Syracuse Football’s Top 5 Questions Heading into Next Week’s Season Opener

How fast Sugar Bear can step up is one of the biggest unknowns this season.


What are the 5 most important questions facing Syracuse football? Just over a week away before the floodgates open to the Carrier Dome and the season kicks off. Doug Marrone and his squad have prepared for a bounce-back season after ending last year’s with a 5-game debacle. One definite fallout from the losing skid was training camp at Fort Drum in Jefferson County. Injuries and position battles have kept SU on its toes this pre-season, and heading into year four Marrone feels pressure to produce a winning season. Perhaps his grumpy mood at Big East Media Day just speaks to his focus on the upcoming challenges ahead.

All of the hype for the season even has Darryl Gross anxious. He says that he has the utmost trust in The Dougie.

“I want you to know we have complete confidence in Doug Marrone’s leadership and vision. He knows what we need to have success and we are getting closer. Have we had challenges? Of course. Will we have more challenges? Yes, it’s part of the deal. Will we be able to compete consistently in the future? I totally believe so.”

The Fizz poses the five biggest questions facing Syracuse in the home-opener:

1) Where will Ashton Broyld see the most time on the field? 

Broyld arguably has the most expectations heading into this season. Rightfully so, he is a complex package player and serves as a painful headache to opposing defensive coordinators. SU lists Slash 2.0 officially as a RB, which shouldn’t surprise anyone since there’s a lack of certainty with last year’s backs. At the beginning of camp, we provided Broyld’s best suited positions, and RB didn’t make the cut. Will Marrone adhere to the Wildcat schemes to get him involved, or perhaps put him in the slot and run routes? The passing game has lost impact receivers. And maybe he gets time at QB. Broyld wasn’t featured under center at the Spring Game, and didn’t see much time at camp. His status will certainly be interesting because he is so versatile and so athletically gifted. Don’t expect this situation to be solved overnight. It will be a question throughout the season.

2) Will Justin Pugh suit up? 

Yahoo Sports reports that Pugh will meet with his doctor this weekend, and it will decide his status against NW. The all-conference offensive lineman is recovering from shoulder surgery, and is the staple of the Orange O-line. It lacks depth so if Pugh were to not play, Sean Hickey intends to start in his place. Even if Pugh does get the chance, how and how often Marrone uses him will be interesting. His leadership is also a huge loss with his injury. He was very optimistic about the situation at Media Day, and told The Fizz that he trusts the other guys to step in and compete if indeed he misses time:

“I think the way we’ve built the program is the older guys make sure we bring up as many young guys and speed practice up. That’s the best way to get excited to see what they have in them a week from now.”

3) Is Ron Thompson up to speed with the offense?

Thompson has some large shoes to fill heading into his freshman stint. He takes over for TE standout Nick Provo, who holds the Orange single-season reception and career reception records. Sugar Bear has received a lot of attention this off-season, and if he can live up to expectations then SU has another lethal offensive weapon. For Ron to get off to a good start is huge for his confidence. The chance to get playing time early during his tenure would strengthen Marrone’s confidence in him as well. Based on a season prediction, Ron’s role is crucial so a new era of the TE position can unravel for this program. The Orange already has a verbal from Nick Provo’sbrother Tyler, and more should come over the years. Sugar Bear has the chance to begin a new culture.

4) Who gets the bulk of the carries? 

Marrone has been awfully tight-lipped when it comes to this topic. There is no clear-cut favorite to get the majority of the snaps, not just against Northwestern, but for the entire season. SU loses a 1,000 yard rusher in Antwon Bailey, and an underperformance from the rest of last year’s group doesn’t help the cause. Marrone has shifted around DeVante McFarlane, so that leaves Jerome Smith, Prince-Tyson Gulley, and Adonis Ameen-Moore as veteran go-to guys. Smith looked to be the favorite out of spring practice, but Marrone has indicated that he isn’t quite ready to commit:

”I wouldn’t say he’s the guy we’re going to give the ball to 30 times (a game),” Marrone told Yahoo.

Expect Doug to mix it up a lot early on. But his Saints offense did that effectively, so having no favorite right out of the gate may seem troubling, but it could work out.

5) Is Ryan Nassib ready to take another step as a leader?

This is the last go-around for Nassib, entering his 5th season with the Orange. He would undoubtedly love to end his tenure with a bang and head to another bowl. Last season, Nassib set school single-season records for completions, passing yards, and tied the mark for touchdown passes. It’s the final year of stability under center for now. The duo of Zach Allen and Austin Wilson are heading to campus next year, plus the backups return as upperclassmen. If things go south would the staff ever pull the plug on him to get a head start on next year? Hard to imagine since his leadership is invaluable, and he told Yahoo that he’s excited for his final year.

”It’s a whole ‘nother year in the system,” Nassib said. ”We’ve got some guys stepping up, good competition. I think we got better. We’re not ready to step up and play Northwestern yet. We still have some things to get down, but I think we’re getting there. When the time comes, hopefully, we’ll be ready.”

The anticipation builds for the start of a new look Orange team. How players are utilized in all three phases is fun to look forward to. Football’s back, but that means questions are as well.

Posted: Brendan Glasheen

50 Comments on this Post

  1. Russell Mac Eachern

    Guys,Dip,ESPN just can’t stop trashing the BE,Im furious,…they never mention us as a player,just that were moving to the ACC,like thats the only thing we can hang our hats on!!U guys know how I feel,Im not gonna be [email protected],the other rb on my ffb team was Mershawn Lynch!!

  2. Russell Mac Eachern

    On topic,The reports on Adonis A-Moore are hes slimmed down and running hard,I hope he lives up to previous expectations!Ron liked what he saw so Im hopeful we’ll get the ground game going!!

  3. NW game is going to set the tone for the season. Looking forward to seeing how many fans fill up the Dome. Also looking forward to seeing the new Jumbo Screens. Nerdy, but true.

  4. Carlton

    1more weekend and week and then its football time! Cant wait to see ND play in Ireland,SU’s home opener,working the FSU vs Murray game and of course on sunday watching uofl beat up on UK for the governor’s cup! Anyways hope everyone enjoys the weekend! Im flying home to rochester tommorrow early in the am. It will be good to be home! Hope i dont get caught in the hurricane on the way back! cya all next week sometime!

  5. Russell Mac Eachern

    Welcome home Carlton,”NY Guy”..

  6. Russell Mac Eachern

    @Dip,Jint kick-off ya watching?!!

  7. Russell Mac Eachern

    2Carlton,found ur reply/responded on previous thread!

  8. Russell Mac Eachern

    Damn,is Wilson this good?

  9. I watched Sugar Bear catch all of the passes to him over the middle during the Spring Football Game and after catching the ball he averaged another 10-15 yeards after the completion.

    I was very impressed when he caught one over the middle and it took 3 players to bring him down. THREE PLAYERS.

    I believe that Sugar Bear Ron Thompson alone is going to tear up the opposing defenses this year,and he is only one of the many weapons that Syracuse will use this year.

    Can’t wait for next weekend man, just can’t wait.

    Russell if your coming to the game on Saturday your more than welcome to stop by Manley an join us for breakfast ok.

    I’ll let you know more as the week goes by.


  10. smitty section 129

    This team is going to suprise alot of people. We finally have the wr’s for nassiB and the line is strong. Look for alot of spread offense with broyld in the backfield. Te strong to. Defensively reddish is a shut diwn corner, believe me. The lbs are very solid and the d line is alot better than last year even without jones. The only ? For me is the rb pos. Got my tailgating stuff out t

  11. Russ…wilson, Barden , Randle…have looked very impressive, my girl keeps turning to a Leo DiCaprio movie lol. Preseason trick, i wont miss a minute starting next week! NYGs looking better than Dal & Phi…when will the experts buy in? Eli has consistently outperformed Romo & Vick, 2rings

    * Hey if Ashton & Thompson can open field up,its gonna be a record breaking O, even if we rush for 1200 yds by comitee, it could be special. Cant play conservative ball…time to open it up! We’re gonna need 6dbs for USC & 5 wrs to even run with them!

    I only brake for ORANGE?

  12. Russell Mac Eachern

    I was wondering were everyone was!Sounds like loads of good news!!Im watchin Giant game I’ll be online after!!

  13. Russell Mac Eachern

    I’ll bet Dip was there?He always comes online b4 a Jint game unless action with da “Cuse”!!da Dipperr

  14. Russell Mac Eachern

    I like Randle a lot Dip,along w/Cruz we should b alright!!U let ur girl turn off Jint game ?Bad sign lol…Wilson looked great!!!

  15. Russell Mac Eachern

    Dip,brake for Orange?U are an “Orange” HaHa ya wacky kid!!

  16. Russell Mac Eachern

    Win or lose,preseason’s never a good indicator of Jints….we always play best late in season!!!rightb Dip?

  17. Russell Mac Eachern

    Ah Giants lost,Ron you got me reevaluating my predictions w/ur xcitement!Have u seen anyone elses improvements?or r we the only improved team?Sugar bear sounds good,I no Nassib is very good,will he have time to throw?Lotsa questions in my mind!!Has Superman reported yet?The HULK?lol..jus teasin Ron…HaHa..I liked u flashing ur humor last night,HOW DARE

  18. Russell Mac Eachern

    @Dipper,Im glad ur ready w/ur bag of tricks or maybe we can find something in the Bat-Cave to remedy the situation!!Society (jints/Cuse)depend’s on it,mmmm maybe a sleeping potion?lol….

  19. Russell Mac Eachern

    if not mtaybe we can ask the “Green Lantern” to assist in protecting Gotham??HaHaha….”if he’s not too old?”lol..

  20. Russell Mac Eachern

    @Ron,you know id love too be able to make it,but at present have unfinished health issue’s remember?Were u at practice yesterday?Their open to the public?Anything else interesting?I’ll let u know when Im able too get around!

  21. Russell Mac Eachern

    Ron,I think Norma’s sqeeze is sorta already participating on that other topic?Im not sure but their may be 1 or 2 others its just that since they don’t comment we have no way of knowing?Or were u talking about actual f’male athletes? hoopzgurlz?It’s an open forum Ron unless u want to get a salvation army type band and advertise?I just don’t think many girls are as crazy as we are!!

  22. Russell Mac Eachern

    I mean’t “squeeze”,I misspelled above

  23. @Russell Mac Eachern,i forgot about your health issues,but I extend an open invitation to you anyway. If you find away to get to a game your always welcome to join us.

    In the past people would always tell us that Syracuse lacks play makers on the team. That’s not the case anymore,they’re loaded at the TE,RB,WR positions. They just need to believe in themselves and get the job done. “THEY NEED TO PLAY WITH HEART AND HAVE CONVICTION THAT THEY’RE THE BEST ON THE FIELD COME SATURDAY.
    For me the defensive unit is “OUTSTANDING.” I can’t remember when Syracuse has had size,strength and speed all rolled into the unit. They will shut people down,I really can’t imagine anyone running the ball against this unit.
    The real shocker this year is when Syracuse travels to NJ for it’s home game against USC and wins.

    Just trying to say Russell, I think that Syracuse is loaded this year and people need to be made aware. the ESPN pundits will take notice after Syracuse goes 2-0 to start the season.


  24. @Russell Mac Eachern; I didn’t go up to Fort Drum because the articles in the paper said that they held practices for the troops and their families and I didn’t want to interfere with any of that. I’ve been real busy lately and haven’t been to any practices,but as I stated in the above post,I believe that Syracuse is going to be alright and I stand by my prediction of a 9-3 over-all record.

    GO CUSE;

  25. @Norma,Russell really did mean “squeeze” in the above post. Dirty old man walking,be careful.

  26. Russell Mac Eachern

    @Ron,I love to see personality come thru,it lifts my spirits!Like u I take great pleasure in fooling around and teaseing to go with the serious stuff to lighten the tension!Carlton turns out to be one of my favorite people,along with u and Norma!Of course we all know the “Dip” is my boy!!

  27. Ok fellas,just letting you know that I’m going to be absent today and tomorrow from making any comments to post. I will try and catch up on Monday.

    It’s a bummer man knowing that I will be missing the fun.

  28. Russell Mac Eachern

    @Ron,I appreciate the reports as Im not able to get around too easily right now,I don’t mention it much as I think its inappropriate on a public forum w/our younger friends viewing for their pleasure!!!Why make people concerned?btw I haven’t seen CDL lately?

  29. Russell Mac Eachern

    @Ron,I agree as u said “What a Bummer”..

  30. Russell Mac Eachern

    @Ron,if u persist in being absent w/o a note from ur DR Im gonna have too put u on suspension!!!HaHa..

  31. smitty section 129

    The Section 129 crew invites you to our tailgate party. Thanks for the props on the radio. We tailgate right behind chucks in the parking lot of the small shopping center . Beer pong, corn hole and lots of beer. Go su

  32. Russell Mac Eachern

    @SS129 BIG UP’S too the SMITTY SECTION….save a brew for me!!

  33. smitty section 129

    Brew saved. Go orange. We re opening with a win

  34. Thanks guys! Love the insight. And @smittysection129 we’ll have to bring the Fizz on over for a visit!

  35. Russell Mac Eachern

    Wonder were the FF is 2nite?Hmmmm.. I guess Trueblood must be on and everyone’s gone Vampire on me?….

  36. Russell Mac Eachern

    What’s faster than a speeding bullet?….more powerful than a locomotive?…able to leap tall building’s in a single bound?…..look,up in the sky..its a bird..its a plane..its “SuperDog”….

  37. Good morning fells; I hate to pour water on and change the excitement for the start of the football season,but I have to ell you that I had one of the greatest moments of my life last night.

    I have a part time position at Syracuse University that allows me to meet a lot of the male and female athletes. I met both of the McDonald-All Americans (Brittney Sykes,Brianna Butler) last night along with the rest of the incoming freshman (Pachis Roberts,Taylor Ford,Cornelia Fonder) of the women’s basketball team.

    The girls all have great personalities and said that by coming to Syracuse other great players would follow.

    Russell,This is for you kiddo,Brittney Sykes sent a big hello to you and hopes that you follow the women’s games on tv this year. They also said that this could be the year to beat UCONN and all were looking forwards to playing in the ACC next year.

    It was a moment that I will never forget.


  38. Russell Mac Eachern

    O Ron,your always full of surprise’s,Im impressed,u know how much I enjoy the Lady Cuse and it does’nt take any encouraging for me to watch the girls as I said I prefer them!!Tell them to give RU and UConn HeLL!As for the ACC u know my feelings on that for now guys….it’ll take the Dip to push me over the top on that topic and a little time!Thank the Lord we have a season to get mentally adjusted too it!!

  39. Russell Mac Eachern

    Things have been quiet for a while here Ron,the Dippers busy learning about the birds and the bee’s lol… good for u Dip,these are great yrs..14-19..enjoy them as they will fly by!!But don’t forget ur ol uncle!!

  40. Russell Mac Eachern

    @Ron,tell Brittney Ill pay particular attention to her and appreciate the “love”!!Also any of the Jersey girls on the team that do SU and NJ proud!!ergo Iaisha Hemingway!I’m also from Newark area,Belleville,Njs my hometown!!

  41. Russell Mac Eachern

    On a more serious and touchy topic,I hope RU ends up in ACC cause we need each other to dominate NYC/NJ metro area and GROW…I don’t think either will thrive in national spotlight “short of an undefeated type season” w/o the other…same goes for
    BC/UConn in NE…these are the name schools that bring eyeballs in the most densely populated area in the nation.I think it would help our NJ recruiting and patch the unfortunate rift in the “war between the states”lol I know it sounds funny but sadly I hope not true!!I know my people Ron…note the increased intensity in RU/SU games,its amazing and to a lesser degree in football but still super intense SU/Uconn!!last game?Bummer!

  42. Russell Mac Eachern

    FizzFam,prediction in NW game..SU 34 NW 16!!C’mon Dip,make ur prediction!!

  43. Norma Stitz

    Congrats on the great moment Ron!

    Prediction is CUSE 31 NW 21

  44. Russell Mac Eachern

    #Norma,u were right what u said about the guy you argue with today is ur friend next time around,I really like Carlton now and we have a lot in common.I always respected ur knowledge and input even tho u turned out to be a man!Haha..

  45. Norma Stitz

    @Russ now that is funny! Carlton seems like a great addition to the Fizz Fam. Go ORANGE!!!

  46. BigGoose 129

    All who bleed orange are welcome to come to tailgate with the section 129 crew. See Smitty 129s post for details.

    Also, Section 129 will be representing the Orange in the Meadowlands where we will enter the game as a 1-0 team.

  47. Russell Mac Eachern

    I know,lol,thank’s Norma,hope he gets back to Tally OK with the storm coming?Were both hardheaded BUT reasonable!!Like us!!

  48. Russell Mac Eachern

    OK,Goose,Im gonna really make an SU effort to make it,health allowing!!

  49. NO ON PTG PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!

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