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College football: Day of hard-nosed fun, featuring QBs, at Carrier Dome

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SYRACUSE — Syracuse University quarterbacks coach Tim Lester approached incumbent starter Terrel Hunt at the start of stretches every day during spring practice.

Lester said he would point to freshman A.J. Long and sophomores Mitch Kimble and Austin Wilson then get in Hunt’s ear.

“You know I’m going to get these kids right, and when I get them right, you better be ready,” Lester said. “They’re coming.”

Orange fans got their first look at the three young SU quarterbacks at Saturday’s annual spring game at the Carrier Dome, the conclusion of a 31-day spring training camp.

Wilson and Kimble each led two scoring drives and Long engineered one to lead the SU offense to a 34-27 victory over its defense.

The offense vs. defense showcase replaced the usual split-squad scrimmage, head coach Scott Shafer said, because of injuries across the offensive line.

The offense scored in the conventional fashion while the defense garnered points for turnovers, three-and-outs and defensive stops.

“It wasn’t ideal as far as being able to truly split the teams and play a game, which I would love to be able to do,” Shafer said.

Hunt led the offense to a field goal on its first possession. He completed 12-of-15 passes for 96 yards before taking a seat to watch the competition to be his backup play out in front of 4,071 fans.

The Orange, coming off a 7-6 season that ended with a Texas Bowl victory, opens the regular season on Aug. 29 against Villanova in the Carrier Dome.

Wilson, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, completed all six of his pass attempts for 124 yards and two touchdowns.

In one sequence, the strong-armed pocket passer completed a strike across the middle and a 30-yard pass down the sideline to Ashton Broyld on back-to-back plays to get SU in the red zone.

“I’m 10 times more comfortable than I was last year,” Wilson said. “Last year I was on the scout team, and this (spring) just getting those reps, it really helps.”

Kimble, a 6-foot-3 sophomore with a side-armed release, completed a pinpoint pass in the back corner of the end zone to Jeremiah Kobena for a touchdown, and later led the Orange on a field goal drive.

Long, a 5-foot-11 freshman who arrived on campus in December, showed a few flashes of his ability to quickly escape the pocket. But hits on the quarterback were disallowed, hindering Long’s ability to escape and show off his speed.

Lester said he is interested in seeing Long and Kimble when the team opens training camp in August, and compared them to a young Hunt.

“They have a couple of bad habits just like Hunt had, and if they go fix them, they’ll be different guys,” Lester said.

“Hunt throws the ball totally different than he did last year. He’s been able to fix some of his issues and puts a little more zip on the ball now.”

Broyld took a 54-yard screen pass to the end zone, cutting through and barreling over defenders along the way to provide one of the afternoon’s highlights.

Kobena also scored in impressive fashion. He took a screen near the sideline at the 15-yard line, completely reversed field and went as far back as the 30 to avoid tacklers before turning the corner and getting into the end zone.

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