Stephen Bailey | Asst. Sports EditorFootball
Hunt will replace Allen after first few series
On Tuesday, Tim Lester had the big reveal: Drew Allen would start at quarterback on Saturday at 4 p.m. against Wagner, but Terrel Hunt would play in Syracuse’s Carrier Dome opener.
The quarterbacks coach didn’t yet have a sense of how the playing time would be split. Some suggested they would split halves. Another theory left it up to the flow of the game.
On Thursday, head coach Scott Shafer cleared the air at his weekly press conference in Manley Field House. Shafer said that Allen will get the first handful of series, but Hunt will be involved early.
“We’ll start with Drew and get him going in the first couple three series, and then I want to get Terrel in the mix early,” he said. “I look forward to seeing both of those kids improve that position.”
Allen has started each of the Orange’s first two games this season and has thrown six interceptions to one touchdown. Hunt has played just 10 snaps — all on SU’s final drive against then-No. 19 Northwestern — and ran for a touchdown to cap it.
Allen didn’t account for his first touchdown until the third quarter on Saturday.
Shafer said the issue right now is a matter of consistency at the position. He’s seen some things he’s liked out of Allen, namely his completion percentage and how well he’s spread the ball around, but he has major issues in the one category that quarterbacks coach Tim Lester said on Tuesday is the one area they can’t be having problems.
“We can’t have the turnovers,” Shafer said. “Turnovers will kill you.”
Both Shafer and Lester said that Allen at times locks in on his receivers, but that it’s not the only source of the problem.
Sometimes he stares down the wide receiver for the entirety of his route. Other times, Lester said, he just commits to one receiver and, even after the route doesn’t work out the way the coaches envision it, Allen tries to force it in.
“I really need to see him do is understand that it’s OK to see a muddy picture and throw the check down,” Shafer said, “or is to have a muddy picture in front of you and throw the ball out of bounds.”
Right now, Shafer said, Allen still holds a slight edge in terms of pure passing. He said Allen has a stronger arm and a quicker release, but that “Terrel has really improved in that area.”
Hunt brings a different dimension. In just 10 snaps, he carried the ball three times for 30 yards and a touchdown. On his touchdown run, he missed an assignment, but was still able to scramble and turn it into a positive play.
Hunt was originally recruited as a basketball player at Christ the King Regional High School in New York. He eventually gained his notoriety on the football field, but many of his instincts come from what he learned on the hardwood.
Shafer doesn’t view the two quarterbacks as being that different, but that Hunt’s vision — especially as a runner — is still better than Allen’s right now.
“I see his vision when he’s running the ball being a little bit stronger than Drew’s,” Shafer said. “I always think basketball players see things with a wide angle, in the run game especially.”
What’s most impressed Shafer, though, is how stoic the two have been. “Don’t you change” is one of Shafer’s lesser-known catchphrases, but it’s something he frequently tells his players.
Shafer saw both Allen and Hunt compete for the job in the summer without being rattled. Shafer praised Hunt for remaining focused and upbeat even after Allen started taking most of the first team reps.
Now the burden has shifted to Allen. Hunt is cutting into his snaps with the first team, and both of their plays this weekend could determine the direction SU goes at quarterback for the rest of the season.
“Neither of them have changed in their demeanor, which I think is a sign of maturity,” Shafer said. “They’ve both worked the same way they did when they were competing in the summer.”
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