Football

Bailey: ‘The sheriff’ should remain in charge for at least 2 weeks

Drew Allen was sub par in his first chance as Syracuse's starting quarterback, but he deserves at least two more weeks to prove he deserves the job.

Ziniu Chen | Staff Photographer

Drew Allen is finally getting his chance to start after being a three-year backup at Oklahoma. How long a leash should he be given?

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Drew Allen swung his fist in frustration again and again. Another chance wasted. Another opportunity for Penn State to extend its lead given.

Syracuse was trailing Penn State 23-10 with 11 minutes left — seemingly its last reasonable chance to come back for a signature season-opening victory — when on a second-and-12 from the Syracuse 33-yard line, Allen flung a 12-yard out route for Jarrod West.

But the ball sailed through no-man’s land and out of bounds. West ran a corner route.

Allen stared him down across the field, gaping irefully, before turning and whizzing his right arm around four times.

“There were times when we showed a lot of great things on offense, and then there were times that it wasn’t so great,” Allen said. “And I felt like in those times it wasn’t so great, our communication kind of broke apart.”

While Allen was mediocre in his Orange debut, let’s remember what he’s working with: a first-year head coach and an inexperienced wide receiving corps. Even the offensive line, a group that struggled to handle an aggressive Nittany Lions front seven, has two new starters. So let’s hold back on the calls for Terrel Hunt, at least for another two weeks.

Yes, Allen’s 43.2-percent completion rate was off-putting. And yes, his first interception, thrown right to Stephen Obeng-Agyapong at the end of the third quarter, was egregious and inexcusable.

But one game doesn’t tell the whole story. Especially with the unit he’s working with, and especially against an above-average Penn State defense.

Remember, this is a guy who hasn’t started a football game in five years, who only began getting the majority of first-team reps 10 days before the season opener and who’s used to throwing to bigger, faster Big-12 targets.

Had he remained at Oklahoma his cast would’ve consisted of senior 1,000-yard receiver Jalen Saunders, standout sophomore Sterling Shepard and 6-foot-3 senior Lacoltan Bester — not the No. 2-playing-No. 1 receiver West, unproven senior Adrian Flemming and still-learning slot man Ashton Broyld.

Expecting immediate greatness and heroic bravado from him this quickly is unrealistic.

Quarterbacks coach Tim Lester agreed that communication in particular is where Allen and the offense need to improve the most.

“Those things he’ll continue to get better at because that’s hard to do,” Lester said. “It takes a lot of time to get comfortable.”

Allen’s blunder with West was just one example of that lack of chemistry. Later on the same drive, Obeng-Agyapong blitzed around the left side untouched, de-cleated the 6-foot-5 Allen and slammed him downward into the MetLife Stadium turf.

Was it Allen who missed the blitz pickup, or did right tackle Ivan Foy, in his first season as a starter, just whiff on the block?

Either way, these are problems that take time to work out — and who’s to say Hunt would be any better?

Allen’s poise and talent were apparent at moments on Saturday. The 55-yard, over-the-top connection with Jeremiah Kobena was a glimpse at what he can do when the offense is flowing properly.

It was a reminder that Allen could have been starting for the Sooners this year. His competition under center would have consisted of Blake Bell, the powerful runner aptly nicknamed “Belldozer” with the inability to throw for distance or precision, and redshirt freshman Trevor Knight, who started OU’s first game of the season.

After the game SU head coach Scott Shafer said Allen will be a great football player. Lester echoed the sentiment that the job is his for the immediate future, and running back Jerome Smith called him “the sheriff.”

So give Allen a chance. Northwestern and Wagner offer two more opportunities for Allen to improve before the coaching staff should decide to either stick with him until SU loses bowl eligibility, or go with Hunt.

If Allen is unable to pick apart a lesser Seahawks defense in the Carrier Dome on Sept. 14, by all means go ahead and give Hunt a chance. He’d have time for a tuneup game against Tulane and a bye week to prepare for Clemson. But the next two weeks should be Allen’s regardless of his performance against PSU.

With 14 days’ worth of time and repetitions as the unquestioned starter, he’ll have every chance to prove the job should be his.

Stephen Bailey is an asst. sports editor at The Daily Orange whose column appears occasionally. He can be reached at sebail01@syr.edu or on Twitter at @Stephen_Bailey1.

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