Editor's Note: Coming off a road trip to Boston College and facing two more against Wake Forest and Georgia Tech to wrap up the conference season, Clemson is at home on October 25 against first-time visitor Syracuse. Orange head coach Scott Shafer talked about his team in the following post-spring interview.
Syracuse coach Scott Shafer
On what he liked about spring practice: "I was pleased with the way the kids finished up spring practice with our spring game. I'm excited about the support from the community, and I'm really looking forward to watching this team develop with their leadership skills. I like this team, and I'm really looking forward to working with them here as we move into the next phase."
On Syracuse's biggest strengths going into fall camp: "Well, you know, I think I kind of like this linebacker outfit. We lost a good player in Marquis Spruill, but I like the leadership and the work ethic out of that group. Dyshawn Davis has done a nice job along with Cam Lynch leading that group. I like our discipline. I like the development of Marqez Hodge in the middle. I'm looking forward to getting Luke Arciniega back. He's out with some lower body injuries, but he's doing a lot better. So I would say that linebacker crew would be the starting point.
"And then on the offensive side of the ball, I really like the way our offensive wide receiver group competed. I'm not necessarily saying their ability level is superior to a lot of people that we play, but their work ethic was really good, and I think that's a great place to start. So those two areas probably would be the ones that jump out at me right now."
On building community interest and support for Syracuse football: "I think they've been great. I was really enthusiastic to see the folks and their children especially after the spring game. We had a good turnout. You know, a lot of excitement with the different things that are going on with the program.
I just really appreciate the people of Syracuse. They're first class. They want to see us win at a high level, and you can really feel the excitement in the community right now.
"We just look forward to trying to continue to increase that as we move into the summer and into the preseason, and our kids have done a great job getting out there in the community with a lot of the community service things we do, and I just feel like we have a partnership in Syracuse right now with our football team and our community, and it's a great thing."
On replacing Jerome Smith at running back: "We'll miss Jerome. Jerome was a good football player. He put some good numbers up in his time here. But the next man up is a group of guys that I'm excited about. I think coming out of the spring game, George Morris played well again, Prince Tyson Gulley is solid because he can do everything as well as run the ball, catch the ball out of the backfield and his protection has improved. Adonis Ameen Moore is probably the guy that we're looking to really ramp up now that Jerome has moved on to bigger and better things, and Devante McFarlane. He was a little bit banged up early in the spring, but then he came back and finished the spring strong.
"When I look at those four young men, starting with Gulley as the leader because he's been there the longest and then Adonis and then the two young kids Devante and George Morris, I think we've got a solid group of kids that can help us in this offense. I'm excited about that group. They've got a long way to go to get to where we want them to be, but Coach DeAndre Smith has done a nice job leading them to the water and now I'm looking forward to seeing them drink and swim across that pond as we work towards the season."
On the absence of kicker Ryan Norton this spring: "I had to suspend Ryan from the team for a little bit. I'm looking forward to his return at the beginning of the summer. He violated some team rules, and he's done a nice job taking ownership. It's between Ryan and I, but he'll be back with us shortly, and we look forward to that."
On the difficulty of replacing linebacker Marquis Spruill and defensive tackle Jay Bromley: "They were both good football players and became strong leaders for us, and right down the middle of that defense, a defensive tackle and a middle linebacker. So it's difficult to replace both of them.
"But I will say I'm pleased with the improvement in the middle with the linebackers. I think that Marqez Hodge has done a nice job, makes a ton of plays. He's still learning, but he runs around, when he makes mistakes he makes them fast, and that's what you like to see how of a young guy in there.
"Eric Crume has done a nice job at tackle. I'm pleased with the progress he's made. He had a pretty good season for us last year, but he's continued to improve there. You know, we have a couple young guys that have to really step it up at the D tackle position, and we're going to figure out a way to get it done.
You hate to rely on the brand new recruits to come in, so I'm really putting it on Marcus Coleman and Eric Crume to step it up, and Ryan Sloan and Wayne Williams.
"If we have to, we'll take one of those defensive ends and play him at tackle a little bit until we can get the young guys moved forward, and we did that all spring, which was actually good to see because we moved Micah Robinson down in there and play him at a 3 technique, and I saw him make some plays, and what you get is a more athletic kid sometimes, maybe not as much size to him, but you do get some athleticism. We did that with Ronnie Thompson - he moved down, he played some 3 technique at times in practice, and I thought it was a good lesson for those kids to understand that regardless of where we are going into the season, any guy up front may have to move down or in and out and all around for us to find ways to win games.
"I thought Coach Bullough along with Coach Daoust did a good job manufacturing situations where kids realize, hey, I may have to play here, I may have to play there, but either way we're going to find a way to win, and I was pleased with the progress those kids made."
On the importance of Wayne Williams getting into shape for extended play: "It'll be really critical, and I hope he can meet the challenge. He needs to continue to get in good condition. He's made good progress, though, and I'm proud of Wayne Williams. He's got a ways to go, but I'm proud of the effort he's put into it. He's had some days where he hasn't reached his goals or the objectives or the standards that we ask of the kids at all those positions, but as long as he's fighting a good fight, I'm going to support him all the way, and he's made it through phase 1 here, and now we've got to get to phase 2, being summer conditioning and summer preparation and working your butt off when the coaches aren't around.
"Then when we get into that August mode, I look forward to seeing a new and improved Wayne Williams, and I'm very confident that we will. Wayne is a good kid and he's been working hard, and like I said, he's got a long way to go. The good thing is he's got a lot of brothers in that room that aren't going to let him fail, and they're hard on him now, just like a big brother should be. But I've been proud of the way those kids have been pushing him. It's been new and overwhelming to him, but he keeps coming back, and that's a good sign, so I look forward to seeing his progress."
On the changes in his team during the spring: "Oh, I can't really point at any single thing. I think for me the biggest thing is every year the beauty of college football, every year it's a different team, different makeup, different personalities, different influences, and some guys have to step up to the plate and own their new role and the new standards that we expect of them.
"I've seen a lot of those individuals step up and give it their best, and I'm not talking necessarily about the Xs and the Os. I think Micah Robinson, he's a young man, defensive end, that's played a lot of football for us, and he was always the younger brother in the group, and now I think he looks around the room and says it's time for me to be the big brother and step up to the plate, and I've seen him do that. I'm proud of where he's at right now. Same thing with Eric Crume with the defensive line. Those are two guys that jump out, and I've been pleased with them.
"I think in another situation, a guy like Marqez Hodge with the linebackers. We had a four year starter in Marquis Spruill, and now we've got this young gun Marqez Hodge that looks around the room and says these guys are counting on me. I've got a senior to my left in Dyshawn Davis and a senior to my right in Cam Lynch, and I need to step it up. I may be the little brother, but I've got to step up and not let my big brothers down in their senior season, and I think that you have a lot of those types of things going on.
"On the offensive side of the ball, I think we have a young man with Terrel Hunt at the quarterback position that understands how key it'll be that he takes full ownership of that offense and full responsibility for making sure those kids improve when no one is looking this summer. I've been pleased with his progress as a leader.
"I've been pleased with Sean Hickey stepping up to the plate. He plays left tackle for us. He's been around a long time. I like the way he stepped up during practice and pulled people with him. Ritchy Desir, another kid that was a silent leader, just kind of goes to work every day, a young man from North Miami Beach and well coached young man when we recruited him, and he came in here and just did what was asked. Now I see him and feel him stepping it up. So I look forward to that continued maturation with the personalities and leadership roles that are so key to our success.
"And I would say that's what I probably was most impressed with is just seeing some of those guys step out of themselves a little bit more and understand that they have to own it. That's exciting to me, and I'm looking forward to seeing those guys continue that throughout the course of the next couple months."