Maryland (2-1) visits Syracuse (2-0) Sept. 20 at 12:30 p.m. for an out-of-conference clash. In order to gain more insight into the Orange we spoke to CuseNation.com publisher Mike McAllister.
Here’s our Q&A with him:
Terrapin Times: Syracuse had problems against Villanova but bounced back in a big way against CMU. So what kind of team is SU this year? Are they the team that struggled offensively in Week 1, or dominated in Week 2? Or somewhere in-between?
Mike McAllister: Syracuse is in between their season opening performance and road win over Central Michigan. Syracuse is not as bad as they played in Week One against Villanova, but few teams can consistently dominated like they did last week. The Orange are an improved offensive team with a better Terrel Hunt and more receiving weapons on the outside. Defensively, they still have issues in coverage, but the front seven has been pretty solid. The offense will push tempo and the defense will bring a lot of pressure.
TT: How is it going in the second year under Scott Shafer and how do fans/players view him? Is he pretty similar to Doug Marrone or altogether different?
MM: Things are headed in the right direction under Scott Shafer. There is momentum in recruiting, momentum within the community and the program is looking to take that next step. The fan base has really embraced coach Shafer. He is an easy guy to get behind being down to earth and a superb motivator. He is much more outgoing than Doug Marrone, which the fan base has enjoyed.
TT:What's something Terps fans should know about Syracuse that maybe they couldn't pick up just by watching the Central Michigan or Villanova games?
MM: Syracuse's special teams are much improved from last season. Punter Riley Dixon is a huge weapon in the field position battle. Returners Brisly Estime and Ervin Philips give the Orange dynamic threats for the first time in years.
TT:Besides the main playmakers, who are the X-factors that make Syracuse tick? Who should Terps fans be watching for during the game?
MM: Cam Lynch, senior linebacker, really makes everything go defensively. He helps plug up holes in the running game and is a skilled pass rusher. Offensively, the offensive line does not get a lot of talk when breaking down teams. It's not a sexy position. But Syracuse's offensive line is largely responsible for the success of the offense. Left tackle Sean Hickey is their best one and helps protect Terrel Hunt's blind side.
TT: Where does the offense stand right now? What kind of adjustments/improvements did SU make after Week 1?
MM: The offense struggled in week one largely because of Terrel Hunt's ejection. In game two, they got into rhythm and dominated up front. Overall, the offense is where it should be. Showing signs of significant improvement from last season but still things to work on early in the season. They have a nice balance of running and receiving playmakers. The development of Hunt has been key to the offense's improvement.
TT:Syracuse's calling card has been defense. What makes the defense so effective?
The defense has been effective ever since Scott Shafer joined the staff as defensive coordinator under Doug Marrone. His system uses aggressive pressure packages with blitzers coming from all over the formation. When Shafer took over as head coach, he hired Chuck Bullough who continued that methodology. In short, the various pressure packages are what make Syracuse's defense so successful.
TT:Syracuse does have one Maryland prep star on its roster in Ben Lewis from Middletown High. How's he doing after three years at SU? Also it seems like the Orange haven't been as active recruiting the DMV as in years past. Are they focusing more on getting New England area kids now?
MM: Ben Lewis had not really been part of the rotation at wide receiver in past seasons. This year, however, he has received significant snaps in each of their first two games. He has a few catches under his belt thus far. The coaching staff likes his blocking ability and his sure handedness. Syracuse has moved away from recruiting the DMV area in recent years. They have shifted their focus to the northeast, Florida, Georgia and Midwest. They may still recruit the area from time to time, but it will not be a consistent pipeline.
TT: The last time these two teams met, down in College Park last year, the Orange took it to the Terps, 20-3. Do you see a similar type of game this time around with Syracuse's defense dominating? How do you think it will play out?
MM: I think this game will feature more offense on both sides. Syracuse's defense will still give Maryland trouble, but the Terps now have both Deon Long and Stefon Diggs on the outside. Neither were available last season. That give the Terps more of an offensive threat entering this game. I still consider Syracuse the favorite, but think it is a close game on Saturday.
Behind Enemy Lines: Syracuse
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