So, the Terrel Hunt era's started off pretty well, right? For many younger Syracuse fans, these last two games have been shocking -- two straight wins by 35 or more points hasn't happened much, if at all, over the last decade. Sure, they're poor opponents, but there was a time we were losing to or barely beating those types of teams. At 2-2, things appear to have taken a turn for the better one-third of the way through the year.
As is and will be the norm all season, we've opened the floor to the TNIAAM football wing to discuss this week's burning questions about Syracuse on- and off-the-field, the ACC and more. Join us below...
Are you able to control your excitement about Terrel Hunt anymore?
Sean Farrell: Hunt has NINE touchdowns in 2+ games. He’s completed 77 percent of his passes. He can pick up first downs with his feet and has rushed for 91 yards! At one point in Scott Shafer’s post-game press conference, he mentioned the term "Heisman Trophy contender" while I was scribbling on my notebook. I had to look up and realize he was talking about Tajh Boyd.
The Invisible Swordsman: I'm about to lose control, and I think I like it. In all honesty, I'm about ready to make the seemingly outlandish claim that he's been the most exciting offensive playmaker that SU has had since Donovan McNabb, but I will hold off on going all out with that claim until I see him get through the Clemson game when he goes up against a legit defensive team. I am extremely impressed with how he has taken control of the offense and has played pretty much mistake-free football since coming in garbage time against Northwestern. He'll make mistakes, but he just offers so much more... I don't know... dimensionality(?) to our offense and makes us a much more competitive team.
Matt McClusky: I'm all-in on the Terrel Hunt era for Syracuse football. But I'm more than cognizant of who Terrel Hunt has played against so far this season: Northwestern backups, something called Wagner, and an awful Tulane team. Plus, I can't help but thinking, There is a reason why the coaching staff went with Drew Allen first. Ultimately that was the wrong choice, but clearly George McDonald and Scott Shafer saw something in Allen they didn't in Hunt. Maybe that was just a giant mistake or maybe we really haven't seen enough of Hunt's game to see the bigger flaws he has to work on.
Dan Lyons: I'm still going to stay cautiously optimistic until we see him take on BCS-level competition, but it is nice to know who our guy is, and that he will be around for awhile if this all pans out. Right now, all we have to go on are these first four games, and he's shined In every opportunity he's had, so I don't think it is unreasonable to be excited. No other QB that I've seen play for Syracuse ever did what Hunt has done so far against any competition, weak or not, so I don't have a real reason to doubt that he will be at least solid going forward. He definitely looks the part, and seems to have that 'it' factor when it comes to leading the team and developing chemistry with his offense, so I'm excited to see where he goes from here.
Jared Smith: I probably will once he gets eaten alive by Clemson's defensive line, however, at the movement I am really excited for the Syracuse football program and him. Look, when the season is all said and done, and hopefully Syracuse has demolished its opponent in the Belk Bowl, there will be second guessing about what would have happened at MetLife Stadium if Shafer gave Hunt a shot against Penn State. But, I understand what happened and why it happened. I am just glad Shafer and his staff didn't become too stubborn and let Hunt have a shot. Hopefully, he doesn't come crashing back to earth when ACC play begins.
Sean Keeley: If you don't think I've already concocted a scenario in my mind whereby senior Terrel Hunt is a Heisman candidate leading Syracuse to an ACC Championship, well then you don't know me. Terrel, meet my expectations.
John Cassillo: If I could buy a Terrel Hunt jersey right now, I would. He's the real deal already, and will also be our quarterback for the next three seasons. As Dan said, despite the opponents, how many Syracuse quarterbacks over the last decade have just showed up and dominated any teams like Hunt has? I just can't wait to see what he does next.
Does this Syracuse offense have a sadder figure than Adonis-Ameen Moore?
SF: It’s certainly sad to see "The Tank package" disappear. AAM had to expect he would be in a fight for playing time since Jerome Smith and Prince Tyson-Gulley were both returning. But to watch as you lose playing time to two freshmen – Devante McFarlane and George Morris II – must be really hard to deal with. But, AAM’s role last year was in short yardage and goal-line situations. That hasn’t been needed too much this year. Smith already has six rushing touchdowns. That’s double his total from 2012.
TIS: You mean other than Drew Allen? No. You know, between he and former SU QB Johnny Miller, we should probably take a break from recruiting kids from Denver's Mullen High School.
MM: Does Quinta Funderburk not qualify? Because if so, these are some mighty sad numbers. But outside of the transfer from Arkansas, and the transfer from Oklahoma now sitting the bench, Adonis Ameen-Moore's is a sad case. I just wonder how someone can fall that quickly. He certainly seems like another dimension to the offense, especially in goal-line situations, like he was last year. Very strange.
DL: I think it is unfortunate whenever someone has his role diminished, but I don't think this is totally unexpected, given the circumstances this year. Ameen-Moore got playing time last season when Smith was struggling to score, and in garbage duty as George Morris and Devante McFarlane were redshirting. This year, we have a different offense that seems to fit faster, more elusive runners more - see how even Smith is struggling to get the touches he probably deserves, and Smith has been great at getting in the endzone. If Syracuse was still struggling around the goal line with the normal personnel, I'm sure AAM would be more of an option, but even in the first two games, the team has been very efficient in the red zone. No need to change up personnel just because that's what Nate Hackett had to do last year.
JS: Yes, Drew Allen. Honestly, think about the position Allen is in at the moment: He's at a brand new school, a place he thought he'd be the next star at, and now he's sitting on the sidelines AGAIN watching somebody else get the glory. Of course, a lot of this is his fault but I feel for the kid.
SK: Man, what a disappointment it must be for the big man. I remember when he was recruited and we all assumed he was the second coming of Jerome Bettis. Things even looked up for a half a year last season with the highly-enjoyable Tank Package. Since then, clearly something is a-miss. Whether it's his weight, work ethic or something else, I've got a feeling his chance at serious PT is done. I won't be surprised if he transfers.
JC: See, I'm so all-in on Terrel Hunt that I completely forgot we started the year with another quarterback. Ameen-Moore's a sad case though. After being convinced by the players and staff to stick around despite coaching and formation change, he's now a complete non-factor. Jerome Smith takes his short-yardage carries, while Clay Cleveland's not giving up that fullback spot anytime soon. Just a shame to see. Like Sean said, don't be shocked if he transfers (I'm thinking Colorado State).
Please expand: Missed tackles
SF: One play that really stuck out to me was a 1st-and-10 run play up the middle by Tulane in the first quarter. Durell Eskridge, Ron Thompson and Keon Lyn all had chances to wrap up Rob Kelley. Kelley dodged three tackles and ran 45 yards for a touchdown. Fortunately for Syracuse, the Green Wave was down 21-3 when it happened.
TIS: Something Syracuse, Michigan, and Texas fans can point to as the hallmark of a Greg Robinson-coached team.
MM: Make me go something something. (Go crazy?) Don't mind if I do! But really, thank God Tulane's defense seemed to rest primarily on whiffing on tackles. And the thing is, missing tackles is an epidemic in college football. I mean, it's even hit the SEC!
DL: Probably my biggest concern going forward. Nothing against Tulane, but they don't exactly have Sammy Watkins or James Wilder running around out there. If the team is going to whiff on Rob Kelley running up the gut, I'm afraid to think about what will happen when we get into the meat of this schedule. With the bye this week, I'm sure this will be a major point of emphasis for Shafer and Bullough.
JS: Suck donkey balls. There's nothing more frustrating than watching our defense not perform the fundamentals that head coach Scott Shafer thought them.
SK: See: Syracuse football defense forever. That's probably a bit much, I'm sure every fan feels that way about their defense. But... gosh, it does seem like it's been a never-ending issue for them. I wish I would expand but I have no clue what the disconnect is.
JC: The only reason anyone thought this game wasn't closed out halfway through the second quarter was due to SU's shoddy tackling. I tried to keep track at first, and then simply lost count -- so many times a Tulane ball-carrier would simply bounce off the first four or five players who casually threw their arm at him. If we're going to do that against Clemson, Florida State, etc, prepare to get lit up by 50.
How do we feel about the Syracuse rushing attack after four games?
SF: I really like Syracuse’s rushing attack, which now has 11 touchdowns. But I still think there is a lot of room for growth. SU is averaging 3.9 yards per carry. Jerome Smith is well above that mark at 4.3 YPC. Smith only has 54 touches (rushes and receptions) in four games. In ACC play, Smith will get the majority of the carries and, with that, the offense will get even better. Terrel Hunt’s nature as a dual threat QB will als help. The Orange averaged 4.5 YPC last week and 4.9 against Wagner. I don’t think that’s all because of the level of competition.
TIS: I'm mixed. I don't think it is where it needs to be for us to move the ball against the better defenses in the ACC. But then I think about Terrel Hunt, and all of my fears simply melt away... it's hard to get worked up over anything about the offense these days when I only see puppy dogs and rainbows...
MM: I still have major concerns about the offensive line, but if all you can ask is a team to show it's better each week, there shouldn't be much complaining today. Plus, maintain Jerome Smith will show himself a star once the ACC spotlight shines on the Orange.
DL: I'm a bit surprised that it's lagging behind where we all probably thought it would be, but I'm confident that it will pick up like it did around this time last season. Smith has been running the ball fairly well, he just hasn't been leaned on yet for the big loads that many of us probably thought he would carry. I was glad to see Gulley get it going against Tulane, as he really struggled earlier this season. SU's going to need both to really fire on all cylinders. I'm really excited for the future with Morris and McFarlane. This is a deep crew.
JS: I feel good, as a long as Terrel Hunt is able to throw the ball. I think we learned -- as was the case last year -- Syracuse's running game is helped by a strong passing attack. If Syracuse can't at least convert on third downs or have a threat of completing a pass on first and second downs then defense are just going to plug the run and there's nothing Jerome Smith and PTG can do. However, when everything is clicking both running backs have a great feel for finding the end zone.
SK: Unfortunately, Jerome Smith is not going to achieve the heights that I thought he would. Fortunately, he's part of a solid unit that is going to rack up some quality stats together. It's not the kind of backfield a fantasy owner likes to see, but it's the kind of backfield that SU fans should be pleased with. I'll take a backfield full of decent options over a backfield with one option that disappoints.
JC: The rushing attack has gotten better over the course of the season due to McDonald finally calling plays to match personnel, having big leads and Hunt's dual-threat capabilities. No, Jerome Smith's not dominating the way we thought, but the fear of him doing so is still opening up opportunities for PTG, McFarlane and Morris to do some damage. I'd like to see us better establish the run early though, since a lot of our yardage on the ground is picked up after the game's already in hand.
Jaguars-style helmets: Keep'em or scrap'em?
SF: I agree with Scott Shafer’s view on the uniform change. He said he is a traditionalist, but it’s not about him. It’s about the players. Just think: if Terrel Hunt said he loved the helmets, would you want the team to get rid of them?
TIS: Let me ask a few questions back to you: Do we want an America where our football helmets look less like football helmets and more like some 19-year-old Japanese kid's suped-up 2004 Honda Civic? Do we want an America where football helmets have not only multiple color tones, but multiple FINISHES? Look, creating a two-tone effect on a football helmet is just wrong... they're ugly, garish, scream out for attention, and ultimately will be looked back on as a horrible idea... who needs that? We've already got the Kardashians.
MM: There's something about them that looks a little rushed to me. Like NIKE or the school waited to the last possible second to get the helmets rolling (a feeling compounded by the timing of the unveil). And they're mostly blue and there is a weird spray-painted orange smudged on the back, weird for a school called the Orange, but screw it, I like them! It's different and it's, in my humble opinion, stylish. Everybody is doing something crazy with their uniforms and if you can't beat them, join them.
DL: Keep'em, assuming that the next logical step comes to fruition with orange jerseys. As a solo piece of equipment, I thought the helmets looked really slick, but it doesn't make too much sense to take away the orange helmets and pants if the new jersey is not orange, especially with how the bottom part of the helmet fades into orange. Even as a one time thing, I thought the all-blues were a cool look, but not something I'd want to go to full-time.
JS: I want to see them reversed -- more orange and then blue. I don't understand all this blue uniform thing. We're the Syracuse "Orange" and its just odd to have so much blue.
SK: The kids like'm so you can keep'm, but I find it hard to believe that's a long-term investment. It's just too gimmicky. My fear is that it's the beginning of a trend towards being like Virginia Tech or Maryland and sporting a new helmet/jersey every week. I get why they do it, but I do enjoy the "dependability" of Syracuse uniforms. In a weird way, the more you try to differentiate yourself in college uniforms, the more like everyone else you look.
JC: As we saw in yesterday's ESPNU special, the players are big fans, so I guess it's fine. I was in the "get off my lawn" camp on them, but it's just not worth hating. If we end up grabbing some recruits over the likes of Pitt, BC and SUNJ due to having "cooler" helmets, then so be it.
Outlook versus the Fightin' Byes this Saturday?
SF: This really feels like a trap game to me. The players are ignoring this week and looking ahead to the Clemson game. Christopher Clark even said so himself: "I think this is a great time to have a bye week because we have extra time to prepare for Clemson." BULLETIN BOARD MATERIAL.
TIS: Byes always have the potential to kill positive momentum, but I think an opponent like Clemson should keep the boys on edge. We'll heal up, and get ready for our biggest game in probably a decade. After all, any win against a top ranked Big East Team (WVU, Louisville) always had an asterisk next to it due to the impression that the BE was a half-step above the MAC... a win against Clemson would be seen as a truly legit win, and I do think we have a shot.
MM: Gerg's gone, SU doesn't lose to bye weeks or West Virginias anymore. But this week off does come at the absolute perfect time. The first two weeks were brutal for coaches, players, and fans. But the last two weeks have instilled some much needed hope for all involved. Now SU will have two weeks to prepare for the buzzsaw that is Clemson's offense, and, given the two wins in a row and the time off, the school will have two weeks to sell this game to fans. Spoiler alert: I'm not going to pick Syracuse to beat Clemson. But now, with a rejuvenated defense and the play of Hunt and the potential for a big crowd at the Dome, I'm going to sure as hell have to talk myself out of picking the Orange three or four times between now and kickoff!
DL: Wait... Wagner wasn't the Fightin' Byes?
JS: Solid. I don't need to be anywhere at a specific date or time. I also don't need to try to find the freakin' game on TV someplace. I am going to enjoy the Fightin' Byes and the build up to Clemson.
SK: As a big favorite and having beaten the Byes so many times in a row, I'm wary that we're going to let success go to our heads. That said, I have faith in Terrel Hunt to control the controllables and lead the Orange to victory. I also expect a Bengal tiger to maul an unsuspecting member of our team, which always seems to happen during this game. So...win some, lose some.
JC: Can we keep up our momentum for another blowout victory? No FBS team's lost to the Byes since UConn, and I'm sure Georgia State will find a way to fumble their chance away against them later this season, but not this SU team. They're better than that.