Shafer worked with Durkin back in 2007 when he was the defensive coordinator at Stanford and Durkin was the defensive ends/special teams coach. Ironically, both coaches were the defensive coordinator at Michigan with Shaffer being there in 2008 while Durkin was the defensive boss in 2014.
While Shafer may not exactly be a “sexy” name when it comes to defensive coordinator candidates, he certainly has the pedigree to build a successful defense.
The 48-year old ex-quarterback has spent time at several Division I schools as a defensive coordinator. Shafer has had a great deal of success at at nearly every stop along the way.
After stops at Indiana as a graduate assistant and at Rhode Island as a defensive backs coach, Shafer assumed the defensive coordinator position at Northern Illinois from 2000 to 2003.
During his time in DeKalb, Ill., Shafer had a great deal of the success in the MAC. In 2002 and 2003, the Huskies finished in the top three in scoring defense in the conference. In 2002, Northern Illinois led the MAC in interceptions, takeaways, scoring defense, run defense and sacks.
In 2003, Shafer and the Huskies had their most impressive campaign when they reached as high as No. 12 in the Associated Press poll. Northern Illinois recorded wins over Alabama, Iowa State, and even Maryland.
The Huskies knocked off the No. 15 Terrapins 20-13 in their season opener. Northern Illinois also held Maryland to just 222 total yards, which equaled out to 3.8 yards-per-play.
After the 2003 season, Shafer moved on to become the defensive backs coach at Illinois under coach Ron Turner. He only lasted at Illinois for one season before heading to Western Michigan to be the Broncos defensive coordinator for the next two campaigns.
In 2006, Western Michigan’s defense produced the best numbers that any of Shafer’s units did during his coach career. The Broncos finished 10th in the FBS in total defense, while allowing just 269 yards-per-game and 19.1 points-per-game.
It also didn’t hurt that Shafer had the services of future NFL defensive backs E.J. Biggers and Louis Delmas to stabilize his secondary. The duo combined to record eight interceptions and 15 passes defended for the Broncos.
After a successful stint at Western Michigan, Shafer moved onto to Stanford when Jim Harbaugh was hired as the Cardinal head coach. As was mentioned above, this is where the Durkin/Shafer connection comes into play.
Shafer’s lone season at Stanford may have been one to forget as the Cardinal finished 95th in the FBS in total defense. His unit gave up 436 yards-per-game to go along with 28.3 points-per-game, and could’ve been one of the reasons that Stanford finished with a 4-8 mark in Harbaugh’s first season as a collegiate coach.
As bad as it seemed, Stanford was one of the better run defenses in the Pac 12 as they allowed 4.6 yards-per-carry.
After his brief stop out west, Shafer had another one-year stint at Michigan under Rich Rodriguez. During the 2008 season, the Wolverines struggled as they had one of their worst seasons in program history.
As the team’s defensive coordinator, Shafer’s group yielded 28.9 yards-per-game and 367 yards-per-game.
Then Shafer seemed to catch his big break.
From 2009 to 2012, the Ohio native served as the defensive coordinator at Syracuse under Doug Marrone. Shafer had his most productive seasons in 2009 and 2010, but never saw his unit finish worse than 57th in the nation in total defense.
In 2009, the Orange finished 18th in the FBS in total defense as they surrendered 27.9 points-per-game and 337 yards-per-game. Two of the biggest reasons for the success was the play of the defensive line, which only allowed 3.0 rushing yards per contest.
During the ensuing season, Shafer’s defense had a group that rivaled his 2005 Western Michigan squad. Syracuse finished 10th in the country in total defense and only gave up 301 total yards per contest.
One of the biggest reasons for his unit’s rousing success was the play of defensive end Chandler Jones. Jones, who now plays for the New England Patriots, registered 9.5 tackles-for-loss and a team-high four sacks.
Syracuse ended up going to the Pinstripe Bowl that season and beat Kansas State 36-34.
When you look at Shafer’s overall credentials, he had a reasonable amount of success at most of his stops. The former Syracuse head coach definitely made his defenses better when he was with the Orange and Western Michigan.
Much like Durkin, Shafer has studied under Harbaugh and should prove to be a big positive that will help him in College Park. With a bevy of successful recruiters in the fold, Shafer should also have the personnel to mold a successful unit.
Much like the case of London, it certainly never hurts to have a former head coach on your staff.