Allen, Hunt remain in close competition
FORT DRUM, N.Y. — Thursday was the moment that Syracuse fans had been waiting for. After weeks of blocking sleds and tackling dummies, the Orange took the field for live game action. Maybe the quarterback competition that has dominated training camp would become a bit clearer.
Drew Allen took the field to start with the first team. For a moment it seemed, perhaps, that the Oklahoma transfer had leapt past Terrel Hunt on the depth chart. Jeremiah Kobena dropped his first pass attempt, and then the quarterback fired back-to-back completions before a throw to Jerome Smith fell incomplete. In came Hunt.
That’s how most of the day went — there was some good, some bad and the lingering inconclusiveness in the battle at the most important position on the field. Allen and Hunt split time with the first team in SU’s scrimmage at Sligh Field in Fort Drum.
With just more than two weeks separating Syracuse from its season opener against Penn State at MetLife Stadium in New York, head coach Scott Shafer doesn’t appear to be in any rush to name a starter.
“Before we kick off at Penn State,” Shafer said, “we’ll have a decision made as to who’s playing quarterback.”
And their play has made his decision understandably difficult. Their lines were eerily similar Thursday: Allen was 10-of-18, Hunt 9-of-17. Both struggled a bit when throwing the ball downfield, were at times felled by their wide receivers dropping catchable balls, but were solid, if unspectacular, in managing the offense.
On his second series, and his first with the second team, Allen overthrew Jarrod West on the left sideline. He threw two more long incompletions later in the day on attempts to the left corner of the end zone.
“I think a couple deep balls to the left corner … were catchable balls that we have to make,” Shafer said. “We’ve got to make that play. Back-shoulder type of thing.”
Allen connected with West for the game’s first touchdown — a slant pass to the single covered wide receiver who shed a tackle and darted into the end zone from about 10 yards out.
West, who was projected as the team’s top receiver, primarily took snaps with the second team on Thursday and has at times throughout the week.
“I was as much interested in their reps with the twos when they don’t have a couple guys in front of them that they feel a little bit sounder with,” Shafer said. “We’ve still got to get the ball off.”
At that point, Allen was 6-for-9 with the help of some easy screen passes, but struggled for the rest of the day. He completed three passes on his next two series before going two more without a completion. His final throw of the day was a fade to wide receiver Adrian Flemming in the end zone, one of just two completions by the quarterback that traveled more than 10 yards in the air.
As Allen faded, Hunt improved throughout the day. Syracuse was first reluctant to open the playbook for its sophomore signal caller — he uncorked just one deep ball in eight attempts on his first two drives. He was 5-of-8 to start, but all five completions were either screens or swing passes.
In his last handful of drives, though, Hunt was the Orange’s most impressive quarterback. SU had opened the playbook for him after the underwhelming start, but he still struggled to complete anything other than screen passes, until he fired a play-action pass to tight end Josh Parris running a post pattern for a touchdown. He finished the next drive with another touchdown strike, this time to wide receiver Christopher Clark on a slant.
For each strong play one made, the other matched. But for each mistake one made, the other followed suit. Neither has been particularly spectacular, but nor have they been notably underwhelming. It’s a battle, and one of which Shafer has no problem waiting to call a winner.
“I thought both of them had good command at times,” Shafer said. “Both guys are doing some good things. I look forward to getting back and watching the video.”
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