FORT DRUM, N.Y. — Scott Shafer looked at senior Charley Loeb during the Syracuse University football team’s first breakfast of its Fort Drum training camp Tuesday morning and said, “Charley, what’s different?”
Loeb looked around the dining hall and responded, “Holy cow coach, everybody’s talking to each other.”
According to Shafer, that is one of the greatest benefits of the Orange’s week-long getaway to practice on base for the second straight year — forced communication among the team.
“The mere fact that we can get away and not have Wi-Fi and not have good cell service is a great thing,” said Shafer, the first-year head coach and former defensive coordinator.
Shafer said that he and some of the veterans then went around the room and paired up players who wouldn’t be familiar with each other, like veteran offensive lineman Ivan Foy and freshman quarterback Austin Wilson, for example.
“Those are the things that I love. You get away, you don’t have cell service and all the sudden the kids look each other in the eye and are forced to communicate in a way that maybe they wouldn’t with all the social media getting in the way in this day and age. So, that’s just one good example of the things that happen when we’re forced to be away from our normal environment.”
The session ended when Shafer approached first-year player Hernz Laguerre.
Laguerre is a walk-on sophomore and a poet from the Newhouse School of Public Communications at SU. Shafer said that Laguerre originally wasn’t going to be invited to the Fort Drum trip.
Shafer said he challenged Laguerre to write a poem, and he did so in less than five minutes and recited it to his coaches and teammates.
“It ended with an eruption from his teammates and now all the sudden, we know who Hernz is,” Shafer said.
Shafer also said he hopes the week on base can reinforce the lessons learned by the team during last year’s training.
He believes that the team’s demeanor was the same when it struggled early in the season compared to when it won six of its last seven games, including a 38-14 victory over West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl.
“I think that’s the approach that our military does such a great job of — steady as she goes — there’s going to be instances where things aren’t going well but you keep fighting the good fight and you rely on one another. And that’s the approach that we learned from the military personnel at Fort Drum and we take those lessons with us.”
SU will be in Fort Drum until Friday afternoon. Like last year, players will spend their mornings going through Army Physical Training and small unit leadership seminars with military personnel.
The Orange will then hold regular practices in the evening and will play a scrimmage on Thursday that is open to military personnel and their families.
They are holding meetings in an Army Battalion Headquarters, eating in the Army Dining Facility and sleeping in soldier barracks.
Shafer said that a group of about 30 soldiers joined the team for lunch.
“It was great to see our kids and their kids immerse themselves together and just share a little time together. That was just great and I love to see it. That was the first thing that really juiced me up today,” he said.
SU opens the season, its first as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, on Aug. 31 against Penn State in the “New York College Classic,” at MetLife Stadium.