ACC: Jarrod West

ACC's All-Overlooked team

December, 2, 2014
12/02/14
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The ACC announced its all-conference teams yesterday, but there were certainly a number of good players who didn't get recognized. So with that in mind, we put together our all-overlooked team focusing exclusively on ACC standouts who didn't earn first-, second- or third-team honors from the league.

QB: Brad Kaaya (Miami)
RB: Shadrach Thornton (NC State)
RB: Wayne Gallman (Clemson)
WR: Jarrod West (Syracuse)
WR: Bo Hines (NC State)
WR: (tie) Cam Phillips and Isaiah Ford (VT)
TE: Cam Serigne (Wake)
OL: Ian Silberman (BC)
OL: Eric Smith (UVA)
OL: Brian Chamberlain (GT)
OL: Kalon Davis (Clemson)
C: Quinton Schooley (NC State)

Kaaya led the ACC in touchdowns, yards-per-attempt and passer rating. He had his flaws, but that's a great season to go unnoticed. Thornton was actually the league's third-leading rusher among tailbacks. West somehow finished ninth in catches and 10th in receiving in the ACC despite an atrocious situation at QB for Syracuse. Hines was a go-to receiver from Day 1 as a true freshman at NC State and was among the nation's most reliable pass-catchers. The two freshmen at Virginia Tech, Cam Phillips and Isaiah Ford, will make plenty of All-ACC lists before their careers are done. Serigne's emergence was one of the very few bright spots on offense for Wake Forest. Silberman, a Florida transfer, set the stage for fellow former Gator Tyler Murphy to set the ACC record for rushing yards by a QB. Schooley was perhaps NC State's top lineman on a group that got significantly better as the year went along and helped the Wolfpack to finish second in the ACC in yards-per-rush. Smith gets a nod, but Virginia's line was largely a group effort, and until injuries began piling up in November, few lines had protected its QB better.

DE: KeShun Freeman (GT)
DE: Corey Crawford (Clemson)
DT: David Dean (UVA)
LB: Josh Keyes (BC)
LB: Marquel Lee (Wake)
LB: Dyshawn Davis (Syracuse)
LB: P.J. Davis (GT)
S: James Sample (Louisville)
S: Robert Smith (Clemson)
CB: Mackensie Alexander (Clemson)
CB: Kevin Johnson (Wake)

All you need to know about Crawford's impact is that when he was out against Georgia, the Tigers allowed 328 rushing yards and five touchdowns. In the next 11 games with him, they allowed 844 yards and five touchdowns. Freeman stepped up for Georgia Tech as a freshman to provide some much-needed pass rush. Keyes was one of the most versatile linebackers in the league, helping BC's defense rank fourth nationally against the run. Lee finished in the top 10 in the ACC in both tackles and tackles for loss on an under-appreciated Wake defense. Davis, like the rest of the Syracuse D, was largely ignored but finished the year with six TFL, seven QB hurries and three forced fumbles. Smith was the veteran voice in a young Clemson secondary, and his influence helped Alexander blossom into one of the league's best corners. While the defensive front got so much of the credit, Clemson's secondary also finished fourth nationally in pass defense.

K: Ammon Lakip (Clemson)
P: Riley Dixon (Syracuse)
Ret: Myles Willis (BC)

Lakip missed three of his first four kicks against FBS teams, and Clemson lost both games. But he showed ample resilience in connecting on 15 of his next 16. Willis led the ACC in kick return yardage and was responsible for one of the league's five return TDs. And Dixon, of course, was a Heisman candidate after a game-saving Week 1 TD pass, and we're just not ready to give up that dream.

By the numbers: Week 11 recap

November, 10, 2014
11/10/14
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Looking at some statistical nuggets from last week's action in the ACC...

Boone getting it done

Since losing to Miami on Sept. 27, Duke QB Anthony Boone probably hasn't turned many heads with his play, but that's sort of the point.

Boone's numbers don't jump off the page -- 60 percent completions, seven TDs, 5.8 yards-per-attempt -- but when it comes to avoiding the kinds of plays that cost teams wins, he's been exceptional. In Duke's four games since the Miami loss, Boone has thrown just one INT, hasn't fumbled and hasn't taken a sack.

How crazy is that? If we add up sacks, fumbles and INTs for all QBs with at least 100 action plays during that stretch, they average a sack, fumble or INT every 12.3 plays. Boone has one in 164 plays.

Holliman gets lucky 13

Louisville safety Gerod Holliman went for the hat trick against Boston College on Saturday, picking off three passes in the game. That brings his season total to 13 -- tying David Amerson for the most by an ACC defender and just one shy of the NCAA record, set by Washington's Al Worley in 1968.

Here's how good Holliman has been: Not counting his own team, just nine other programs in the country have more interceptions this season total than he does individually.

Of course, Holliman doesn't get all the credit. Louisville's defensive front has forced many a bad throw this season, which has upped the takeaway numbers. Against BC, the Cards sacked Tyler Murphy twice and had him under pressure all night, despite missing leading pass rusher Lorenzo Mauldin. Against FBS opponents this season, Louisville's defense ranks sixth nationally in sack rate (9.8 percent) and has the 11th highest rate of plays going for zero or negative yardage (40.5 percent).

Georgia Tech's turnovers

The Yellow Jackets' defense hasn't fared too well statistically, ranking 114th nationally in yards allowed per play. But those struggles have been accounted for by capitalizing on takeaways.

Tech ranks ninth nationally in turnover margin (plus-9), is fourth in points off turnovers (101, including 14 on Saturday against NC State) and fourth in points-off-turnovers margin (plus-70). Since the start of last season, only five teams have scored more points off turnovers than the Yellow Jackets, despite ranking just 35th in turnovers created.

Murphy reaches 1,000

It was definitely Tyler Murphy's worst game of the season, but still worth noting that he became just the fourth QB in ACC history -- and first since 2009 -- to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.

Murphy's 28-yard run in the second quarter was also his 12th carry for 25 yards or more this season. In the past decade, the only Power 5 quarterbacks with more in a season are Johnny Manziel and Pat White.

Greene is go-to guy for FSU

Rashad Greene had a career-high 13 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown in a win against Virginia. Greene is now just five catches shy of his 2013 total, just 11 yards shy of topping 1,000 for the second straight season and just 16 receptions from breaking Ron Sellers' school record for catches, set in 1968. Greene is one of just five players in the country with three games with at least 11 receptions this season, and he's responsible for 34.2 percent of FSU's receptions vs. FBS teams this year, the 13th-highest rate in the nation.

Wake's woes on O

Wake Forest was held to just 119 yards of offense against Clemson. It's the fifth time this season the Deacons were held to fewer than 170. In the past decade, the only other team to tally no more than 170 yards in a game five times was Notre Dame in 2007.

Wake did still score 20 points against the Tigers, however, which ranks as just the third time in the past decade that a team had at least 20 points but no more than 120 yards of offense in a game. Oddly, Missouri also turned that trick this season (against Florida) and both previous teams to do it won their games. The other was Florida State (also against Florida) in 2011.

Clemson's stout D

The beneficiary of Wake's struggles -- or the cause of it, depending on your perspective -- was Clemson's defense. The Tigers became the first unit to hold an opponent to fewer than 170 yards in consecutive weeks this season. In the past decade, it's just the ninth time that's happened against Power 5 opposition, and the first time it's happened in the ACC.

For the season now, Clemson's D ranks first in third-down conversion rate (23.2 percent), yards-per-play (3.97), percent of plays resulting in loss or no gain (45.8 percent), percent of plays gaining 5 yards or more (30.8 percent) and tackles-for-loss (91).

Quick hitters
  • Since returning from injury on Oct. 18, DeVante Parker has 25 catches for 490 yards. That's the most receiving yards by any Power 5 receiver during that span, and no other ACC receiver is within 127 yards of his total.
  • Florida State tailback Karlos Williams scored twice in a win against Virginia, bringing his career total to 20. He's done all that on just 210 career rushing attempts -- scoring once every 10.5 rushes. Since the start of last season, no other Power 5 back with at least 200 carries has been better.
  • BC running back Jon Hilliman now has 11 rushing touchdowns this season, the most by an ACC true freshman in at least a decade.
  • Syracuse wide receiver Jarrod West ranks fifth in the ACC in receiving yards vs. FBS teams (596) despite the fact his quarterbacks rank 121st nationally in passer rating in those games.
  • Georgia Tech senior Synjyn Days had just 561 career rushing yards until three weeks ago. He's had 414 since, and only Miami's Duke Johnson has averaged more yards-per-carry in the ACC during that stretch.
  • Opponents' average starting field position against Duke this season is their own 24-yard line. Ohio State is the only defense in the nation to start with more advantageous field position.
  • Deshaun Watson is set to return for Clemson at quarterback this week against Georgia Tech. In his absence, the Tigers' offensive TD output (7) was exceeded by its turnovers (8).

Q&A with Syracuse LB Dyshawn Davis

August, 12, 2014
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Checking in on Syracuse’s fall camp with linebacker Dyshawn Davis.

David Hale: You’ve got a week of camp under your belt. How do you feel like things are going?

[+] EnlargeAlex Amidon
Mark Konezny/USA TODAY SportsSyracuse linebacker Dyshawn Davis is ready to take on a leadership role this fall.
 Dyshawn Davis: It’s going smoothly. I feel like I’m getting better every day. With the older guys, on the field, when things get tough and your tired, you know how to fight through it, to mentally be strong and lead the way for my teammates. In our position group, we’ve got a lot of young guys coming in [who] are going to be special in the next couple years, and I just try to show them great leadership so when their time comes, they can just follow in my footsteps.

Hale: You and Cam Lynch are both going into your senior seasons as two of the top linebackers in the conference. Have you guys talked about wanting to end your Syracuse careers with a bang and doing something special before you leave?

Davis: Absolutely. You know, me and Cam came in together. I came in the spring before him, but we ended up learning a lot and it later came down to a time when me and Cam had to compete for a spot. I ended up beating him out, but we built a relationship strong. Now Cam is my roommate, so I’m kind of with him 24/7. We’re in camp, the same position group, we go home and sleep in the same apartment.

That relationship is like no other, and to be able to be leaders on this team and lean on each other for anything and everything — it’s just wonderful. And Cam is a great guy, he’s been through a lot, but he’s always been there for me. I’m looking forward to having a special season with him and doing some great things this year.

Hale: You mentioned the young guys have impressed you. Anyone in particular standing out so far?

Davis: Parris Bennett, Zaire [Franklin], we’ve got Jonathan Thomas — they’ve been doing a great job. To me, what’s impressive, they came in and we were doing conditioning, and they came in in shape. I always lead the way, me and Cam, pushing the group, pushing the team, and a lot of freshmen, the bigger guys come in overweight and out of shape and were kind of falling down. But the young freshmen linebackers were just right there by me and Cam’s side, picking the team up, picking other players up.

For them to be so young and have that fire and drive and show us they’re willing to do whatever they can to compete and play and make our group better, it was pretty special to see that. I’m just always reminding them that if they keep that fire and that drive, that’s going to take them a long way.

Hale: There’s been so much debate about how good Terrel Hunt can be in his second season as the starting quarterback. As you’ve gone against him in seven-on-seven drills over the summer, have you seen a real improvement in his game?

Davis: I’ve been competing with Terrel all summer and now into camp. To see his confidence, to see his poise of how he controls the offense, it’s been great. You can see the difference from last year to this year. He’s getting great with his mechanics, calling the offense.

Terrel will be good for us this year, and he knows that our season is his destiny. However far he takes us, that’s how far we’re going to go. I’ve got 110 percent confidence in him, right behind him while he’s leading us to compete for an ACC championship.

Hale: The other buzzword on the offense seems to be tempo. As a defender, has it felt different going up against that up-tempo offense in camp?

Davis: The tempo has been great. They’ve got some speed over there, [Prince] Tyson Gulley, George Morris, a great rotation at running back. Brisly Estime in the slot, Jarrod West, Ashton Broyld -- all those guys have been doing a good job of keeping the tempo up. We’ve got linemen who lost weight and are able to move faster now, in better shape. The offensive tempo is good, especially for us going against them. They have us prepared for the other offenses in the ACC that run that tempo.
Syracuse opens its second spring in the ACC this week, and head coach Scott Shafer thinks there’s plenty for the Orange to be excited about. We talked with Shafer about some of the key issues facing Syracuse as it gets back to the practice field.

Winning the final two games of the season the way you did, how much does that momentum and energy carry over into a new year?

A: Any time you can finish a season with a bowl win, it gives some momentum going into the offseason. I think it affects the offseason program more than anything. The way the kids approach the strength program, conditioning, early morning workouts -- there’s just a sense of excitement across the board and anticipation for the next guys in. We lost a lot of good football players that played a lot of football, and now the kids that have waited their turn are competing to see who’s going to win the next opportunity. It’s right out there for them and they get to jump into a situation where the momentum is coming off a high note.

[+] EnlargeScott Shafer
Brett Carlsen/Getty ImagesScott Shafer went 7-6, including a bowl win, in his first season in the ACC.
Terrel Hunt made such big strides down the stretch. With that experience under his belt, what can this spring mean to him?

A: The thing with Terrel that always is the starting point is his ability to adapt. He’s had to adapt in his real-life situation with a lot of tough situations, coming up with his parents passing away, that sort of thing. He’s always been an extremely resilient kid. Now adding the confidence level that he’s played well toward the end of the season, the kids see him as a leader, which is natural for him. I think his command can continue to really affect the team, not just the offense.

From an Xs and Os and technique point of view, it’s important that he continues to grow with Coach [Tim] Lester coaching him every day, and I know he’s excited to do that. I think he can have a really good spring that can catapult him into being extremely prepared for a great fall.

Offensive coordinator George McDonald has talked about upping the tempo this year as Hunt gets more comfortable. How much could that help you guys offensively?

A: I think we finished fourth in the ACC in snaps offensively [at 73.7 per game]. We were right up there. If we can get four or five more a game, I think that would be a good goal, a good objective to try to reach. Being a former defensive guy, the tempo teams always cause you a little extra preparation. At the end of the day, it’s still execution between the whistles, but if we can put four or five more plays per game to our offense, it’ll help us a bunch.

That and being able to open it up a little bit with some of the wide receivers and kids we got back. Adrian Flemming we were excited going into the season and he got injured. He’s back and ready to go. I’m excited about the progress some of the kids that haven’t played yet for us offensively. Everybody knows Brisly Estime had a good season for us, especially the last half. But we’ve got some guys -- Corey Winfield is a young guy who’s had a great offseason. Sean Avant, I’m excited to see what he can do. Corey Cooper is another kid. On the outside, Jarrod West coming back and leading the way, Alvin Cornelius did some good things for us later in the season. And, of course, we’re always excited to get the ball in Ashton Broyld's hands. So I think there’s a sense of excitement for those kids to compete and be alongside with developing Terrel. The passing game scenario, we definitely have to continue to improve upon. And we have to stay strong with running the football.

You lose a big impact player in Jay Bromley. Do you think filling that hole on the defensive line is your biggest question mark this spring?

A: Yeah, I do. Losing a guy like Jason Bromley, it’s always tough to replace a guy who has played that much football. Eric Crume has played a ton of football for us, and he had a great offseason. I’m excited to see Eric step up to the plate. Some new names: Marcus Coleman hasn’t played yet but we’re going to put him on the field. We have a kid that we’ve recruited for a couple years in Wayne Williams that started at the midyear. He’s a kid we’re really excited about and now he’s ready to go after he went junior college. And then Ryan Sloan will get a bunch of snaps this spring. It’ll be definitely difficult to replace Jason, but in the same breath, I know these kids are excited for the opportunity.

Injuries were a big problem in the secondary last year, particularly at corner. But can the added experience that some of the backups got in 2013 be a bonus for you this spring?

[+] EnlargeTerrel Hunt
AP Photo/David J. PhillipTerrel Hunt has another season in the Orange's offensive system after totaling 17 TDs last season.
A: That’s a great point. Julian Whigham was our third corner going into the season, but he was sitting behind two guys that had started for a few years each. When Keon [Lyn] went down and Julian started playing more, he and Brandon Reddish -- Brandon was the third, Julian was a three-and-a-half type of guy -- but Julian came in and had three interceptions. I’m excited about him. Brandon Reddish is a kid that’s played a lot of football and is now a senior. Wayne Morgan is a fast guy that we’ve moved around a little bit because we had depth at corner, but now we’re locking him back in at corner. Those guys, it was a little bit of a difficult situation at the time, but you move to the season after the injuries and those kids have played more than we anticipated, and you have more experienced depth, which is key.

Bromley, Jerome Smith, Macky MacPherson -- you lost some important leaders on your team. Who do you see stepping up to fill that void?

A: Only time can tell. You never want to try to force or anoint leadership. A guy like Cam Lynch on defense, he walks into a situation that’s natural for him. He’s well-versed in football and is an excellent student as well. He carries himself where he’s already been a natural leader as an underclassman. Dyshawn Davis is an excitable player who loves the game, and he’s got some qualities that are different than Cam. His sense of excitability has its own merit. We have a couple quiet leaders in Micah Robinson -- it’s not always the guy that stands up and says things. It’s a guy or a group of guys that establish themselves as guys that show the way, model the way, and other guys get on board. We have a lot of those guys. On the offensive side, Terrel is still an underclassman, but he’s a natural leader. Kids follow him. And then Sean Hickey decided to come back and we’re very happy and excited he’s back. He’s one of the best silent leaders you could have. He works every day. He’s a perfectionist, and when you have guys doing things right consistently, sometimes those are your best leaders.

Syracuse’s first ACC season was largely successful, but you’re in a division with the defending national champions in Florida State, the Orange Bowl champs at Clemson and a team in Louisville that has won 23 games the past two seasons. Is that something you remind your team about as motivation this time of year, or is it something that can be intimidating?

A: It’s just one of those things that’s reality. We don’t talk about it much. We talk about controlling the things we can control, and that’s where we start off every meeting almost. We talk about what we can do to get better. We understand the bar is high, especially on our side of the division, but that’s what we signed up for. As coaches, we wanted to play in those venues with the best teams in the country. As players, you always imagine yourself playing the best. Now we get to live it. That’s exciting. I can think about all my biggest victories in my career as a coach and say they wouldn’t be the biggest victories if we didn’t get a chance to knock down the giant. So we’ve got a couple giants on our side of the division, and now what we want to do is really focus in on the business at hand -- spring ball, a civil war, offense and defense getting after each other, focus on improving by trying to knock the guy down that’s across from me and then pick him up as a teammate. We’ll have our goals with winners and losers this spring and understand that you learn a lot when you win, you learn a lot when you lose and really embrace that mentality, and not focus on the other teams right now.
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It was a little too much like last season: Minnesota leading late in the Texas Bowl. Plenty of hope. Critical breakdowns. And an eventual loss. The only difference this year was the opponent -- Syracuse.

The Gophers led 17-14 with just more than two minutes remaining in the game, after having clawed back from a 14-3 fourth-quarter deficit. But a 70-yard punt return from Brisly Estime set the Orange up for a touchdown and a four-point lead with just more than a minute remaining.

Minnesota wasn’t able to respond, and like its previous 20 games under Jerry Kill when the Gophers trailed at halftime, Minnesota lost. Syracuse walked away with the win, 21-17.

It was over when: Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner’s Hail Mary fell incomplete out of bounds at the 1-yard line. It was just the second game this season that the redshirt freshman had attempted at least 20 passes, and his final two heaves toward the end zone both looked as though they might be good. But on the final play, Syracuse dropped most of its defense deep, ready for the prayer of a pass, and Minnesota just didn’t have enough luck left to pull off the win.

Game ball goes to: Syracuse QB Terrel Hunt. The sophomore put together one of his most impressive games this season, accounting for 262 yards (188 passing, 74 rushing) and two of the Orange’s three touchdowns. The Minnesota defense just couldn’t really find much of an answer to his dual-threat capabilities, and he looked like an even better version of the QB who led Syracuse impressively through November.

Stat of the game: 13 consecutive scoreless quarters or 195 minutes -- the streak of the Gophers being held out of the end zone. But against Syracuse early in the fourth quarter, Minnesota ended that drought, as Leidner first found Maxx Williams for a 20-yard TD and then connected with Drew Wolitarsky for a 55-yard score.

Back-and-forth affair: Syracuse's 7-3 halftime lead seemed solid. But when it took a two-score lead in the third quarter against a Minnesota offense that hadn't shown any signs of life, it seemed as though the game might as well be over. But the Gophers came back kicking only to eventually be kicked once more. It was a game worth watching until the end, because that's when most of the action really was worth watching.

What Syracuse learned: This offense could really develop in the next few seasons in the ACC. With two more years in this offense, Hunt could become quite the player. His arm and feet looked reliable, and with his athleticism, he seems like he isn’t close to his ceiling. On top of that, Syracuse’s top three receivers -- Estime, Ashton Broyld and Jarrod West -- will all return next year.

What Minnesota learned: The QB competition is (and should be) open at Minnesota. Philip Nelson has had the advantage with the more reliable arm, but Leidner stepped in and threw Minnesota’s first passing touchdowns in months. Both played against Syracuse, but the offense looked the best with Leidner, and that's what Kill chose to go with when the game was on the line.

Best moment of the game: Kill returning to the sideline for Minnesota. He came down during halftime and decided to stay for the second half. He hadn’t coached from the sideline since September and since he had taken a leave from coaching to focus on his health. But it was nice to see Kill enjoying himself on the sideline again.

To watch the trophy presentation of the Texas Bowl, click here.

ACC lunchtime links

September, 11, 2013
9/11/13
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Never Forget.

Syracuse Orange spring wrap

May, 7, 2013
5/07/13
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SYRACUSE ORANGE

2012 record: 8-5
2012 conference record: 5-2 Big East (tied for first)
Returning starters: Offense: 5; Defense: 6; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners: C Macky MacPherson, TE Beckett Wales, RB Jerome Smith, NT Jay Bromley, LB Marquis Spruill, LB Dyshawn Davis, CB Keon Lyn, CB Ri’Shard Anderson, FS Jeremi Wilkes, PK Ross Krautman, P Jonathan Fisher

Key losses: WR Marcus Sales, WR Alec Lemon, QB Ryan Nassib, LG Zack Chibane, LT Justin Pugh, DE Markus Pierce-Brewster, DE Brandon Sharpe, DT Deon Goggins, LB Siriki Diabete, SS Shamarko Thomas

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Smith* (1,171 yards)
Passing: Nassib (3,749)
Receiving: Lemon (1,070)
Tackles: Thomas (84)
Sacks: Sharpe (7)
Interceptions: Lyn* (3)

Spring answers:

1. Deep stable of running backs. Offensive coordinator George McDonald compared this group to the talent he saw while an assistant at Miami. It’s a good mix of experience, with a 1,000-yard rusher in Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley (617 yds), and youth, sophomores George Morris III, Ashton Broyld and Devante McFarlane.

2. Replacing Thomas by committee. It will take more than one player to compensate for the loss of the first-team All-Big East safety and team’s leading tackler. The good news is three starters return to the secondary, and there are plenty of options to see playing time, including juniors Ritchy Desir and Durell Eskridge at safety.

3. Familiarity on staff eased transition. Scott Shafer was Syracuse’s defensive coordinator for four years before he was promoted to head coach, and he surrounded himself with a staff that had worked together before at previous stops. Their familiarity with each other and their philosophies and personalities transferred to the players as everyone adjusted.

Fall questions:

1. Quarterbacks. The transfer of former Oklahoma quarterback Drew Allen added even more competition to an already-wide open race for the top job. While some think Allen is the Answer, the position is still a question, as Charley Loeb, Terrel Hunt and John Kinder have more experience in the system and went through the spring in it.

2. Replacing receivers. Cuse lost the Big East’s best receiver in Alec Lemon, and veteran Macus Sales also has to be replaced. Senior Jarrod West (43 catches) had a good spring and leads a group of candidates including seniors Chris Clark and Adrian Flemming, juniors Keenan Hale, Jeremiah Kobena and Arkansas transfer Quinta Funderburk. “Yeah, Jarrod West had a good spring game and had a good spring,” Shafer said. “He did a nice job. Then we have a handful of kids that are in a fight. It's a good fight.”

3. Depth on the defensive line. Syracuse has to replace three of its starting front four, but it is also looking for an eight-man rotation up front. Competition for those will continue this summer to see who gets the most reps.
Syracuse offensive coordinator George McDonald is in his first season with the Orange after spending the past two coaching the receivers at Miami. The former receiver at Illinois also carries the title of associate head coach, the most responsibility he has had in his coaching career. With a new coaching staff, a new quarterback and a new conference, there are plenty of questions facing Syracuse this fall, but McDonald likes what he sees after his first spring. I caught up with him recently to get his take on the Orange. Here are the highlights of our conversation:

Everyone wants to know about the quarterbacks, obviously. What was your take on that competition?

George McDonald: I think the competition is ongoing. Terrel Hunt did a very good job of coming in, understanding the system and the ins and outs of what we’re trying to get accomplished. John Kinder and Charley Loeb, they’re still in the mix. Terrel kind of came out of the spring with a little gap, but they’re all competing, just like with the other freshmen coming in this fall.

Are you allowed to talk about the other quarterback who’s coming in?

GM: I’d rather not.

Ok, I’m not trying to get you in trouble. How did your receivers look this spring?

[+] EnlargeJarrod West
Rich Barnes/USA TODAY SportsOffensive coordinator George McDonald said Syracuse is looking for WR Jarrod West to be a key contributor in 2013.
GM: They did good. We lost some really good receivers last year, but I think a lot of young talent, Jeremiah Kobena is a guy who has a lot of speed. Jarrod West is a returning receiver for us who had about 40 catches last year and we’re looking to have a good year. And then Adrian Flemming, he’s a rising senior, had a really good spring. I think they’re all hungry, and they all came out trying to compete, trying to show they’re ready to keep the wide receiver tradition alive here.

What do you guys look like up front?

GM: Good. Those guys, we lost some guys, but Sean Hickey, he had a really good spring, Rob Trudo, Nick Robinson and Ivan Foy, those guys really did a great job of stepping into new roles, and then Macky MacPherson, he’s kind of the glue of the whole unit. He played last year and the last couple of years. He really jelled with the unit and got those guys on the same page rather quickly. I told one reporter I talked to, if you didn’t know we lost two really good linemen, and you saw a live play, you wouldn’t have known the difference because they jelled so well and they worked so well together for the first time.

How much did you change scheme-wise?

GM: Me and [former offensive coordinator] Coach [Nathaniel] Hackett, we kind of worked together at Stanford, so we kind of have the same vision. The scheme is pretty much the same. Obviously when you come in the terminology is the biggest thing the kids have to get used to. The plays and the concept of the plays and the philosophy of the offense is pretty much the same.

Are you where you hoped you guys would be after spring ball?

GM: Actually, I think we’re a little bit farther ahead than I thought we’d be, and that’s based on the foundation in terms of the kids understanding how to come to meetings, and grasp the concepts and actually go out and work and not have bad days. I don’t think we had one day where you walk off the field and didn’t feel like you got better. I think we’re a little bit ahead. Obviously we have to clean some stuff up over the summer and continue to get ready for the fall, but in terms of installation and understanding the base concepts of the offense and what we’re trying to get done, from a run and pass standpoint, I’m pretty pleased with where we’re at.

That’s great. I don’t usually hear that. From the outside looking in, you would think the questions at quarterback are a concern. Are you guys confident there?

GM: Obviously you’re always concerned when you have a first-year starter. Whoever the guy is going to be, they haven’t been the guy in college football. But Terrel Hunt, he’s really done a nice job over the last 15 practices of understanding the system, and obviously we have some guys coming in to add competition to it. But any coach in America who has a first-year quarterback, there’s some apprehension and concern, but we have a lot of confidence in the talent we can surround the quarterback with and Coach Lester, we feel like he’s a really good quarterbacks coach and he’ll get those guys ready to play. I’m on the positive side. Whoever wins the starting quarterback job will be prepared to go out and lead us to success.

What are the main focuses aside from naming a starting quarterback, for this summer?

GM: I think in the summer we just have to become better students of the game. We have to watch the tape and really evaluate -- from a coaching standpoint and a player standpoint -- just evaluate what we did and what we accomplished in the spring and just keep building on it. The guys doing seven-on-seven on their own, doing routes on their own, the linemen going through their projections and run drills, and just using the summer as a self-guided spring ball II, so when we come back for fall camp, we can pick up at practice 16 as opposed to starting over at practice 1.

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