Veterans embrace leadership role in 2013

Linebacker Marquis Spruill and wide receiver Jarrod West fill the leadship void on defense and offense.

As the Syracuse Orange took to the Carrier Dome for spring practice on Sunday, the question surrounding the team is which player will elevate his performance as a new era of Syracuse football begins.

In the meantime, head coach Scott Shafer was busy observing his defense handle the offense in stride during the course of the two-hour practice.

Photo: Taylor Baucom
Senior wide receiver Jarrod West lines up for a play on Nov. 17. His veteran presence will be needed on the offense.

Marquis Spruill sparked the beginning of many turnovers that were created with an interception during a key offensive drive. Spruill has been fortunate to have plenty of experience already with coach Shafer. Both of them arrived together in 2010, and the junior linebacker says the team tries to emulate the kind of men that Shafer wants to see on his team.

“He teaches us to be good people, not just players but both on and off the field,” Spruill said.

Shafer preaches accountability for his players, and Spruill embraces his coach’s message by making more of a conceited effort towards becoming a leader. “There are a lot of players that look to me for guidance because I’ve played the longest on the defense,” he said.

His experience will benefit linebackers newcomers Josh Kirkland and Luke Arciniega. Both joined the team in January after transfering from junior college. Spruill acknowledged both are in the same situation with everyone else as they do make their share of mistakes.

However, Spruill was impressed by Kirkland’s athleticism and Arciniega’s work ethic on the field and inside the film room. On a defense that lost seniors Shamarko Thomas and Siriki Diabate, Spruill’s calm demeanor is one attribute that his younger teammates can appreciate.

Meanwhile, the offense continues to be a work in progress after losing the majority of last year’s production to either the NFL or graduation.

While the quarterback competition is still far from settled at this point, the wide receivers are beginning to make their mark with the spring game less than two weeks away. Rising senior Jarrod West brings the most productivity to the current passing game after catching 43 passes for 588 yards and two touchdowns. However, Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales now turn their focus towards pursuing an NFL career after their successful time in Syracuse.

As the younger group of wide receivers continues to find their role, West feels all the receivers are pushing each other to maximize their full potential. In his mind, this is the case regardless of the players’ experience.

“Our group of guys are really talented, from the first guy to the last guy. Everyone can play, so it’s a big competition, ” he said. “ I got guys pushing me everyday, and I’m pushing guys everyday, so it’s a lot of fun."

With offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett leaving Syracuse to join Doug Marrone with the Bills, there has been plenty of adjustments as the players learn a new offense.

West seems eager to prove himself as a leader by rising to the occasion and beating everyone out at practice.

“Everyone is on a clean slate because of a new playbook and new coaches,” West said. “I came in trying to beat everybody out and everyone else trying to beat everyone else out."

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