A fourth-string, walk-on quarterback will likely lead Syracuse to the field Saturday.
That's a scary proposition, especially going against a stout LSU defense, but the Orange did pull out an overtime victory last week despite scraping the bottom of the quarterback depth chart. Syracuse is off to its best start in 24 years, and they'll try to extend it with an upset over the Tigers.
Syracuse relies heavily on its rushing attack, which is averaging more than 200 yards-per-game, but the offense as a whole ranks near the bottom of the ACC in total yardage.
What can LSU expect from this Syracuse offense? We'll break it down with an in-depth scouting report:
SYRACUSE STARTING OFFENSE
QB: Zach Mahoney (So., 6-2, 192)
RB: Jordan Fredericks (Fr., 5-10, 208)
HB: Ben Lewis (Jr., 6-2, 213)
WR: Brisley Estime (Jr., 5-9, 178)
WR: Steve Ishmael (So., 6-2, 203)
TE: Josh Parris (Jr., 6-4, 246)
LT: Ivan Foy (Sr., 6-5, 280)
LG: Nick Robinson (Sr., 6-6, 302)
C: Rob Trudo (Sr., 6-4, 301)
RG: Seamus Shanley (Sr., 6-1, 281)
RT: Omari Palmer (Jr., 6-3, 305)
Notable Backups: RB George Morris (Jr., 6-0, 192), RB Devante McFarlane (Jr., 6-0, 199), HB Dontae Strickland (Fr., 5-11, 194)
Syracuse has been devastated by injuries at the quarterback spot. Their No. 1 guy, Terrel Hunt, went down with a season-ending injury in the first quarter of the first game. His backup, Eric Dungey, suffered a concussion last weekend and won't play against the Tigers. Both Austin Wilson and Zach Mahoney played after Dungey left the game, but it appears Mahoney will be the guy for the LSU game.
Syracuse's offensive coordinator said Tuesday that Mahoney was getting most of the first-team reps during practice this week. He's a walk-on, who this time last year was playing at the College of Dupage. He led Syracuse on a game-winning drive in overtime last week, going 4-for-4 for 19 yards, including a 13-yard third-down completion to keep that drive alive.
Mahoney is still a mystery to those in Syracuse. He is more of a runner though, and that'll help ease the transition from Dungey.
Syracuse had added some triple option to its offense under a mobile Dungey, and they'll likely stick to that with Mahoney. But Syracuse won't rely too much on the walk-on, instead leaning heavily on a run game that's their bread and butter.
Syracuse will rotate all three of its running backs, going with the hot hand. Jordan Fredericks is the leader right now with 31 carries and 197 rushing yards in three games. He's the most explosive of the three. George Morris, more of a power back, follows him with 116 yards. Devonte McFarlane may be the best all-around back, but he only has 17 carries for 62 yards.
Syracuse will use its H-Back in the offense. Their starter got hurt in the season opener, and won't play against LSU. That's stifled some of their creativity at that position, but both Ben Lewis and Dontae Strickland will get involved. Lewis is more of a pass-catcher with 3 receptions this season. Strickland was actually recruited as a running back, and he's got a rushing touchdown.
Syracuse wil frequently go with a two-tight end set. They're getting Josh Parris back from injury, and he's their most complete tight end. Kendall Moore is mostly a blocking tight end, but both will likely be on the field frequently Saturday.
Syracuse goes regularly to its top two wide receivers and doesn't spread it around much. Steve Ishmael is their No. 1 weapon, a legitimate deep threat at 6-foot-3. He leads the team with 144 yards on 5 catches with a touchdown this season. Brisley Estime is the speedster at only 5-foot-9. Syracuse likes to get him the ball in a variety of ways, so look for quick passes to him near the line, allowing him to make plays in open space.
As for the offensive line, Syracuse is much stronger on the left side than the right. At RG is Seamus Shanley, a walk-on that hadn't played much entering this season but won the job at camp. At RT is Omari Palmer, a converted guard playing tackle simply because Syracuse's other options are too young and inexperienced.
Syracuse will get back the anchor of its offense line. C Rob Trudo is set to return from injury, and that'll be big for the Orange's rushing attack. It hasn't been the same without him in there, so they'll be happy to have him back against LSU.