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AP Sources: Shafer to take over at Syracuse

AP Sources: Shafer to take over at Syracuse

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Four years ago, Scott Shafer's football sojourn almost seemed at a dead end.

Fired after only one year as defensive coordinator at Michigan under Rich Rodriguez, a victim of one of the worst seasons in Wolverines history, Shafer was down and out after stops at five colleges in a five-year span.

Then came a phone call at Christmas time in 2008 from Doug Marrone, who had just been hired as coach at Syracuse. The two clicked and Shafer was hired as defensive coordinator. He quickly transformed a woeful Orange defense into an intimidating unit, becoming fast friends with Marrone as both became key cogs in turning around a program that had reached the depths of despair.

Now, with Marrone suddenly leaving this week to coach the Buffalo Bills, Shafer has landed his first job as a head coach. He will officially replace Marrone, two people familiar with the selection process told The Associated Press on Tuesday. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because there had not been an official announcement from the university.

The school was expected to schedule a press conference for Thursday.

With national signing day looming, acting quickly to find a replacement was of the utmost importance. Dr. Daryl Gross, the athletic director, hinted in a radio interview Monday that the choice would come from within the staff.

``We want to move fast and make sure we get things in place,'' Gross said.

Syracuse has received 14 commitments so far, nine of them from three-star athletes, including quarterbacks Zach Allen of Texas and Austin Wilson of Pennsylvania, according to Rivals.com. The site ranks the Orange class at No. 71.

Though an official announcement has not yet been made, Shafer was congratulated by his son and former players Rob Long and Antwon Bailey on Twitter.

Shafer, a 1990 graduate of Baldwin Wallace University, was one of Marrone's first hires. Though he's never been this high up the coaching chain, Shafer expressed interest in taking that next step and was a candidate for the Western Michigan job that went to P.J. Fleck last month.

Marrone preached discipline, accountability, character, and integrity, and Shafer will have to follow that lead if the team is to remain on the upswing. Marrone rejuvenated a team that went 10-37 under his predecessor, Greg Robinson, and transformed it into a two-time bowl winner.

Syracuse finished 8-5 this year and 5-2 in the conference. The latter mark was good for a four-way tie in the race for the Big East title.

``I think we have an outstanding bunch of individuals on the (Syracuse) team,'' Marrone said Monday in Buffalo after being introduced as the Bills coach, indicating the staff he picks there will have NFL experience. ``I think we have an outstanding bunch of coaches, support staff, and I think everything's in place. And I really think that moving forward toward the ACC, there are things that are going to go on that are going to push this program forward.''

Stability and continuity are big deals at Syracuse. Basketball coach Jim Boeheim is in his 37th season at his alma mater and his three assistant coaches - Mike Hopkins, Adrian Autry, and Gerry McNamara - are Syracuse graduates, as are lacrosse coaches John Desko and Gary Gait and football assistants Rob Moore and Bob Brotzki.

Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, a 2002 graduate of Cal-Davis, was in charge of an offense that set numerous school records in 2012 with fifth-year senior quarterback Ryan Nassib at the helm. Hackett, just 33, has limited coaching experience, but retaining him on staff is paramount going forward.

The up-tempo spread offense Marrone and Hackett installed in August at the end of preseason camp has piqued the interest of quarterback prospects like Allen and Wilson. Hackett developed Nassib and transformed Syracuse's offense into one of the best in the nation. Syracuse finished 2012 first in the Big East in total offense with an average of 473.4 yards per game, and Nassib is being projected as an early-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft.

The Orange will play eight ACC games next season, as well as non-conference dates with, among others, Northwestern and Penn State.

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Tim Connelly won’t take top Wizards job, to stay in Denver

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Tim Connelly won’t take top Wizards job, to stay in Denver

There won’t be a Tim Connelly reunion with the Washington Wizards after all.

Connelly passed on the opportunity to become the Wizards President of Basketball Operations, and instead will remain in the same capacity with the Denver Nuggets, a source confirms to NBC Sports Washington. ESPN first reported on Connelly's decision.

Washington received permission to meet with Connelly late Thursday evening. He left the NBA Combine in Chicago and flew to Washington Friday for a discussion with Leonsis, a source told NBC Sports Washington. On Friday, Connelly reportedly received the offer to fill the front office vacancy created by the firing of Ernie Grunfeld on April 2.

While the interest in the Wizards was genuine from the Baltimore native, Catholic University alum and former member of Washington's front office, Connelly could not leave the "stable" situation with significant promise in Denver, a source told NBC Sports Washington.  

Connelly, 41, was named Denver’s general manager in 2013. The Nuggets won 54 games and finished the 2018-19 regular season as the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. The roster, headlined by All-NBA center Nikola Jokic and guard Jamal Murray, is the second-youngest in the NBA. "Tough to give that up," the source said. "Too much to risk."

The Wizards are coming off a polar opposite campaign that ended with a 32-50 record. Significant uncertainty exists going forward with five-time All-Star John Wall expected to miss a large chunk of the 2019-20 season as his four-year, $170 million supermax contract extension kicks in.

Leonsis began a deliberative search process for a new President of Basketball Operations after dismissing Grunfeld, who held the position for 16 years.  While other candidates were interviewed during the process, including interim GM Tommy Sheppard, Connelly’s name was linked to the opening almost from the start.

Connelly considered Leonsis' handling of the discussions first class, according to a source.

Sheppard, former Hawks GM Danny Ferry and Thunder assistant GM Troy Weaver are the other known primary candidates.

In April, NBC Sports Washington first reported Connelly considered the Wizards his “dream job,” according to sources. The Catholic University alum began his NBA career as an intern with Washington in 1996 before holding various full-time front office positions under Grunfeld. He left for New Orleans in 2010.

The Wizards face significant challenges before re-entering contention in the Eastern Conference. With Wall injured, two-time All-Star Bradley Beal is the only healthy returning starter. 2018 first round pick Troy Brown Jr. is the only other valued long-term asset beyond the ninth overall selection in the 2019 NBA Draft,

More than half of last season’s roster is entering some form of free agency. Washington could have limited salary cap space depending on which players return.

The situation requires the kind of roster-shaping creativity Connelly demonstrated in Denver. The Wizards now must look elsewhere for their new front office leader.

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Roster is set heading into start of OTAs

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Roster is set heading into start of OTAs

Kick off your Monday with the latest Baltimore Ravens news including the full 90-man roster heading into the beginning of OTAs.

Player/Team Notes: 

1. The Baltimore Ravens have officially announced the full 90-man roster that will be competing for an official team roster spot in OTAs this summer. Ravens OTAs begin Monday.

2. With the return of Pernell McPhee and the addition of Shane Ray, it's clear that the Ravens are searching for the right pass rushers for their defense. The two veterans join draft pick Jaylon Ferguson in the quest to create a dynamic defense.

3. Marquise Brown is expected to miss OTAs due to continued rehab on his foot from Lisfranc surgery. However, Brown is expected to be ready by the start of training camp in August.

Looking Ahead:

July 15: 4 p.m. deadline to get a long-term deal done with designated franchise tag players.

The 2019 NFL schedule is set! See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

Credit: Rotoworld and Baltimore Ravens for news points.

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