Posted by: Haggleman Mondays | August 23, 2012

Previewing the Syracuse Football Season with the Fresh Prince: The Offense

If you’ve followed this blog at all, you probably know we’re big fans of both Syracuse University Athletics and World Superstar and former Fresh Prince, Will Smith. So it’s an honor today that we’ve got him here to go through the Syracuse University Football Roster with us. When we last left Syracuse Football, they were busy finishing the egg-laying of the 2011 season. After a 5-2 start that included a 49-23 blitzing of eventual Orange Bowl Champ West Virginia, the Orange dropped 5 straight to finish up the year 5-7, missing out on a second straight bowl game. So how do the Orange look this season? Can they return to the winning side of .500? Win the Big East? Win a game? Read on.

Quarterback

Willy Style Verdict: Based on career performance, strong reports from camp, and some positive thinking, Will’s feelings on the QB position are…

CONTENT

Ryan Nassib is clearly the guy. His completion percentage and touchdowns went up last year while interceptions went down. While Nassib isn’t going to win any Heismans and needs to work on ball security (he holds the football as if it’s a greased watermelon) , he has a chance at being the best quarterback in the Big East, something no one said 5 years ago when he was recruited. Backup Charley Loeb is the most talented player on the team in terms of facial features, but he’s a significant step behind Nassib in football terms. Another name to watch is Terrell Hunt, a dual threat QB who’ll fight with Loeb and Ashton Broyld (seen under RBs this year) for the starter’s job in the fall of 2013.

Running Back

Willy Style Verdict: Based on hype and hope, Will’s feelings on the RB position are…

NERVOUS OPTIMISM

The running back position for Syracuse is interesting in that there is no clear starter at the moment. That is not to say the position is in bad shape, however. There are about seven different players here that can do seven different things. Junior Jerome Smith, a one cut runner in the mold of Mike Shanahan’s wet dream, will most likely get the call opening day. Prince-Tyson Gulley is a shifty guy with Moves Like Jagger, but he has issues holding on to the football and dances into trouble too much. Sophomore Adonis Ameen-Moore is a bowling ball that has shown increased speed in camp. Behind these three, there’s a group of true freshmen that are battling for field time. Ashton Broyld is the heralded savior and playmaker that WILL play as both wildcat QB and wing back. George Morris III is slight of build as a freshman, but has the most pure talent at the position. Finally, Devante McFarlane was recently moved to the position and in just two days had coaches and writers in awe of his raw ability.

The RB position for this team is a highly unusual situation. It is not an understatement to say that any and all of those mentioned here could see the field this season, though the hope is at least one of the true freshmen can redshirt (it will not be Broyld).

Wide Receiver

Willy Style verdict: 

CONCERNED

You may have heard somewhere that Syracuse is lacking BIG PLAYS. That’s a bit of an indictment on the wide receiving group, which hasn’t had a star since Mike “IT’S NOT QUITTING IF YOU AIN’T WANTED Williams left the program. While senior starters Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales are solid, and Lemon may have a chance to play on Sundays, neither are burners. The same is true for redshirt sophomore Jarrod West, although he catches everything his way and is a pristine route runner. Behind these top three are junior Adrian Flemming (injured ankle, listed as day-to-day), sophomore speedster and kick returner Jeremiah Kobena, freshmen Ben Lewis and Alvin Cornelius, and redshirt freshman Keenan Hale (out with an undisclosed injury). Most likely to play are the top four mentioned (Sales, Lemon, West, and Flemming), but Kobena should get looks because of his speed, and the two freshmen (Lewis and Cornelius) have been popular names at camp.

Bottom line, defenses have been playing Syracuse one way for the past two years: stack the box with eight or more guys and press cover the wideouts. The inability of the receivers to gain separation at the line has been a huge issue for this team, and it will remain one until proven otherwise.

Tight End

Willy Style Verdict:

CONFIDENT

Ordinarily, it’s difficult to replace a player who holds the school record for receptions by a tight end in a season and career. That was Haggleman favorite Nick Provo. However, we’ve been hearing good things about junior Beckett Wales since his freshman year, and Ryan Nassib has reportedly developed a good chemistry with Wales in practices enough that Provo’s single season reception record of 51 could be threatened. Similarly, senior David Stevens was the star of scrimmages during the preseason and should be a nice complement to Wales. Behind these two are true freshmen Ronald Thompson and Josh Parris, who were among the gems of Coach Marrone’s latest recruiting haul.

Offensive Line

Willy Style Verdict:

TERRIFIED

It’s no secret that the offensive line for Syracuse has been a weakness for some time now. Syracuse’s offense has been below average for years, and a lot of that falls on the offensive line’s inability to open up holes and keep quarterbacks off the ground. Last year, Syracuse got five wins with a below average offensive line. Two years ago the team managed nine wins. Put simply, considering the state of the Big East, Syracuse just needs the offensive line play to be average to get to a bowl game. In other words, the Orange don’t need their hogmilies to be world-beaters. If they can just be a middle of the road offensive line, it should be a successful season.

Unfortunately, things on the offensive line are… worrisome. First round NFL talent left tackle Justin Pugh is out for at least the opener against Northwestern, and perhaps a few weeks more. The right side of the line is completely new with sophomores Ivan Foy and Rob Trudo battling for right guard. Senior Lou Alexander seems to have locked down the right tackle, though he may be replaced by Sean Hickey who will move from covering left tackle to the right side when Pugh returns. Senior Zack Chibane returns at left guard after a disappointing 2011 season. Anchoring the line at center is Macky Macpherson, a lightning rod for criticism from fans, though much of it is undeserved. It’s certainly fair to be hopeful that improved recruiting will result in improved play, but considering inexperience, injury, and past performance, this area of the Orange is a major question mark.

Overall

Willy Style Verdict:

HOPEFUL

Look, the Syracuse offense won’t be a juggernaught, but it should be improved. They’ll try to establish the ground game, use some play action, and spread the field a bit. This year should also see an increase in zone reads and the Wildcat. There are several reasons for hope. Marrone and Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett have pledged to turn this offensive into a respectable one. Marcus Sales showed two years ago the type of play-making ability he had. Alec Lemon is a warrior, and should be an all conference selection this year. There’s enough talent stockpiled at running back to have success, even if it is by committee. Finally, even Marrone, who is notoriously tight-lipped, has been unable to refrain from gushing over the ability of Ashton Broyld, who should see the field at running back, Wildcat QB, and maybe even wide receiver. If the offense can sustain drives, get some of those mystical BIG PLAYS, and score touchdowns instead of settling for Boss Ross Krautman field goals, then the Orange defense (preview coming soon), should carry this team to bowl game promised land.


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