Dougherty: Solidified quarterback spot puts Syracuse on better starting foot than last year

first_imgA year ago, as Syracuse geared up to face Penn State, it didn’t have a starting quarterback. Just two contenders — Terrel Hunt and Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen — fighting for the season’s first snap and all that would follow.Previous quarterback Ryan Nassib hardly had stains on his New York Giants jersey at training camp, yet the three-year starter felt much further away. There was no stability in a position expected to embody it.“Last year I was thinking, ‘Man, am I going to get pulled? Who’s going to start?’” Hunt, SU’s starting quarterback, said in a video on Cuse.com at the start of training camp. “So now I’m actually going in more relaxed.”To this point, Hunt’s earned that right. A year removed from fighting for his job, it’s easy to forget that Allen won it before Hunt finally and forever replaced him within a month. But what isn’t hard to notice is the stark difference between the weeks leading into Penn State and the buildup SU currently wades through.Syracuse opens the season against Villanova at 7:30 p.m. in the Carrier Dome on Friday, and there are still question marks on both sides of the ball. Its quarterback isn’t one of them, which is settling to say the least.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“It’s not like competing with Drew was bad,” Hunt said. “I learned a lot from that and it made me a better player, but going in knowing I’m going to be the starter is nice. And it’s better for the team to know who is going to lead them Week 1 — me or anyone else.”Hunt always draws a crowd at interview sessions. When you’re a starting quarterback in the Atlantic Coast Conference, it comes with the territory — but the questions have expectedly changed.It was always easy to locate Hunt, Allen and quarterbacks coach Tim Lester the week before the Orange traveled to face the Nittany Lions at MetLife Stadium. They’d each be at the center of a crowd, with everyone holding a recorder or camera in one hand and a softball in the other.Now Hunt talks about the coming season and the offense he’s set to lead, and the only competition he’s asked about is between Austin Wilson, Mitch Kimble and AJ Long. Those guys are fighting for the backup quarterback spot.“I think there’s always a sense of calm when you know that signal caller, how he is in the huddle or how he is in on the sidelines or how he is adjusting to things,” Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer said during training camp. “So I think there’s a lot of comfort with those players that are back that have played with him.”Shafer doesn’t have to learn Hunt’s snap count or play-calling cadence, but he seems just as comfortable. When addressing Villanova in the Syracuse team room at the Petty-Iacolano Football Wing on Saturday, he didn’t once mention “Hunt,” “Terrel” or “quarterback,” pertaining to his team.In all, the team’s preseason rhetoric has taken a 180-degree turn. Shafer mentioned the Wildcats’ John Robertson as a dual-threat quarterback that the Orange is heavily preparing for. As far as his depth chart, he said he wants to have a good idea of what it will look like by Tuesday — with decisions kept in-house before they’re unveiled with Friday’s kickoff.But Hunt’s penciled in and that’s not as mundane as it may seem. On the heels of a competition that consumed the first third of last season, the lack of one has this year’s Orange on a more convincing track.“Terrel established himself as a leader toward the middle and definitely at the end of last season,” offensive coordinator George McDonald said. “It’s not like a new phenomenon like, ‘Terrel’s the leader.’ He showed it, he earned, and the (offense has) continued to grow.”Jesse Dougherty is the sports editor at The Daily Orange where his column appears occasionally. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @dougherty_jesse. Comments Published on August 25, 2014 at 2:00 am Facebook Twitter Google+last_img