SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Syracuse has a new athletic director and his program is coming off a dismal season, but Orange coach Scott Shafer insists he isn't feeling an undue amount of pressure.
''None at all,'' Shafer said Saturday at media day of his relationship with former Boise State athletic director Mark Coyle, who's been in Syracuse since June. ''We've talked a lot. We've spent a lot of time here, and we're both excited for the season and, as he put it, `It's not a dash, it's a marathon.'
''He's got a great plan in place moving forward with the whole department, and we're excited to get started,'' Shafer said. ''Right now, we're just going to get focused in on our job, and that's to take care of things daily that are in front of us starting today.''
Entering his third season as head coach with a 10-15 mark and one bowl appearance, Shafer's program is coming off a nightmarish 3-9 campaign that produced just one win in Atlantic Coast Conference play. Myriad injuries claimed several players, among them starting quarterback Terrel Hunt and wide receiver Brisly Estime, for most of the year. That forced Shafer to utilize four quarterbacks and piece together makeshift offensive lines game to game.
''The patterns and data we had just tell us it was one hell of a freakish year of injuries,'' Shafer said.
Hunt and Estime are back healthy, but Shafer faces a daunting task in 2015. There's the schedule that starts with four straight games in the Carrier Dome, but it's a schedule that also features matchups against formidable ACC foes Clemson, Florida State and Louisville and an out-of-conference contest at home against perennial power LSU.
Then there's a defense that returns just three starters from a year ago, a unit that held nine of 12 opponents below their season average for total offense. And the offense suffered a potentially big blow with the recent dismissal of senior running back Ashton Broyld for violating team policies.
Shafer is nonplussed.
''We're excited about what's going on right now, right here and right now, that's what we're excited about,'' Shafer said. ''Every year you come off a season and there's lessons you learned, the things that went well, the things that didn't go well, and you look forward.''
Shafer is looking forward to the return of his senior quarterback, who was limited to just five starts following a season-ending broken leg suffered against Louisville.
Hunt said sitting out helped him become a ''better student of the game.''
''I saw things from a different angle. I saw what coaches were thinking in different situations,'' Hunt said.
Among the huge challenges on defense is replacing three of four starters on the defensive line. Much is expected of junior Ron Thompson, who played as an undersized tackle in 2014 but is expected to move to the outside in the fall.
''He's ready to go,'' Shafer said. ''I have great expectations for Ron to have a great season.''
Middle linebacker Zaire Franklin called Thompson ''the most important person on our defense, hands down.''
''He's the guy that gets us going,'' Franklin said. ''He's a tremendous athlete, tremendous player.''
Thompson will have to get a lot of help from a largely inexperienced group that includes just two other starters - linebacker Marquez Hodge and cornerback Julian Whigham. Franklin started the final three games. Defensive end Luke Arciniega received a medical redshirt and returns after missing most of 2014.
''Last year is over. I'm kind of tired of talking about it, to be completely honest with you,'' Franklin said. ''That was our reality. Now, everyone is 0-0, no matter if you're Ohio State or last in the FBS. It doesn't matter. Everybody is 0-0 and undefeated. We're just worried about Rhode Island.''