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NCAA Football Syracuse Orange

10 Most Important Players in 2014 For Syracuse Football

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Syracuse Football: 10 Most Important Players in 2014 Season

Syracuse Beats BC
Mark Konezny - USATODAY Sports

As the Syracuse football team moves into year two of the Scott Shafer era, the Orange are trying to take things to the next level after going to a bowl game in three of the last four seasons. The schedule they face will be difficult, and if Syracuse is going to move the program another step forward in 2014, here are the 10 most important players on the team that will help make that happen.

10. Durell Eskridge, Safety

Durell Eskridge Syracuse
Rich Barnes - USATODAY Sports

10. Durell Eskridge, Safety

Durell Eskridge Syracuse
Rich Barnes - USATODAY Sports

Eskridge has the talent to be one of the best safeties in the ACC. He started to break out last season, but the Orange are going to need him to become a game changer this season. He'll need to cover a lot of space, provide help to the Syracuse cornerbacks and force turnovers for the Syracuse defense to be as good, if not better, than they were last year.

9. Brisly Estime, H-Back

Brisly
Mitch Stringer - USATODAY Sports

9. Brisly Estime, H-Back

Brisly
Mitch Stringer - USATODAY Sports

Estime will be one the offensive playmakers that Syracuse leans on in 2014. He has the speed and quickness to be a game changer, and the Orange will try to get him the ball any way possible. Syracuse will ask a lot of him, and Estime will have to deliver, which includes holding onto the ball and avoiding fumbles, as well as staying healthy, as he could be injury prone if the Orange try to use him too much.

8. Julian Whigham, Cornerback

Julian Whigham Syracuse
Rich Barnes - USATODAY Sports

8. Julian Whigham, Cornerback

Julian Whigham Syracuse
Rich Barnes - USATODAY Sports

Whigham isn't the most experienced cornerback on Syracuse's roster, but he may be the most talented. He showed plenty of promise last year before his devastating injury against Florida State, but he appears to be healthy and the Orange need a big year from him. Of Syracuse's three experienced cornerbacks, he's the most likely to develop in to a lock-down corner, which is what the Orange will need in the ACC this year.

7. Jarrod West, Wide Receiver

Jarrod West Syracuse
Rich Barnes - USATODAY Sports

7. Jarrod West, Wide Receiver

Jarrod West Syracuse
Rich Barnes - USATODAY Sports

Syracuse doesn't have a lot of established pass catchers, so they're going to need their most experienced receiver to step up. West had a disappointing season in 2013, and for long stretches was a complete non-factor. That can't happen again, as the Orange will need West to become a steady and reliable target for Terrell Hunt, and become someone Hunt looks to in key spots.

6. Ron Thompson, Defensive End

Ron Thompson Syracuse
Rich Barnes - USATODAY Sports

6. Ron Thompson, Defensive End

Ron Thompson Syracuse
Rich Barnes - USATODAY Sports

Syracuse has a pair of solid seniors at defensive end in Micah Robinson and Robert Welsh, but Thompson has a much higher upside. In his sophomore season, he needs to become a formidable and consistent pass-rushing threat, which is something the Orange lack. If Thompson can help Syracuse pressure the quarterback with a four-man rush, their defense will be a whole lot better.

5. Eric Crume, Defensive Tackle

Eric Crume
Mark Konezny - USATODAY Sports

5. Eric Crume, Defensive Tackle

Eric Crume
Mark Konezny - USATODAY Sports

With the loss of Jay Bromley, the interior of the defensive line is one of Syracuse's biggest question marks heading into the season. Crume is one of the few experienced players the Orange have inside, and they need him to step up and anchor the unit. If he can be anywhere close to as productive as Bromley was last year, Syracuse will be in good shape, otherwise this could be a problem area for the Orange all season.

4. Sean Hickey, Left Tackle

Sean Hickey
Mark Konezny - USATODAY Sports

4. Sean Hickey, Left Tackle

Sean Hickey
Mark Konezny - USATODAY Sports

Hickey gave the Syracuse offensive line a huge boost when he decided to return for his senior season, and now he has to prove why he's considered an early-round draft pick. The Orange can't afford quarterback Terrell Hunt to get hurt, and obviously Hickey is instrumental in that happening. But he also needs to become a catalyst in the running game, much like Justin Pugh was a couple of years ago.

3. Marqez Hodge, Linebacker

Marqez Hodge Syracuse
Mark Konezny - USATODAY Sports

3. Marqez Hodge, Linebacker

Marqez Hodge Syracuse
Mark Konezny - USATODAY Sports

Hodge has huge shoes to fill, taking over at middle linebacker for four-year starter Marquis Spruill. He played well in limited duty last year, but now he'll have to play 12 games at a key position, while also being one of the leaders on the defense. But if Hodge has a good season, the Orange will likely have one of the best linebacker units in the ACC.

2. Ryan Norton, Place Kicker

Ryan Norton Syracuse
Rich Barnes - USATODAY Sports

2. Ryan Norton, Place Kicker

Ryan Norton Syracuse
Rich Barnes - USATODAY Sports

Norton was up and down last year and missed some important kicks, but with Ross Krautman forced to retire due to injury, Syracuse is stuck with him, for better or worse. The Orange are bound to be in some close games this season, and they can't afford to leave points on the field, which means they'll need Norton to come through for them. He must prove that he can be a consistent place kicker, or else the Orange could be in trouble.

1. Terrel Hunt, Quarterback

syracuse terrel hunt - troy taormina
Troy Taormina - USATODAY Sports

1. Terrel Hunt, Quarterback

syracuse terrel hunt - troy taormina
Troy Taormina - USATODAY Sports

Ultimately, Syracuse's season will hinge on the play of their quarterback. Hunt made some big plays last season and proved to be a dangerous runner, but if the Orange are to repeat or improve their win total from 2013, Hunt must improve as a passer. If Hunt takes his game to the next level, he'll take Syracuse to the next level. If not, the Orange will once again be needing wins down the stretch just to reach a bowl game.