Syracuse wraps up spring; Hunt tops the QBs
After watching his first spring football game as a rookie head coach, Syracuse's Scott Shafer wasn't about to ruffle any feathers after just 15 practices.
''I thought there was some good effort out there,'' Shafer said Saturday after his White team easily handled the Blue team 27-7. ''We've got a lot of things to clean up. I liked the effort by the kids. I'm looking forward to seeing the videotape.''
There was a normal turnout - a modest crowd of 3,822 - to watch the scrimmage in the Carrier Dome on a day that started with a windblown snow shower, and most eyes were on the quarterbacks as Shafer and his staff try to figure out who will replace record-setting Ryan Nassib in the fall.
On this day, the squad led by junior Terrel Hunt ruled. Hunt was 19 of 29 for 209 yards and two scores, hitting Jarrod West in stride for a 49-yard TD, and generally was the most effective, ahead of fifth-year senior Charley Loeb (3 of 8 for 9 yards) and senior John Kinder (8 of 12 for 46 yards and one touchdown).
''It was fun out there. We got to show people our talents,'' Hunt said. ''I think I did very well this spring. I learned a lot, picked up a lot. Ryan (Nassib) taught me a lot and I just put it all on the table. I hope that I showed that I could be the No. 1 quarterback.''
While Hunt is the front-runner headed to summer camp, he promises to have some stiff competition. Drew Allen, a three-year backup at Oklahoma who was given the green light by the school earlier this year to seek another opportunity for his final year of college eligibility, is expected to enroll at Syracuse as a graduate student and vie for the starting job and quarterbacks Austin Wilson of Pennsylvania and Mitch Kimble of Illinois are among the new recruits who will be in camp in August as the Orange prepare for their inaugural season in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
''My work's not finished,'' said Hunt, who has three years of eligibility remaining. ''It was a battle and the battle's not over because we have another quarterback coming in and two more freshmen. I'm not counting anybody out. Everybody's good for competition. If I'm the front-runner now, I want to continue doing that all through (fall) camp.''
At 6-foot-4 and 226 pounds, Allen, on track to graduate in May, will be seeking to duplicate what Greg Paulus did here four years ago, and the similarities are quite remarkable. Paulus, national player of the year in high school as a quarterback for Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse and also a star on the basketball team, opted to play point guard at Duke for coach Mike Krzyzewski and after receiving his undergraduate degree enrolled at Syracuse as a graduate student for his final year of eligibility. Then-rookie head coach Doug Marrone named Paulus his starting quarterback early in preseason camp in 2009 over Nassib.
Clearly, the position is up for grabs again, and everybody knows it.
''We've seen good competition,'' said Shafer, who acknowledged that Hunt had separated himself a little bit. ''Some guys have had good days. They've been back and forth and all over the place. Terrel's been probably a little bit more consistent on a regular basis, but there's not a ton of separation, so we're going to use every day and every minute we can to figure out the quarterback position. You can say that about a lot of positions. We've got some real battles going on. We've got all summer to figure this thing out, see all the new faces that are coming in.''
For his part, Loeb is simply keeping his nose to the grindstone. He hasn't read anything about Syracuse football since the Orange beat West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl in late December.
''I'll have a very clear understanding of what it (the scrimmage) means come Wednesday,'' Loeb said. ''At least it's not one practice. It's a cumulative body of work, and you hope you can paint a portrait of progress coming through spring. I think that's something I didn't do particularly well, showcasing my continual growth. That's something I have to work on this summer. I don't think I've earned the trust. I think it would be difficult for anybody to do so through just 15 practices in the spring. After fall camp, we'll have a much better picture.''
West demonstrated that he's ready to help fill the void at wide receiver created by the departures of Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales, catching six passes for 82 yards and two TDs. Macauley Hill caught another touchdown pass on a pretty one-handed grab on a 14-yard throw over the middle by Kinder. Tailbacks Jerome Smith, Devante McFarlane and George Morris III combined to rush 120 yards on 25 carries, with Morris scoring on a nifty 39-yard run.
''I was really pleased with the way everyone performed,'' new offensive coordinator George McDonald said. ''They're always growing and the competition is always going. We wanted to show the kids that everybody is going to get an opportunity to touch the ball. We've got to have guys that can make plays, win one-on-one battles. I think a lot of the kids responded to that challenge.''
Junior wideout Keenan Hale missed the game and is out for the upcoming season due to a lower body injury that will require surgery. Hale did not play last season.
Follow Kekis on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/Greek1947