Geno Smith, Teddy Bridgewater and Scott McCummings each gave the Syracuse defense considerable problems because of the ability to run from the quarterback position. Smith and Bridgewater utilized their mobility to help receivers get open down the field, while McCummings was a runner nine times out of ten without hesitation. On Friday, SU will embark on a quest to stop a player who can use his mobility in both ways; South Florida's B.J. Daniels.
Last season, Daniels was held in check by the Orange. He was hit constantly in the backfield and ended up with minus-1 yard rushing. As a passer, he was just 9 of 23 in the game, finishing without a touchdown while throwing a pair of interceptions.
However, most would agree that the 2011 version of Daniels is more of complete quarterback.
"Last season, if his first read wasn't there, he would just run," safety Shamarko Thomas said. "This year, he is going through his progression and staying in the pocket."
The Bulls are ranked in the top 20 in the country offensively, though they have lost four straight games (all in the Big East). Still, coach Doug Marrone is very aware of Daniels as a dual threat.
"The quarterback has a chance to do a lot of different things," Marrone said on Monday. "He's probably one of the toughest players, when your're multi-talented like B.J. is."
"You have to mix things up (defensively); can't let him get comfortable. Once he feels comfortable, you're in for a long day."
Daniels and the Bulls, who sport the top-ranked rushing offense in the conference, also use an element that has gashed the SU defense of late, the read-option. Connecticut utilized the set to account for over 200 yards of offense, mostly in the second half. But the difference this week is not only Daniels' ability to throw better and run faster than McCummings, but the lead back is a 240-pound grinder named Darrell Scott instead of a shifty slasher like 172-pound Lyle McCombs. Scott and Daniels have combined for 1,059 yards and nine touchdowns already.
"All eleven men have to attack," Phillip Thomas said of stopping Scott along with Daniels on the read-option. "Coach (Scott) Shafer keeps telling us to run to the ball, all eleven guys."
As a thrower, Daniels can buy time for USF's speedy receivers.
"We've done drills to lock on the receivers when the quarterback scrambles," safety Jeremi Wilkes said. "We've got to keep him contained."
"Everybody has to do their assignment. We have to rally to the ball."
The secondary has been trying to get accustomed to seeing a runner in the pocket by practicing against John Kinder. The sophomore is the most mobile of the quarterbacks on the roster.
If the Orange is to duplicate the effort from last season's road win, the defense will have to contain the top-notch running game Friday night in the Carrier Dome.