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Syracuse Football: Terrel Hunt & Zaire Franklin Meet the Press

Syracuse Orange players Zaire Franklin and Terrel Hunt met the media at 2015 ACC Kickoff on Monday. Here's what they had to say.

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Q. Obviously in your first season you had some amazing things you were able to do on the field. Going to the linebacker corps, what this season looks like for you and the rest of the guys.

ZAIRE FRANKLIN: Talking about our linebacker corps, you have me coming back, Hodge, who started every game this year, except for the last three because he was banged up with an injury. Outside backer we have Oliver Vigille. He's a redshirt senior. He's been big for me. I lean on him a lot for leadership, in the room as well as advice for the team. Parris Bennett has had a really good spring. Jonathan Thomas, those three guys are battles for that position. Obviously it could go either way, to all three.

Q. What is the mantra this year as far as protecting the home turf?

ZAIRE FRANKLIN: I'm not going to create a new mantra. I like Coach Shafer to call that. We definitely want to play better in the Dome. The Dome is our home. Maybe that could be our mantra (laughter). That's our home-field advantage. I love playing there as much as anybody else on the team. You definitely need to protect your home-field advantage. We play better when we're at home.

Q. You started the last three games of the season last year. What does that do for your mindset going into the off-season and getting ready for this season?

ZAIRE FRANKLIN: It gave me a glimpse of what it meant to play ACC football at the highest level, playing against Pitt, Duke, and Boston College. Those are big dogs as far as college football is concerned. It definitely gave me an idea of what I needed to work on as an athlete and as a student of the game really, learning our defense that much more, understanding my role, what I needed to get done, and also transforming my body this off-season to become stronger, faster. That way I could be ready for battles against Pitt. James Conner, he's a big dog. You have to be able to hit him for four quarters.

Q. Now you're here as a sophomore. The opportunity to be a key part of a season where you're trying to get this program back to where you want it to be.

ZAIRE FRANKLIN: Being here as a sophomore is a great honor for me. Humbled that my team, my coaches, really my whole program, would give me the responsibility of representing the university and ear brand at ACC Media Days. Still humbled. Can't believe I'm here. It's surreal sitting in front of you guys. It's definitely a great responsibility. But I take it on full force. This is what I asked for, this is what I dreamed about. Living in the moment, embracing it. But also being humble and I worked for this. I need to continue to work for it and continue to earn it every day. Q. There were a tremendous number of great defenses in the ACC last year. Syracuse was one of them. You lost a number of really important players. How difficult will it be to be in the top 25 again with a largely new group?

There were a tremendous number of great defenses in the ACC last year. Syracuse was one of them. You lost a number of really important players. How difficult will it be to be in the top 25 again with a largely new group?

ZAIRE FRANKLIN: We lost a lot of experience, a lot of snaps due to graduation. But the thing is we weren't surprised this year that we were losing eight starters. When you looked at our defense, you could tell a lot of these guys were going to leave. You knew it was a possibility of losing eight starters on a prominent defense. Those eight guys did a great job of talking to us younger guys, the classes below us, to prepare us for this situation. We knew we were going to be in the situation last fall. So we definitely prepared for that. Then, you know, our guys now, me, the linebacker group, the D-line group, the secondary, have all put in a lot of extra work to prepare for this upcoming season, extra film, extra conditioning, to make sure we're prepared. We want to be the best defense in the ACC, not one of them. That's our goal and we're definitely trying to achieve it.

Q. You started out 2-0 last year, then lost nine of the last ten obviously. What kind of toll did that take? What kind of effect did that have on the off-season?

ZAIRE FRANKLIN: It was tough, you know. We all came from great programs. A couple guys from our team last year, when they were in high school, they were the No. 1 team in the nation. My team was always competitive in state title conversation when I was in high school. We all came from winners. So to lose nine out of the last ten, really hurts. At the same time this off-season, we don't hide from our record. We embrace that and know that was our reality. All we can do is embrace that and use that as motivation to push through, use that as an example of what we don't want to do, be better than we were last year.

Q. When you talk to a guy like Julian Whigham, he wants to be the best corner in the ACC. First three years he hasn't done that. Going into the last season, what is he setting out to prove?

ZAIRE FRANKLIN: Whigham, when I talk to Julian, I feel like he's fallen back from personal goals. I feel like when you get a certain level of success, sometimes you can get out of your character. That's not who Whig is. That's not the type of person he is. I feel like he felt like he got out of his shell a little bit. I feel like he's focusing on his team and his personal self, the team and the whole defense now. I definitely expect a great year out of Whig. He has the most returning snaps in the secondary this year. He's going to hold down the corner for this year. I'm expecting great things from Julian this year.

Q. Last year Syracuse had every quarterback that was on the roster out there, including yourself. What can you say about your rehab? And then also watching some of those guys behind you, what they mean to you going forward?

TERREL HUNT: My rehab went well. I still do it just to do it. Nothing hurts. About the young guys, they tried their best. There were freshmen playing in the ACC for the first time. They went in. They didn't have older players. Everybody got hurt. You know, I congratulate them for even going out there, never quitting. They were put in terrible situations. At the same time next man up. You got to be ready when your number's called.

Q. What have you noticed in the off-season from the players regarding how last season finished?

TERREL HUNT: Last year is last year. I'm not thinking about it. They aren't. We know what happened. We know we went 3-9. We're not going to keep thinking about last year when there's a whole new year in front of us. We got 12 games, probably 13. Who knows. We're thinking about what is in front of us. Like I say, last year is last year.

Q. You speak about looking at next year now. Your last season in a Syracuse uniform, how much motivation is that for you to leave this program on a high note?

TERREL HUNT: That's a ton. This is the last go-around. So it is for the other seniors. I never want to go out on a losing season. I don't want to have a losing season, but we did. It's important for me to go out there and lead the team to victories.

Q. The ACC has a number of great quarterbacks and mobile quarterbacks. You're one of them. Talk to us about who some of the best mobile quarterbacks are and what makes them difficult to defend.

TERREL HUNT: Some people just have a knack for running. I never practiced running. I was able to dodge opponents. Some people have a gift, and my gift is running. I kind of want to keep that a little bit because I got hurt running last year. I want to stay in the pocket a lot more and operate from there, let all my players do the running.

Q. To say you want to be in the pocket and throw the ball as opposed to having to run, what can you say about the wide receivers and how they look through the spring, your expectation from that arsenal, including Steve Ishmael?

TERREL HUNT: They're taking on leadership roles. There's only probably one senior. They all have to step up. We all do as a collective group. I believe in them. I see them working every day. Every time I'm out there, they're out there. Even if I'm not out there, they'll call me, let's go throw. The fact they're putting in the work, they want that, that makes my job easier because now I believe in them even more.

Q. If you could, the new offensive plays, does it give you more confidence heading into the season?

TERREL HUNT: Yeah. If we're not confident yet, there's something wrong. I'm definitely confident. I believe in Coach Lester 100%. He's doing a great job. Once you buy into the offense, the only people that can stop us is us.