DC Shafer focused on ‘winning the game’ in return to Syracuse

Defensive coordinator Scott Shafer prepares to coach the Blue Raider defense in their first practice of the year (Anthony Fiorella/MTSU Sidelines).

Photo by Anthony Fiorella / Sports Reporter

When head coach Rick Stockstill announced the hiring new defensive coordinator Scott Shafer, it gave Shafer one more chance to prove himself as one of the greatest defensive minds in college football.

In just his second game, Shafer will be thrown into the fire against the team that fired him as head coach, the Syracuse Orange.

With all of the hype surrounding the 24-year coaching veteran, he is focused on only one thing.

“We just want to win the game,” Shafer said. “We’ll adjust to the elements when we get there and make good adjustments at halftime and play sound football.  I want us to play hard, sound football and have 11 men flying to the football all four quarters.”

Shafer began to establish himself as one of the top defensive coaches in the country in his days as a graduate assistant for the Indiana Hoosiers. As a GA, he helped the Hoosiers to a 7-4-1 record in the 1992 season, while also producing a first-round pick in running back Vaughn Dunbar.

In his assistant coaching years, he had years where he has had some of the best defenses in the country.

In 2002 as the defensive coordinator at Northern Illinois, the Ohio native’s defense led the MAC in interceptions, takeaways, scoring defense, run defense and sacks.

During his stint as the defensive backs coach at Illinois in 2004, Shafer coached cornerback Kelvin Hayden, who was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the draft after leading the Big 10 in interceptions.

As the defensive coordinator for Western Michigan, he helped the Broncos to one of their best years in program history on the defensive side of the ball in 2006, when they set a MAC record for rushing yards per game allowed with just 76.1 yards per game.  Nationally, the Broncos led the nation in interceptions and sacks, a stat that would help Shafer become a nominee for the Broyles Award, which is given to the nation’s top assistant coach.

After having brief stints at Stanford and Michigan as a defensive coordinator for Jim Harbaugh and Rich Rodriguez, Shafer was hired as the defensive coordinator by then head coach Doug Marrone for the Syracuse Orangemen.

When Marrone was hired by the Buffalo Bills in 2013, Shafer took over as Head Coach.

After already helping the Syracuse defense go from being ranked 101st in total defense to being top 20 in the nation, Shafer looked poised to have a great career as a head coach.

In 2013, he led the Orange to a 7-6 record and a win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the Texas bowl.

After the success Shafer saw in 2013, he had a combined record of 7-17 in 2014 and 2015, leading to his departure after the 2015 season.

Enter the Middle Tennessee era.

Shafer gets a chance to go back to his roots as a defensive coordinator and gets another shot at proving why he is “one of the most innovative defensive minds in college football”, according to his former boss and current Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.

In week one, the biggest weapon the Blue Raiders had to prepare for was Vanderbilt running back Ralph Webb. After rushing for 211 yards against MTSU in 2016, the Raiders held the prolific Webb to just 49 yards on the ground.

After a great performance in the second half against Vanderbilt, the Blue Raider defense hopes to ride that momentum into this week’s game to help Shafer achieve his goal of getting his first win.

“(Shafer) said we would all be best friends for life if we beat Syracuse,” said linebacker D.J. Sanders. “That’s extra motive for us. It’s maybe kind of personal for him, but for us it’s just another game and that’s how we’re going to approach it.”

Shafer knows his defense still needs to make improvements this week before they travel to the Carrier Dome in order to get the job done.

“I was proud of how we played in the second half last week,” Shafer said. “Going into this week, we want to eliminate the mistakes that we create. (I want us) to be extremely sound and force them to earn every play that they make.”

You can be sure when the Raiders take the field this Saturday at 2:30 p.m., the defense will have a little extra swagger in their step under the guidance of Shafer.

Follow MTSU sports reporter Anthony Fiorella on Twitter at @A_Fiorella74 for more coverage.

To contact Sports Editor Rusty Ellis, email sports@mtsusidelines.com.

For more sports stories, follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter and Periscope at @Sidelines_Sport.

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