Syracuse College Football Preview

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After two early-season wins in 2014, Syracuse’s campaign took a turn for the worse, as the Orange closed the year with nine losses in 10 Games. Six of their seven Conference losses came by double digits and they’ll look for at least some improvement in SCott Shafer’s third season as head coach.

Quarterback Terrel Hunt is back and healthy, but can he stay that way? The QB position was one of the reasons ‘Cuse struggled for much of last season as Hunt broke his fibula in the fifth Game of the year. The offense that scored only 17.1 points per Game will try and change its approach that will feature more downhill running and versatile hybrid backs. Hunt led the team with six rushing touchdowns last year, which says about everything for how the offense went after he left. They only had two rushing TDs from running backs. Ervin Philips and Aston Broyld will be the hybrid backs, while Devante McFarlane and George Morris step into the starting RB role.

Hunt said he wants to improve as a pocket passer, and his top returning target is Steve Ishmael (27 receptions), who led the receivers with three touchdowns. Success won’t happen for the offense unless the offensive line can figure things out after mixing and matching all of last year due to injuries. They have Four returning starters, but that doesn’t mean anything if they can’t stay healthy.

Syracuse wasn’t all that bad on defense last year, allowing 24.3 points per Game, but with an offense that struggled to Scoreagainst almost everyone, that didn’t mean anything.

The problem for the Orange is that they only return one of their top eight tacklers from a season ago with only three starters returning in all, although a couple guys have some experience on the line after returning from injury. Ron Thompson will have to make a mark at end after playing tackle last year. The linebacking core is young with a couple sophomores, but they showed promise last year and junior Marquez Hodge will lead that group. The secondary is in a rough spot and they’ll need to show something for this defense to reach last year’s levels.

Syracuse finished with three wins last year and it’s expected they can reach that total in the first three Games in 2015. Getting another ACC win over Wake Forest in their second Game will be vital. But where will more wins come from? A road trip to South Florida could be another non-Conference win, while the Orange’s best chances for more Conference wins include home Games against Pittsburgh and in the season finale against Boston College.

Reaching a bowl Game is a long shot for this team, but maybe not out of reach if they can win the aforementioned Games. However, that will require Hunt and the offensive line to be healthy all season. If that happens, six wins is a possibility, but getting out of the bottom of the Atlantic division probably won’t be.

2015 Syracuse Football Schedule

Sept. 4 vs. Rhode Island
Sept. 12 vs. Wake Forest
Sept. 19 vs. Central Michigan
Sept. 26 vs. LSU
Oct. 10 at South Florida
Oct. 17 at Virginia
Oct. 24 vs. Pittsburgh
Oct. 31 at Florida State
Nov. 7 at Louisville
Nov. 14 vs. Clemson
Nov. 21 at NC State
Nov. 28 vs. Boston College