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Fizz Roundup: Class of 2011 Syracuse Orange in NFL Training Camps

The Fizz focuses on SU’s class of ’11 and its transition into the NFL. It seems early on like several players are in excellent positions to succeed. The lockout may have complicated things temporarily, especially for the undrafted Orange, but it looks as if that’s a hurdle the recent ‘Cuse grads have moved beyond without much trouble.

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Here’s a roundup of the rookies-to-be that are attempting to made the jump from Syracuse to the pros.

Good Looks For All

Players like Delone Carter, Derrell Smith and Doug Hogue have gobbled up most of the attention prior to and since the NFL Draft, but a solid number of under-the-radar ex-Orange are getting chances to made NFL squads, as well.

First and foremost, Ryan Bartholomew appears to have landed in a perfect situation for himself in Baltimore. The center, who went undrafted despite tearing up the NFL combine, will enjoy an opportunity to play for his hometown team if he survives the preseason cuts.

There to support Big Bart are two former SU teammates, Arthur Jones and Jameel McClain. Bartholomew has a good chance to make the Ravens as the backup center to Matt Birk, because he’s competing for the spot against just one other undrafted free agent. Plus, with Birk temporarily on the shelf earlier this week, Bartholomew practiced with the first-team.

Defensive back and kick returner Mike Holmes is a guy that many assumed would disappear for good once his college career ended, but he recently signed on with the Bears. Holmes is a bit of a longshot to make the roster at this point, but one thing going for him is that Chicago is in need of depth at the DB position.

Holmes’ former mate in the Orange defensive backfield, Da’Mon Merkerson, was signed by Arizona last week, and promptly released a few days later. Defensive tackle Andrew Lewis, who was surprisingly suspended for the Pinstripe Bowl, has signed with Jacksonville.

On Tuesday, the moment arrived that every ‘Cuse football fan has been waiting for, with punter Rob Long receiving a call from the Browns. It took a torn Achilles for Cleveland’s stud punter Reggie Hodges to make Long’s first tryout happen, but at least the recent cancer survivor finally got an opportunity to continue his inspirational story.

We’ll see if Long latches on with the Browns, who will need to sign a new punter since Hodges is out for the season. Most of the notable veteran free agent punters were scooped up by other teams just prior to Hodges’ injury, so for now Cleveland has few other options besides less-proven players like Long.

Bucs the Best Fit for Derrell

Derrell Smith has always been fighting against the odds, so it’s no surprise to see that he’s persevering despite not being drafted. Smith received limited recruitment out of high school, and was turned down by schools like University of Delaware, but eventually became one of the top linebackers in the Big East.

In Smith’s quest to make a squad in the wake of going undrafted, he was convinced the Tampa Bay was the right place for him.

“Other teams offered more money, but Tampa was the most interested in me at the combine. I got to speak with the general manager and Coach Morris in person. I just felt it was a perfect match.”

Smith reportedly has a golden shot to make the team and even a chance to earn consistent playing time at middle linebacker, because last year’s starter Barrett Ruud moved on to Tennessee.

Bucs Head Coach Raheem Morris mentions Derrell as someone who could potentially step in and take Ruud’s place.

“It provides an opportunity for one of those guys. A Tyrone McKenzie, a Mason Foster, a Derrell Smith, player X. Somebody is going to step up.”

Tampa Bay actually has two ‘Cuse grads in camp, with tight end Jose Cruz being the second. Remember that Cruz transferred to Syracuse after the football program at Hofstra folded. Coach Morris is a Hofstra alum.

Draft Picks Doing Well

Delone Carter and Doug Hogue, the only two Orange who were drafted this year, have both been signed by the teams that selected them. Both also look to be virtual locks to make their respective squads.

The Colts have plenty of running backs in the mix competing for playing time, but the word out of Indy is that Carter can provide a style of rushing that the team has been missing for some time. Indianapolis needs a physical, downhill rusher who can punch it in at the goal line. If Delone can be effective in short-yardage situations, he’ll receive steady playing time right from the start of his NFL career.

The Lions signed two quality linebacker free agents to start alongside DeAndre Levy, but that doesn’t mean Hogue is in a poor position. The All-Big East First Team member will likely settle in as a backup on defense this season, though that’s not preventing him from excelling on special teams. From the sounds of it, Hogue knows his role well.

“They’re telling me to keep working. I know I’m going to have to contribute a lot on special teams, and I’m ready to work for it.”

Even without recruiting the 4-and-5 star kids, it’s easy to envision Doug Marrone churning out hardworking pro prospects for years to come. And it’s encouraging to see that translating into an abundance of SU alumni in the NFL.

Posted: Andrew Kanell

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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