Orange football team gets set for spring

For the first time in 20 years the SU football will be split in to two separate squads. Here’s how the team is shaping up for its game on Saturday, April 16 in the Dome.


Quarterback - Senior Ryan Nassib has clearly locked up the starting spot with a solid performance throughout spring practice. There is still some concern about overthrowing his receivers, something he has done regularly during practice, but that chemistry should develop before next fall.

Photo: Timothy R. Olsen

Behind Nassib on the depth chart is Charley Loeb. Loeb was Nassib’s backup last year as well and has struggled in more than one practice this spring. He has shown a better grasp of the offense than the other two backup quarterbacks, sophomores John Kinder and Jonny Miller.

 For the backups, the improvement will come with time, said head coach Doug Marrone.

“We’ve to be better with our decision making. It’s just a matter of them becoming more comfortable,” he said.

Syracuse’s starting quarterback agreed with coach’s opinion, “Quarterback is a whole different animal when it comes to playing football. The mental part of the game almost outweighs the physical,” Nassib said.


Receivers - This might be the team’s deepest group on the offensive side of the ball. Senior Marcus Sales is continuing to develop into a legitimate deep threat after several seasons of failing to live up to high expectations.

Alec Lemon has looked sharp and may end up being Nassib’s favorite target in third down situations with his sure hands. “One of our goals this year is to start sustaining drives and that really comes from converting on third down,” Nassib said.

Lemon, who battled injuries all of last year, has shown up healthy and possibly faster than ever according to offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. “Alec has done something with his speed, and he’s a completely different person,” he said.

Another addition to the receivers will be sophomore Jarrod West. West sat out all of last year with an injury. Despite that, that time helped him to become bigger, stronger and a better player, West said.

“Not playing football was tough. I’m back though, I’ve gained some weight and I’m getting used to playing with a bigger frame,” he said.


Running Backs - The Orange running backs have the most to prove as a whole. With the departure of Delone Carter, senior Antwon Bailey has to fill in some big shoes. Last year Bailey rushed for 554 yards and the Syracuse coaching staff expects him to have a big year. “Antwon is really good. His shiftiness is awesome,” Hackett said.

Behind Bailey, sophomore Prince-Tyson Gulley will be the back taking the majority of the hand offs. He runs extremely hard for his size, (5-9, 176) but that size does hold him back in blocking the pass rush. Third stringer Steven Rene has looked like the fastest back out of the group in the open field but is questionable between the tackles.


Tights Ends - This group has taken some blows over the past few weeks but the players that remain are dependable and steady. First, Beckett Wales took an indefinite leave from the program for personal reasons. Then senior Carl Cutler tore his right ACL for the second year in a row.

The team also received news that Cody Catalina, a senior tight end and special teams player, will not be able to return to the team. Catalina suffered nerve damage to his right leg, against Pittsburgh back in 2009.

That leaves senior Nick Provo, David Stevens and freshman Lou Addazio. Provo has become a favorite target of Nassib, especially in the flats and his receiving abilities have improved since last year.

Stevens on the other hand has struggled at times as a pass-catching tight end. A possible third-stringer could materialize in walk-on Thomas Trendowski.


Offensive Line - Last year this veteran unit was largely responsible for Carter’s 1,000-yard season. This year the biggest question is whether sophomore center Macky MacPherson is big enough and talented enough to step up and play the center position.

McPherson is the grandson of legendary SU head coach Dick McPherson. He’s small for a Division I offensive lineman at 6-2, 256. Yet the team and the coaches have confidence in his abilities. The strong veteran presence, led by senior 6-foot 5, 338 pound right tackle Andrew Tiller, will provide a huge boost according to Hackett.

"The offensive line has done some great things. Obviously they’re somewhat of a veteran group," he said. "And that’s the most exciting thing, because we’re really going to be able to run the ball this year, which is good."

The team has also employed a lot zone blocking schemes, which have helped to lessen the load on McPherson.



Defensive Line - On the defensive front, senior defensive end Chandler Jones leads the way. Jones has great speed and finds his way into the backfield more often than not. Mikhail Marinovich has also been a force on the other end of the line.

On the inside, the tackle position has seen a constant rotation between Jay Bromley, Deon Goggins and Cory Boatman. While playing defense line by committee may not be the best approach, it’s the only one the coaches have for now until someone steps up and earns a sport, said defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh.

 “They really have to learn to play nose and defensive tackle,” he said. “It’s been very fundamental, just teaching them. They all want to learn that’s the best thing about it,” he said.


Linebackers - With the departure of Doug Hogue and Derrell Smith to the NFL draft, the linebacker corps will have plenty of new faces. Sophomore Marquis Spruill will be the only returning starter. Fellow sophomore Brice Hawkes was kicked off the team for violating team rules just after returning from his second suspension from the team.

That leaves an open spot for freshman Dyshawn Davis. Davis has taken advantage of the opportunity and may have earned himself the starting spot

"I am getting a lot of help from Marquis and Danny (Vaughan) – the two starting linebackers," Davis said. "Before every play, they are checking on me, making sure I know the right keys, making sure I know the right assignment. We are connecting pretty well at this position.”


Defensive Backs - The hallmark of the Syracuse defensive backfield this spring has been lots of hard hitting and a willingness to mix it up after the play. Nearly every practice they’ve doled out some big hits and have been more than willing to get in the face of the offense.

Junior Phillip Thomas has stepped up to become a leader for the defense with both his play and his mouth. His emotional style of play could get him in trouble during the season, though, if he can’t restrain himself from playing after the whistle.


Special Teams

Gulley will again be handling the return duties for the team this year. Last year Gulley split time with wide receiver Dorian Graham and that will likely be the case again, especially if Gulley is getting significant carries out of the backfield.

Rene, the third-string running back, will take the majority of the punt returns.

As for the kicking duties, Ross Krautman will be in charge of kickoffs as well as PATs. Shane Raupers, a former scholarship player trying to earn a walk-on spot, will likely handle the punting duties.

Junior Ryan Lichtenstein could certainly fill in at both spots if either kicker is struggling.

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.