Tag Archives: A.J. Long

Sneak Peek At 2015 Syracuse Football Season

It was a long and trying season for the Syracuse Orange football team in 2014, but it’s finally over. To its credit, the Orange defense stood tall all season and deserved so much better than the support provided by the Syracuse offense, a unit that was decimated by injuries, making it difficult to generate anything substantial all season. There’s not much the Orange can do but chalk up a 3-9 season to an inordinate amount of injuries and hope for better fortune next season. With 2014 officially over for Syracuse, here’s a position-by-position preview of what to expect from the Orange in 2015.

 

Quarterback – Syracuse could have a rather interesting quarterback battle during spring practice after freshmen A.J. Long, Austin Wilson, and Mitch Kimble all saw the field this season following the season-ending injury to Terrel Hunt. Incoming freshman Alin Edouard could also become a factor in a wide-open quarterback competition this spring. Of course, none of the Syracuse freshmen played particularly well during the second half of the season, so the job should still be Hunt’s lose when he gets healthy, although he’ll certainly have some competitors to fend off if he expects to start in 2015.

 

Running back – The Orange will lose Prince-Tyson Gulley and Adonis Ameen-Moore, but they have the depth at running back to survive those losses. George Morris and Devante McFarlane have seen some action the past two seasons and will now have a chance to play prominent roles, and both should be ready. Ervin Phillips should also be featured prominently in the Syracuse backfield next season after a promising freshman campaign. If those three aren’t enough, the Orange have a few incoming freshmen that should be able to provide additional depth at the running back spot.

 

Wide receiver – This position still isn’t an area of strength for Syracuse, but there’s enough at this position to feel optimistic once the Orange get healthy. Steve Ishmael had a few flashes of brilliance as a true freshman this year, and he could form a formidable trio next season alongside Ashton Broyld and Brisly Estime, two players who missed most of 2014 with injuries. In addition to those three, Ben Lewis brings a reliable set of hands to the table, while Alvin Cornelius and Sean Avant are both players who could carve out bigger roles in 2015. Syracuse also has a couple of young receivers with great size in Jamal Custis and Adly Enoicy who could become factors in the passing game in 2015.

 

Offensive line – This unit needs to be a lot better next season, and while they may benefit from getting healthy and giving a lot of players experience in 2014, they’ll also lose left tackle Sean Hickey and center John Miller. Jason Emerich figures to step in at center, and there are three good options at the two guard spots with Rob Trudo, Nick Robinson, and Omari Palmer, who are all experienced players. However, Hickey leaves a huge hole on the left side, and the Orange will need younger players to show improvement and push older players for starting spots, as they need to build more depth up front and create a much stronger and consistent offensive line in 2015.

 

Defensive line – Three starters players are gone from this unit in tackle Eric Crume and ends Micah Robinson and Rob Welsh, but the Orange front-four is in relatively good shape. Syracuse retains some size in the middle with Wayne Williams, John Raymon, and Marcus Coleman, which may enable them to move Ron Thompson back to defensive end, where he has the athleticism to be an impact pass rusher. Syracuse will need to get more out of Isaiah Johnson and Donnie Simmons on the outside, while redshirt freshman Chris Slayton could be a player to watch at defensive end. It’ll be a rebuilding year up front with the loss of Crume, Robinson, and Welsh, but Syracuse should have enough to put together a solid defensive line.

 

Linebacker – Replacing both Cameron Lynch and Dyshawn Davis seems like an impossible task, but the Syracuse linebacker corps may not necessarily take a big step backwards. Zaire Franklin was impressive late in the season and appears to have the tools to play middle linebacker, which will allow Marque Hodge to move outside linebacker after a solid sophomore season in the middle. The Orange may also be able to get an extra year of eligibility from Luke Arciniega to help complete its starting lineup. If not, both Jonathan Thomas and Parris Bennett both saw the field as true freshman in 2014, which should have them ready to play bigger roles in 2015, while redshirt freshman Colton Moskal and a few incoming freshmen could be in the mix as well, giving Syracuse plenty of options to rebuild its depth at the linebacker position.

 

Secondary – This unit could have some issues, as the Orange will lose cornerback Brandon Reddish and safeties Darius Kelly and Ritchy Desir. If Durrell Eskridge leaves early for the NFL, the Syracuse secondary will be filled with youth and inexperience in 2015. The Orange will have a few cornerbacks with experience coming back in Julian Whigham and Wayne Morgan, while Antwan Cordy and Corey Winfield saw some action later in the season. However, without Edkridge, the Orange will have no experience at safety outside of special teams contributions from Chauncey Scissum and Rodney Williams. This could prompt moving Morgan safety if Scott Shafer feels his young cornerbacks are ready for bigger roles, but either way the Orange may need a few true freshmen to contribute in the secondary next year.

 

Overall – Despite a 3-9 record, the Syracuse defense played well throughout 2014, but it’s unrealistic to think they can play at the same level in 2015 after the loss of seven, possibly eight, starters. There is enough talent to give the Orange a solid defense, but experience could be an issue, as could depth, making Syracuse vulnerable to injuries on that side of the ball. This puts a lot of pressure on the Orange offense to get healthy and come back strong in 2015. The Orange should have the skill players to move the ball effectively, assuming they can effectively sort out a potentially complicated situation at quarterback. But how good the Orange offense will be in 2015, and how good the Orange are as a team in 2015, could be dependent on whether or not the offensive line can show substantial improvement.

Injuries Are An Excuse For Syracuse

With its loss to Duke on Saturday, bowl hopes in 2014 for the Syracuse football team officially came to an end. Despite his obvious frustration, head coach Scott Shafer isn’t making excuses for why his team has failed to make a bowl game and why they fell short of the pre-season goal of eight wins. Shafer’s players aren’t making excuses either for why they’ll play their final two games of the season without an opportunity to reach a bowl game. But there is an obvious reason why the Orange has played hard week after week only to end up with a 3-7 record with two games remaining, and it’s the injuries the team has suffered through all season long. Coaches and players will never use injuries as an excuse, but I will, because the injuries the Orange have suffered this season are far more than a program like Syracuse is capable of surviving.

The most obvious position that has suffered meaningful injuries for the Orange is quarterback. Granted, Terrel Hunt did not look sharp throwing the ball the first month of the season, but there was always the chance he would start to make meaningful progress as a quarterback over the course of the season. More to the point, the Syracuse offense has missed Hunt’s experience and running ability throughout the course of the season, as the Orange have been forced to play a trio of freshmen in his absence.

Hunt’s presence may have made a meaningful difference in Syracuse’s loss to Clemson, as opposed to playing true freshman A.J. Long against one of the best defenses in the country in one of the toughest road venues in the country. Hunt’s experience would have made him better suited to play such a difficult game than Long, and his great instincts leaving the pocket and making plays with his legs could have helped to neutralize Clemson’s pass rush in a game where a Syracuse touchdown at any point in the first three quarters would have given the Orange a great opportunity to spring an upset. Hunt also could have been a difference maker in the Orange’s close loss to N.C. State, where a pick-six by the inexperienced Long was the deciding factor. With additional injuries to Long and Austin Wilson, when the Orange reached must-win territory against Duke, they were relying on fourth-string quarter Mitch Kimble to lead them to victory, which is not a recipe for success for any team.

Of course, more damaging than the injuries at quarterback are the injuries Syracuse has suffered along the offensive line. The Orange have been forced to play 10 different offensive linemen this season and have rarely been able to keep the same five players on the field together for long periods of time, making it hard to find consistency and cohesion up front. Even the linemen that have managed to stay on the field for Syracuse have battled nagging injuries and not been at their best. Without a healthy and strong offensive line, Syracuse has not been able to establish a consistent rushing attack, which they were expecting to be the strength of their offense this year. With a makeshift offensive line, they’ve also struggled to protect their quarterbacks, which has contributed to some of the injuries at that position.

Without the type of running game they were expecting, Syracuse has been more reliant on their passing game, which has also struggled due to injuries to two of its best receivers, Ashton Broyld and Brisly Estime. Broyld was productive early in the season, but he’s missed six of the last seven games due to injury. Estime suffered an ankle injury during training camp, and while he made a few important catches over the first month of the season, he re-aggravated the injury twice, making him a non-factor for most of the season. Jarrod West and Steve Ishmael have both had nice seasons, with Ben Lewis becoming a productive player as well, but Syracuse was hoping to get breakout seasons from both Broyld and Estime, and injuries to both players has changed the complexion of the offense by taking away two of their top playmakers.

It may be difficult to believe by looking at their 3-7 record, but Syracuse is an average team. However, average teams are rarely capable of surviving the rash of injuries the Orange have experienced in 2014, especially when most come on one side of the ball. To the credit of Shafer and his team, they have continued to fight hard week after week and not used injuries as an excuse, even though they are. Anytime a team is forced to use four different quarterbacks, or 10 or more offensive linemen, injuries have been an influential part of the season. The coaches and players don’t want to admit it, but injuries are the main reason why Syracuse won’t be bowling in 2014, and they’re a legitimate excuse for the Orange’s losing record.

Syracuse Football Season on Life Support

In football, there can be such a thin line between winning and losing. As the Syracuse football team has found out on a number of occasions this season, the plays that decide a game don’t always happen at the end of games; they can happen at anytime. In the Orange’s third game of the season, Terrel Hunt threw a pick-six in the red zone late in the 2nd quarter, creating a 14-point turnaround and turning what could have been a four-point halftime deficit into an 18-point deficit in a game Syracuse lost by 14 points. The Orange fell victim to similar circumstances in their most recent loss, as Syracuse looked poised to extend their lead to either eight or 12 points over N.C. State before a pick-six thrown by A.J. Long halted the Orange’s momentum and handed the Wolf Pack the lead, and ultimately the game.

Those are the two defining plays of the 2014 Syracuse football season. They turned a possible win against Maryland and a probable win against N.C. State into two Syracuse losses. Those two plays are also prime examples of how the Syracuse offense is solely responsible for the teams losing record this season. On those two plays the Orange offense gave away touchdowns to their opponents without giving the Syracuse defensive the opportunity to stop them; a Syracuse defense that has surpassed pre-season expectations and done everything in its power to give the team a chance to win in nearly every game this season, despite receiving little support from the offense. In fact, in Syracuse’s three wins this season, the Syracuse defense has only allowed three touchdowns, while also scoring three touchdowns and recording a safety, which shows just how one-sided the Orange have been this season, even in their victories.

With the propensity of the Orange offense to give games away and their continued inability throughout the season to take advantage of a hard-working defense or capitalize on the takeaways created by the Orange defense, the Syracuse football season is officially on life support. What has been a disappointing and frustrating season to watch unfold can only be salvaged by Syracuse winning its last three games in order to reach 6-6 and qualify for a bowl game. Based on the way the team has played throughout the season, specifically its inability to win competitive games against teams of comparable talent, there’s little hope that the Orange can all of a sudden catch fire and win three in a row. Even head coach Scott Shafer used the word “miracle” to describe the prospect of his team winning its last three games and reaching a bowl game.

Despite Shafer’s optimism after every loss this season and his excitement at the challenge of winning three straight games to close out the season, his use of the word “miracle” speaks to how seemingly hopeless the situation is in which Syracuse finds itself. Shafer’s constant enthusiasm has also masked the fact that he has simply not had the answers necessary to get the Orange’s season turned around. This makes it hard to believe he’ll find those answers in time to save Syracuse’s season, as the Orange’s bowl hopes may very well die on the Carrier Dome turf this week against Duke, a loss which would cap off an embarrassing 1-5 home campaign.

Of course, three wins in three games is possible for any football team, and there are things the Orange can do to put themselves on the right side of the thin line that separates winning and losing. Even one or two wins over the final three games would give Syracuse a better taste in their mouth heading into the offseason and a bit more optimism for the future, especially considering the injuries the team has suffered and all the young players that have been forced into action. But coming up a win or two shy of a bowl game would also make the Orange kick themselves all offseason at the times they found a way to lose a game instead of finding a way to win a game. It’s that small collection of game-deciding plays that has caused the Syracuse football season to be put on life support heading into the final three games, needing a miracle to survive.

5 Things Syracuse Must Do In November To Make A Bowl Game

The results have not been what the Syracuse football team was hoping for this season, but it certainly looks as though the team has started to turn a corner in recent weeks. The Orange have had hard-fought losses against Florida State and Clemson sandwiched around a comfortable win against Wake Forest, but now is the time when Syracuse needs actual wins and not just competitive losses against better teams. At 3-5, Syracuse needs to win at least three of its final four games in order to reach a bowl game and avoid taking a step backward after all the progress forward made under Doug Marrone and Scott Shafer over the past few seasons. In order to get to a bowl game, here are five things the Orange must do over their final four games.
Win at home – Syracuse has not played well at home this season, going just 1-3 and barely beating Villanova in the season opener, but that needs to change. The Orange play their next two games at home and they have to win them both. N.C. State is a team Syracuse should beat on any field, and there will be no excuse for not doing so inside the Carrier Dome. Duke will be a much tougher opponent, but if the Orange defense can continue to play well, Syracuse will have a good shot to spring an upset at home. If the Orange can take care of business at home, they’ll be in a position where winning one of two road games in the final two weeks of the season will be enough to go bowling, and that’s not a bad position to be in considering everything that has happened this season.
Get healthy and stay healthy – Syracuse has been a bit unlucky with the injury bug this year, as they don’t have the depth on their roster to survive so many injuries. Ashton Broyld returned against Clemson and made some nice contributions, but Brisly Estime’s return from the injured list was brief, and the Orange are still without key players like Ivan Foy, Wayne Morgan, Wayne Williams, and Terrel Hunt, while a few others are playing through minor injuries. The Orange need to avoid any more injuries to key players and hope they can get a boost over the final month of the season from players returning from the injured list, as it could give them the boost they need to get to a bowl game.
Keep the takeaways coming – The Orange defense has created 15 takeaways over the last five games, and that needs to continue over the final month if Syracuse is going to make a bowl. The Syracuse offense is just not capable of winning games by itself, so the defense is going to have to carry the team on their back, and that means creating takeaways and scoring defensive touchdowns, something Syracuse has done four times this season. If the turnovers keep coming, the Orange will have a shot, but if the Syracuse defense can’t keep it going, there’s no way the Orange will score enough points to win three games in November.
Stay open minded at quarterback – It’d be great if there were clarity at the quarterback position heading down the stretch, but there’s not and Syracuse needs to remain open to all options. A.J. Long has shown promise, but he needs to continue to prove that he gives the team the best chance to win right now. If Hunt comes back healthy, he may be their best option, while Austin Wilson and Mitch Kimble may have something to contribute as well. Even if Syracuse has to rotate all four quarterbacks, they have to be open minded to finding something that works at the quarterback position.
Fix the issues in the red zone – The Orange offense has been atrocious in the red zone this season, and they have four games left to fix their issues. The four teams Syracuse will face are somewhat comparable in overall talent, at least to compared to most of the teams they faced over the last six weeks, but they’re not going to win three games with field goals and defensive touchdowns. At times, the Orange offense has been capable of moving the ball between the 20’s, but if they can’t find the end zone once they get inside 20, they’ll be watching bowl season from home this year.

Syracuse Aims To Turn Season Around

As we’ve all seen, the first half of the 2014 season did not go according to plan for the Syracuse football team. The Orange were supposed to start the season 3-0 and then have three cracks at pulling off an upset against a top-25 caliber team before finding a much more manageable schedule the second half of the season. Instead, Syracuse was fortunate to start the season 2-0, failed to capitalize on an opportunity to go 3-0 with a disappointing home loss to Maryland, and didn’t come close to pulling off an upset against Notre Dame, Louisville, or Florida State. That poor start has put the Orange in a difficult position with regard to reaching its fourth bowl game in five years.
However, the past two weeks there have been signs that Syracuse is starting to turn things around. Somehow, the Orange managed to play their best football of the season in a loss to Florida State, who at the time was ranked first in the country. Despite an 18-point loss, Syracuse was able to take plenty of positives out of the game, as they were far more competitive with Florida State than they were a year ago. The Orange followed that up with a convincing road win against Wake Forest to snap a four-game losing streak and give Syracuse some much-needed momentum to kickoff the second half of the season.
The biggest reason why Syracuse may be ready to turn their season around is the improved play of the offense the past two weeks. The Orange offense was erratic and unreliable the first month of the season, and they hit rock bottom with a six-point performance against Louisville, which was also the game in which Syracuse lost quarterback Terrel Hunt for several weeks to a broken leg. A third straight loss, the injury to Hunt, and a midseason change in the offensive coordinator had the Orange offense in panic mode before they finally started to show signs of life.
The renewal of life from the Orange offense has come from three true freshmen: quarterback A.J. Long, wide receiver Steve Ishmael, and running back Ervin Phillips. Long has looked mature beyond his years as the team’s new starting quarterback, showing both confidence and play-making ability the past two weeks. Ishmael had six catches the first five games of the season, but has nine the past two weeks, including two touchdowns. Ishmael is clearly the most talented wide receiver on the Orange roster, and he and Long appear to have a great chemistry in the passing game. Finally, new offensive coordinator Tim Lester appears has tried to increase Phillips’ role in the offense, as he has flashed great skills and the potential to be a game changer.
Of course, the Syracuse defense continues to play well, as the Orange attempt to turn their season around. The Orange have been much better at playing bend-but-don’t-break defense in recent weeks, which has at least kept Syracuse within striking distance had the offense been more productive. More importantly, the Orange defense has continued to create turnovers, forcing two against Florida State, while also being in position for at least two more, and then scoring two defensive touchdowns Wake Forest. If nothing else, the Syracuse defense should be able to keep the team competitive the second half of the season, and give the Orange a chance to win enough games to reach a bowl if the offense can continue to show improvement.
The schedule ahead is not quite as daunting as what Syracuse faced the first half of the season, but it’s certainly challenging. Among road trips to Clemson, Pittsburgh, and Boston College, as well as home games against N.C. State and Duke, the Orange need to find at least three wins. Based on the play of the Orange thus far, all of those games are at best a toss-up, if not games in which Syracuse will be an underdog. That’s a tall task, but Syracuse has overcome slow starts in previous years and managed to reach a bowl game. With the team’s four-game losing streak over, and the offense showing signs of life the past two weeks, there is a glimmer of hope that Syracuse can get things turned all the way around and find themselves in a bowl game in 2014.

Syracuse Football Midseason Report Card

The first half of the 2014 season has not gone according to plan for the Syracuse football team. All the momentum the Orange had at the end of the 2013 season disappeared in a flash, as Syracuse has started the season 2-4 and finds itself in a deep hole with regard to qualifying for a bowl game. Here is a midseason report card to track the Orange’s progress in 2014, or lack thereof.
Quarterback, D – Despite scoring six rushing touchdowns and being the team’s leading rusher until breaking his leg five games into the season, Terrel Hunt was a big part of the problems the Syracuse offense has had this year. He did not take a big step forward the way many expected; in fact, he took a step backward in his progression. Hunt struggled with his accuracy, which has made it difficult for the Orange to finish drives in the end zone, and once teams starting to defend his running ability, he was largely ineffective. Now that Hunt is out until at least November, Syracuse is reliant on freshman Austin Wilson and A.J. Long, and while both showed promise against Florida State, there is bound to be growing pains.
Running backs, B – As expected, the Syracuse running backs have performed well this season, with Prince-Tyson Gulley and Adonis Ameen-Moore both averaging six yards per rush. Neither has found the end zone much, but both have run the ball well between the 20’s and helped the Orange gain a lot of yards and pick up a lot of first downs. True freshman Ervin Phillips has also emerged as a viable option, giving the Orange plenty of depth in the backfield.
Wide Receivers, C- – As a whole, this group has been disappointing, but part of that is due to the poor play at quarterback. Syracuse still doesn’t have a lot of game changers at wide receiver, and it hasn’t helped that two of their most talented passing targets, Ashton Broyld and Brisly Estime, have both missed time due to injury. However, there have been a few bright spots: Jarrod West has rebounded from a poor 2013 and is putting together a solid senior campaign; Ben Lewis has had a couple key drops, but he’s made some nice contributions; and true freshman Steve Ishmael looks like he could be a star down the line for the Orange.
Offensive Line, C – This is one of the more disappointing units with regard to what was expected. With four returning starters, the Syracuse offensive line should have been the strength of the team, but instead they’ve been inconsistent and played a meaningful role in the struggles of the Syracuse offense through the first six games.
Defensive Line, C – At times the Syracuse defensive line has been solid, but at other times they’ve been pushed around. With Wayne Williams and John Raymon getting more playing time, the Orange are getting bigger inside, while Ron Thompson has made some plays as well, despite playing out of position at the tackle position. However, the Orange just hasn’t been able to generate a consistent pass rush with a four-man front this season, and that’s been a problem for the defense.
Linebackers, B+ – As expected, this unit has been the strength of the Syracuse defense. Seniors Cameron Lynch and Dyshawn Davis have both have stood out as two of the team’s top defensive players. Meanwhile, Marquez Hodge is having a strong first season as a starter at middle linebacker, giving Syracuse a productive set of linebackers that have been responsible for the Orange being able to hold their own on the defensive side of the ball.
Secondary, C+ – Syracuse asks a lot of its defensive backs, especially its cornerbacks, but this group has had a fine season, despite a lack of depth. Brandon Reddish is having a strong senior campaign, while Julian Whigham has come back and played well after a devastating injury last season. At safety, Durrell Eskridge has been solid but unspectacular, while Darius Kelly and Ritchy Desir have played well at the other safety spot. However, what hurts this unit is how inconsistent they’ve been at creating turnovers over the first six games of the season.
Coaching, D – Things have not been pretty for the Orange this season, and at the end of the day it comes back to Scott Shafer and the coaching staff. With nine returning starters on offense, including the quarterback, there’s no reason for the Syracuse offense to be as bad as it was over the first handful of games this season. The close call against Villanova, the loss to Maryland to despite having 220 more yards of offense, and the inability to be more competitive with Notre Dame despite a 5-1 advantage in takeaways all come down to coaching. The change in offensive coordinator mid-season didn’t exactly go smooth either. Shafer didn’t seem to have a lot of answers over the first half of the season, and he’s going to have to find some during the second half of the season if he’s going to get the Orange back to a bowl game in 2014.

Syracuse Offense in Panic Mode

Five games into the season, the identity that the Syracuse football team has established is that of a solid defense capable of keeping the team in games and an insufferable offense that can’t get out of its own way. The Orange offense has been perpetually disappointing this season and is the sole reason why Syracuse has a 2-3 record and will have a difficult time qualifying for a bowl game in 2014.
In four of five games this season, the Syracuse offense has hurt itself with mental errors and been unable to capitalize on scoring chances. It started in the season opener when the Orange offensive line failed to push around an undersized Villanova front-7, which nearly cost Syracuse a game they could have easily lost. Against Maryland, Syracuse racked up nearly 600 yards of offense, but because the Orange struggled in the red zone, they lost a game they should have won by double digits. Against Notre Dame, the Syracuse defense forced five turnovers, but the Orange offense failed to turn those takeaways into points, costing them the game. In its most recent loss against Louisville, Syracuse had ample opportunities to score points, but penalties, dropped passes, and the inability to win at the line of scrimmage kept the Orange out of the end zone and forced the defense to spend too much time on the field, which eventually wore them down and cause the Orange to lose by an embarrassing margin.
There’s no viable reason for the Syracuse offense to be as bad as they’ve been this season. Outside of center Macky MacPherson and running back Jerome Smith, the Orange lost no offensive players of consequence from last year’s team. Syracuse has more than enough talent at running back to make up for the loss of Smith, while the return of four starters along the offensive line and the emergence of Omari Palmer and John Miller as starters should have been enough to make up for the absence of MacPherson. With so many returning players, as well as a few promising freshmen sprinkled into the mix, the Orange offense should have taken a considerable step forward this season, especially after appearing to hit their stride at the end of the 2013 season. Instead, the Syracuse offense has taken a monumental step backwards in 2014 and been one of the worst in the country among power-five teams; and now it looks like things will get worse before they get better.
On Monday, Syracuse found out that quarterback Terrel Hunt will miss at least four weeks with a broken leg, an injury that could keep him out the rest of the season. To be fair, Hunt has been a big part of the struggles of the Syracuse offense this season, but losing him is still a crushing blow for the Orange. Despite terrible accuracy throwing the ball and a slew of mental errors this season, Hunt is the best option at quarterback. He has 15 career starts under his belt, he’s a threat running the ball, and he’s surely capable of playing better and making better decisions than he has thus far. However, now he’s just another name on the injured list, leaving a trio of freshmen with little or no experience to lead what has been an abysmal offense.
In an attempt to jumpstart the offense, with or without Hunt, head coach Scott Shafer has decided to take away the play calling duties from George McDonald and make quarterbacks coach Tim Lester the new offensive coordinator. This is a move that reeks of desperation, but this is certainly a desperate time for the Syracuse offense. Obviously, something needs to change for the Syracuse offense, and since they can’t bring in new players mid-season or wave a magic wand and heal their injured players, changing the coach who’s calling the plays is one of the few changes that can actually be made, even if it’s merely change for the sake of change. Lester actually does have play calling experience, albeit at lower levels of college football, which is something McDonald didn’t have before coming to Syracuse. Lester has also worked closely with Syracuse backups Austin Wilson, A.J. Long, and Mitch Kimble, so he will have a good understanding of each player’s strength and weaknesses, as the Orange try to move forward without Hunt and still find a way to improve the performance of the offense.
Of course, regardless of who’s calling the plays or which players are injured, things are likely to get worse before they get better for the Orange offense with top-ranked Florida State coming to the Carrier Dome this week. Any change that Syracuse makes offensively will likely be fruitless against the Seminoles, but changes do need to be made for the sake of their season. Pulling off an upset over Florida State or Clemson is likely off the table, but Syracuse does have a handful of games left on the schedule against teams they are capable of beating, especially with the Orange defense playing well enough to keep the team in games. It’s now up to the Syracuse offense to get things turned around, give a hard-working defense some support, and give the Orange a fighting chance to make it to a bowl game.

10 Syracuse Freshmen To Watch During Training Camp

Heading into the 2014 football season, the Syracuse Orange return a substantial number of starters and experienced players on both sides of the ball. Of course, in college football there’s always room for freshmen that are ready to play, whether it is following a redshirt year or as soon as they step on campus. The Orange have a strong contingent of freshmen that are ready to make their mark in 2014, and here are 10 that warrant watching during training camp.
 
Mitch Kimble, quarterback – After running the scout team last year in his redshirt season, Kimble enters training camp as the backup to Terrell Hunt on the depth chart, although there will be a handful of candidates competing for that spot, so it’s far from a lock that Kimble holds onto the position. Syracuse needs to have its backup quarterback in place before the season starts, so it’ll be interesting to watch if Kimble can take the slight lead he has in the backup quarterback competition and run with it once camp starts, or if the competition drags out throughout the month of August.
 
A.J. Long, quarterback – Back in the spring, Long said he was coming for the starter’s job, showing no lack of confidence. Of course, heading into camp he’s third on the depth chart, so he’s got a lot of work ahead of him if he’s going to back up his words. Long showed good mobility and athleticism during the spring, and it’ll be interesting to see how much progress he’s made since then and whether it’ll be enough to at least make him the team’s backup when the season starts.
 
Alin Edouard, quarterback – Edouard may be the most talented quarterback the Orange have that’s competing for the backup spot. However, he’s the only one that wasn’t around for spring practice, so he’s a little behind everybody else and has plenty of catching up to do. That being said, if he catches on quickly, Edouard could become a major factor in the backup quarterback competition.
 
Steve Ishmael, wide receiver – Ishmael has caught the attention of his teammates during summer workouts, making him someone to watch during training camp. There’s plenty of playing time available for young wide receivers that prove they can contribute, and Ishmael may be one of the most physically gifted receivers on the Syracuse roster, so there’s every chance for him to have a strong camp and make an immediate impact.
 
Sean Avant, H-back – After redshirting last season, Avant had a nice spring and has set himself up nicely to get on the field this year. Heading into camp, he’s second on the depth chart at H-back behind Brisly Estime. Not only does that mean he’s in line for some playing time, but if he performs during training camp and proves he can be an asset, offensive coordinator George McDonald will find ways to put him on the field; after all, as an H-back he’ll be able to line up in a variety of places all over the field.
 
Corey Cooper, H-back – Had Cooper qualified last year, he would have been a prime candidate to get on the field as a true freshman last season. He did make it to campus in time for spring practice, but failed to make much of an impression and is down on the depth chart heading into training camp. But Cooper certainly has the ability to become an impact pass catcher for the Orange, and it’ll be interesting to watch him in camp to see if he’s ready to be a contributor this season, or if it’ll take time for him to get on the field.
 
Aaron Roberts, offensive guard – Coaches must like what they have in Roberts, as he’s listed second on the depth chart at right guard as a true freshman, even before the start of training camp when the coaches get their first look at him on the field. With last year’s starters, Rob Trudo and Nick Robinson, returning and Omari Palmer pushing for a starting spot, it might be tough for Roberts to crack the starting lineup, but with a strong camp he can keep his spot on the two-deep and play his way onto the field at some point this season.
 
Zaire Franklin, linebacker – The Orange welcome four freshmen linebackers to the fold this year, and all of them will likely have a meaningful role to play in 2015, but Franklin has a chance to carve out a role on the team this season. At the start of training camp, he’s listed as the first backup to Cameron Lynch at one of the outside linebacker spots, and while Lynch won’t spend a ton of time on the sidelines this year, Franklin has a good chance to become a rotational player this season and get a head start on becoming an impact player the following season.
 
Juwan Dowels, cornerback – Dowels is a press cover corner, so he’s a perfect fit for the Syracuse defense, and heading into training camp he’s already on the two-deep. With just three experienced cornerbacks on the roster, the Orange need to build up depth at that position during camp, and Dowels is the most likely of the three true freshmen corners to earn playing time early in the season if he can hold his own during training camp.
 
Chauncey Scissum, safety – After redshirting last season, Scissum was raved about during spring practice by the coaching staff, who put him on the two-deep at free safety heading into training camp. As the backup to Durrell Eskridge, Scissum may not be in store for a lot of playing time, but if he does during training camp what he did in the spring, he’ll certainly be in the rotation at safety and earn himself a spot in defensive sub-packages, giving him the chance to become a contributor on the Syracuse defense this year.