Previewing Maryland-Syracuse football with an Orange beat reporter

  • Scott Shafer and Syracuse carry a 2-0 record into Saturday's game against Maryland.
Scott Shafer and Syracuse carry a 2-0 record into Saturday's… (Raj Mehta, USA Today Sports )
September 18, 2014

Back for a second season, we'll be previewing each of Maryland's football games by conducting a Q&A with a reporter who covers the Terps' next opponent.

This week, we traded emails with Jesse Dougherty, sports editor for The Daily Orange, one of the country's most respected college papers. Be sure to check out more of their coverage here before the Terps and Orange kick off Saturday at 12:30 at the Carrier Dome.

Tracking the Terps: He's far from a household name, but Scott Shafer has gotten off to a strong start in his year-plus as the head coach at Syracuse. Tell us what we need to know about him and his philosophies.

Jesse Dougherty: Shafer doesn’t like to look ahead. He’s a day-to-day head coach, and while it could be perceived as “coach speak” when he says this, it’s more the philosophy he is trying to infuse the program with. He’s clearly a defense guy and he’s not afraid to show it, occasionally joking that he’ll take skill players and turn them into defensive backs if they don’t get enough touches on offense. All in all, he says “hard-nosed” and “excited” every few sentences because he’s genuinely hard-nosed and excited. Narrowly beating Villanova 27-26 in Week 1 and coming back to beat Central Michigan 40-3 in Week 2 is, in some ways, a testament to his steady approach. 

Speaking of Syracuse coaches, what’s the feeling up there about Randy Edsall returning to coach against his alma mater?

There surprisingly hasn’t been much talk about it. I think that circles back to Shafer and the Orange really zeroing in on the game ahead and not taking much stock in what’s going on around it. Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt mentioned Tuesday that he’s still friends with Corey Edsall, Randy’s son who walked on to SU as a quarterback in 2011. Other than that, Edsall’s return to the Carrier Dome has been pretty low key on this front. 

Maryland has been piling up the points this season, and Syracuse has been pretty stingy on defense. What gives in that matchup, and what are some of the key areas where the Orange might give the Terps problems?

The key to Syracuse’s defense against mobile quarterbacks like C.J. Brown is controlling the edge. The Orange’s pass rush and pass coverage will be especially prevalent with Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, but the real battle will be keeping Brown in the middle of the field running north to south. Against Villanova in Week 1, dual-threat quarterback John Robertson ran all over SU because he continually bounced outside. Now it’s a similar quarterback with a better offense around him, and Cameron Lynch and Dyshawn Davis, the Orange’s starting outside linebackers, will have to contain Brown and prove that the unit is one of the strongest in the ACC. 

Who’s one player on the Syracuse side that we should keep an eye on Saturday?

Sophomore H-back Brisly Estime is having a slow start to the season but looks to be close to breaking out. When he gets the ball in his hands he’s the most explosive player the Orange has. He caught a touchdown at Central Michigan last week and finished with three catches, and is starting to find how he fits into SU’s new no-huddle offense. It’s only a matter of time until he and offensive coordinator George McDonald figure out a way to regularly work his speed and agility in.  

And the oddsmakers have this one as basically a toss-up. What’s your prediction?

I predicted Syracuse to lose to Central Michigan last Saturday and it turned into a 40-3 win for the Orange, so you have to imagine I’m a little gun shy. With that said, I think SU pulls this one out 24-17. Something clicked last week and the linebacker crew will force the Maryland offense into the middle of the field, where Syracuse’s defense has had a lot of success so far this season.

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