ON THE BEAT: Syracuse

CuseNation.com Analyst John Garcia talks with Pack Pride about quarterback Terrel Hunt and Syracuse in this exclusive Q&A.

CuseNation.com Analyst John Garcia talks with Pack Pride about Syracuse in this exclusive Q&A.


Can you give us a quick break down of Syracuse's offensive system?
They've adapted to more of a spread look with the new coaching staff. It's more spread-based than pro-style.

Obviously the big news, a lot like at NC State, has been the quarterback situation. Drew Allen began the season as the starter, but now the man in the huddle is Terrel Hunt. What are your thoughts on him?
Right, they began the season with Allen, but after two games they moved on to Hunt. He is an efficient passer, and Allen was more of a gunslinger... Hunt is more safer. Allen was struggling, and when Hunt came in he showed he could move the offense much better.

Hunt can run. He is mobile, and he's efficient.

Hunt posted prolific numbers against two non-BCS teams before struggling against Clemson. Do you feel like going forward he's going to be the guy that showed up in the first two games or faced Clemson?
I think he's in the middle of both. Clemson was a wake-up call for him, that's for sure. He was doing great against lower competition... it eased him into the job. I believe he scored on his first six drives.

Against Clemson they fell behind early, and he had to start forcing things. They need to start fast by running the football so he doesn't have to go out there and throw it all over the place to beat you. He's more efficient when he doesn't have to do that.

This will be his first road start. That's an unknown... how will he handle it? He's never been the starter on the road in college... his first snaps were on the road at Northwestern but that was late when the game was basically over.

He's a cool, calm kid though. He's comfortable with everything they are doing, and I expect him to bounceback from the Clemson game.

It seems like their strength offensively is running the football.
That is what they want to do. They want to use the run to set up everything else they do offensively.

They have a couple of really good backs in Smith and Gulley, and they use both of them a lot. They are definitely a run-first offense, and they are willing to mix it up. They will show some exotic formations and even run some trick plays, but a lot of times those exotic formations normally result in traditional runs.

What are your thoughts on Syracuse's offensive line? Do they use the tight ends to max-protect or do they try and block you with five?
They mix it up. The offensive line is a solid unit, but not as good as last year when they had a first-rounder. But, they are pretty good.

Obviously they are geared towards the run, and run blocking is easier, but they think they can block you with five guys. Clemson's edge rushers are much more athletic than what they had faced so they max-protected some against them.

Their tight ends are more blockers, but they will throw to them some.

What about at wide receiver?
They don't have a dynamic, No. 1 receiver. They have some big guys and they have some small guys that can run, but they don't really have a guy that can do both well.

Give us a quick overview of their defensive scheme and personnel.
Defensively they are very similar to last year because the new head coach was the defensive coordinator.

Syracuse runs a traditional, 4-3 defense. They'll definitely take risks and play man coverage, but for the most part they play straight up.

They like to blitz with their linebackers because they don't have a dynamic, pass-rushing defensive end. I would say weakside linebacker Dyshawn Davis is probably the best pass rusher, even though he's undersized. They will take some risks with him.

However, it's going to be interesting to see what they do because this week they lost their best cover cornerback, Keon Lyn, for the season with an injury. That's a huge loss because he was their best guy back there. They have some others with experience but aren't real deep... they may not play as much one-on-one with Lyn out.

If NC State decides to spread it out more, they could gain some advantages there because of the lack of experience in the secondary and the inability to generate a pass rush with the defensive front.

Their best pass rusher is in the interior. Their two defensive tackles can generate a push up the middle, but if the quarterback can move he can cause problems.

At safety, they've been weak so a lot of the big plays have been across the middle.

Overall, the defense is really good against the run, but you can get over the top of them. Clemson used a lot of different formations to really throw them off. Three of Clemson's four long touchdown passes were either mental or communication breakdowns.

Are they better against pro-style offenses or spread offenses?
It's definitely a defense that works best against pro-style offenses.

They like to line up in man and stack the box. They tried that against Clemson and got burned some.

Finally, how are the special teams?
Fairly average. The punt game is good. Their coverage teams are good. They haven't given up any huge plays this year, but they haven't sprung any either.

The kicking game is interesting because their kicker is out for the year and Ryan Norton is now the guy. He already handled kickoffs and now he'll be doing field goals. He's inconsistent and still figuring it out.

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