If you’re like me then you’re really wanting to exact revenge for that fateful night in 2009 when we lost in the Dome at Syracuse. Visions of Syracuse WR Mike Williams are still dancing in our heads as well as the fact that a Duke PG served up a “w” in Doug Marrone’s debut as the new head coach of the Orange. Quite a bit has changed since our 37-34 season opening loss and this time around it won’t be much easier. Let’s extend a welcome to the definitive Syracuse blog, Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and its proprietor Sean Keeley.
LTP: It’s painful to look at your 2011, see 5-7, react with a yecchh and then realize we did a whopping 1 game better, albeit with a bowl appearance. That being said, a lot has changed since our last encounter in the Dome in 2009 (oww, insert pain…please tell us Mike Williams is long gone). You’ve decided to move to the ACC and are playing dead man walking in the Big East. What impact has this move had on the program?
TNIAAM: Yes, Mike Williams is long gone and we’re still trying to find a big-time player to match him.
You know, for such a major move on the horizon, it really hasn’t impacted us yet on the field. Football-wise, there really isn’t that much bad blood between the Big East programs. West Virginia was probably our biggest rival and they’re already gone. I suppose the re-addition of Temple will be weird this year but otherwise it’s the same old Big East…one last time.
Off-the-field, we’ve already seen an impact on recruiting. Multiple players we’ve recruited from Florida and Georgia have said that the impending move to a conference that includes trips to their home states made a difference. Good thing since we’re going to see a lot of teams with a whole lot better players in conference.
LTP: Take no offense, but when you’re not on our current year calendar, we barely track you. I saw one game last year – the ‘Cuse’s butt whooping of West Virginia. You appeared to have a stout rush defense, a poor offense across the board and an inability to finish games. Tell us how and why things have changed heading in to 2012? Walk us through the gamechanger players on your squad and whom we should fear.
TNIAAM: Understood. We’re fully aware of our place in the college football world. Despite the fact that we’re one of the 15 winningest programs in the history of the sport, our reputation is that of a bottom-feeder. We’re working on it.
You picked a helluva game to watch since it was the biggest anomaly of the season. How we beat the team that put 70 up on Clemson I’ll never know. Our defense had its moments but overall we hemmoraged yards via our secondary. The offense could at times look exciting but limited play-calling and so-so execution led to a lot of 3-and-outs. And that inability to finish games was indeed our downfall. We went 5-7 but we were a terrible officiating call against Toledo and a few extra minutes against Tulane from going 3-9.
What’s apparently changing in 2012 is our entire offensive scheme. The big reason spring practice has been closed to media is because we’re installing a new offensive agenda towards quarterback mobility. That means that fifth-year senior Ryan Nassib will be asked to work with his feet a little more instead of his arm. That’s troubling because he’s not the quickest cat around. The good news is that most of our backups (John Kinder, Terrel Hunt, Ashton Broyld) are cut from the pass-run combo cloth.
I’ll go into Broyld more in the next question but suffice to say, it sounds like he’s going to be a weapon from multiple fronts on offense. He’s too good an athlete to bury on the QB depth chart. That means he’ll be helping out with incumbant RBs Prince-Tyson Gulley and Jerome Smith. What’s great about the SU backfield is that we’ve got a weapon for every situation. PTG and Smith are our every-down backs, Broyld is the not-so-secret weapon and Adonis Ameen-Moore is the big, bruising fullback that will dominate goal-lines.
Defensively, Syracuse has a lot of holes to fill on the defensive line. Chandler Jones and Mkhail Marnovich were anchors on the end for the past two years. SU has a lot of young, large individuals who will be stepping in but we’re not entirely clear which ones will be seeing the bulk of time given the closed practice.
I’m excited about the linebacking core, which is led by three-year starter Marquis Spruill and second-year LB Dyshawn Davis. And the secondary might be a work-in-progress, but I expect senior safety Shamarko Thomas to be it’s star.
LTP: It appears you have your own Kain Colter in versatile frosh Ashton Broyld. It looks like the kid is getting Sidd Finch type hype. Explain.
TNIAAM: Broyld was supposed to be on the team last year but ended up getting into trouble with academics and an indecent exposure incident during a basketball game. Nothing a year at a private academy couldn’t fix. Now he’s with the team and by all accounts has looked so athletic and quick in spring practice that the offense is shuffled to ensure that he’s a part of it.
He’s not good enough to supplant three-year starter Ryan Nassib but he is good enough to get on the field as a RB/WR/Wildcat-type player that can make things very exciting. We haven’t had a guy like that on offense in a long time so we’re excited. I don’t think we expect him to be the star of the team (yet) but we do expect to see him on the field a decent amount.
LTP: Now that Doug Marrone has gotten used to wearing his Dome shoes, explain to us what type of a style of play the ‘Cuse has settled in to.
TNIAAM: Well that’s the tricky thing. In years past, our offense has oscillated between a West Coast-ish, pass-happy attack and a stale, generic, two-runs-and-a-pass offense. Ryan Nassib is on pace to be the greatest statistical quarterback in Syracuse history (which includes Donovan McNabb, Don McPherson and Marvin Graves) and yet no one would say he is a “better” QB than those other three. He’s benefiting from an offense that has allowed him to work quickly from the pocket with short and quick passes.
However, it’s clear that SU is going to open things up this season. We’ve heard time and time again that the QB will be expected to remain mobile. More roll-outs, more play-action, more Wildcat-type plays. The truth is, we don’t exactly what to expect from the SU offense this year…and that’s your problem now.
LTP: Rank your units from top to bottom (ie. #1 OL, #2 secondary). Serve up the worst nightmare opponent for you in terms of style of play.
TNIAAM: #1 – QB, #2 – WR, #3 – LB, #4 – DL, #5 – RB, #6 – OL, #7 – DB.
I’d say our worst nightmare is still a team that can open it up offensively, throw down the field and beat us with superior athlete at the skill positions. In other words, the same USC team we’ll play a few weeks after you guys.
LTP: “Thank God For Stony Brook.” The ‘Cuse went a little aggressive in its OOC this year with Northwestern, USC, and Minnesota on the docket. Considering that gauntlet of no gimmes, what is the expectation level for this team this season?
TNIAAM: Yeah we got a little screwed on the scheduling from when West Virginia left. We didn’t want to go the double-FCS route so we ended up getting stuck with a road game in Missouri with no return match. A road game against Minnesota doesn’t sound bad but it’s still a hike across the country. As for the Big East, Louisville and USF are supposed to be pretty solid while Pitt and Rutgers always give us problems.
I think the expectation is that Syracuse is looking at another 5-7 gauntlet run, though we can’t say for sure since we haven’t seen the team all that much yet.
LTP: I’ve noticed several new faces on the coaching staff. Educate us on what that may mean in terms of changes for SU.
TNIAAM: There’s two new coaches on the staff this year and they’re both on the defensive side. Former Michigan linebacker Steve Morrison is now our LB coach and former NFL assistant Donnie Henderson is our secondary coach. It’s all about past connections on this staff. Henderson worked with Marrone on the Jets and Morrison was a member of defensive coordinator Scott Shafer’s staff at Western Michigan.
As for what it means on the field, I’m not entirely sure. SU sorely needed someone to come in and devote attention to the secondary as Shafer looked after it last year along with his DC duties. It remains to be seen what it all means but it all comes down to Shafer and his philosophy, which has worked fairly well given the talent he’s been working with.
LTP: Thanks for playing Sean, I look forward to returning the Q&A favor and keeping in line with the home and home theme. Needless to say this is the type of match-up Northwestern fans have grown to expect to win, but based on our last performance there we are very paranoid about this match-up.
LTP Purple Ticket Challenge…Momentum Reigns – Eclipse 10% of Goal!
In our half decade long quest to try and pack Ryan Field almost all purple with a 47,130 weekly attendance, we’ve been calling on you, the readers, to sign up a pair of NEW season ticket holders to help us with the blog’s mission. We’ve got a stated goal of 200 NEW season ticket holders and we’ve eclipsed the 10% threshold thanks to Mike H. who supersized his holdings from six tickets to ten seaon tickets adding four NEW season tickets with the thought he’d use the four additionals to convince his friends. Way to step out Mike and put us in to the 20s. Let’s keep the mojo going and email me your tales of converting new season ticket holders.