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Syracuse opens football season today vs. Penn St.


SYRACUSE — When asked of a timeline to name a starting quarterback on the eve of preseason camp, first-year Syracuse University football coach Scott Shafer was noncommittal.

As camp wore on, Shafer updated his timetable: “Before we kick the ball off on the 31st at MetLife Stadium, we have to find out who’s starting at quarterback as well as the other 10 positions on offense.”

He wasn’t kidding.

Shafer will finally reveal his choice to replace the graduated Ryan Nassib — senior Drew Allen or sophomore Terrel Hunt — when the Orange offense takes the field at today’s second annual “New York College Classic,” against Penn State at 3:30 p.m. at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

“Both kids have done a good job working on command and control, and I’ve been pleased with the way they have competed against one another and supported one another,” Shafer said. “I think we have got two high-character kids that have similar skill sets that we can win with either guy on the field.”

On Monday, Shafer released his week one depth chart with both Allen and Hunt listed as the starter.

Later in the week, he was asked if SU could deploy a platoon system under center, like AP-ranked No. 24 Southern California intends to do. Shafer was again noncommittal and said it was a case of realism vs. idealism.

“There’s going to be highs and lows, and we just have to stay steady as she goes throughout the course of the game. In the ideal world, you would like to have a Tom Brady running it and not worry about it and get the next guy ready. But in the realistic world, you have to be ready to play either/or throughout the course of the game.”

He added: “But they need to understand that when they go out on the field, they will make mistakes and just try to manage them as best we can, and it’s not the end of the world if something doesn’t go well. We are not just going to pull the carpet from underneath their toes and throw the next guy in. I don’t want to be in a yo-yo situation, so once we get out there, we will kind of get it going and see how she plays out.”

Neither Allen nor Hunt has started a game in their respective careers, making the Orange one of 11 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the nation entering the season in such a scenario.

Included in that group is the Nittany Lions. Second-year coach Bill O’Brien has also decided not to disclose his starter – sophomore Tyler Ferguson or freshman Christian Hackenberg – until today’s kickoff.

ESPN reported on Friday night that Hackenburg — the second-rated passer in the class of 2013 by — will get the start. O’Brien did not confirm his decision.

“When the game starts, everybody will know who the starting quarterback is when it’s our first offensive series,” O’Brien said during his Big Ten conference call this week.

“Both guys understand where we’re headed and they’ve handled the whole situation fantastically,” he added.

O’Brien said that he would like to eventually settle on one starter, but that might not be the case in today’s game.

“In this game, being the first game where neither guy has played for us at all as a Penn State football player, I would say that both guys need to be ready to play.”

For the Orange, Allen has been touted as a traditional pocket passer at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds. He served as the backup to Landry Jones at the University of Oklahoma for the past three seasons and announced his intent to transfer to SU this spring. He completed 18-of-30 passes for 160 yards to go with 17 rushing yards and a touchdown in 12 games for the Sooners.

Hunt is 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds and has been billed as the more mobile of the two quarterbacks. He won the job among the incumbents during spring practice but appeared in just one game, on special teams, last year after redshirting in 2011.

Shafer said that the difference in each players’ skill set has been overstated. He views both as: “Pretty similar guys. They’re both big, strong kids. Both have good feet and both can run.”

Whomever gets the nod will be tasked with replacing Nassib, drafted by the NFL’s New York Giants in April. He set eight single-season passing records last year and holds every major SU career mark except touchdowns.

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