“Fighting back from adversity. Fighting back to regain its national reputation. In 2010 Syracuse football is fighting back.”
Every year Syracuse, like I would imagine all other schools do, have a slogan for the season. As you could’ve guessed by now the slogan for this year is right at the top. What makes this season different from past years is that its very apropos. Year two of the Doug Marrone era could see the Orange fighting back to possibly put together a 6-6 season. Emphasis on possibly. ActionReaction lied to us when they said three was the magic number. It’s actually six. Can the Orange get there?
What turned into acceptable mediocrity during the Paul Pasqualoni era turned into the debacle that was the Greg Robinson tenure and not so suddenly Syracuse went from Big East stalwart to laughing stock quicker than Greg Paulus’ tenure as QB. We all know the story from there. Greg Robinson is shown the door and Doug Marrone comes in for his dream job and the results have been encouraging. Yes you can only take so much from a four win season last year but progress is progress and the question now becomes can the Orange improve. Lets take a look at the pieces in place.
Offensively there won’t be as much publicity surrounding the Orange simply because Greg Paulus isn’t there. In his place steps in last year’s backup Ryan Nassib with Marrone recruit Charley Loeb the likely backup. Nassib showed you he was capable in the spurts that he played in last season. Is he good enough to keep the job all year? This is going to be a .500 team at best for a reason and Nassib is one of them. You can be a pretty decent side if you have a great quarterback (See: Locker, Jake, the starting QB for the Washington Huskies and opponent week 2 for Syracuse). But the team is going to struggle if you don’t have enough players of note offensively (more on that to come). Nassib will have every opportunity to keep the job throughout the year but I’d hardly be surprised if Charley Loeb steps into the top spot if Nassib struggles being a Marrone recruit.
The biggest name returning for the Orange on either side of the ball is running back Delone Carter. The former Mr. Ohio ran for more than 1000 yards last year and had 11 rushing touchdowns making him the biggest threat the Orange have. Looking at the Orange schedule Syracuse will need a repeat performance this year of what Carter did against non-conference opponents in 2009. In five non-conference games last year Carter averaged a little more than 90 yards a game on the ground and scored eight of his 11 touchdowns. Maine and Akron are back on the schedule this year after he rushed for 240 yards and six touchdowns combined in those games last year. Big performances again out of Carter would certainly go a long way toward getting the Orange toward the six-win mark.
All the emphasis on Carter comes because at the other skill positions there isn’t much to talk about. Mike Williams is off to the NFL with Tampa Bay and what’s left is a lot of youth with seven freshmen and sophomores. Marcus Sales is your top returnee with 324 receiving yards and three touchdowns and while that doesn’t strike you as anything to write home about, there’s even less after that. At the tight end spot Cody Catalina could have served as a nice option for Nassib but he’s out for the season with a knee injury and Nick Provo leads a group that could pick up the slack for Catalina.
A four win team doesn’t normally have much to hang its hat on as it moves forward but the Syracuse defense was much better than a 4-8 record would indicate. Finishing 37th overall in the nation last year, the biggest question of course is who will replace Arthur Jones at nose tackle after leaving for the NFL. While Marrone will reveal his two deep depth chart on Monday, it looks like there will be a few players tasked with replacing the now Baltimore Raven. Bud Tribbey, Anthony Perkins and Andrew Lewis are three seniors set to get their shot on the line with a few more names behind them that hopefully you won’t have to hear much from as fans. In fact, they may be successful if Syracuse fans never hear from them at all during the season. Their success will be measured in large part if former running back turned linebacker Doug Hogue and Rotary Lombardi Award nominee Derrell Smith can roam free in the middle of the field. And for those playing at home, if Syracuse has sound defensive line play, the defensive backs will be aided tremendously because the defensive backfield for Syracuse is not a strong point.
Looking at the unit overall, it comes down to how well they can replace Arthur Jones. Derrell Smith and Doug Hogue will have ample opportunity to shine and if they’re not constantly forced back to help in coverage, Mike Holmes and Max Suter could make some noise at the safety spots. The defense will keep Syracuse in almost every game this year if things break right. Of course you can say that for every team in the nation but for Syracuse its vital it has no significant setbacks.
There have been injuries in training camp hampering the squad’s depth but nothing that would really change your outlook on the year. Syracuse has a realistic shot, new faces and all, to start the season 3-1. The question then becomes where do the conference wins come from? After winning just one Big East game last year, the transition at Louisville makes you think Syracuse could pick up a win against the Cardinals and new head coach Charlie Strong at home. Wins in Piscataway against Rutgers or Tampa against South Florida would be surprising but not completely out of the question. Five wins is reasonable and six wins are the hope but progress is expected and in year two of the Marrone era fans should come away satisifed. It all starts Saturday night in Akron against the Zips.
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Written by Lutfi Sariahmed
Prince-Tyson Gulley for the win