Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney both had a lot to say on Wednesday's ACC teleconference. Here are some of their most interesting comments:
On building SU's program:
"I think our model is probably closest to the Duke model, and you know, Coach (David Cutcliffe) has done a great job, and they've done a great job in their support of the process he put together. You know, very similar model that we're working on here."
I appreciate Shafer bringing up Duke, because Duke is the classic example of a program that went from irrelevant to relevant in large part because it scheduled winnable non-conference games. The Blue Devils don't schedule LSU, for example.
But there's still a problem with Shafer comparing himself and Syracuse to Cutcliffe and Duke. When Cutcliffe was named Duke's head coach after the 2007 season, the Blue Devils had won two games in the previous three seasons. Cutcliffe took over an abysmal program and turned it around, winning four games in 2008 and making a bowl game each season from 2012-14.
Shafer, on the other hand, took over a Syracuse program in late 2012 that, by post-2001 standards, was thriving. In the previous three seasons, the Orange had twice won eight games.
Shafer was a continuity hire. Cutcliffe was hired to rebuild. They are two very different situations.
On Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson:
"He's got a very good arm. He's got a great understanding of their offense and how to attack the different defenses they've played against this year, and he's got some great targets to throw to all around the field."
On how Syracuse stays confident despite six-game losing streak (WARNING: ensuing coach speak):
"We stay true to the process. We keep fighting the good fight. We keep attacking the things that we can improve upon. We listen to each other, one another, as coaches and players, and we stick with that process of controlling the things that are right in front of us and tangible things that we can improve upon each week."
On whether having played teams like LSU and Florida State gives SU confidence against Clemson:
"Yeah, I think especially with a really young outfit like we have. I think all the game experience that they've had gives them a chance to continue to grow and improve upon what happened the week before. Playing the LSU's of the world and the Florida States in this conference, it's a little bit of baptism by fire for some of our young kids, including the young quarterbacks, but there's such growth potential there, and you need to take what you learn from all those games behind you and put it to work, put that knowledge to work, that experience to work as you move forward against this Clemson team. So I think to some degree, it definitely does."
"They're really well-coached and they create problems, a little bit like NC State to be honest with you, as far as their formations and shifts and motions and the presentations of what they're trying to do, and they've got some really good skill. Very impressed with their receivers. The Dungey kid has done a nice job. But we don't know for sure that he's going to play."
You don't know for sure who's going to start at quarterback, Dabo? Wait, Shafer isn't being clear about injuries? HMMM.
"The biggest thing is I see a guy that's building a program. ... I don't have any doubt he's going to get them where they need to be, because you can tell by how the guys play that the message is resonating, that these guys believe in what they're doing."
On how Clemson doesn't have a letdown against Syracuse:
"Well, we have respect for Syracuse, because again, these guys when you watch the tape, I mean, there's nothing on the tape that's showing that, okay, hey, these guys have three wins or this or that. All you do is just watch them play, and they play hard. They play tough. They play physical. They have schemes that present problems."