- Associated Press - Friday, March 28, 2014

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) - Spring football practice is underway for the Syracuse Orange.

There’s a lot of work to do.

“A lot of things to clean up,” coach Scott Shafer said Thursday after the first practice with pads. “They’ve got a long way to go to where we want them to be. We made progress. That’s all you can ask.

Syracuse lost 19 players from the Texas Bowl-winning team, including captains Jay Bromley, Macky MacPherson, Jerome Smith and Marquis Spruill. And Shafer’s staff includes two new faces - offensive line coach Joe Adam, former head coach at Elmhurst College, and tight ends coach Bobby Acosta, former head coach at Widener.


“I always say, ‘Whisper the weaknesses, but continue to work on them hard.’ “

Practice began Tuesday and ends April 19 with the annual spring game in the Carrier Dome. The Orange went through drills the first two days without pads, and Shafer said the offense was strong early on third day with pads.

Among those who stood out was Brisly Estime, whose 70-yard punt return set up the winning score in a 21-17 victory over Minnesota in the Texas Bowl in late December. Shafer said Estime made a big catch over the middle and quarterback Terrel Hunt connected with Jarrod West for 50 yards down the sideline.

“It was lively,” Shafer said. “The kids were competing.”

Syracuse lost 19 players from the bowl team, including captains Jay Bromley, Macky MacPherson, Jerome Smith and Marquis Spruill. And Shafer’s staff includes two new faces - offensive line coach Joe Adam, former head coach at Elmhurst College, and tight ends coach Bobby Acosta, former head coach at Widener.

“Getting a feel for one another, players and coaches, is a big goal,” Shafer said. “We always talk about who’s up next on the depth chart, but also who’s up next as a leader.”

The goal is to install an offense that’s more uptempo than last year’s 7-6 team and a little less complicated. With Hunt returning after most of a season under his belt as the starter, the Orange are in a better place than they were a year ago when they had to replace record-setter Ryan Nassib with a bunch of inexperience.

Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen, who had never started a game, beat out Hunt in preseason camp last summer but lost the job in the third game. Hunt, who did not play as a freshman and got in only one game on special teams in his redshirt year, started the remainder of 2013 and led the Orange to a dramatic late 34-31 win over Boston College that gave Syracuse the required sixth victory to play in the postseason.

“Who he is, is hard to find. He’s a special kid,” Shafer said of Hunt. “He’s a strong young man. We didn’t want to put too much on his plate. He was fighting to just play. It’s hard to be a leader when you’re not the starter, and that’s the truth. I was pleased with not only how he played, but how he started to take charge of the offense. I love his leadership capabilities.”

Syracuse lost a big dose of its leadership from a year ago, and it was on display Wednesday inside Manley Field House on pro day. Bromley, MacPherson, Spruill, and Smith joined other former teammates in a workout for 29 NFL teams.

Bromley, a defensive tackle, is the Orange’s top prospect, while Smith, a tailback, is probably either a late-round selection or will try to make the grade as a free agent. Both also participated at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis last month.

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