Five Things to Know About Syracuse

Mike McAllister of joins us to give five things for Seminole fans to know going into the Syracuse game.

1) Syracuse just lost starting quarterback Terrel Hunt for about six weeks. What can we expect from Austin Wilson, and how does this change the Syracuse offense?

It may not be as simple as Austin Wilson sliding in for Hunt. He is the logical choice because he played the second half of the season opener when Hunt was ejected, and finished the loss against Louisville last week.

But the two-deep this week lists both Wilson and true freshman A.J. Long as the starter. Don’t be surprised if you see both on Saturday.

Wilson is more of a pocket passer. He has a more accurate arm than Hunt, especially in the short and intermediate passing game. He is not nearly as mobile, and will not hurt a defense with his legs. This will impact the play calling for the Orange when he is in the game.

Syracuse runs a lot of zone-read with Hunt in there, which will not happen with Wilson in there. Or at least, if they do, Wilson will not be a big threat.

A.J. Long, on the other hand, is a backyard, scramble around, Johnny Manziel type of quarterback. He has a solid arm, but not elite arm strength. But he is going to run around and make try to make plays outside of the pocket.

Long’s biggest attribute is his ability to run. But he is a true freshman with no experience, so it is reasonable to expect mistakes.

With Long in the game, the playbook will shrink, but will be closer to what we saw with Hunt as the signal caller.

2) The Orange also just switched offensive coordinators, with QB coach Tim Lester now calling plays in place of WR coach George McDonald. What led to the change, and what might we expect to be different with Lester running the offense?

The last three weeks, Syracuse has performed poorly on offense. Specifically when they get the ball deep into their opponent’s territory. Far too many field goal attempts and not getting into the end zone enough. Red zone inefficiencies, penalties, turnovers and offensive mistakes are what caused the change.

It remains to be seen how Lester will call plays differently than McDonald. Expect to see largely the same offensive system, as that will not be changing. But you could see some more power runs, aggressive play calling and even trick plays.

Lester is the quarterback coach and knows his unit well. So he will do what he can to put them in the best position possible despite the clear talent discrepancy in this one.

3) How is Syracuse in the trenches and what are their strengths and weaknesses on each line?

Offensively, their line has been up and down. In the first two games, they were very good. In the last two, they have struggled. In pass protection, they have held up rather well. Left tackle Sean Hickey is the best of the bunch and a future NFL player.

They are banged up though as starting right tackle Ivan Foy will miss his second consecutive game. Omari Palmer, a guard by trade, will fill in. He is vulnerable to the speed rush on the outside, and could be an area the Seminoles look to attack.

Syracuse is at their best with quick, downhill runs between the tackles. On stretch, sweep or off tackle runs, they tend to struggle. Especially against front sevens like they have seen the last two weeks in Notre Dame and Louisville.

Defensively, Syracuse has a strong run defense with their front seven. That starts with defensive tackle Eric Crume, who is solid at filling gaps. Defensive ends Robert Welsh and Micah Robinson are also solid against the run.

Syracuse will rotate defensive linemen frequently as they normally do. However, none of their men up front are strong pass rushers. They have struggled to generate pressure without the blitz all season.

Ron Thompson is their best and most versatile defensive linemen, so keep an eye on him as he will move all around the defensive front.

4) Who are the primary playmakers for the Orange on each side of the football and what do they bring to the table?

Offensively, it is Terrel Hunt, Ashton Broyld and Brisly Estime. None of them are expected to play Saturday. Estime has the best chance, but he missed last week with an ankle injury. He is the fastest player on the team and gives Syracuse a playmaker in the open field from the receiver position.

Other than that trio, Syracuse will rely on their stable of running backs. Prince-Tyson Gulley and Ervin Philips are the most explosive runners, though neither has elite speed.

On the outside, Ben Lewis has emerged over the last two weeks. He generally has solid hands and has done better after the catch. Jarrod West is a possession receiver who has a big frame. True freshman Steve Ishmael has the most talent of any of the receivers but is still adjusting to the college game.

Emerging at tight end is Josh Parris, who has gotten back into the mix after an early season injury.

Defensively, linebackers Dyshawn Davis and Cameron Lynch lead the Orange. They are skilled blitzers who will come off the edge or stunt into the middle to try to generate pressure.

Safety Durell Eskridge is their best pro prospect. He has a knack for forcing turnovers and is a skilled tackler as well.

5) Florida State obviously had little trouble with the Orange last year in Tallahassee. Why might this year be different? What should fans expect in this game?

Syracuse’s only chance is to hope to get up on Florida State early and get the crowd involved. A near sellout is expected and the Carrier Dome is one of the loudest stadiums in the country when it is rocking.

Forcing multiple turnovers, as they did against Notre Dame, is critical for the Orange as well. Combine that with efficient quarterback play and a successful running game, and Syracuse could pull off a miracle.

That is extremely improbable, however. The Seminoles should have maybe less trouble this season because of all of the offensive changes Syracuse is going through leading up to this game. A new play caller and a new quarterback does not spell success when there is this big of a talent gap.

Syracuse is also vulnerable to strong passing attacks, so Jameis Winston should have a field day.



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