Week 1 concluded with a dominant win... against Elon. Time to move on to bigger and better opponents.
This week will be a tremendous test, opening the ACC season against Syracuse. While the Orange also finished 3-9 last season, they trounced the Demon Deacons 30-7. Will this season be different?
We brought in John Cassillo (a great follow for all news Syracuse) from Nunes Magician to provide great insight and details about Saturday's opponent.
Here are my answers to Cassillo's questions on our brother blog.
Senior quarterback Terrel Hunt was expected to be one of Syracuse’s playmakers with his legs and his arm. How does the Orange cope with losing him to a torn Achilles tendon and how do you anticipate Scott Shafer & Co will adjust their offense on the fly?
Hunt's injury was tough for the team and fans -- especially that early on in the game/season. You never like to see injuries -- especially when a player lost most of the previous year to one too. Since the team installed a new offense in the offseason, the drop-off may not be as bad you'd think from Hunt to Dungey, though. The freshman may already be a better passer, and while he doesn't have the physical skills the senior Hunt possesses in terms of strength, his speed still allows him to be a running threat too. The team got to play him a good amount last week, so with luck, early jitters have been worked out a little and the team can actually run most of the offense as planned.
With Hunt’s season-ending injury, true freshman Eric Dungey is under center. What were your initial impressions of him versus Rhode Island last week (10-14, 114 yards and two touchdowns)? Also, what are your expectations of him for the rest of the season?
I guess I touched on some of this in the previous answer. I thought that for a true freshman who did not expect to start on Friday, he was very poised and collected while helping the team grab a big win. He didn't force anything, really, and was a couple drops/miscommunication issues from a much gaudier stat line. He takes off a little early here and there, which... you probably expect from a player this young.
Obviously the rest of Syracuse's opponents aren't Rhode Island, though, so their defensive fronts will be bigger and the respsctive secondaries will be better. Dungey has his work cut out for him, but he's already shown he has the ability to do well. I'd expect him to play well all year while also dealing with the typical growing pains of a frosh QB. Will have a better idea whether or not he can lead us to six wins after this coming Saturday, I think.
Between freshman Jordan Fredericks, freshman Jacob Hill and junior George Morris, Syracuse had three running backs carry the ball at least 12 times. What are your thoughts on the trio and compare and contrast the different threats that these backs pose.
Interestingly enough, it's unlikely any opponent sees the look Rhode Island did, really. The run-heavy approach was in part due to URI's D-line being far too porous, and part due to a big lead (which was caused by the first note). Also, Devante McFarlane, the listed starting running back, didn't even play last week. With McFarlane and Morris as the veteran backs who can probably run more between the tackles (though they're not that big), Wake will have some known quantities to defend against. In Fredericks and fellow freshman Dontae Strickland, the Orange will be able to utilize some speed to the outside, and both have breakaway potential (as do D-Mac and Morris, to be honest). It's unlikely you see Hill much in a running back role this time around. The walk-on freshman racked up most of his yardage in garbage time, and I doubt we see a ton of that on Saturday.
The Syracuse defense is replacing four of its top five linemen, three of its top five linebackers and its top four defensive backs. How do defensive-minded coach Scott Shafer plan to cope with this inexperience?
Wing it? In all seriousness, though, this isn't the first time Shafer's dealt with a lot of turnover on the defensive end. Plus, with last year's numerous injuries, a lot of the current contributors actually saw more playing time in 2014 too. Nothing really changes in terms of scheme. Expect this group to blitz a majority of the time, creating havoc and trying to force turnovers. The linebackers, as always, will be a strength and Wake Forest's film study has probably keyed in on MLB Zaire Franklin there as the captain of that always tricky front-seven. The line can succeed this year if Ron Thompson and John Raymon can stay healthy. But there's also a host of young guys who already got to see the field against URI. So at the very least, no one's coming in completely green at this point.
Who is one player that Wake Forest fans should watch out for and will know by name at the end of the game?
Hybrid back Ervin Philips. Last year's leading rusher now serves in a combo role of slot receiver and edge runner. He had two scores against the Rams, and Syracuse's new offensive scheme seems to be predicated on finding ways to get him involved as much as possible. He has some blazing speed and will be a key part of any misdirection the Orange display. Expect to hear his name a lot, whether the ball's in his hand or not.
Both of these teams were expected to be in the ACC’s cellar this season. Currently, Syracuse is a 4-point favorite at home. How do you see this game playing out and what is your prediction?
Normally, I'd feel like I had a rough idea of how this plays out, but with a freshman QB only a week from being thrust into action, I won't exactly play "expert" here. That said, Dungey does have a nice collection of playmakers around him who can collectively help make his job easier even if only one of them (wideout Steve Ishmael) is really a name other fans are truly aware of. This is likely to be a defensive struggle early, with each team forcing some mistakes. Over time, Syracuse manages to catch a break or two on offense and squeaks by for a 23-17 victory. Dungey plays well enough, but the hero is the linebackers, who hold off the Deacons on the final drive of the game.
Thanks again for joining us John! And remember, for all news and analysis about "thy enemy" check out Nunes Magician