Q&A exchanges have been absent on the site this season, but no more! This week I caught up with Jared Smith, who is a contributor over at SB Nation's Syracuse site, Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician. We spoke a bit about the Orange's quarterback situation (remember when we were vying with Syracuse for Drew Allen?), their defensive backfield, and more. My answers to Jared's questions should be up at their place shortly.
1.) Drew Allen began the year as the starting quarterback but gave way to Terrel Hunt ... should we expect to see Allen at some point, or is this exclusively Hunt's show going forward?
The only way you will see Allen is if Hunt gets injured at any point during the game or this game is a blow out. Hunt has taking the reigns from Allen and since he's the future of the program for the next few years there's no shot of the coaching staff yanking him now.
The way the Allen/Hunt situation played out is simple: Allen, a senior transfer that has a big arm and sat behind two NFLers at Oklahoma, was given a shot at his dream -- starting for a Division I program. However, Allen basically choked his chance away with bad play. Hunt, a sophomore, got his opportunity and ran with it. Sure, Hunt struggled a bit against Clemson, but a lot of young QBs would do that. As a fan base, everyone is in full support of Hunt moving forward.
2.) How did the offense change during the transition from Allen to Hunt?
Honestly, it didn't which is why I think Allen struggled and Hunt flourished. Overall, Syracuse's offense, run by first-year OC George McDonald, needs a quarterback that can run and pass and make quick decisions. Allen has a huge arm and may be a better pocket passer, but is not as mobile as Hunt and stared down receivers too much; while in his first two starts against Wagner and Tulane Hunt was nearly perfect.
Granted, it was against Wagner and Tulane but Allen had three possessions against Wagner and moved the ball -1 yards. Hunt came in a led Syracuse to like seven straight touchdown drives (I am not kidding). This offense is much better suited for Hunt than Allen.
3.) Given the instability at quarterback, do you expect the Orange to lean on their experienced running back corps, at least at the outset Saturday?
Oh yeah. As good as Hunt has played in the early going, Clemson exposed a lot of the sophomore's weakness which other ACC defenses will exploit. The only way Syracuse is going to win enough games to become bowl eligible is to run the ball with Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley, who are both very good running backs when they get in a groove.
The biggest questions surrounding the Orange's running game is: 1) Can the offense line be consistent enough for the running attack to be productive; 2) Can the play calling under McDonald be good enough to keep defenses on their toes.
Saturday's contest will be a good test of this.
4.) How damaging is the loss of cornerback Keon Lyn to the defense?
This is going to sound a bit cold-hearted considering Lyn has been a big part of the SU secondary for three years now plus the kids' football career is probably over, but I don't think it's going to hurt much because he and the rest of the Syracuse secondary have been AWFUL.
If we're just looking at production and if he can be replaced then I don't see there being that big of a drop off. The biggest weakness of SU is its secondary, which is led by Lyn and another senior Ri'Shard Anderson, who so far this season have been caught on TV running after WIDE OPEN opposing wide receivers ALL THE TIME. This unit has been bad (I am making this clear) and, honestly, it might be good for a little change if junior Brandon Reddish is going to play and a few younger defensive backs might get a shot at doing something.
Sometimes at Syracuse, I get a feeling that coaches favor upperclassmen too much and this may actually be a blessing. However, it could also mean that the Orange get torched for 400-plus yards, again.
5.) I feel like Syracuse makes perfect sense in the ACC because there are a lot of Orange fans in North Carolina. You guys are going to be present in significant numbers at regular season basketball games and the ACC tournament, and that's a great thing for the league. Do you think that presence will translate to football right away?
No, not right away. Though, there is a chance that SU football fans come out because this ACC thing is new to them. However, by in large, Syracuse is a basketball town and football is an OK time killer before the hoops season starts.
A lot of this has to do with the inconsistency of the football program during the last decade. The Greg Robinson era absolutely KILLED any interest in football and Doug Marrone did his best to bring back some interest, however, just when it looked like things were turning the corner with him he takes a job with the Buffalo Bills. So now, Syracuse fans are starting all over again with a new head coach, Scott Shafer, who is new to his position, and a brand new league, which is tougher than the Big East.
If Syracuse can put together some .500 seasons and continue to build on its success, the interest in football could return but its going to take some time and wins.