This is the first in a two part series previewing the 2013 Syracuse football team. Part II will highlight the defense & special teams.
Syracuse’s offense was one of the biggest reasons for its four game winning streak to end the season. During those games, the Orange averaged 38 points a game, including 45 points in a win over eventual Big East champion Louisville. Still, the team that takes the field in 2013 will look radically different compared to last year.
For the first time in four years, Ryan Nassib will not be Syracuse’s starting quarterback. Nassib, now with the NFL’s New York Giants, finished his career atop the all-time lists, including passing yards (9,190), attempts (1,312) and completions (791).
The three quarterbacks vying to replace Nassib are fifth-year senior Charlie Loeb, dual-threat Terrel Hunt and Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen.
Hunt was the star of the spring game, throwing for 209 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and he led the White team past the Blue team 27-10.
“It felt good when he was in there,” Syracuse offensive coordinator George McDonald said. “It felt like there was a rhythm. It felt like he had control of the offense.”
But the most interesting option is Allen, who was an All-American quarterback, and the 38th ranked quarterback coming out of high school. There’s no guarantee that Allen will win the starting job, but he is certainly in the mix to start.
“Coach (Scott) Shafer, coach (George) McDonald, they, didn’t promise me anything (in terms of starting),” Allen said. “But they did promise me that I would have a chance to compete for the starting job, and that’s all I can really ask for.”
There will be a lot of fresh faces in the receiving core, as well.
Syracuse lost its top two WRs from last season, Marcus Sales and Alec Lemon. The two combined for 1,952 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2012.
Jarrod West is the team’s top returning receiver with 43 passes for 588 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He, along with Hunt, were the two offensive stars of the spring game, and he will need a big season for the Orange offense to be successful.
“I’m trying to step up and bring everybody with me,” West said. “It’s tough. We have a talented group, but no one really has experience and no one has played a lot of plays, so everyone’s starting from a fresh start.”
Among that talented group includes the speedy Jeremiah Kobena, who hauled in a pair of long distance touchdowns before a season ending injury. Arkansas transfer Quinta Funderburk, who is eligible after sitting out last season, and Christopher Clark could also play major roles.
SU also returns Beckett Wales who had 389 yards and two touchdowns last season, and will have John Kinder, who made the transition from quarterback last week.
This is by far Syracuse’s best and deepest play-making unit. The running backs are headlined by returning starter Jerome Smith and Pinstripe Bowl MVP Prince-Tyson Gulley.
Smith rushed for 1,171 yards last season, which was the Orange’s fifth consecutive 1,000 yard rusher. Whereas Smith is more of a powerful runner, Gulley prefers to be more elusive. The Orange leaned heavily on the two on a blustery, windy day at Yankee Stadium, and Gulley finished with 213 yards and three total touchdowns in the 38-14 win.
“It’s going to be fun finding ways to get those guys the ball,” Syracuse offensive coordinator George McDonald said. “And I think it’s going to cause a lot of matchup problems for the defensive coordinators we’ll face.”
Adonis Ameen-Moore also figures to get some touches. The bruising fullback was used in the “tank” formation last season, and produced five touchdowns.
Ashton Broyld also remains an intriguing player in the backfield. The sophomore finished with 36 carries for 171 yards and caught seven passes for 53 yards, and is one of the most athletic players on the team.
Though he tapered off after a promising start last season, head coach Scott Shafer wants to utilize Broyld more this year.
“We’re going to use him all over the place,” Shafer said. “Obviously, he was a quarterback in high school. We’re going to play him at the running back, and at the slot receiver, at the X and at the Z. We even have some plays where he is lined up at the quarterback position.”
Syracuse will need to replace some experience and depth in this unit. The Orange lost starters Justin Pugh and Zach Chibane, who now play for the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills.
But Rimington Award candidate Macky MacPherson has 25 starts in his career and headlines a group that includes probable starters Sean Hickey, Ivan Foy, Nick Robinson and Rob Trudo.
“You can have the best quarterback, running back and wide receiver in the nation, but if you don’t have a decent offensive line to protect them, you’re not going to win games,” MacPherson said. “We’re an intense, ground and pound, impose-our-will-on-you kind of team. We’re going to do that by being physical and tough.”
Check out Part II of the 2013 Syracuse football preview next week.