to watch his opponents and come up with his own game plan within the game plan. And the area that he's worked hard to try to do a better job with is stepping outside of himself as a leader. And I think it speaks volumes that the team elected him captain this year. Even though he's kind of a quiet kid he's done a nice job by leading through his example more than anything else. I think that's why his teammates voted him as captain this year.
On Kendall Moore and whether or not there's any reason his playing time has been limited since returning from injury:
No, other than the fact that we were getting him back from his injury, some kids come back quicker than others. And I can tell you he's had one of his best weeks of work this past bye week. And yesterday he also had a very good practice. So hopefully he'll be able to help us on Saturday to a higher level.
Great kid. Bouncing back from the concussion. That doesn't happen overnight. He's the best he's been this past week, I'm looking forward to seeing how he plays this weekend.
On whether Alin Edouard is still joining the team in January:
That's still the plan.
On what SU can do to plan for Pitt wide receiver James Conner:
Well, James Conner is a great player. He's a big, strong, 250 pound running back that has great figures. He's tough. He'll run you over. He also has great feet. He reminds me a little bit of Andre Williams last week at Boston College who we had to try to defend. It will be a similar challenge for us. A big, strong running back, excellent offensive scheme.
Coach Chryst has had to change the blocking surfaces, and tried to put his running back on a DB, rather than a linebacker. So when you have a great scheme and great offensive line like Paul, and you have a great player like Conner, that's why he's had such great success, and he's about to break records of some of the greatest running backs to every play the game that happened to go through Pitt, as well, Tony Dorsett.
It will be a great challenge for our kids and our coaches. It's one of those situations where I think he's going to get his yards. He's gotten yards against everybody. We have to try to minimize it. We have to do a good job tackling, gaining tackling, and coming up with scream that we think can make our kids have an opportunity to slow him down little bit. We're not going to necessarily truly stop him. But we need to slow him down a little bit and give ourself a chance to win the game.
On whether or not the bye week helped the quarterback situation:
We're a little bit healthier. I'm looking in the eyes of three freshmen hoping that they're healthy enough to go against a good football team. They're still puppies. But every once in a while they're gnaw at the bone a little bit more than they have before.
They're great kids, they're working hard at it. I think the bye week has helped them little bit. And hopefully helped them have guys in front of them heal up little bit. Because that's one of the areas that we've struggled is keeping our offensive line healthy. We haven't started the same offensive line really in I think six, seven weeks now. And hopefully we'll have a couple of those guys back and ready to help a little bit. So that will help those young guns behind them play better, too.
The most underrated part of the game is the front line. And that makes the quarterback's job easier or harder, depending on who's up there. But they're doing a good job, and I'm pleased at the way they work at it. Anytime you have a bye week it let's you slow things down as those quarterbacks and teach and reteach so they can regurgitate the information and take two days rather than one day to figure things out that the coaches are teaching them. So I think time is on our side in preparing those freshmen to be ready toplay.
On Syracuse's quarterback plan for this weekend:
It's a secret, I couldn't tell you. If I did tell you I'd have to kill you and I wouldn't want to do that. I don't want to give away that secret yet.