As we get even closer to opening kickoff, we are down to our final preview. Our rivals. The Syracuse Orangemen. Like BC they went into last season with lots of questions including a new head coach, a new conference, and a new quarterback. They finished with a bang, but how will they look in 2014?
The Syracuse 2013 Season In Review
The hard-nosed Syracuse Orange rode waves last year depending on the part of the season. They start off with two soft nosed losses to Northwestern and Penn State, but proceeded to turn it up with some gritty hard nosed victories against juggernauts Tulane and Wagner. They again showed their soft nose when they got thumped in four out of seven games including getting clobbered by FSU and Georgia Tech. However their season was saved with the most hard nosed of wins, a come from behind shocker that stunned the Eagles. In that game the Orange were led by hard nosed quarterback Terrell Hunt, and super hard nosed running back Jerome Smith who out hard nosed everyone with over 200 yards of rushing against BC. Syracuse made a bowl, and beat Minnesota to seal a 7-6 hardnosed season for the ages.
The Syracuse Offense
Syracuse and coordinator George McDonald want this unit to move quicker, quicker and quicker, developing a fast-paced tempo and style in and out of ACC play - a pace McDonald has called "full-bore fast." This mentality began to take hold early last season, eventually placing the Orange among the league's top four in plays per game, but look for even more of an up-tempo feel in 2014; McDonald has streamlined the offense in an effort to make things less complex, in turn allowing his offense to spend more time acting and less time reacting. As elsewhere - say, at Auburn - the key is not just quarterback play but overall offensive rhythm. At quarterback, Syracuse most certainly will be going with Terrell Hunt
Speaking of Hunt, he is going to certainly need to be more "Terrell Hunt from the BC game" if he wants to be successful in 2014. He certainly has the tools, he has a solid arm and can move the ball well with his feet, but like many freshmen he was hampered with inconsistencies in 2013. He only threw the ball over 200 yards twice the entire season, once against BC and once against Wagner. Some of this may be due to the lack of offensive weapons he has in the wide receiving crew, but we shall see where he progresses this season.
At running back Jerome Smith is off to the NFL, but Syracuse should have some solid backs to compliment Terrell Hunt. Prince Tyson-Gulley, while having a great name, also got some solid playing time last year and could be a bruising power runner (gained 462 yards last year). George Morris II and Devanta McFarlane also will find carries coming their way as well. The wide receiving group does not have many names that jump out, but will include Jarrod West, Brisly Estime and Jeremiah Kobena.
On the offensive line Syracuse has good veteran tackles in Sean Hickey (who could be the most talented player on the Orange) and Ivan Foy. Rob Trudo, a center is a multiple year starter, who will be flanked by Omari Palmer and Nick Robinson at guard. Syracuse shouldn't have to worry too much about their line as they seemingly have solid talent up and down the roster.
The Syracuse Defense
Syracuse's biggest concern (other than lack of wide receivers) is the middle of their defense. Jay Bromley, a defensive lineman with 9 sacks graduated, and their is questions on who Scott Shafer will replace him with. The defense is going to have to be creative and figure out if Eric Crume, Ryan Sloane, Marcus Coleman or JUCO transfer Wayne Williams will be able to fill that void.
Clearly the most talented player on the defense moving forward may be 4* defensive end Ron Thompson, who started last season as a reserve but got major playing time near the end of his freshman year. He is certainly a play maker, registering 2 sacks last year, and 4.5 tackles for loss. He may not get a majority of the reps right away as he will be battling Robert Welsh for playing time, but if he continues to make big plays Shafer is going to need to play him. Especially with the lack of explosive players on this line.
The linebacking group has a lot to be desired as well. They lost probably their most talented linebacker Marquis Spruill to graduation, and that might go to Marquez Hodge, and surround him with Cam Lynch and Dyshawn Davis, two linebackers that saw major playing time last season. Star recruit Zaire Franklin may be a name to watch for as well.
Finally the secondary, I'll just let Myerberg say it:
The secondary is a concern. How can it be viewed as anything but? When it comes to cornerback, Syracuse is reliable only in its unreliability; seniors Brandon Reddish and Julian Whigham and junior Wayne Morgan don't necessarily inspire confidence.....
I still wouldn't trust this secondary.
Where BC Should Be Successful
Thank god this game is going to be at home at the end of November, because that should help the Eagles take the legs out from a team that has played mostly in the dome. Reading about Syracuse and their weaknesses, highlights a few places where BC should be successful. One, the Syracuse's defense sounds vulnerable, and something the Eagles running game should be able to exploit. Secondly, under no circumstances should BC allow Syracuse to do on offense what they did last year. The Eagles will be more seasoned and hopefully deeper than they were in 2013, and if they can keep the score manageable and not another track meet this should be a win for them.
Where BC May Struggle
Please, please, please do not allow Terrell Hunt to look like Johnny Manziel again, and certainly do not allow the running backs to go bananas. If Hunt turns this game into a race, and BC's defense can't get off the field, that could almost spell certain doom for the Eagles.
Wayyyyyyy Too Early Prediction
Boston College 35 Syracuse 27. I just don't see BC losing this game. It lines up too nicely for them. Later in the season, giving the Eagles' younger players some more seasoning, and the Syracuse weaknesses play right into the Eagles hands. If BC can control the tempo of the game and prevent the Orange offense from putting up lots of points, I think this should be an easier win than many project.