Syracuse players benefit from extra practice time

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first_img Published on December 25, 2013 at 5:34 pm Contact David: [email protected] | @DBWilson2 Scott Shafer hasn’t committed to Terrel Hunt as his quarterback beyond the Texas Bowl. As long Shafer is the head coach at Syracuse, it’s hard to imagine he’ll ever publicly commit to a player at any position that far into the future.But Hunt has a chance during the month of December to become somewhat more established behind center. For the majority of his first season as a starting quarterback, Hunt didn’t do much to inspire confidence as the program’s — for lack of a better word — “franchise” quarterback.And then he dazzled during the season-saving 34-31 win against Boston College on Nov. 30. It all but ensured the Orange a postseason game and an extra couple of weeks of practice. It gave him a chance to distance himself even further from potential competition before spring practice begins.“He will have a lot more experience making those decisions,” quarterbacks coach Tim Lester said, “so that’s going to give him a major advantage.”Perhaps the biggest perk for SU out of qualifying for Friday’s Texas Bowl is the extra practice time allotted. Syracuse gets a string of two-and-a-half hour practices leading up to the bowl game at 6 p.m. in Houston.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textMost of the time is taken to prepare for Minnesota, the Orange’s opponent, but the final 45 minutes or so of each practice is designated for SU’s younger players to get experience.“It helps Terrel because he gets to stay in the flow, but it also helps Sean Avant or Corey Winfield because they get more reps and stuff like that,” offensive coordinator George McDonald said. “If we didn’t make the bowl game everyone’s at home right now, not doing anything. Here we have a chance to keep growing as a team.”For the veterans returning to Syracuse, it’s a chance to hone their skills that they’ve spent all season working on.Hunt played arguably his best game of the season against the Eagles. Instead of waiting until the spring to get back on the field for the Orange, he had a chance to build on that momentum and fix some of the issues that still plague him.“I think it would be harder if he was one of those seniors that’s won tons of games and really just has seen everything, has done everything, has great timing and you’re really just trying to keep him focused,” Lester said. “I’m just really trying to keep him focused on his deficiencies.“There’s still a ton to do every day at work.”For the even older veterans, the ones graduating or heading to the NFL, it’s one last chance to improve their stock or just a last chance to play organized football.Running back Jerome Smith knows the Texas Bowl is a chance to improve his stock. Center Macky MacPherson isn’t regarded as the same type of NFL prospect that Smith is, but he can build stock, too. And if not, he still has a little bit of extra time to be a football player.“The more days I can play football the better, so I’m all happy with that,” MacPherson said. “It’s nice to see the young guys be able to get some reps, but I need to take as many reps as I can, too, just so I can go out there and get ready for this last bowl game, so I can be the best football player I can be for this game.”But McDonald said the young players are the ones that can benefit most from extra practice.Freshman quarterbacks Mitch Kimble and Austin Wilson spent all season working as scout-team quarterbacks — they don’t even sit in on Lester’s quarterback meetings, the coach said — so they can gain the experience they need to push Hunt next season. They haven’t had a real chance to run SU’s offense since August.When the extra practices started up, the younger players were getting most of the time, Lester said. As the bowl game drew closer, it became more of a 50-50 split and eventually most of the time was allocated to the veterans preparing for the Golden Gophers.It’s the split now that will have Syracuse best prepared when it takes the field at Reliant Stadium, and will have Hunt best prepared to be the Orange’s quarterback moving forward.“This experience of what he’s got to live through here will be invaluable,” Lester said, “if he takes advantage of it.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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