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Syracuse in scramble mode as Marrone heads to NFL

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) - A week ago, Doug Marrone was basking in the glow of Syracuse's resounding victory over West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl. On Monday, he was introduced as the new coach of the Buffalo Bills.

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Hired by the Bills after going 25-25 in four seasons at Syracuse, the 48-year-old from the Bronx leaves a significant void at his alma mater as the Orange prepare to leave the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference in July.

``Doug has restored Syracuse football to its rightful place and we are appreciative of the foundation he has laid on and off the field for the future success of the program,'' Dr. Daryl Gross, Syracuse's athletic director, said in a statement released by the university. ``We look forward to improving on our success, as we have great momentum heading into the ACC. We will put a head coach in place who will continue down the successful path we are on.''

When Syracuse fired Paul Pasqualoni after the 2004 season, Greg Robinson was picked quickly after the university conducted a national search. Time is of the essence again now, with national signing day looming.

``We want to move fast and make sure we get things in place,'' Gross said in a radio interview Monday, hinting the choice could come from within the staff.

Though the university had not made an announcement, on Monday night defensive coordinator Scott Shafer's Wikipedia page already was updated to say he was the head coach, and his son and former players Rob Long and Antwon Bailey congratulated Shafer on Twitter.

Shafer, a 1990 graduate of Baldwin Wallace University, was one of Marrone's first hires when he arrived in 2009 and has built the Orange defense into a top unit. Though he's never been a head coach, Shafer expressed interest in taking that next step and was a candidate for the Western Michigan job that went to P.J. Fleck last month.

Syracuse has received 14 commitments so far, nine of them from three-star athletes, including quarterbacks Zach Allen of Texas and Austin Wilson of Pennsylvania, according to Rivals.com. The site ranks the Orange class at No. 71.

Marrone preached discipline, accountability, character, and integrity, and his successor will have to follow that lead if the team is to remain on the upswing. He rejuvenated a team that went 10-37 under his predecessor, Robinson, and transformed it into a two-time bowl winner.

Syracuse finished 8-5 this year and 5-2 in the conference. The latter mark was good for a four-way tie in the race for the Big East title.

``I think we have an outstanding bunch of individuals on the (Syracuse) team,'' Marrone said Monday in Buffalo, indicating the staff he picks there will have NFL experience. ``I think we have an outstanding bunch of coaches, support staff, and I think everything's in place. And I really think that moving forward toward the ACC, there are things that are going to go on that are going to push this program forward.''

Marrone said he tried to keep his assistant coaches at Syracuse and some of the recruits up to date throughout the process with Buffalo. He also plans to meet with the Orange one final time this week.

``I want to speak to my team,'' Marrone said. ``I'm going to meet with the coaches and talk to them and thank them, and I'm going to thank the players for what they've done for me in giving me the opportunity, and how proud I am of them.''

Stability and continuity are big deals at Syracuse. Basketball coach Jim Boeheim is in his 37th season at his alma mater and his three assistant coaches - Mike Hopkins, Adrian Autry, and Gerry McNamara - are Syracuse graduates, as are lacrosse coaches John Desko and Gary Gait and football assistants Rob Moore and Bob Brotzki.

Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, a 2002 graduate of Cal-Davis, was in charge of an offense that set numerous school records in 2012 with fifth-year senior quarterback Ryan Nassib at the helm. Hackett, just 33, has limited coaching experience, though, and is expected to remain on staff.

Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco was mentioned in December for the vacant Wisconsin job but said he was not in talks with any school, mainly because the Fighting Irish had something much more important to consider - Monday night's national championship game against Alabama.

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AP Sports Writer John Wawrow in Buffalo, N.Y. contributed to this report.

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Follow Kekis on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/Greek1947

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The Associated Press
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