Just over two weeks until the season opener against Wake Forest and unfortunately for Syracuse, the major story line is medical reports. It’s something a football team never wants to hear, but the Orange has taken a dramatic hit to the offensive line and defensive secondary.
Along the trenches, which was expected to be a strength this season, SU has taken the biggest blow. Monday Doug Marrone was working with eight scholarship offensive lineman. That isn’t even two full rows on the depth chart. The Orange had six lineman sitting on the sidelines with injury.
Backup tackle Sean Hickey is lost for the season with a knee injury, and Marrone announced yesterday freshman tackle Kristopher Curtis is out indefinitely. Freshman tackle Nick Robinson, center Ian Allport, tackle Andrew Phillips and guard Nick Lepack are all also missing practice time with injury.
And while the depth of the O-Line has taken a huge hit, the secondary has lost three expected starters in Phillip Thomas, Shamarko Thomas and Keon Lyn. The list of players sidelined with injuries right now is long… too long. Marrone sounded understandably deflated sitting down at the podium yesterday and beginning:
“Well, you know, again, it’s that time of year where you start getting concerned about injuries.”
“I feel sorry for the players because I don’t know if people really understand how had these young men work to put themselves in a position to compete.”
Everyone understands injuries are part of football. It’s unreasonable to think any team can get through camp without having to deal with some bumps and scrapes. Plus, all the injured players in the secondary can still get back in time for the opener. But with the Orange training staff as busy as the coaching staff throughout camp, you have to question whether this is more than just a rash of bad luck.
One of the biggest storylines in NFL training camps this year has been a reduced amount of hitting and less padded practices. As the injuries continue to pile up for Syracuse, it may benefit Marrone to take a page from that book.
“I didn’t want to do that [change the way they practice], I don’t think I’m sending the right message if we reduce some things or lessen some things.”
The Dougie did say the team has taken some aspects like tackling, where players would be on the ground (a common cause of injury), and put more of an emphasis on those in individual drills.
The last thing we want to see is Marrone go soft, and it’s going to be hard getting a team ready for the season without hitting at practice. It’s a delicate balance to strike. However, the worst thing that can happen to a team during training camp is a devastating injury to a star player, or a run of injuries that wipes out a team’s depth.
With three players out either for the season or sidelined indefinitely, another three defensive starters and almost half the scholarship lineman on the sidelines, including multiple players out with concussions, it might be time Marrone to ease up a little bit. As important as it is for Syracuse to be a tough football team, it needs to be a healthy one come September 4.
Posted: Steve Neikam