Orange Nation is confident its watching the rebirth of SU football. But even though Syracuse is poised to take another step back towards to the top of the Big East, it’s still at the point where injuries could derail those expectations.
“We all agree that Marrone’s got it going in the right direction, that Marrone’s recruiting better than clearly Greg Robinson was, they’re getting better talent. But one thing is very obvious: It’s still not a deep team. Is this team deep enough to withstand these types of injuries I think is absolutely a major concern.” – D.A., FizzCast
Syracuse still isn’t fully healed from the Groobers Error, and that’s evident in its lack of overall depth. To exacerbate the problem, injuries and off-field issues have assaulted the Orange in recent weeks.
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Last week the state of the SU defensive backfield looked suspect. Three of four starters were dealing with injuries, which quickly turned a supposed area of strength into a problem. Several days later, now that things have calmed down, it looks like everything is going to be alright with the secondary. The unit has decent depth to begin with, and Doug Marrone says that Shamarko Thomas, Keon Lyn and Phillip Thomas are back doing non-contact drills.
Still, SU fans are skittish when it comes to the defensive backs. Marrone certainly doesn’t want to be relying on Brandon Reddish and Jaston George midway through the season. The starters are some of the more experienced members of the entire team, so it’s imperative that they get healthy and stay healthy.
The Orange roster is undoubtedly at its thinnest in the trenches. The offensive line has sustained an relentless run of injuries, leaving almost nothing beyond the five starters. On the surface, the line’s production should be phenomenal, but danger lurks in the background. Should a starter or two go down with an injury, the formerly cohesive unit will then be forced to turn to inexperienced players to fill in. Several of the team’s veteran backups, such as Jarel Lowery and Sean Hickey, are out indefinitely. Similarly, SU has to hope tight ends Nick Provo and Beckett Wales stay healthy. Some of the other TEs have looked alright in practice, but no one beyond the aforementioned duo has any experience catching passes in college games.
If you’d like to look on the bright side, then definitely turn to the running backs. Syracuse leaned heavily on its rushing attack in 2010, which enabled Ryan Nassib to ease into his first season as the starting quarterback. The Orange rushed for 1,822 total yards last season, while it felt many times as if Nassib had to do little more than manage the game in order to grab the victory (that of course changed in the Pinstripe Bowl).
Without Delone Carter this time around, will SU rely more on its QB’s shoulder? Maybe slightly, but don’t underrate the running game just because Carter graduated. The position, compared to most others across Syracuse’s roster, actually boasts phenomenal depth. Explosive playmaker Antwon Bailey should see a huge increase in touches now that Carter is gone, and that could take the offense to another level. Good things seem to happen every time ‘Twon has the ball in his hands.
Though they’re young, Bailey has a nice complement of backs behind him. There’s a good chance Prince-Tyson Gulley has a breakout season if he suffers no ill-effects of the stabbing. Sophomore Jerome Smith adds depth, Steve Rene is an absolute burner who should get occasional touches, and freshman Adonis Ameen-Moore is a monstrous back who can replicate Carter’s power style.
Nassib and the passing attack should get better, but bet on the running backs once again being the offense’s anchor. But the process of building this team is still ongoing, and a rash of injuries amplifies that Marrone’s job of getting this program to a level able to withstand that is not yet here.
Posted: Andrew Kanell