Syracuse football’s horrific 2014 campaign may have gotten another stroke of misfortune, as backup quarterback AJ Long may not play this weekend. Long sustained an injured nerve in his right, throwing arm and is “highly doubtful to play against Duke Saturday. This is problematic for the Orange, because original starter Terrel Hunt sustained a broken leg during the fifth game of season and ever since Long has been the starter. If Long can’t go on gameday, head coach Scott Shafer will have to reach far down on the depth chart and pull redshirt freshman Austin Wilson out from the trenches and into the fire.
Initially, Long began feeling numbness in the right side of his body during the team’s most recent contest against North Carolina State, but did not recognize or evaluate the severity until Tuesday’s practice. The team ultimately lost that game 24-17, and may have lost Long for the foreseeable future as well.
“I don’t know how it happened, but between his neck and shoulder pads, he’s got a footprint,” Shafer said. “He’s got cleat marks on his back toward his shoulder on the right side.”
There is no timetable for Long’s return, but the coaching staff does not expect the injury to have any long term effects. In four games for the Orange, Long has shown signs of elite play but has only managed to throw for 727 yards, four touchdowns and six interceptions leading Syracuse to a 1-3 record.
The Orange, who have struggled mightily so far, face a difficult test this weekend against No. 24 Duke, followed by Pittsburgh and Boston College who while not ranked are formidable opponents. Long’s absence will be noticed, and this will be Wilson’s first chance to prove himself worthy. When starters go down, backups need to step up and Wilson needs to do just that as he prepares for his daunting first task.
*Section Photo credit to Nick Lisi, Associated Press; Featured Photo (above) credit to Rich Barnes, USA Today Sports