Capitals

It's official: Shafer takes over at Syracuse

It's official: Shafer takes over at Syracuse

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) As he addressed the media at his first press conference as coach, Syracuse's Scott Shafer briefly fumbled for words as he looked over at his wife and two children and thought about his father.

``(Being a head coach) has been a goal of mine since I was 10 years old because I was influenced by my dad. I just have so many vivid memories of the influence that he had on so many young men and young women,'' Shafer said Friday as he remembered his father, Ron, a high school coach who died in 1994. ``I came home for the funeral and I can remember as a couple of thousand people lined up outside waiting to see my dad. He touched everyone, and that's always been a goal of mine.

``It's hard not to be emotional about this sort of thing, but at a very young age I just knew it was something great.''

Defensive coordinator the past four years for the Orange, Shafer succeeds Doug Marrone, who resigned and was named coach of the Buffalo Bills on Monday.

Marrone preached discipline, accountability, character, and integrity, in rejuvenating a team that went 10-37 under his predecessor, Greg Robinson, and transformed it into a two-time bowl winner. Syracuse finished 2012 at 8-5 after beating West Virginia 38-14 in the Pinstripe Bowl and earned a share of the Big East regular-season title with a 5-2 conference mark, its best since Paul Pasqualoni's 2001 team went 6-1.

Shafer promised to follow that lead with a foundation based on attitude, effort, and enthusiasm as the Orange prepare to leave the Big East and join the Atlantic Coast Conference in July.

``It's those three pillars that we will always point back to as we try to progress forward and make this community proud about the product that we put on that football field,'' Shafer said. ``The thing that I like about Syracuse the city is that the people that live here and embrace it are tough people. They're hard-nosed people and they expect a hard-nosed football team.

``It's our job to put a product on the field that the community can say, `That is us. That is our team. They're physical, and they're going to get after you when you come to the (Carrier) Dome.' We're going to storm that conference and do better than people think we can.''

Shafer said he planned to meet with the players on Sunday when they return from semester break and Marrone is expected to address the team as well.

As for his staff, Shafer tabbed Chuck Bullough as defensive coordinator. Bullough was a two-time All-Big Ten linebacker at Michigan State and joins the Syracuse staff after two seasons as a defensive assistant with the Cleveland Browns. He was linebackers coach at Western Michigan in 2005 when Shafer was defensive coordinator and also spent five years at UCLA, the last two as defensive coordinator.

A big hole remains on Shafer's staff, though. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, architect of a record-setting, uptempo offense this past season with fifth-year senior quarterback Ryan Nassib at the helm, has joined Marrone and the Bills in the same role.

``I want an offense that's fast, that's fun, and invested. I think Coach Hackett did a great job putting that on display, and we want to continue that,'' said Shafer, who was a quarterback in college. ``What we're looking for is the right fit, that fit for Syracuse, and I'm not in a hurry to do that.

``We don't want to go about this taking the first guy that sounds exciting. We'll get the best guy in here that gives us a chance to put on a show on offense. It's unbelievable how many people want to be here.''

With national signing day looming in early February, Shafer said one of his first priorities will be to reach out to recruits.

``We have to do a great job of tending to our prospects, the recruits that we're going after and trying to hold onto. You never know until signing day,'' he said. ``I want guys that want to go to the Dome and say this is my home. All those other guys that are wavering, they'd just better make a decision that they're not going to play us if they decide to go elsewhere.''

According to Rivals.com, Syracuse has received 14 commitments, nine of them three-star athletes, including quarterbacks Zach Allen of Texas and Austin Wilson of Pennsylvania. Scout.com listed 15 recruits, including five three-star athletes, and both websites had the class ranked No. 71 on Friday.

Prior to Syracuse, Shafer was an assistant at Michigan, Stanford, Western Michigan, Illinois, Northern Illinois, and Rhode Island. A 1990 graduate of Baldwin Wallace University, Shafer was one of Marrone's first hires.

Shafer's defenses have ranked among the nation's best in various categories during his four-year tenure with the Orange. In 2010, the Orange defense was No. 7 in the nation and he was nominated for the Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant.

Even though he won't be running the defense next season, Shafer doesn't expect the Orange to skip a beat.

``I envision an Orange crush defense that makes the opponents' families cringe when their child is about to get hit,'' he said with a smile. ``I want to put the fear of God in the opposing football player that happens to have the ball underneath his arm. That's what we want to do, play an aggressive style of defense that people love to watch.

``When we get the opposition in the loud house (the Carrier Dome), we lock the doors behind them and we don't let them out.''

Quick Links

Tom Wilson knows how hard the Kuznetsov suspension will sting: 'It's not easy to watch your team go into battle'

Tom Wilson knows how hard the Kuznetsov suspension will sting: 'It's not easy to watch your team go into battle'

ARLINGTON, Va. -- When the Capitals start the 2019-20 season, Evgeny Kuznetsov will not be on the ice. He will not play in the season opener against the St. Louis Blues, he will not play former coach Barry Trotz when the team travels to play the New York Islanders and he will not play in the home opener against the team that eliminated Washington from the playoffs last season.

Tom Wilson knows how Kuznetsov feels.

“It's not easy to watch your team go into battle and you be on the sidelines,” Wilson told NBC Sports Washington. “You definitely want to be out there with them, but can't do anything about it now and you've just got to make sure that you're ready to go once you're back out there.”

Wilson missed the first 16 games of the 2018-19 season when he was suspended for a preseason hit to St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist. Like Kuznetsov, Wilson was also forced to miss the start of the season.

When Kuznetsov spoke to the media on Saturday regarding his suspension, he expressed his appreciation to the fans for their support. With his suspension, however, Kuznetsov will be forced to miss the home opener on Oct. 5 and will not be able to play in front of those fans when the city celebrates the return of hockey.

That was even tougher for Wilson last year as he was not able to play in the home opener when the team raised its Stanley Cup banner to the rafters.

“It is tough,” he said. “It's a cool moment for the fans, it's a cool moment for the players. Stuff happens and you have to deal with it, but you never want to miss a game whether it's the first game or the 50th or whatever. You want to be on the ice every night. That's what we love to do.

“It'll be alright. I'm sure he'll be around to take it in, he just won't be out and playing.”

But the suspension to Kuznetsov will not just be hard on him, it will be hard on the team as well.

Washington faces a brutal schedule and, though Kuznetsov will only miss the first three games, the schedule and matchups in those three games were going to be difficult even before the team knew it would be without one of its top two centers.

The Caps open the season in St, Louis on the night the Blues celebrate their Stanley Cup victory and unfurl their championship banner. Two days later, the team will be in New York for the Islanders’ home-opener. The first game in Washington will come the next day on the back-end of a back-to-back and it will pit the Caps against the Carolina Hurricanes who eliminated them from the playoffs last season.

That’s a tough stretch and if the team struggles, that could make the suspension even harder for Kuznetsov, according to Wilson.

“When you're watching those games, you just have that motivation that when you come back, just to try to make up for lost time and be the best player that you can be in order to make it up to your teammates,” Wilson said.

There is a silver-lining to glean from Wilson’s suspension last year and that is what happened when he returned.

When Wilson’s suspension finally ended in 2018, the team got back a motivated winger who was dominant in his return. Wilson recorded eight goals and six assists in his first 10 games back including a goal in his very first game. After a lackluster season, perhaps the suspension can jolt Kuznetsov back into the 2018 playoff form that allowed him to dominate the league.

“I expect him to come back flying and playing his best hockey,” Wilson said. “We'll appreciate having him back in the lineup and a little spark in Game 4 for sure.”

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Giants bench Eli Manning for Daniel Jones, which is going to add some spice to Redskins' Week 4 matchup

Giants bench Eli Manning for Daniel Jones, which is going to add some spice to Redskins' Week 4 matchup

It was only a matter of time; a new era of New York Giants football will officially start this coming Sunday.

Giants head coach Pat Shurmur announced on Tuesday that rookie quarterback Daniel Jones will be the team's starter moving forward, with 16-year veteran Eli Manning moving to the bench. 

The Giants selected Jones with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and received a large amount of criticism following the selection. Many fans, as well as NFL experts, pondered why they selected Jones sixth overall when many believed he would still be available when they picked next at No. 17.

Additionally, another quarterback was still on the draft board when Jones was selected, one many believed would be taken before the Duke product. That would be Redskins' QB Dwayne Haskins, who the team drafted 15th overall.

But Jones dazzled in the preseason, which gave many the sense that the Eli Manning era in New York would be coming to a close sooner rather than later. Over the four exhibition games, he completed 29 of his 34 passes for 416 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions.

Jones' first NFL start will come on the road in Tampa Bay this Sunday, but the Redskins will get their first crack at the rookie QB right after that. The Burgundy and Gold travel to Metlife Stadium for a Week 4 clash with Big Blue on Sept. 29.

While Jones and Haskins will likely face one another several times down the road as NFC East quarterbacks, their first matchup as starters against each another will likely have to wait.

Through the Redskins first two games, veteran Case Keenum has thrown for 601 yards, five touchdowns, and zero turnovers. For the most part, Keenum has exceeded many expectations people had for him in 2019.

Barring something unforeseen, Keenum will be the starter against Jones' Giants in Week 4, while the Redskins rookie will likely still be holding a clipboard.

MORE REDSKINS NEWS: