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College football: SU’s offensive captains like depth at quarterback

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SYRACUSE — Jerome Smith said he believed Drew Allen could be a starting quarterback when he first arrived on the Syracuse University campus and took him and Ashton Broyld to dinner at Johnny Rockets.

According to Smith, when the check came, Allen grabbed it and looked at his two running backs and said, “I got you, I’m the quarterback.”

The rest of the world found out last Saturday when first-year Syracuse University coach Scott Shafer revealed Allen as the starter over sophomore Terrel Hunt, ending a position battle that dominated SU headlines throughout the offseason and training camp.

After a 23-17 season-opening loss to Penn State, Shafer and the coaching staff supported Allen as the starter.

When SU players met with the media this week, elected offensive captains Macky MacPherson and Smith echoed their coaches and said that Allen has their full support moving forward as well.

SU plays at AP-ranked No. 19 Northwestern at 6 p.m. Saturday, The Wildcats opened their season last week with a 44-30 win at California.

“We’re all in with him,” said Smith, the junior running back who ran for 75 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries on Saturday.

“We said that all summer, whoever’s the starting quarterback, we’re going to be all in with him. They had our full respect,” Smith added.

“Drew came (early) in the summertime so it wasn’t a sense of gaining respect. He was here, he ran with us this summer and did some of the tough things we did and he ran hard. Guys were on him. The defense was really after him and made it be known they’d be after him. The way he handled things, he’s a tough dude.”

MacPherson, the senior center, said that he was impressed by Allen’s poise in his first collegiate start.

Allen, a 6-foot-5 strong-armed passer, redshirted at the University of Oklahoma in 2009 and spent the next three seasons as the backup to Landry Jones before announcing his intent to transfer to SU this spring.

“I think for all the pressure, Drew handled it pretty well,” said MacPherson, who is a roommate of Allen’s.

“It was a nice experience to see Drew finally have his dream come true and become a starting quarterback.”

MacPherson also discussed the training camp battle between Allen and Hunt from his perspective — waiting to see who he would be snapping the ball to in his third and final season as the starter.

“It was a real tough situation for me and I couldn’t pick a favorite,” he said. “The other thing was, I was happy with whoever they chose because I knew every single one of those guys was hard-working. They were going to work their butts off and be the best quarterback they can be.”

MacPherson also addressed Hunt’s status as the backup.

“He’s a really tough kid. I know a lot of people who would break in the situation like he was in, worked his butt of all spring and he’s still working his butt off, and I’m proud of him for it. I know he’s going to get his chance someday.”

But for now, the job is Allen’s. And so are the dinner tabs. Smith said that Allen treated the offensive line to a meal at Tully’s days before the season opener.

“He was the leader. He was definitely the sheriff out there,” Smith said when assessing Allen’s first start. “He made his calls and we ran with him.”

WELSH ACC AWARD WINNER

SU sophomore defensive end Robert Welsh was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Lineman of the Week on Tuesday.

In his first career start, Welsh recorded six tackles, a sack for a loss of four yards, and an interception that he returned 31 yards to set up a one-yard touchdown run by Smith, cutting SU’s deficit to 23-17 with less than seven minutes to play.

BACK-TO-BACK IN BIG 10

Syracuse is one of three teams in the nation opening the season with two straight games against Big Ten opponents.

Cincinnati (Purdue, Illinois) and Indiana State (Indiana, Purdue) are the others.

SU is the only team opening up with two Big Ten opponents that garnered votes in this week’s AP Top 25 poll.

JOURNALISM-SCHOOL SHOWDOWN

According to a December 2011 TVWeek and NewsPro survey, SU’s S.I. Newhouse School of Journalism and Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively, for journalism schools in the U.S.

SU’s notable alums include Bob Costas, Mike Tirico, Ian Eagle and Marv Albert, while Medill produced Mike Greenberg, Michael Wilbon and Brent Musberger.

Times sportswriter Josh St.Croix covers college football for the Times. He can be reached at jstcroix@wdt.net.

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