With SU’s spring game just five days away, the story lines really start to heat up for Orange football. The Fizz caught up with CuseNation.com’s Mike McAllister on Orange Fizz Radio over the weekend to preview Syracuse’s biggest day of the spring season.
Rather than exploring the playmaker position battles, McAllister’s eye will be on SU’s production up front offensively. He thinks it’s the number one storyline heading into Saturday’s inter-squad matchup:
“It’s got to start up front with those offensive and defensive lines. You lose Macky MacPherson of the O-line, so you are looking to figure out who can slide in there and they’ve tried Rob Trudo there and the JuCo transfer from a year ago John Miller. He seems to be gaining more steam as someone who could be the guy. You’ve got Nick Robinson out with an injury and Ivan Foy out with a suspension so you have a lot of turnover up front when you didn’t think you were necessarily going to have that. Sean Hickey does come back who can stabilize that line and was an NFL prospect last year.”
Cannot disagree here, as the Orange has plenty of depth at offensive line, but right now it’s not as healthy as Scott Shafer and company would like it. The line significantly impacts George McDonald’s plan to speed up the offensive attack. In the grand scheme of things, the line plays a cause and effect game with the run and the pass. NFL draft-bound Jerome Smith departs the backfield, but Prince-Tyson Gulley holds down the fort to keep the running game solid. As for the pass, Terrell Hunt is not officially “the guy,” but he knows it’s his job to lose. McAllister said he’ll be watching Hunt’s accuracy with intermediate and deep ball throws.
Onto some other nuggets, sometime last week Shafer was on record that Syracuse has the mentality to gut out eight wins in the 2014 campaign. Seems pretty reasonable to McAllister:
“It certainly helps to have a goal to take that next step. Clemson is going to take a bit of a step back. You’ll have Florida State coming to the Dome so there’s that. Every other game seems winnable.”
The Fizz will get around to its pre-season predictions as the regular season schedule approaches closer and closer. Can’t complain that just two games are doubtful for the win column. SU begins the year at home against ‘Nova followed by a trip to Central Michigan. The annual MetLife game also falls later in September, which is more beneficial so fans can grasp a better sense of the season’s outlook.
McAllister also is very high on the Orange’s incoming 2014 recruiting class to help and compete right away. Which players is he watching out for?
“Steve Ishmael has always been a guy I liked. I’m really looking at a guy like an AJ Long. I am interested to see how he’s coming along with his progression. Also let’s see if he can challenge Austin Wilson for the backup position. Hunt is going to take a stranglehold on the job because of his experience and his improvement. Guys like Corey Cooper, Corey Winfield and Sean Avant, you’re looking to see what type of impact they can make. The wide receiver position didn’t give Syracuse a lot of playmakers last year, so can those guys step up to make plays this year.”
McAllister remains offense-minded. The receivers and backup quarterbacks are keys to keep an eye on. The WR position was at best adequate all of last season. Now with some highly-sought recruits on board and sophomores ready to step up, it’s hard to not be excited about who could be catching passes from Hunt. AJ Long’s received a boat load of attention since he committed to Syracuse. His Twitter takeover and strong words regarding SU’s new direction for recruiting really sparked some heads in Central New York. Let’s see if his words produce on the gridiron.
To round things out, The Fizz asked McAllister if there was any cause for concern with the 2015 class. A big fat goose egg lays in the commitments column for the Orange. However, not time to worry just yet:
“They are slightly behind from where they were last year. This Syracuse staff has taken a very patient approach and they are very diligent during their film study. You like to see some commits down the pipeline. By the time summer comes around we’ll start to see some commitments. I wouldn’t panic just because they don’t have any commits yet.”
Hopefully he’s right on the money. The spring game and summer visits should influence some recruits’ decisions. Both men’s and women’s lacrosse have given Syracuse fans a lot to keep their minds off of football. This Saturday’s spring game though should be a pleasant reminder that football season is awfully close by.
Posted by: Brendan Glasheen