The Fizz presents the five biggest questions facing ’11 Syracuse football. With 34 days until the season opener against Wake Forest on September 1st, the Orange has several unknowns facing it. Big East Media Day is Tuesday, Syracuse Media Day is Friday. The Fizz will have team coverage at the events (follow The Fizz on Twitter for live updates from both) and we provide answers and early predictions to the questions.
- Can Ryan Nassib Take the Next Step?
The biggest question mark for this team is under center. Can Nassib become an All-Big East quality player? He certainly has the weapons surrounding him this year with a talented receiving corps featuring returning contributors, Marcus Sales, Alec Lemon and Van Chew. He will also have Antwon Bailey out of the backfield and, hopefully, an improved offensive line. This year should set up very well for Nassib and his big Pinstripe Bowl performance suggests the next step is in sight. Nassib will need to cut down on turnovers and be given more latitude to throw deep passes downfield to have the big year the Orange coaching staff and fans are looking for.
- Can Syracuse Replace Derrell Smith and Doug Hogue?
The biggest issue on the defensive side of the ball will be filling the gap left by two of its leaders, both of whom will now play on Sundays. Obviously, the lynchpin of the group is their only returning starter in Marquis Spruill, who will move to the middle to anchor the defense. Other than the talented Spruill, the unit is filled with young, inexperienced players, most notably Mario Tull, Siriki Diabate and Dyshawn Davis. The linebackers will likely take some time to gel and don’t be surprised to see them struggle against faster opponents like USC.
- Can Antwon Bailey Carry the Load?
Another key for the Orange will be how well Bailey transitions to feature back. Bailey obviously doesn’t have big size, but he is a bulldog and has proven capable of grinding it out. However, can Bailey can take the pounding of 20-25 touches a game that workhorse Delone Carter shouldered last season? He will need some help from young guys as well. Prince Tyson-Gulley will be the key backup, but don’t be too surprised to see some freshmen in the action. The Orange need to avoid Bailey getting banged up if they want to succeed in the Big East.
- Can the Orange Defend the Carrier Dome?
The ‘Cuse needs to win at home. Its awful play in the Dome last season was demoralizing and requires a complete turnaround in order for the team to compete for the conference title. The Dougie lost all four home games against FBS opponents, while posting only one loss on the road. Syracuse must do a better job at home not only for the sake of the standings, but to help get the fans behind the team as well. The home woes are baffling, but expect Syracuse to get some victories in the Dome this year.
- Can Syracuse Take Advantage of 1 B.T? (Before TCU)
Finally, with no distinguished, elite teams in the conference the Big East is up for grabs. With TCU joining next year, this season may be the best chance for Syracuse to snap up the BCS bid. The Orange is young in some spots, but has an experienced core on offense. The D is not as strong, but with the overall lack of depth in the Big East, Syracuse has a legitimate chance to take the conference crown.
Posted: Alex Plavin