Football

Beat writers address Syracuse’s 5 most pressing questions

Ziniu Chen | Staff Photographer

Drew Allen is competing with Terrel Hunt for the starting quarterback job. Who do The Daily Orange's beat writers think will win?

Who will be the starting quarterback?

David Wilson, sports editor: Drew Allen. We haven’t gotten to see much at training camp, but we have seen that Allen gives the offense more explosion than Terrel Hunt. He’s got a bigger arm, Head Coach Scott Shafer said he can throw the ball 70 yards in the air, and during the scrimmage in Fort Drum, N.Y., he actually had the longest run of the two quarterbacks. There’s a reason he came to Syracuse from Oklahoma: to start at quarterback.

Trevor Hass, asst. sports editor: Drew Allen. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure who will start against Penn State. Allen and Hunt have been incredibly even in training camp. Both are good but neither is great at this point in time. Allen is a little better with his arm and Hunt is a little better with his legs, but neither has a glaring weakness. Now that Allen has had ample time to learn the system and get acquainted with his teammates, I think he has slightly more upside and will get the nod in Week One. Plus, Shafer will be second-guessed less if he starts Allen.

Stephen Bailey, asst. sports editor: Drew Allen. He gives Syracuse the best chance to win now. If that becomes a secondary priority should the Orange falter out the gates, by all means let Terrel Hunt step into the position that will almost inevitably be his in 2014. In the meantime, Scott Shafer and the SU program brought Allen in to start. He can definitely throw the ball farther than Hunt, and likely more accurately, too. I’m not saying he’s going to shock anyone — especially with a depleted receiving corps — but his skill set is still more complete than Hunt’s.

Who will be the No. 1 receiving threat?

DW: Jarrod West, by default. He’s better suited as a No. 2 receiver, but it’s a thin corps almost entirely devoid of experience. H-backs Ashton Broyld and Brisly Estime are probably Syracuse’s most explosive weapons in the passing game, but neither figures to be as consistent as West, whom I suspect will lead the team in most receiving statistics.

TH: Jarrod West. Jeremiah Kobena and Beckett Wales will be reliable No. 2 and No. 3 options, but West will likely be whoever starts at quarterback’s main target. West is making a considerable jump from the No. 3 receiver to No. 1, but he has dependable hands and he is a talented route runner, so it’s a jump he should be able to make.

SB:  Ashton Broyld? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines threat as “an expression of intention to inflict evil, injury, or damage.” No. 1 receiver Jarrod West wasn’t a big-play guy last season and has worked with the second-team offense at time during training camp. Listed at H-back, Broyld has been working extensively in the slot. He didn’t produce much last season, but if there’s one receiver on the SU offense who could make a big play at any time, it’s him.

What should be expected of the H-backs?

DW: Excitement in flashes. Ashton Broyld showed what he’s capable of against Stony Brook last year, but it was against Stony Brook. He figures to improve, but he still doesn’t have a position. Brisly Estime seems to be in the same place. Both have typically lined up in the slot during training camp, but Broyld is listed as a running-back and played quarterback in high school. There will be wrinkles to get them involved, but it’s tough to imagine them being staples of the offense.

TH: Pizzazz sans poise. Ashton Broyld and Brisly Estime are two of Syracuse’s most naturally gifted players. Both players play multiple positions and are freak athletes but neither is a proven, consistent threat. It seems to me like the H-back will be a key component of SU’s offense. Broyld will juke defenses out while Estime will blaze by them and leave them in the dust. The only question is whether they can do so with regularity and without too many mistakes.

SB: Opportunities. With an unproven quarterback and limited deep threats, the SU passing game should rely heavily on short passes: screens, slants, etc. Broyld and freshman Brisly Estime excel with the ball in their hands. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Estime incorporated in the return game.

Who can pressure the quarterback?

DW: Dyshawn Davis is the easy answer, but the bigger issue is who can do it in front of him. Defensive ends Micah Robinson and Robert Welsh give Syracuse consistent options up front, but it wouldn’t surprise me if freshman Isaiah Johnson ends up being the end that gets to the quarterback the most by the end of the season.

TH: Cameron Lynch. Lynch is a stellar pass rusher, one who can use his strength and speed to beat you. He’ll provide a dynamic one-two punch with Dyshawn Davis and will likely finish with more than five sacks and 40 tackles. Lynch received an offer from Harvard, so he should be able to read and to react to opposing offenses’ tendencies.

SB: The outside linebackers. Dyshawn Davis has already proven opposing teams will need to game plan for him, but Cameron Lynch is freakishly strong and compact enough to burst through gaps in the middle of the line. With 285-pound monster Jay Bromley providing the push in the middle, Davis and Lynch should have plenty of chances to get into the backfield.

What does Syracuse need to do to get back to a bowl?

DW: Protect home field. The Orange has won its big games at home the past few years — Louisville last year, West Virginia the year before. Obviously, a win over Clemson would be huge, but the Tigers are tougher than the Cardinals or Mountaineers were. Still, winning all the other home games puts SU at four wins and it just needs to steal two more games on the road, of which plenty are winnable.

TH: Finish at least 2-2 against North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Maryland. After a doozy of a game against Clemson and before another nightmarish matchup against Florida State, Syracuse has four key conference games in a row. All four of those teams are in the Orange’s echelon. Some are a little better and some are a little worse, but overall all four games are winnable. If Syracuse takes care of business against Wagner and Tulane and beats Pittsburgh and Boston College, winning two of those four games nestled in the middle will be critical.

SB: Run the ball. Then run it some more. Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley are the keys to Syracuse’s immediate success in the ACC, and are more than enough to carry the Orange offense past Wagner, Tulane, Pittsburgh and Boston College. Then if SU can go 2-4 against Northwestern, Penn State, North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Maryland, there is your bowl game.

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