Media day kicks off Syracuse football season

Orange players and head coach Scott Shafer expecting improved offense and win total.

“Excitement” seemed to be the most popular word thrown around Syracuse University’s 2014 football media day at Manley Field House on Saturday afternoon.

In front of more than 25 media members, Orange head coach Scott Shafer talked about the excitement and expectations surrounding the program prior to his second year at the helm.

“I probably slept the best I’ve slept last night,” Shafer said. “I finally got to get in front of them as a group and talk to them about all that we’re looking to forward to…we’re fired up about the future.”

Photo: Alexandra Hootnick
The Syracuse football team walks to the field for practice. In preparation for the upcoming season, the team's workout program has been advanced, incorporating weekly yoga to increase flexibility.

For Shafer and the Orange, there are plenty of storylines heading into the 2014-15 season.

Coming into last season’s fall camp, Drew Allen and Terrel Hunt were locked in a tight competition for the starting quarterback position. But this year, Hunt is the clear-cut starter, which should make things easier for Shafer and offensive coordinator George McDonald.

“I’m excited to see how Terrel steps into that role of being a returning quarterback,” Shafer said. “He had a great Texas Bowl and all those things, but those are all in the past. He understands that. I just want to see him systematically get better from day to day. And I am so excited."

However, the race to be Hunt’s back-up is an entirely different story. Youngsters Mitch Kimble, A.J. Long and Austin Wilson are expected to battle for the position throughout camp, and Shafer is very enthusiastic about their potential.

Fans will also see a lot of familiar faces on opening night. Butkus Award Watch List nominee Dyshawn Davis and fellow linebacker Cameron Lynch lead a group of seven returning starters on the defensive side of the ball, while Hunt and preseason All-ACC tackle Sean Hickey lead the group of returning starters on offense.

Last season, the Orange averaged close to 75 plays per game, but this year Shafer and his staff hope to push the ball downfield at a faster rate.

“The goal is to go fast and force the defense’s hand,” Shafer said. “We also want to be able to change it up a couple of different ways and be creative. I really like what our offensive coaches have put together from the beginning of spring up to now."

For Hickey and the rest of the offense, it’s all about getting in top shape to meet the demands of Shafer and McDonald.

Even if that means starting a new workout regimen.

“We were doing yoga every Tuesday over the summer,” Hickey said. “The team added it to the workout program as well, so we’re going to keep doing it. It makes you feel better and it makes you more flexible.

“Overall, it’s something that will help us moving forward. But, we moved fast last year. Our whole team is used to the up-tempo offense, but we need to be a little bit faster every week. We just have to get better and better at it.“

The Orange will debut its new and improved offense August 29 at 7:30 p.m. in the Carrier Dome against Villanova on ESPN3.

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