Previewing Syracuse

Pack Pride takes an in-depth look at the Wolfpack's upcoming opponent, Syracuse.

Scouting the Offense

Syracuse has switched offensive coordinators in the middle of the season, which has been an interesting development. George McDonald, who ran the offense for the first five games, ran a spread offense that featured the zone-read, bubble screens and quick slants.

Since Tim Lester has taken over the last three games, there has been a more concentrated effort to utilize the run. Playaction has been utilized off of the success of the ground attack, but there have still been elements of the short passing game that McDonald employed. There have been more down the field attempts through the air under Lester as well.

Projected Starters


A.J. Long

Running Back

Prince-Tyson Gulley

Wide Receiver

Steve Ishmael

Wide Receiver

Ashton Broyld

Wide Receiver

Jarrod West

Tight End

Josh Parris

Left Tackle

Sean Hickey

Left Guard

Rob Trudo


John Miller

Right Guard

Nick Robinson

Right Tackle

Omari Palmer

Key Players

QB A.J. Long: Long is a true freshman with only two starts under his belt. Despite that, he has given Syracuse fans some excitement when thinking about the future. During his short time at the helm, he has displayed strong mobility in the pocket, a willingness to go downfield with the ball and unwavering confidence. His accuracy on short passes has been an improvement from the injured Terrel Hunt. He will make some mistakes, but Long has a lot of moxy and gives the Orange offense some energy.

RB Prince-Tyson Gulley: Gulley is the lead back in a crowded, but talented, backfield. Early on in the season, carries were split a bit too much. No one could get into a rhythm. Over the last few games, Gulley has received more consistent touches and become the dominant ball carrier. While not possessing elite speed, he does have a good burst through holes on runs between the tackles. Gulley can make people miss in space and is also a weapon in the passing game.

WR Steve Ishmael: Ishmael has become Syracuse’s best big play threat in the passing game. The true freshman has shown worlds of potential with athleticism, jumping ability and superb hands. He is still developing as a route runner, but has clearly gotten stronger since the beginning of the season when opposing corners would jam him at the line. Look for Syracuse take at last one or two shots down the field to Ishmael against N.C. State.

LT Sean Hickey: Hickey is a future pro who won the battle last week with the ACC’s best pass rusher, Vic Beasley. He is far and away the best offensive lineman on Syracuse’s roster, and sets the tone in both pass protection and on the ground. Hickey is a big reason why the Orange have not given up a lot of sacks this season.


The biggest weakness for the Orange has been their execution in the red zone. Throughout most of the season, they have been able to move the ball well between the 20s (save last week’s game against Clemson). Once they get into that area of the field, they are plagued by unforced penalties, poor play execution and dropped passes. It has been a point of emphasis throughout the season, but continues to be a major issue for Syracuse.


Since losing incumbent starter Terrel Hunt to a broken fibula, Long has been solid in relief. The true freshman signal caller has shown an accurate arm, elusiveness in the pocket and unexpected poise. He took a step back last week against Clemson, but few have the type of athletes they do on the defensive side of the ball. The ground attack is key and led by Gulley. Expect Syracuse to attack the Wolfpack’s porous run defense on Saturday with that setting up the passing game. The offensive line has been solid and does not give up a lot of sacks. The receiving corps has been inconsistent, but true freshman Steve Ishmael has emerged as a big play threat.

Scouting the Defense

Syracuse runs an attacking 4-3 defense built on pressure and solid cover corners on the outside. Defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough loves to blitz, and will do so from all over the formation. His blitzes are based on confusion, often showing pressure from more areas than actually come. The outside linebackers are the primary culprets here.

The secondary has improved as the season has progressed. They are coming off of perhaps their two best outings of the year. They are relied upon to lock down the receivers in man coverage due to the pressure packages they utilize.

The run defense has been solid this season, but can wear down as games get into the latter stages. The defensive line rotates often to keep guys fresh. They also stunt frequently to try to get free rushers and plug running lanes.


Defensive End

Robert Welsh

Defensive Tackle

Eric Crume

Defensive Tackle

John Raymon

Defensive End

Micah Robinson

Strongside Linebacker

Cameron Lynch

Middle Linebacker

Marqez Hodge

Weakeside Linebacker

Dyshawn Davis


Brandon Reddish

Strong Safety

Darius Kelly

Free Safety

Durell Eskridge


Julian Whigham

Key Players

CB Brandon Reddish: Reddish has become Syracuse’s best cover corner. He has the speed to stay with most receivers, has become a ball-hawk over the last few games and has become one of the team’s best open field tacklers. His ability to shut down opposing receivers is key to Syracuse’s defense.

OLB Cameron Lynch: Lynch is a captain and senior leader of the defense. He blitzes frequently and makes plays in the backfield, covers tight ends downfield and is solid at filling gaps against the run. Where he can struggle is in space, where quicker players can make him miss.

DT Eric Crume: A Syracuse defensive line that had huge question marks coming into the season has been better than most expected. Crume is the leader up front and is pivotal to the success of the run defense. He is strong, plays low to the ground with great leverage and gets into the backfield at times.


The defense has carried Syracuse this year, putting up performances good enough to upset Notre Dame, Louisville and Clemson. Unfortunately, the offense did not hold up their end of the bargain. The secondary continues to improve and may feature Syracuse’s best athletes with Brandon Reddish and Durell Eskridge. The Orange have been one of the conferences best in creating turnovers. They have six in the last two games.

Their frequent blitzing leaves Syracuse vulnerable to bubble screens and quick passes. They have been burned by that in nearly every game, though they were better against Clemson. Mobile quarterbacks have also given the Orange trouble.

Scouting the Special Teams

Projected Starters


Cole Murphy


Riley Dixon

Punt Returner

Ritchy Desir

Kick returners

Ervin Philips

Prince-Tyson Gulley


K Cole Murphy: The kicking game was a big weakness early in the season for Syracuse. But since Murphy, a freshman walk-on, has taken over for Ryan Norton, things have stabilized. He has made 11 of his 13 attempts since becoming the starter. While showing an accurate leg, he also has the strongest boot on the team. Murphy hit a 50-yarder last week at Clemson.

P Riley Dixon: Dixon may be the best punter in the conference and is one of the best in the nation. He has a strong leg and gets great hang time on his punts. He has been a big weapon for the Orange in the field position battle.

Kick Returners: Syracuse has really struggled in the kick return game. True freshman Ervin Philips has been the guy most of the season, but has a tendency to hesitate and dance rather than picking a lane and running with decisiveness. There is some big play ability here, but Philips has been below average for much of the year.

PR Ritchy Desir: With Brisly Estime likely out, Desir takes punt return duties for Syracuse. Estime is a speedy, big play threat. Desir is anything but. He is a solid punt returner with good hands, but is the master of the fair catch. Desir rarely returns punts, and when he does, his production is often minimal.

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