CuseNation.com recruiting analyst Mike McAllister and publisher/beat writer Dan Tortora were onsite for the most recent spring practice by the Syracuse Orange football squad. They have decided on their top performers from that practice and share them with you below, in no specific order:
Mike McAllister's standouts:
Linebacker (JUCO transfer) Josh Kirkland:
Kirkland continues to make plays during practice. He flies off the edge and plays with a great motor. Kirkland has a nose for the ball and the speed to get him there. Whether making tackles in the backfield, rushing the quarterback, or making touchdown saving tackles on special teams, Kirkland was all over the field.
Cornerback Julian Whigham:
Whigham was able to use his long arms to frequently jam receivers, disrupting the timing of their routes. He also showed the athleticism and speed to cover receivers down field.
Offensive tackle Sean Hickey:
Hickey has picked up where he left off last season. He has moved to left tackle and continues to be the best offensive lineman on the team. His footwork has improved from last season, and he's very physical while run blocking.
Dan Tortora's standouts:
Quarterback Terrel Hunt:
Hunt was the only quarterback of the three currently competing for the starting job, including Charley Loeb and John Kinder, to lead the offense to multiple scoring drives in 11-on-11 drills in this practice.
He moved the offense more efficiently than Loeb and Kinder. Loeb threw right to the defense at times, while Kinder threw passes too low to make plays on.
Despite making some mistakes, including an interception, Hunt appeared to be most prepared for gameplay if the team had to start the season this week.
Running back Jerome Smith:
It is no surprise that Smith has talent, proven in his play from last season.
Syracuse's returning 1,000-yard rusher had a strong showing in full pads at Spring practice. He got past initial tackle attempts as he ran up the middle on a respectable gain.
Then, to end the practice, Smith broke through the middle, evading tackle attempts and getting out into the open field, outrunning all defenders into the end zone.
Smith does not seem to have missed a step. Instead, he may have gained some speed.
Cornerback Joe Nassib:
With his cousin, former Orange quarterback Ryan Nassib, preparing for the upcoming NFL draft, Joe Nassib is preparing to get himself on the field this season.
In coverage, Nassib had a lock on Loeb grabbing an interception that was thrown his way when playing 7-on-7.
Later on in the practice, in an 11-on-11 drill in the redzone, Nassib prevented back-to-back touchdown attempts by Loeb. The first involved Nassib covering wide receiver Quinta Funderburk, who got his hands on the ball, but Nassib disrupted the reception. Next, Nassib got into the passing lane of an attempt from Loeb to wide receiver Alvin Cornelius, knocking the ball away.
His presence had a noticeable impact on the offense, which elevates him to the spotlight for this practice.