College Football Preview: The 2014 Syracuse Orange
2014 College Football Preview
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Overview: The Syracuse Orange finished with a 7-6 record and won a bowl game for the second straight year for the first time since 1995-96. Not much of a flashy team, the Orange relied heavily on a running game that averaged close to 195 yards per game. They focused on wearing down opponents and on clock management. The Orange also had success defensively, as they racked up 35 sacks, which was tied for third in the ACC with Florida State. Overall, it was a solid season under first-year head coach Scott Shafer.
Offense: The good news is that the Orange return most of their key players on the offensive side of the ball such as quarterback Terrel Hunt and wide receivers Ashton Broyld and Jarrod West. The bad news is that those guys didn’t contribute much last season, as the offense was run through running back Jerome Smith, who led the team with 914 rushing yards. The workhorse is no longer on the team. However, Hunt is a promising dual-threat quarterback who appears ready to take that next step in his career and help the Orange get back to a bowl game.
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Defense: The Orange also lost many key guys on the defensive side, as their top two sack leaders in Jay Bromley and Marquis Spruill graduated. But like the offense all isn’t lost, as their leading tackler Durell Eskridge returns, ball hawk Julian Whigham is back and so is explosive linebacker Cameron Lynch. Syracuse’s defense was underrated all last season, but with many key guys returning, this could be the year that they help put this football program back on the map.
Special Teams: The Orange have to improve their field goal kicking, as Ryan Norton made just 66 percent of his field goals last season. Punter Riley Dixon returns after averaging more than 41 yards per attempt a year ago.
Outlook: It’s no secret that the ACC consists of Florida State and then everybody else. However, Syracuse has the potential to be one of the top teams outside of the Seminoles. The Orange have a veteran offense that should be a little more balanced than it was last season. They also have a defense that has tons of talented, young players. The Orange won four of eight conference games last season with a young team. With another year under everyone’s belt, those numbers could improve this year.