There is no doubt about it now. The Syracuse coaching staff has officially opened up the quarterback competition again. Drew Allen is the starter against Wagner, but that’s really a formality. Terrel Hunt has been told he will get some playing time this weekend, and rightfully so. Allen has been close to terrible, while Hunt led an energized touchdown drive late against Northwestern.
But the fact that Scott Shafer and the coaching staff is openly giving Hunt a shot in just the third game of the season speaks volumes. No matter how badly Allen has played he should rip through Wagner. This would be an easy game to draw up a few big plays, watch SU’s bigger, faster wideouts beat smaller, slower FCS corners and give Allen some confidence. Instead, guaranteed time for Hunt means the long-term plan with Allen has been thrown in the recycling bin.
Quarterbacks coach Tim Lester tried to put lipstick on the pig:
“I know Drew is going to be our starter. He has the most reps, he’s running the offense well. But Hunt’s going to play. We’ve committed to giving him a shot. I don’t know when that’s going to happen. That’s up to Coach (Shafer).”
Under almost no definition has Allen “run the offense well.” But to publicly rip the starting quarterback after eight quarters of football doesn’t help you either. That Hunt will get snaps means the staff is intrigued enough about his potential, and what we saw out of him in just one drive against Northwestern.
If SU was convinced Allen was the guy, he would use all drives against inferior competition in Wagner and Tulane to polish up before the ACC slate. But the Orange knows Hunt may give the team a better shot at winning games, especially later in the season with some experience. SU wants to see if Hunt rises to the challenge, if the change lights a fire under the team, and if it forces Allen to play better to keep his job.
The staff knows this will be an extraordinarily long, excruciating season if the quarterback play doesn’t improve. Allen has thrown bad passes, gotten picked off six times, seems out of sorts getting some plays in, and overall is uncomfortable in the position. There’s simply no way the Orange can beat teams on its schedule, an ACC slate with Clemson, Florida State, NC State, Georgia Tech and others, by only handing the ball off and playing defense. The rest of the parts just aren’t good enough to carry the team.
And no one wants to wade through a 3 or 4-win season, watching a quarterback who won’t be here after the year go through the motions. If you’re gonna lose, your quarterback better be taking his lumps to come back better next season. The staff figures A) Hunt may be a better option right now to move this offense and score points, B) at least Hunt can use this experience to help the team in ’14.
The staff can dress it however it wants. They’re openly giving Hunt some reps. That means this is an open competition again.