The Syracuse football season officially ended with a brutal 28-7 loss at Boston College on Saturday. Now that the season’s over, let’s take a look at three of the biggest storylines heading into the 2015 season:
Is Scott Shafer on the hot seat?
What a difference one season makes. At this time last year, everyone was certain the program was headed in the right direction, and that Shafer was the right coach to lead the Orange. Any good will that Shafer built with a 7-6 season and a bowl win against Minnesota has mostly evaporated with this 3-9 season.
Is Shafer on the hot seat? Well, Shafer can certainly eliminate any notion of him being on the hot seat with a bowl appearance next year. The reality is, even a 5-7 season should be enough for him to keep his job. But all bets are off for a fourth season if Shafer has a repeat (or worse) of this season. I know what you’re saying: “Well, He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named” got four seasons. Why shouldn’t Shafer?
That to me as always been a silly rule. The second that a school realizes a coach isn’t right for the job is the second he should be gone. If that takes three seasons instead of four, so be it. And, as we all know, Syracuse was one year late to dismissing G-Rob.
Did Shafer make the right call in replacing George McDonald?
Let’s first start with this: The last straw in the George McDonald era came when called a pitch sweep to power running back Adonis Ameen-Moore when the Orange was at its 1/2 yard line against Louisville, which resulted in a safety. That play became a rallying cry to have McDonald relieved of his play calling duties.
Lester was promoted the week leading up to the Florida State game, and, relatively speaking, the offense looked solid with freshman AJ Long making his first start against the Seminoles in a 38-20 loss. Things looked even better after a dominant 30-7 win at Wake Forest a week later. But in SU’s final five games, the Orange scored a combined 47 points and finished 122nd in the NCAA in scoring at 17.1 points per game.
It would be unfair to pin this all on Lester, who had to fix things on the fly, and was without his top quarterback (Terrel Hunt) and two of his top receivers (Brisly Estime and Ashton Broyld). Plus, Syracuse’s offensive line was completely decimated by injuries. What changes will Lester make to the offensive philosophy? What can Lester do with a healthy roster? These are questions that Lester will probably only have a season to answer.
Who will start at quarterback?
Syracuse trotted out four quarterbacks this season (five, if you include punter extraordinaire Riley Dixon). The results were underwhelming, to say the least, with the QBs combining for six touchdowns and 17 interceptions. And really, it was five if you take away Dixon’s cameo on the fake field goal against Villanova.
I can’t imagine based on what we’ve seen that either Mitch Kimble or Austin Wilson will seriously contend for the starting quarterback position next year. There’s also recent commit Eric Dungey, though it’s hard to see him making an impact right away. Then again, Syracuse did play its fourth string quarterback this year. Anything is possible.
AJ Long showed he has promise in spurts, and developed a nice rapport with standout freshman WR Steve Ismael. I would think he has a slight lead over Terrel Hunt at this point, who was mostly ineffective in the five games he appeared in this season (one touchdown to four interceptions and a dreadful 57 percent completion percentage). But any quarterback competition will probably boil down to the two of them, and possibly Alin Edouard if he does indeed enroll at Syracuse in the spring.