Will Jerome Smith be the top dawg in the backfield for the Orange this season?
Tomorrow Syracuse will open its season at the Meadowlands against Penn State, and it also marks a new chapter for SU as a program. The first season in the ACC is also the end of the Ryan Nassib era. The coaching staff says a starting quarterback will not be named publicly prior to the game. When the Syracuse offense takes the field,we will finally know the answer to the long awaited question.
Here are five things to keep an eye out for.
1) Who is the starting quarterback? Allen or Hunt? Regardless of who it is, how will he play? Will Hunt be calm and relaxed in his first career start? Will Allen be able to be a leader of this team after being a newcomer to the program? The stage is big. Rather than playing in the Dome, it’s a national TV stage with bright lights in New York City. It’s opening day. There is a lot of pressure coming from fans and coaches expecting their team to make a strong first impression. Hunt is young and Allen is inexperienced as a starter. How will either guy cope with these possible issues?
2) If Hunt is the quarterback, how will he use Jarrod West? In the spring game, West caught six passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns. Clearly, these two worked well together. West is one of the only targets with any experience. Look for JW to be very active right away, regardless of who the quarterback is. West and Adrian Flemming are listed as the two probable starters, with Christopher Clark and Jeremiah Kobena as the key reserves. But West right now appears to be the #1 option through the air on the outside.
3) PTG or Smith? Prince Tyson-Gulley and Jerome Smith will be the two major ball carriers in the backfield. Both are certainly capable of being the lead guy. Smith was third in the Big East last season with 90.1 yards per game and had five 100-yard performances. For PTG, he led the Orange with 11 touchdowns. Both should see plenty of carries in an offense that will be breaking in a new QB and have lots of green wideouts. Look for both guys to get equal touches on Saturday, but the one who ends up being most productive against Penn State may get a leg up in being the top option.
4) Shafer’s debut. This is Shafer’s first game as head coach of any program. He’s a defensive coach trying to figure out a QB decision, and breaking in a first-time offensive coordinator too. How will Shafer deal with this? Penn State is a tough opponent on a big stage for him to begin his head coaching career. How Syracuse handles this challenge may tell us a little about how effective Shafer will be in his new position.
5) Will Syracuse pick up where it left off? The Pinstripe Bowl was a tremendous performance, but even the most optimistic Orange fan doesn’t think it’ll be that east vs. PSU. Syracuse won seven of its final nine last season, so there’s momentum for many of the returning players. The problem is how much was lost to graduation (Nassib, Pugh, Lemon, Sales, Shamarko), and how new so much of the program looks (coaching staff, conference). Can the Orange carry anything over from last season when there’s all these new dynamics?
Buckle up. It all starts on Saturday against Penn State at 3:30 p.m.
Posted: Austin Pollack