There are high hopes for Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt heading into his redshirt junior season. Last year, Hunt burst into the starting role, throwing for 265 yards and three touchdowns in place of an ineffective Drew Allen, and never gave back the starting job.
Still, it was a turbulent season for Hunt, who experienced some dreadful games (8 for 24 passing for 52 yards and three interceptions in a 49-14 loss to Clemson) balanced by some highs (MVP of the Texas Bowl after throwing for 188 yards and rushing for two touchdowns). Overall, Hunt finished with a solid—though certainly not spectacular—1638 passing yards and 10 touchdowns to eight interceptions, while adding 500 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.
Logic dictates that Hunt, who heads into camp as the undisputed starter and with a full year of experience, will see a significant bump in his second year at the helm. But should we really be expecting that?
To analyze this further, I took a look back at the last four Syracuse quarterbacks who had at least two years as the starter. That group includes Ryan Nassib, Perry Patterson, RJ Anderson and Troy Nunes. Mercifully, it doesn’t include some other names such as Andrew Robinson, Joe Fields and Cameron Dantley, though it does exclude Greg Paulus.
Let’s start with Ryan Nassib, who is Syracuse’s most successful quarterback since Donovan McNabb, and for the time being, backs up Eli Manning for the NFL’s New York Giants. Following the Paulus Era, Nassib took over in the 2010 season, and led Syracuse to its first bowl victory since the 2001 Insight.com Bowl. (Stats come courtesy of Sports-Reference.com).
The one thing that really jumps out from year one to year two was Nassib’s completion percentage, which jumped six percent. But his TD/INT ratio mostly remained the same, as did his quarterback rating. There was also a noticeable difference in Nassib’s rushing stats, though that was more due to a difference in play calling as opposed to any improved ability on Nassib’s part.
If you can believe it, the quarterback before Nassib who started for more than one season was Patterson, who started from 2004-06.
The slump from Patterson’s first to second season comes with a huge caveat. 2004 was Paul Pasqualoni’s final season with Syracuse, and 2005 was the beginning of the
Greg Robinson He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named era. Hunt has the luxury of playing for the same coaching staff in year two, so it would be extremely difficult to see a drop in numbers like Patterson experienced.
Next we have Anderson, who was the last Orange quarterback to start for a ranked SU team all the way back in 2001.
Anderson also comes with a caveat since he played only nine games in his second season as the starter because of injury. I left his third season in the chart because perhaps that was more of an accurate indicator of Anderson’s improvement. You can only hope that Hunt improves as much as Anderson did from his sophomore to senior year.
Finally, we have Troy Nunes, whose name may be more famous for the website in his likeness than for the career he had.
Nunes had a slight improvement in his second season in terms of passing yards, but he certainly took a major step backward in his TD/INT ratio. Either way, his passer rating remained mostly the same.
So, what does this all mean for Hunt in his second year? Past history seems to dictate that Hunt is in for a modest improvement. Nassib and Anderson (again, I skipped a year with Anderson because of his injury) both showed improvements in their second seasons, while Nunes stayed roughly around the same passer rating. Patterson’s performance came during a coaching change, so it’s hard to use those statistics against Hunt.
With an extra two games this season (remember, Allen started the first two games last year), Hunt should pass for roughly 2,000 yards and rush for roughly 600 yards based on his predecessors. It also seems fair to say that his 10/8 TD/INT ratio won’t deviate too far from the mean.
And you know what? I’m fine with that. If Hunt can become more consistent, he can lead Syracuse back into a bowl game for the third straight year.