The stars of Syracuse football (Nassib, Bailey, Jones) get all the publicity, but it’s the role players who might decide the fate of the Orange. The Fizz takes a look at SU’s potential unsung heroes of the upcoming season. If the Big East is again an unpredictable free-for-all like last year, Syracuse will need a boost from some of its lower profile contributors in order to prevail. Here are some X-factor players who could end being more valuable than they’re given credit for.
- Dorian Graham, WR
Guess how many career receptions the senior (with two years of eligibility left) has? Zero. Graham possesses frustratingly elite speed, which is frustrating only because he’s never been able to use it properly to his advantage. Graham found a way to get open at times last season, but could never haul the football in.
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Doug Marrone has had high praise for the receiver this fall, saying that he looked like the best pass-catcher in camp. Should Graham translate his offseason improvement into on-field success, he would give SU a big boost. He falls into that Antwon Bailey category of a “get the ball into his hands, and good things will happen” type of player. It’s easy to envision him turning a bubble screen into a 40-yard gain to jumpstart a stagnant offense.
- Jeremi Wilkes, FS
The sophomore had a solid 2010 playing cornerback for Syracuse. Then, early during spring practice, he was curiously converted to safety. Defensive coordinator Scott Shafer said at the time Wilkes already knew the lay of the land at corner and he was getting reps at safety just to make him more versatile. Yet, here we are a week before opening night, and Wilkes remains at safety.
Even though he’s not listed as a starter on the depth chart, Wilkes will likely see plenty of playing time in some capacity. Defensive backs tend to get injured easily – in fact the injury bug has already attacked that position. Wilkes is not someone many people are talking about now, but he has the ability to fill in at both safety and cornerback if one of the starters gets hurt.
- Macky MacPherson, C
He was the short snapper for field goals and occasionally replaced Ryan Bartholomew in shotgun last year. With the Orange losing Big Bart to graduation, Macky joins the first team offensive line as the unit’s only newcomer. With the o-line depth eroding around the starters, it’s imperative that all stay healthy, but especially Macky. He’s already established a rapport with Nassib from working with him since the spring. Nassib plans on audibling much more at the line this season, and Macky plays an important role in that process. On pre-snap calls from the line, Macky says, “It starts with my call and goes from there.”
Dick MacPherson’s grandson is a giant part of what will be a new-look SU offense. Bartholomew was plagued by an inability to shotgun snap, which caused Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to stay away from that formation. Now, with Macky’s ability to consistently shotgun snap, the offense will reportedly work out of the shotgun much more frequently.
Let us know in the comments section who your X-factor is for the 2011 SU football season. Who is flying below the radar now that will be a household name by the time the season ends?
Posted: Andrew Kanell