Through four games, Syracuse is at .500 with a 2-2 record. Despite the slow start to the season, the Orange were able to discover a lot about themselves during their non-conference schedule.
1. Syracuse has found their quarterback: During the first two games, the Syracuse offense looked hopeless. It was predictable, lethargic and lacked big play ability. One move, swapping out Drew Allen for redshirt sophomore Terrel Hunt, changed all that. Granted, the opponents were who they were. But you can't deny the productivity of the offense since Hunt has taken the reigns.
Scoring 106 points over two games is impressive. Hunt has been near perfect over the last two games. Beyond the numbers, however, is why Hunt has become the clear starter. He is poised in the pocket, makes plays with his feet, goes through his progressions, doesn't turn the ball over and delivers an accurate ball. It may have taken some time, but the Orange have found their man.
2. George McDonald is getting better: The play calling left a lot to be desired through the first two games. Since the insertion of Terrel Hunt, the playbook has opened up it seems. There is a bit more reliance on the strength of the Orange offense, the ground attack. Still, the passing attack is more diverse.
Rather then most of the passes being short bubble screens, the Orange are attacking all areas of the field. Hunt has thrown two long touchdowns over the middle, one to Chris Clark and the other to Jarrod West. There have also been successful plays at the boundary. Clark is running drag routes, West outs, Kobena corner routes and curls, and the running backs have become more involved in the passing attack as well. The Orange offense has added dimensions each week, a sign that offensive coordinator George McDonald is becoming more comfortable in his new job.
3. The defense is aggressive: Blitz, blitz, and blitz some more seems to be the theme for defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough. The man loves to blitz and it fits the Orange personnel perfectly. While Syracuse lacks a true pure pass rushing threat, so blitzing is necessary to generate pressure at times. Dyshawn Davis and Cameron Lynch are talented blitzers who have a knack for making plays in the backfield. Marquis Spruill has been more involved in this phase as well.
The coaches have a lot of confidence in the Syracuse secondary, leaving them frequently on an island. This will be tested as the Orange jump into ACC play. One thing is for sure, however. Syracuse will continue to blitz and put pressure on their opponents.
4. Syracuse still lacks a dynamic returner: With the additions of Brisly Estime and Darius Kelly to the 2013 roster, there were high hopes that the Orange would finally have playmakers in the kick return game. That has not come to fruition as Ritchy Desir remained the primary punt returner and backup running backs DeVante McFarlane and George Morris are the primary kick returners. Each has been solid, but none appear to be the type of threat to give Syracuse an added playmaking dimension.
5. Syracuse looks like a bowl team: Yes there were early season struggles and things looked ugly at times. But with Terrel Hunt at the helm, this team looks like it could go bowling in 2013. The team has depth at most positions with a healthy mix of experience and young talent. It will be interesting to see how the Orange respond to a new conference. But with the new look offense, aggressive defense and improving roster, Syracuse looks poised to get to the magic six win mark to get to a bowl game for the third time in four years.