Big East

2010 NCAA Football Preview: Syracuse Orange

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2009 Record: 4-8 (1-6 in Big East)
2009 Bowl: None
Final 2009 AP Ranking: Not Ranked
Head Coach: Doug Marrone (4-8 at Syracuse)
Non-Conference Schedule: at Akron (9/4), at Washington (9/11), Maine (9/18), Colgate (9/25), Boston College (11/27)

2009 Offensive Statistics
Scoring: 21.2 points per game (7th in Big East)
Rushing Yards/Game: 126 (7th in Big East)
Passing Yards/Game: 203 (5th in Big East)
Total Yards/Game: 330 (7th in Big East)

2009 Defensive Statistics
Scoring: 27.9 points per game (last in Big East)
Rushing Yards/Game: 101 (1st in Big East, 13th in Nation)
Passing Yards/Game: 235 (7th in Big East)
Total Yards/Game: 337 (5th in Big East)

2009 Misc Stats
Turnover Margin: -0.50 per game (last in Big East, 97th in Nation)
Penalties: 51 yards per game (6th in Big East)

Returning Starters
Offense: 5
Defense: 10
Kicker/Punter: 2

Top Returning Statistical Leaders
Passing: QB Ryan Nassib, Jr (36 of 68 for 422 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT)
Rushing: RB Delone Carter, Sr (236 carries for 1021 yds, 11 TD, 4.3 ypc, 85 ypg)*
Receiving: WR Alec Lemon, Soph (29 rec, 295 yds, 1 TD, 2.6 rec/game)
Receiving: WR Marcus Sales, Jr (28 rec, 324 yds, 3 TD, 2.3 rec/game)
Tackles: FS Mike Holmes, Sr (77)
Sacks: LB Doug Hogue, Sr (9.5)
Interceptions: FS Mike Holmes, Sr (3)

*Carter is currently suspended

2010 Pre-Season Rankings
Athlon Sports: #74
Pre-Snap Read: #80
Sporting News: #99

2010 Pre-Season Big East Prediction:
Athlon Sports: #7
Phil Steele: #7

In Doug Marrone's first year Syracuse went 4-8 and included good wins over Northwestern and Rutgers. Syracuse should be (at worst) 3-1 going into the Big East schedule so it will be interesting to see how they navigate the competitive Big East this year. We caught up with Brian Harrison of the Syracuse based blog Orange 44 to find out his thoughts on the 2010 Syracuse Orange.

Introduction from Brian:

Syracuse Football is not a joke anymore. Under the helm of Greg Robinson it was. His incompetence at running a program was evident from season 1. His failure to recruit left the cupboard bare for the program, fans, and respect. How quickly we forget that Syracuse has a National Championship (1959), a Heisman Trophy Winner (Ernie Davis, 1961), and was the school of Donovan McNabb, Jim Brown, Marvin Harrison, Dwight Freeney, and Floyd Little just to name a few. Second year Head Coach Doug Marrone (affectionately known to the fans of SU as HCDM) has personally made it his mission to restore glory to the once proud northeast football powerhouse. It’s personal because Marrone is a Syracuse graduate himself, and he considers his current position his dream job. It’s the perfect storm for Syracuse fans waiting for the program to become relevant again. And with only one year and limited time to recruit, the eyeball test is already producing favorable results for Marrone. On top of that the current staff is recruiting like gangbusters again. Impressive transfers are coming to Syracuse believing in the mission of Marrone as well. Yes, joke if you like, but Syracuse is a program on the rise again, and anyone that truly watches college football regularly will no doubt agree.

What are the major strengths and biggest weaknesses of Syracuse?

The biggest strength of the offense will clearly be the running game. Syracuse has always been known for running backs and this year is no exception. Redshirt senior Delone Carter has had some off-field trouble as he was accused of hitting an individual after his car was hit with a snowball and was charged with a misdemeanor. He was suspended by the university but will apply for reinstatement after the summer and should join the team once he is let back into school. Carter ran for 1,021 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, and should be just as productive this season if able to take the field. He would be the first option to run the ball, but even if he does not play for part of the season there is other talent on the team to run the ball. Junior Antwon Bailey was a running threat (312 yards), but was also talented in catching the ball out of the backfield (27 catches, 200 yards). Junior Averin Collier had a breakout performance against Rutgers in the Carrier Dome, who had a 60 yard touchdown run, and looks to have an expanded roll this season.

For the defense, both the defensive line and linebackers are going to provide stingy defense again this coming season. Despite losing Art Jones to the NFL Draft, Syracuse still returns a lot of talent that managed to stop the run and apply pressure to opposing quarterbacks. Chandler Jones and Mikhail Marinovich look to build on the successes of 2009 on the defensive line. On top of that, at linebacker Derrell Smith and Doug Hogue return. Smith led the team in tackles last season, and Doug Hogue became a sack master late in the season and led the team in tackles for loss.

The major weakness of the team is just a shortness of scholarship players. With just over 50 on scholarship at the Spring Game Syracuse will have problems fielding a competitive team if several injuries occur during the season. Syracuse faced this problem last season, and if the same number of injuries occur it will be hard for the Orange to earn more wins than the previous year. While good recruits are coming in, losing starters is never good, and that would be especially true for Syracuse.

Looking at the schedule who will be the first major test?

The first major test will be the second game on Syracuse’s schedule. The Orange will head west to take on Washington and the skilled quarterback Jake Locker. Washington demolished Syracuse to open the 2007 season and crushed hopes for the entire season after one game. This will be a good early litmus test to see if the defense is as good as people think it will be, and if the starting quarterback truly deserved getting the nod.

What team on the schedule do you fear the most?

I suppose the traditional and practical pick would be West Virginia. Syracuse has to travel to Morgantown this season, never an easy place to play. On top of that, senior running back Noel Devine, an orange killer if there ever was one, will be back and in top form against Syracuse. SU had an absolutely stingy run defense last season and Devine managed to still run all over the Orange. In this rivalry game, Syracuse would be ecstatic to win, but realizing we are still rebuilding Syracuse just wants to put up a strong showing and hang in as long as they can.

Who is the best player on your team that nobody talks about?

Senior safety Max Suter is a fan favorite in the Salt City. He picked off an interception during the Northwestern game in the Carrier Dome last season as the game was tied with minutes remaining, which set up the game winning field goal for Syracuse. Additionally he had been a bright spot on special teams as a return man. He is a hard worker and will give 100% even if the team is trailing by a few touchdowns late in the game. Fans appreciate that kind of dedication.

Who is the best offensive player on the team?

If he returns to the team it will be running back Delone Carter. He was a workhorse last season, and has the ability to break long runs or be a good enough decoy to allow receivers to get open. Needless to say, Carter has a great ability to find gaps and break some tackles. He is also a very powerful runner and is impressive to watch. While he may not start the season’s first few games, when he is in the lineup he is always a danger of moving the chains or going up and over the defense for a touchdown.

Who is the most impactful defensive player on the team?

Linebacker Doug Hogue should make the most impact. While he had a decent season overall he really made his mark against Rutgers in the Carrier Dome in a huge grudge match game. It’s no secret that Syracuse wants to dominate Rutgers again, not only on the field but in the recruiting game as well. The team took this mission personally and on senior day Doug Hogue simply dominated Rutgers and their quarterback Tom Savage. He sacked the hell out of Savage, getting to him 9.5 times. Hogue has speed as a converted running back and will look to get to even more quarterbacks this season.

What player(s) needs to step up this year in order for the team to reach it's full capability?

Quarterback Ryan Nassib needs to step up and take charge of his team, and become a playmaker. Similarly, the receivers will have to really step up. Save for Mike Williams who was the best receiver in the league until he quit in the middle of last season, the receivers for Syracuse have been inconsistent. Alec Lemon, Van Chew, and Marcus Sales will look to be targets for Nassib and by all accounts they possess the talent to do so. Look for all of them to have some highlights over the year.

Who is the top offensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

That should be senior transfer wide receiver Aaron Weaver. Weaver arrives from Hofstra, who ended their football program at the end of last season. He led the Pride with 63 catches for 797 yards and will add instant depth and provide a nice target for Ryan Nassib. As few wide receivers have distinguished themselves as a reliably consistent target for Syracuse, Weaver could make an instant impact and be a nice surprise for the Orange.

Who is the top defensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

Safety Orlando Fisher transferred in from Nassau Community College and has been enrolled at Syracuse since January so he could get an early jump and go through the spring practice schedule. He should see time at strong safety, but also could see time as a linebacker. Fisher could also provide a spark on special teams coverage, an area that was a weakness for the Orange last season.

Gut feeling on the team’s final record at the end of the regular season and what makes this a successful season in your eyes?

My way too early feeling is that Syracuse will go 5-7 or 6-6. Either way, because Syracuse has two 1-AA teams on the schedule they will need seven wins to make a bowl game. But honestly, anything more than four wins, and more than one win in the Big East will be considered marked improvement and should be considered a successful season. Syracuse is a season or two away from a bowl game, and that’s alright. The team is entertaining to watch again, they can compete with teams that would have beat them a few years ago, and Syracuse is recruiting well again. Right now, Marrone is doing everything possible to make fans believe and feel better about Syracuse again. You can’t ask for much more than that. I do believe that a bowl game is in the near future for Syracuse, but I think it is just out of reach for this season. Either way, we will be better than the year before.

Check out Brian's Syracuse blog Orange 44. You can also follow Brian on Twitter @BH_Orange44.

 Previous Big East Previews
Cincinnati Bearcats 
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Rutgers Scarlet Knights 
UConn Huskies
USF Bulls 
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