It should be a challenging year for the Orange
Syracuse struggled through last season to just win three games, only one of which was against an ACC opponent.
The Orange had a difficult time finding success in big games, especially after starting quarterback Terrel Hunt fractured his fibula in a loss to Louisville. Head coach Scott Shafer also demoted offensive coordinator, George McDonald, to coach wide receivers shortly after Hunt’s injury.
Previous quarterbacks coach Tim Lester took over as offensive coordinator.
The 2015 season will be challenging for Syracuse, but the return of Hunt will take some of the burden off of Lester as he tries to configure a working offensive scheme.
In Syracuse’s last five games, the offense did not score more than 17 points. In 2015, the Orange will be lacking key running backs Prince–Tyson Gulley and Adonis Ameen-Moore, as well as receiver Jarrod West who averaged 14.3 yards per catch.
“It was good to have him (Hunt) back. It was good to see that he was healthy. He had to knock some cobwebs off there early, and then we had the implementation of the new offensive scheme and verbiage,” Shafer said. “Terrel did a great job, and it was good to see him back on the field.”
With playmakers gone from an offense that already struggled to put points on the board, younger athletes will need to step up if Syracuse is going to have a successful season.
Rising sophomore Steve Ishmael could become an integral part of Syracuse’s offense in 2015. He started off the 2014 season with only six catches for 83 yards the first five games, but after Lester play-calling duties, the wide receiver began to thrive.
He caught three passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns against Florida State the very next week.
Syracuse won’t have much of a drop-off at offensive line. The Orange is expecting to return six players who all have starting experience. The biggest loss in this group was three-year starter Sean Hickey at left tackle.
Senior Ivan Foy is expected to move from right tackle to fill Hickey’s spot, and senior Rob Trudo is expected to fill the void left by John Miller at center. If the line stays healthy, this should be Syracuse’s strongest unit on the field.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Orange faces a greater drop-off of talent. The 2015 defense will be missing many key starters and members of their two-deep as well. Syracuse lost four of their five best linemen, three of their five top linebackers, and four of their best defensive backs.
Last year’s defense included six players who racked up at least six tackles for loss, and the 2015 season will only return one of those athletes.
The only player left who has significant game experience from last season is previous four-star recruit Ron Thompson. The former tight end will take over on the defensive line.
Shafer mentioned he was pleased with what he saw from redshirt freshman Klayton Samuels at the tackle position throughout the spring, so it is likely he will be competing for starting time with senior Wayne Williams.
“We have a nice mix of older guys and some fresh, young guys that are just going really hard. I was pleased with the competition in there,” the head coach said. “It’s been fun watching them compete. When those jobs are open and it’s an open season to compete to try to get in that lineup and figure out a way to fight for playing time, you know, there’s great intensity with those kids.”
Defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough has his work cut out for him with an inexperienced defensive line and secondary. Syracuse will miss having safety Durell Eskridge, who signed with the New York Jets as a free agent. Safeties Darius Kelly and Ritchy Desir, as well cornerback Brandon Reddish, will not return either.
Taking over the safety positions will be sophomores Antwan Cordy and Chauncey Scissum. At Cornerback, the Orange has a bit more experience with seniors Julian Whigham and Wayne Morgan.
Syracuse also lost two linebackers to the NFL as Cameron Lynch signed a free agent deal with the St. Louis Rams and Dyshawn Davis signed a free agent deal with the Redskins.
Sophomore Zaire Franklin was moved inside to fill in at middle linebacker, and junior Marquez Hodge was moved to the weakside position.
Syracuse has a lot of uncertainty to figure out going into the 2015 season, and not a lot of time to figure it out with early games against Wake Forest and LSU. Luckily for the Orange, they will not have to leave the Carrier Dome until Oct. 10. Clemson’s matchup against Syracuse will take place in the Orange’s home field on Nov. 14.