Getting to the the Orange, part two

It's been a while since Clemson played Syracuse -- 17 years to be exact, so we turned to CuseNation.com publisher Mike McAllister for some info.

In part-two of our interview with McAllister, we discuss the Syracuse offense, defense and special teams.

What kind of an offense does Syracuse run?
McAllister: They are going to run a remnants of the read-option, then you're going to see some spread looks, too, with four and five wide receivers. They're going to run a lot of shotgun and pistol formation. You're not going to see a ton of under center. It's more of a wide-open offense. They don't necessarily have the really game-breaking wide receiver. They don't have the Sammy Watkins-type or anything remotely close to it that they can rely on him as a go-to guy when it's in the clutch time. They're utilizing a lot of guys at running back and wide receiver. They like to spread teams out, to try to create space, to try to create lanes for the running backs. They do some read-option, some spread-type of stuff. You're going to see a lot of quick passes, some bubble screens. They'll take a couple of shots down the field, but it's mostly a quick passing game. They run the ball a lot. They rotate the ball at running back. You'll see four guys get carries. You'll see a lot of different guys rotate at wide receiver. They like to spread the ball around and get seven or eight guys catches in a game.

So Terrel Hunt is the guy now at quarterback?
McAllister: Yes, he is definitely the guy. Drew Allen really, really struggled in his first two games, threw six interceptions in his first two games. The staff said, going into the game against Wagner, they were going to give both quarterbacks a shot and they would go from there. Drew Allen, in three possessions against Wager, went three-and-out on three-straight possessions. The coaching staff threw Terrel Hunt in there to see what he could do, he led a touchdown drive on five-straight possessions to end the half. Ever since then, it's been the Terrel Hunt show. He is about as perfect as you can be. Understanding the talent level is Wagner and Tulane, they're not, obviously, Clemson and what they're going to see against of the rest of the ACC, they dominated two inferior opponents, which is something they haven't done in a long time. Terrel Hunt is definitely the guy moving forward. It would take, I think, an injury for him to lose his job at this point.

What could you say about running back Jerome Smith?
McAllister: He's a leader of the offense. He's a solid player. The only thing he really lacks is that big-time breakaway speed. He can be chased down. He's a power runner. He runs with good strength. He moves the pile. He's a big guy. He's improved his quickness from last year. He's a little bit better when he hits the hole, as far as maneuvering through traffic. A power, straight-ahead, downhill runner that likes to get a head of steam behind him and sort of run people over, likes to run between the tackles. When Prince-Tyson Gulley comes in, he's more of an outside runner. That's kind of what you're going to see. When Jerome Smith gets clicking in the power running game, you bring the other guys behind him and they bring the home run threat. It gives Syracuse a good one-two punch. Jerome Smith is going to get more carries than the other guys. The better he is throughout the game, it's going to allow Syracuse to utilize the play-action and run everything off of that.

Who's the go-to guy at wide receiver?
McAllister: [Ashton Broyld] has the most catches. He's the most consistent, as far as the most catches each game. Most of his catches are quick bubble screens or quick passes. He'll line up in the slot and get a quick pass, try to make a couple of guys miss. He's not going to run post patterns or 20-yard outs. He's more of a quick pass guy. The guy that over the last three weeks has stepped up is Chris Clark…been the most consistent for Syracuse. He's caught some short passes and made people miss. He's caught some passes down the field. I think he's got, in the last two games, he's got three touchdowns. He's been, easily, the best. He hasn't dropped anything. He's just small.

What do they employ on defense? A 4-3 or a 3-4?
McAllister: It's a 4-3 and it's a very aggressive, attacking style of defense. They like to blitz. You'll see different linebackers blitz. You'll see overloads on different sides where they put three or four guys on one side and blitz them all. You'll see safeties blitz at different times…it's an attacking style that likes to rotate players at every position and they like to use different blitzing schemes. They create new ones every single week, depending on the opponent, to try to take advantage of some things they see during film study. You're just going to see aggression, I think, throughout. They're not going to sit back and let Tajh Boyd pick them apart. They're going to force him into making quick decisions, hoping that he makes a couple of mistakes.

What do they have along the defensive line that should be a concern for the Clemson front?
McAllister: Jay Bromley has been the starting defensive tackle for several years. He's a really solid player. He eats up a lot of space on the inside. He's quick, but also strong. He's been very, very good against the interior running game. He's been better this year than any of his previous years, as far as getting pressure up the middle on quarterbacks. He's got three sacks, which I think is more than he had in his entire career, prior to this year. He's a really good football player, really solid. Eric Crume is a defensive tackle that starts next to him. He's OK. He's a little bit smaller, he's only 5-9, but he's big. He's still 280, 290. He's more of a run stopper. He's not going to be a pass rushing threat at all. The defensive ends, especially Robert Welsh, have been pretty good at getting pressure. They don't have huge sack numbers on the year. When they played against Penn State and Northwestern, they had trouble, at times, getting consistent pressure…rotating in, the guy that is the biggest x-factor and could give Syracuse that consistent pressure is Ron Thompson, who was a four-star tight end coming out of high school. Syracuse, during the offseason, moved him to defensive end, because they lacked depth there. He's been pretty solid. He hasn't been spectacular, but you get the feeling, at some point, he's going to put it all together with his athleticism and his speed, and he's going to be able to put it together and things are going to click, and will be the pass rushing threat that Syracuse doesn't have.

What's going on at linebacker?
McAllister: You've got three guys that are returning from the year before, two returning starters and one returning guy that has been a contributor for Syracuse over the last couple of years. Cam Lynch and Dyshawn Davis play on the outside. Both of them are blitzing specialists, they're very, very good blitzers and Syracuse utilizes them a lot in that role. Marquis Spruill is the middle linebacker. He has moved all over the linebacking formation. He came in as an outside linebacker, was moved to the middle his sophomore year, back to the outside his junior year and back to the middle his senior year. He's moved all over the place. He can play any linebacker position. He's quick. They're all a little undersized, not 250 pound, bruising linebackers. They like to blitz, they like to get after the quarterback. They're solid against the run, not great against the run, but they're solid. They have a little bit of a weakness when they're trying to cover tight ends down the field when they try to cover like that. They're inconsistent when they tackle. Against Penn State, they were really, really good. Against Northwestern, they were pretty bad in tackling in the open field.

So, they rotate a lot of guys in at defensive back?
McAllister: Keon Lyn and Rishard Anderson are the starters, but Anderson is almost looked at as a fourth guy, as far as talent level and skill level. Brandon Reddish, assuming he's healthy, he got injured in the Tulane game, but I think you'll see him out there. Julian Whigham is a guy that's a true sophomore that the staff is really high on and they think is going to be a good player by the time he's done. He plays both corner and safety. They move him around. Jeremi Wilkes and Durell Eskridge are the starting safeties. Eskridge is going to play the majority of the game. Ritchy Desir will rotate in a little bit, but Eskridge will play a majority. Wayne Morgan gets a little bit of time behind Jeremi Wilkes, he spells him a bit. Every once in a while, you'll see Darius Kelly at safety. But I don't think he's going to get as much run. All of those guys are versatile. They can play corner or safety. They'll rotate them in and out. Primiarly, Lyn and Reddish will be on the field most of the time.

And on special teams…
McAllister: Both of the kick spots have been inconsistent and, kind of, in a state of flux…the backup kicker Ryan Norton [now the starter] has a strong leg, but he struggles with accuracy. He missed an extra-point and a couple of field goals in the last couple of games. At the punting position, Riley Dixon has become the starter. Jonathan Fisher was the starter at the start of the season, but he really struggled and they took him out. Riley Dixon has come on and been more consistent. He's got a stronger leg as well. Not anything to write home about, but not anything that's terrible either, but something that has been in a little bit of a state of flux -- the return game has been.

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