With Ryan Nassib gone to the NFL after having written his name all over the Orange record books, no official successor has been announced. There are, however, two leading candidates. Redshirt sophomore Terrel Hunt was named the starter after a strong performance in the spring game. Hunt, however, has seen no game action at Syracuse. Drew Allen, who spent four years at Oklahoma and threw 30 passes in limited play, is using his final year of eligibility at Syracuse, similar to how Greg Paulus did four years ago. As a high school senior, Allen was ranked in the top 250 recruits nationally, but was stuck behind two quarterbacks who would eventually depart the Sooners as NFL draft picks. Allen opted to use his final year of eligibility at Syracuse in February, but could not enroll until finishing his studies at Oklahoma. As a result, Allen did not arrive at SU until the second summer school session. He forced his way into an even split of first-team snaps after just a few days of fall practice, so it would be no surprise for Allen to line up under center for the opener. Last year’s back-up, Charley Loeb, is slotted third on the depth chart.
Jerome Smith paced the ground game as a first-time starter, racking up almost 1,200 yards last season. As a result, the junior was named to the pre-season watch lists for the Doak Walker and Maxwell Awards, which go to the best running back and best college player in the nation, respectively. Senior Prince-Tyson Gulley supplies the lightning to complement Smith’s thunder. Gulley tallied 11 touchdowns last year, including three of at least 55 yards, and took home the MVP Award of the Pinstripe Bowl after racking up 269 all-purpose yards and a trio of scores.
A pair of redshirt freshmen, George Morris II and Devante McFarlane, are chomping at the bit to get on the field after impressive spring practice performances. Clay Cleveland and Adonis Ameen-Moore, who scored five touchdowns as the tailback in the team’s short-yardage unit last season, will handle fullback duties.
Jarrod West, who was the third receiving option last year, now steps into the lead role. The senior wideout caught 43 passes last year, including seven for 98 yards and a score against South Florida last season. The only other two wide receivers on the roster who caught passes last year are senior Christopher Clark and junior Jeremiah Kobena. Both show more speed than West and each snared a pair of touchdown passes last year. Clark’s lack of size hindered his ability to stay healthy last season and Kobena only had six grabs last year, but four of them, including both his touchdowns, came in the season opener against Northwestern. Neither Clark nor Kobena will start across from West, however. That role goes to senior Adrian Flemming, who is yet to record a reception at Syracuse.
The Orange will also feature a couple of their better athletes as H-backs this season in sophomore Ashton Broyld and freshman Brisly Estime. Broyld showed significant athletic ability in limited snaps as a running back as a freshman, but fell out of favor after fumbling against Minnesota. Estime is a flat-out burner who could bring an infusion of big-play ability to the offense.
Beckett Wales returns at tight end after catching 35 passes as a first-time starter last season. The senior, who has been named to the John Mackey Award watch list, caught passes in 11 different games last year, including seven for 87 yards against Cincinnati. Redshirt freshman Josh Parris will back up Wales.
The offensive line is reconfigured after the loss of two starters from last season, but the strategy behind how the unit will be deployed remains the same. Senior Macky MacPherson, who has started every game in the last two seasons, returns at center. MacPherson has been named to the watch list for the Rimington Trophy, which is given to the best center in college football. Just like last season, the two best linemen aside from MacPherson will be slotted on the left side of the line to provide a focal point for the run game and pass protection. Redshirt junior tackle Sean Hickey and redshirt sophomore guard Rob Trudo, the other returning starters from last year, form that left side. After starting all 13 games last season, the first four at left tackle, then swinging to right tackle when Justin Pugh returned to health, Hickey has earned some preseason buzz as an NFL draft pick following the season. Trudo appeared in all 13 games last year, including forcing his way into the starting lineup for the last nine. The right side of the line has two new starters penciled in – redshirt sophomores Ivan Foy at tackle and Nick Robinson at guard. Foy started at right guard last year for the first four games last season, but lost his spot to Trudo. Robinson is a first-time starter. The second string is dominated by youth, including redshirt freshman Kyle Knapp, who is being groomed as a utility player to fill in anywhere he is needed. Other likely substitutes include Omari Palmer, who saw more work when Knapp missed a couple practices in fall camp, and Jason Emerich, who is being groomed as MacPherson’s eventual replacement at center.
RETURNING OFFENSIVE STARTERS (5): LT Sean Hickey, C Macky MacPherson, RB Jerome Smith, LG Rob Trudo, TE Beckett Wales
LEADING RETURNING RUSHERS: Jerome Smith – 227 carries for 1,171 yards and 3 touchdowns, Prince-Tyson Gulley – 158 carries for 830 yards and nine touchdowns
LEADING RETURNING PASSER: Charley Loeb –one completion in one attempt for eight yards
LEADING RETURNING RECEIVERS: Jarrod West – 43 receptions for 588 yards and two touchdowns, Beckett Wales – 35 receptions for 389 yards and two touchdowns