Jan 11, 2013; Syracuse, NY, USA; Syracuse Orange head coach Scott Shafer speaks with the media during a press conference at the Iocolano-Petty Football Wing. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Know your Penn State Football Enemy-Syracuse Orange

It will be a year with a lot of firsts for Syracuse.  For starters, Doug Marrone is gone after 4 years in Syracuse, after heading West down the New York Thruway to take the Buffalo Bills head coaching job.  The best Orange quarterback since Donovan McNabb, one Ryan Nassib is also gone to the NFL after being chosen by the New York Giants in the 4th round of the draft.  To top everything off, Syracuse begins play in the ACC.

  • Coach – Scott Shafer (0-0)
  • 2012 Record- 8-5
  • Key Departures - QB Ryan Nassib, OT Justin Pugh, WR Alec Lemon, WR Marcus Sales, S Shamarko Thomas
  • Key Returnees – RB Jerome Smith, RB, Prince-Tyson Gulley, WR Jarrod West, LB Dyshawn Davis, LB Marquis Sprull

OFFENSIVE PREVIEW

Dec 29, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; Syracuse Orange running back Prince-Tyson Gulley (23) runs with the ball during the second quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at the 2012 New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. Syracuse defeated West Virginia 38-14. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

There will be plenty of questions for Syracuse to answer on the offensive side of the ball.  Gone are Nassib, as well as last season’s top receivers Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales.  Of the 26 touchdowns through the air, Sales and Lemon accounted for 15, and about 50% of the Orange’s receiving yardage.  Junior Jarrod West figures to be the top target in 2013.  The quarterback that will be getting the ball to West and the rest of the skill players is the big question in the Syracuse camp.  Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen, who is immediately eligible to play, may be the favorite, but senior Charley Loeb, and sophomore Terrel Hunt are also in the hunt.  Between the 3, only 36 passes have been attempted, and 30 of those came from Allen with the Sooners.  Loeb has the other 6.

As unknown as the Orange are through the air, they are just as potent on the ground.  1,000 yard rusher Jerome Smith is back, as is 800+ yard back Prince-Tyson Gulley.  The two accounted for over 2,000 yards last season, and 12 touchdowns.  The Orange must find a way to replace Justin Pugh at left tackle, who was the 19th overall pick in the draft to the Giants, but with 2 talented backs, and a new starter at QB, the Orange will rely on the run game, especially early.

DEFENSIVE PREVIEW

Oct 21, 2011; Syracuse NY, USA; Syracuse Orange linebacker Dyshawn Davis (35) on the field after the game against the West Virginia Mountaineers at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse defeated West Virginia 49-23. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-USA TODAY Sports

The Orange’s strength on defense is undoubtedly at linebacker, where Davis and Sprull return.  The former has star potential on the outside after accounting for 71 tackles last year, including 14.5 for loss.  The latter racked up 64 stops, and 9 for loss.  Sprull will likely shift to the inside, while junior Cameron Lynch moves into the strong side position.

The secondary must find a way to replace Thomas, who lead the Orange in 2012 with 85 tackles from his safety spot, to go along with 2 interceptions.  Keon Lyn is back at cornerback after posting 3 picks last season.  On the defensive line, Jay Bromley is the only returning starter at tackle, but he is a good one (41 tackles, 7 TFL, 2.5 sacks).  Micah Robinson and Robert Welsh will likely man the ends, with Eric Crume or Zian Jones will start next to Bromley.

2013 PREDICTION

It’s a virtual certainty the Syracuse offense won’t be nearly as potent as they were a season ago.  You can’t lose a 3 year starter with the talent of Nassib, plus your two best receivers, and not see a dip in production.  Much like Penn State could do, the Orange will rely on two talented running backs to help a first time starter settle into the quarterback position, whoever it is.  A methodical rushing game would also help protect a young and inexperienced defense.  Their challenge will be establishing the run against defenses that are sure to game plan to stop it.

After opening with Penn State in New York, the Orange travel to Evanston to face what should be a good Northwestern team, before home games versus Wagner and Tulane, and hosting Clemson in their ACC opener in the Carrier Dome.  3-2 seems like an absolute best case scenario after those 5 games.  With additional road games at NC State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, and Florid State, plus home dates with Wake Forest, Pitt, and Boston College, it seems hard to find 6 wins and bowl eligibility.

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