Five observations from the 2015 Syracuse Spring Game

Apr 4, 2015

Syracuse players warm up before scrimmage in the Carrier Dome on Saturday

The Syracuse offense could only score one touchdown during the team's annual Spring Game on Saturday against a defense that lost seven starters to graduation. 

The day began with a 6-on-7 skeleton drill and some special teams work, but most of the time was spent on live scrimmaging.

Here are a few takeaways from that scrimmage:

Terrel Hunt Struggles

The Syracuse offense continued to sputter even with Terrel Hunt back under center and with an offseason to install Tim Lester's gameplan.  Hunt went 10-of-30 for 145 yards in an afternoon that featured not enough hits as misses for the redshirt senior.  He was intercepted in the skeleton drill and didn't have enough zip or accuracy to connect on many of the outside routes near the sidelines.

"He’s still sharpening up with the new offense," head coach Scott Shafer said.  "He’s had some real good days. Today, I thought he was okay. I think he’s good a lot of things he’s got to keep working on, as do all the quarterbacks."

More Downfield Passing

An offense that specialized on short, bubble passes last year has been replaced (for now) with a more aggressive passing game that takes long shots down the field. 

It showed mixed results on Saturday.  

All three quarterbacks – Hunt, Austin Wilson and A.J. Long – completed a 35+ yard pass during the scrimmage. Syracuse's lone touchdown came on a 36-yard pass over the middle. 

But the QB's missed several other chances for big plays, including a few when receivers created some space. Long overthrew Alvin Cornelius and an open Steve Ishmael in the same drive.  Hunt threw an ill-advised pass into double-team coverage in the endzone that nearly got picked off.

"It's not a concern," Shafer said.  "We’re looking forward to opening up and getting the ball down the field a little bit.  We’ve made a lot of plays throughout the course of the spring so I’m pleased with the kids’ progress."

Last year, the Orange ranked 104th in the FBS in pass yards per completion and 109th in plays of ten or more.  Syracuse has a good chance to improve on those numbers this season with 6-foot-5 receivers Enoicy and Jamal Custis in the mix.  But the question will be if the passing game is accurate enough to fully use them.

More Madness in the Red Zone

One of the worst red zone offense couldn't show any improvements in that department during the Spring Game.  The offense could only score on touchdowns since field attempts came during special teams drills.  Syracuse had several red zone chances, but its only touchdown came on a 36-yard touchdown pass to Adly Enoicy.

"We weren’t able to run our full offense," Hunt said.  "So guys were getting frustrated because we weren’t able to run the plays that we wanted. But it’s the Spring Game. It happens because you’re not supposed to show everything."

The scrimmage portion ended, fittingly, with one last botched red zone attempt.  Enoicy created some separation in the right corner of the endzone, but Hunt's passed sailed a few feet over him. 

Solid Receiving Options

Ten receivers caught passes during the scrimmage, including six who hauled in catches of 20 yards or more. The leading receiver was Steve Ishmael who caught four passes for 59 yards.  The longest pass of the day came on a picture-perfect 39-yard floater from Hunt to Custis that got the offense a 1st-and-goal.

"I think (Custis) could be amazing," Hunt said. "I think he could be a first round draft pick in a couple of years." 

Strong Secondary

Perhaps, the best unit of the scrimmage was Syracuse's secondary which held the quarterbacks to a combined completion percentage of 43.8.  

Sophomore Cordell Hudson said it wasn't only a shutdown performance, but should have been a shutout one. On Enoicy's touchdown, a defender nearly got to Wilson for a two-hand touch sack.

"Technically it wasn't a touchdown, but a sack," Hudson joked.   

Junior corner Joe Stanard led all players with seven total tackles while Hudson had a team-high two pass breakups.  One of them came on a deep pass in the endzone that almost led to an interception.

Said Hudson "I feel good because it just shows that defensively, we're a strong team."