5 questions surrounding Syracuse in 2012 season

first_img Published on August 28, 2012 at 1:24 am Contact Ryne: [email protected] 1. Who will emerge as a playmaker for the Orange?Head coach Doug Marrone has harped on the need for his team to make big plays since the spring. It’s been a focus through preseason camp. Now, it comes down to who will step up to make those plays to open up the offense. Coming out of camp, though, few players stood out as possibilities to fill that role.He also said the wide receiver position struggled. Top returning receiver Alec Lemon, who caught 68 passes last season, was limited during the preseason due to a shoulder injury, and Marrone wasn’t blown away by his options to start alongside Lemon. Marcus Sales provides a veteran presence and has shown flashes of his ability in his first three seasons. Wide receivers coach Rob Moore said he saw some good things from Sales during camp, but he also needs to be more consistent, as does the rest of the unit.Marrone said he expects freshman Ashton Broyld to see time, but the freshman, who will play running back and take snaps in the wildcat formation, has a lot to prove before he can be considered the answer to the Orange’s need for big plays.2. Who will separate himself as the team’s primary running back?AdvertisementThis is placeholder textJerome Smith earned the starting job when Marrone released his two-deep depth chart for the opener last Saturday. But the head coach said all camp that no one had emerged as a go-to back.Smith goes into the season with limited game experience. Last year, he stepped in as the backup after Prince-Tyson Gulley suffered a broken collarbone after four games. But he only carried the ball 37 times for 134 yards, so he will be tested if he does take the bulk of the carries eventually.Gulley is listed as the backup, and Marrone said he had a good camp. Broyld, Adonis Ameen-Moore and Devante McFarlane, a late addition to the competition in camp, all remain in the mix for carries, too.The Orange will need to find the right combination of backs, or one will have to separate himself during the season. Right now, the position is surrounded by uncertainty.3. Will an inexperienced offensive line develop?The offensive line must replace two starters who graduated and another who will miss the start of the season due to injury. Justin Pugh, a first-team All-Big East selection in 2011, is still working back from off-season shoulder surgery, leaving a hole at left tackle. The right guard and right tackle spots will also have new starters due to Michael Hay and Andrew Tiller’s graduations.Macky MacPherson and left guard Zack Chibane provide some stability on the line. The Orange ranked in the middle of the pack in the Big East in sacks allowed in 2011, giving up 29. With three new starters going into the season, the position is an area of concern for Marrone.Sean Hickey has impressed the coaching staff during preseason camp, and he will start the season at left tackle. But Lou Alexander, Ivan Foy and Rob Trudo – all possible starters on the right side – remain unproven.For SU to generate more points this season and take chances downfield, the line will need to give quarterback Ryan Nassib time in the pocket.4. Will the defense improve after finishing last season among the worst in the Big East?The Syracuse defense finished last in total and scoring defense in the Big East. The Orange also recorded the fewest sacks with 28 and allowed more than 120 rushing yards per game.The unit must improve while also trying to replace NFL first-round pick Chandler Jones, who is now with the New England Patriots. SU returns both starting tackles in Jay Bromley and Deon Goggins, while JUCO transfer Markus Pierce-Brewster and senior Brandon Sharpe line up at the end positions.At linebacker, Marquis Spruill is shifting to the outside and will play alongside middle linebacker Siriki Diabate and weak-side linebacker Dyshawn Davis. Dan Vaughan, who started on the outside last season, provides experience and depth to the unit.The secondary has been working with first-year coach Donnie Henderson to improve its playmaking ability. Shamarko Thomas provides a veteran presence at strong safety, as does cornerback Ri’Shard Anderson.Each group will need to gel for the defense to improve on its lackluster 2011 performance.5. Can Syracuse compete in the conference?The Orange has one of the toughest nonconference schedules in the nation this year. Northwestern has been to four straight bowl games under head coach Pat Fitzgerald and will provide a stiff test in the season opener. SU then takes on a national title favorite in No. 1 Southern California and Heisman candidate Matt Barkley. A road matchup with another Big Ten opponent, Minnesota, won’t be easy despite the Gophers’ recent struggles. Then SU caps its nonconference schedule at Southeastern Conference opponent Missouri in November.The challenging nonconference schedule makes the Orange’s performance within the Big East crucial if it hopes to return to a bowl game. But SU went a dismal 1-6 in the conference in 2011, and it goes into the season tabbed to finish seventh in the preseason media poll. Another finish at the bottom of the Big East would seal another losing campaign. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more

Kiffin introduces USC’s new recruits

first_imgIn his first full year of recruiting, USC coach Lane Kiffin continued the tradition of reeling in top-notch talent in spite of rather steep challenges, as USC announced Wednesday the signing of twenty-two players for its 2011 recruiting class.A new beginning · Despite NCAA sanctions, USC coach Lane Kiffin and his staff managed to bring in top talent from around the country. – Carlo Acenas | Daily Trojan “It’s not me,” Kiffin said at a press conference introducing his newest class. “I don’t care how good of a recruiter you are if you aren’t at a place like USC. USC is the only place with all that going on and all the ammo that everyone else had against [us] where you can get it done. It just speaks volumes about USC.”The class, ranked No. 4 overall by Yahoo! Sports’ Rivals.com, consists of five defensive lineman, four offensive lineman, four linebackers, three wide receivers, two running backs, two defensive backs, one tight end and one punter in addition to the eight spring enrollees — a total of 30 prospects.“This class is very deep,” Kiffin said. “It address a lot of needs. We wanted to add a number of quality players and I know we didn’t reach. We could have added some other guys, but we wanted to make sure we got the right guys.”Even while sanctioned, the Trojans had some flexibility in the number of players it could sign as a result of its pending appeal, which was heard Jan. 22 by the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee.Since USC signed a full class, however, the scholarship restrictions placed on the program last June, which included a loss of 30 scholarships over the course of three seasons, will not take effect until 2012, lasting through 2014.But if the university’s appeal is successful, the scholarships reductions beginning next February will result in a loss of just five scholarships per recruiting class.Yet, because several areas of the depth chart have become increasingly thin as a result of smaller recruiting classes toward the end of Pete Carroll’s tenure, Kiffin and his staff made the effort to fill the roster out.Another focus for USC was to build a wall around Southern California, keeping control over the wealth of talent in the region.“As of right now, I think we did a pretty good job,” Kiffin said. “Unfortunately we can’t get everybody every time. I think our staff did pretty well. Obviously that was a big concern of ours to make sure that happened.”Athlete Marqise Lee (Gardena, Calif.), a four-star prospect, turned down Miami (Fl.) and followed in the footsteps of five-star wide receiver and high school teammate George Farmer (Gardena, Calif.).Of all of the recruits, Kiffin suggested that Farmer was most likely to make an immediate impact, much like Robert Woods a season ago. As a freshman, Woods caught 65 passes for 792 yards and six touchdowns, while starting alongside Ronald Johnson.But with Johnson set to graduate, the Trojans will need a replacement opposite Woods.Increasingly important for Kiffin and his staff, however, was bringing in more bodies along the offensive and defensive lines, and essentially, the staff seemed pleased they were able to do as much.Four-star defensive tackle Christian Heyward (San Diego.) turned down Oregon and San Diego State in favor of USC. Heyward cited the NFL-caliber coaching staff at USC as the deciding factor, and many pundits suggest the ninth-ranked prospect is better than the rankings suggest.Much like in 2010, Kiffin did an admirable job of recruiting nationally, nabbing the services of several highly-touted recruits who were undecided heading into National Signing Day.Top-rated offensive guard Aundrey Walker (Cleveland, Ohio) spurned hometown favorite Ohio State to sign with USC.“Here’s a player at Cleveland Glenville High School,” Kiffin said. “When you study it, and they’re out from the state of Ohio, they usually go to Ohio State.  Aundrey’s 375 pounds, 6-foot-5, so he gives us some size there and we’ll see. We’ll plug [Walker] in and see what he can do.”Four-star linebacker Lamar Dawson (Danville, Kentucky) took a similar route, as well.“Local kids, California kids, you like to think you are going to get them,” Kiffin said. “To go into SEC country and get Lamar was a pleasant surprised.”While the Trojans won their fair share of recruiting battles Wednesday, they also found themselves on the losing end of some others.Offensive lineman Troy Niklas (Anaheim, Calif.) signed with rival Notre Dame, while cornerback Marcus Roberson (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) signed with Florida after decomitting from Auburn on Monday.Most notably, long-time commit De’Anthony Thomas (Los Angeles) of Crenshaw High reneged on his verbal pledge to USC, signing with Oregon.Thomas is the No. 1 ranked athlete in the country and the fifth-best prospect in the country, according to Rivals.com.But in spite of losing out on a few potential recruits, Kiffin remained optimistic about the future of the program.“At the UCLA game afterwards, I said this was going to be a very critical off season for us, and one that we were going to spend every day working on this class so hopefully we didn’t have a season like we did before,” Kiffin said. “I think today we’ve made a step toward that.”last_img read more