With Syracuse football’s spring practices largely shut off from the outside world, we’ve yet to really hear much about how the Orange are adapting to their first sessions under new head coach Scott Shafer and his staff. Nonetheless, since SU is trying to replace nine departed starters from last year, there’s a lot that needs to be sorted out this spring. First and foremost, who the hell is going to replace Doug Marrone-era poster boy and soon-to-be NFL passer, Ryan Nassib?
Syracuse’s offense, though much more balanced as the year wore on, ran on the strength of the passing game last season. New offensive coordinator George McDonald will also look to continue that trend, given his experience working with and playing as a wide receiver during his career. At first glance, the Orange have three options to choose from – Charley Loeb, John Kinder and Terrel Hunt – none of which can boast much collegiate game experience. In fact, Loeb, a senior, is the only one who’s even thrown a pass; and even then he’s just four-of-six for 49 yards on his career, with only one toss in the last two seasons (a completion in the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl). Fan-favorite Ashton Broyld may also be in the mix, though his noted struggles with the playbook certainly set him back a bit initially. So with a large collection of unknowns (that’s what happens when you have a three-year starter at QB), we try to break down each option:
Charley Loeb: We know he’s ridiculously good-looking, but can he play quarterback well enough to pick up where Nassib left off? Loeb possesses the longest tenure of any QB currently on the roster and the most "experience." But six passes does not a career make. This spring, he’ll likely line up along with the first unit, and as a result will have the biggest shot to prove he’s the leader SU needs. With a decent arm, and some good size (6’4" 212 pounds), he appears to have the stature to stand and deliver in the pocket. Plus, with a 4.7-second 40-yard dash time, he’s got the potential to tuck it and run as well. The biggest drawback in going with Loeb will be his short stint handling the role (just one year), before we have to start all over again.
John Kinder: Largely considered a dual-threat out of high school, Kinder hasn’t really had the opportunity to show his stuff at SU yet. While he’s thought to have both a quick arm and feet, what’s a bit disconcerting is his physical make-up. His 6’3" height works for the position, but at only 181 pounds, the team can’t be too sure about his ability to take hits in game situations. Obviously, you don’t want a former three-star recruit just sitting and rotting on your bench, though, so if he comes out on top this spring, I don’t see why he shouldn’t be given the ball. But same as Loeb, he can only give us a year at the position.
Terrel Hunt: Another dual-threat, three-star quarterback, Hunt’s big sell against his competition is that he’ll only be a junior next year. Of course, he also was suspended for spring last year (for theft) and failed to beat out Loeb or Kinder for the backup spot last season, so there’s also that. At the same 6’3" as Kinder, Hunt’s just as quick, but with more strength behind that frame (203 pounds at last weigh-in). Again, just like Kinder, he’ll be given an opportunity, but I’m unsure whether or not he’ll be able to take it from the two gents currently in front of him on the depth chart.
Ashton Broyld: Broyld’s certainly seen the field more than the rest of these contenders, just most of that was from the halfback position last season. As a freshman, Broyld showed glimpses of the game-changing ability promised when he signed with SU, picking up 224 yards and a score on 43 touches. But can he make it as a college passer? We mentioned his struggles with the playbook up top, and unless those issues are resolved, the possibility’s already off the table. Since he was originally recruited as an elite dual-threat passer with the size (6’3" and 229 pounds) to take on defenders though, it seems foolish not to allow him another opportunity to do what he came here to do.
There’s no telling who Shafer goes with at this point, and based on his recent comments regarding possibly using two quarterbacks, I’d say that muddles the decision even further. It also means that we’re likely not to see an end to this battle any time soon. Of these four candidates, just one (Loeb) is a traditional pocket passer, but that doesn’t give him an inside track toward one of what could potentially be two jobs. The last thing we want to do is cast the next player in the shadow of Nassib’s celebrated resume (and I know I’m guilty of it myself), meaning the most obvious "fit" in the short-term may not necessarily be the direction Shafer’s headed by the fall. Still, this position battle is the key one to watch for Syracuse this spring, and surprisingly, may be one of the most attention-grabbing QB successions in the country.