Doug Marrone has put Syracuse football behind the Iron Curtain this spring, so we don’t blame you for not knowing what to expect Saturday. With information on SU at a premium, we’re here to help. Here are the Fizz Five biggest questions surrounding the annual Spring Game.
- Which young DBs will step up?
The most productive member of last year’s secondary, Phillip Thomas, is gone. He leaves an already shaky unit even shakier. Just like many areas on this team, a mix of average veterans and athletic youngsters with promise remains.
Who will emerge? Marrone has recruited a handful speedy, talented corners and safeties. But now it’s on the players to step up. The coaching staff should know what it has in key returners Keon Lyn, Ri’Shard Anderson, Shamarko Thomas, and Jeremi Wilkes. The spotlight should be on Brandon Reddish, Ritchy Desir, Jaston George, Durell Eskridge, and Shu Mungwa. Forget about specific positions, that hardly matters. The Orange desperately needs someone to step up as a game-changer. The secondary has given up enough big plays over the last couple years. It’s about time it takes some back.
- Will we see any playmakers at wide receiver?
This is the secondary redux. There are serviceable veterans returning to the roster, but someone has to grab the big play role. Alec Lemon (out for the spring with a shoulder injury) is a proven possession receiver, and Jarrod West (likely out for the Spring Game with a more minor injury) showed flashes last year.
Intrigue surrounds many of the other wideouts. Will 6-foot-3 Adrian Flemming finally establish himself as a vertical threat? Who among sophomores Kyle Foster, Jeremiah Kobena, and Keenan Hale will step up? And how much could Marcus Sales open up the offense in his return from a year-long suspension? The receivers might make the steepest improvement of any position group from last year to this year. We’ll get an indication during the Spring Game if that’s realistic.
- How will SU use the vast potential of Ashton Broyld?
All eyes will be on the QB/WR/DB/RB/TE/Superman on Saturday. The Fizz actually heard Marrone will sideline the rest of the roster and just let Broyld play football against himself.
The Rochester dynamo is undoubtedly the center of attention. A source tells The Fizz to expect Broyld to play all over the field. It’ll be interesting to see how Marrone unveils him to a Dome crowd begging for a glimpse of his potential. Broyld can make a huge difference this fall if used correctly, but there’s naturally some concern about hurting his development by placing him at the wrong position.
- Is there a “feature back” fracas?
There’s a decent chance that a true freshman ends up becoming the go-to guy in the backfield. But that’s saying more about the players returning to The Hill than incoming George Morris and DeVante McFarlane. Will SU look for a “feature back,” or will it be ground game by committee?
Antwon Bailey desperately needed a power back to complement him last season, but SU never found one. Now without Bailey, it’s even more of a guess. Prince-Tyson Gulley broke through against Toledo before breaking his collarbone and missing the rest of the season. He’s the most talented back on campus, with the potential to be a 25 carries per game featured back. But who knows if he’ll stay on the field.
Adonis Ameen-Moore should have been redshirted last season, and was a disappointment when he played. On the plus side, he still gets credit for being an absolute tank. Hopefully he’s lost some weight and is mobile enough to contribute in the fall. Jerome Smith has worked hard to improve, but the evidence suggests he just isn’t very good.
If Ameen-Moore and Smith don’t show something on Saturday, then SU fans will spend the summer crossing their fingers that Gulley figures out how to stay healthy or one of the dynamic freshman emerges in August.
- Is there anybody out there?
Around 4,200 fans attended last year’s Spring Game. That figure certainly wasn’t going to vastly improve after the collapse of ’11. But the Orange did have the 3rd highest Spring Game attendance in the Big East last season (Rutgers crushed everyone with 21,120 fans).
However, Marrone threw a monkey wrench this season by closing off all prior practices to the fans and media. That could have a substantial impact on the environment Saturday. Central New Yorkers who haven’t heard much about the Orange may have less motivation to show up, or an alienated fanbase may just ignore the game out of spite. The opposite could also occur: with only one shot to see the squad, Orange Nation could turn out in increased numbers.
If you can’t make it to the Dome, follow The Fizz on Twitter for live updates during the game. Also, stay tuned for pregame coverage on Fizz Radio Saturday starting at 9a.
Posted: Andrew Kanell