Tyrone Wheatley spoke to reporters after Wednesday’s practice and with a cluster of mics surrounding the former NFL veteran, he proclaimed that “it’s money time” for Syracuse football. The preparation for the 2012 campaign started back when the last seconds of the Orange’s finale against Pittsburgh ticked away, ending a horrid five-game losing streak. But that’s now in the past, and Wheat the Beast preached that a combination of off-season workouts, spring practice, training camp up at Fort Drum, as well as these recent days of work have kept SU players focused on what’s in front of them. One of Wheatley’s main priorities is obviously keeping the running backs in line, and his feature back Jerome Smith tells The Fizz he’s ready to go shopping:
“It means it’s time to go. When you got a bank, you deposit so much money and we just kept putting money into the bank. Well now it’s time to go spend it. It’s time to go get money now.”
The anticipation has built over these last few weeks for the season to begin, and quite frankly it’s still very unclear as to just how good this Syracuse team can be. Some media have their doubts, but the Orange can surprise us. One of our bold predictions heading into the year is that we’ll see an upset victory against one of SU’s toughest opponents, and a disappointing loss to a below-par squad. However, the players seem sold on the coaching staff’s mindset of a rebound-year. They can’t wait to run through the tunnel into a raucous Carrier Dome crowd in about 24 hours. Players feel an obligation to play their hearts out and owe it to the fans for finishing last year the way they did.
On its best days, the Carrier Dome can squeeze 50k fans under a single-roof top. That energy adds even more excitement, and it’s certainly an advantage for the players. Alec Lemon admitted to The Fizz the noise and heat will be overwhelming to opposing teams:
“It’s kind of hard not to get excited. They’re not going to expect how hot it’s going to be. We just want to go out there and start the season with a win, just like the rest of the season for 2012. That first win’s the biggest. Everyone’s excited to get back out there and play in front of everyone. We just got to go out there and be calm and do what we have to do.”
Lemon is a huge piece to this year’s offensive puzzle. This year’s offense should be Marrone’s most creative in his tenure. The athletes that make up this program give the staff flexibility to move guys around and different schemes should cause headaches to defensive coordinators. But with new parts their must come patience. A lot of underclassmen will have their shot not just tomorrow, but for the majority of the season. Marrone will look to utilize guys as best as possible, so there are no positions that are set in stone coming in.
Defensively it’s the same story. The Syracuse defense was putting together a very formidable season last year, but fell apart. Veteran leadership is back from standouts like Deon Goggins and Jay Bromley, but it will take a collective effort to weather the storm of a tough out-of-conference schedule.
Ryan Nassib originally said the team did not look ready to play Northwestern, but now says SU is prepared for actual competition. Nassib has expectations to do big things, and some argue he’s one of the best in the Big East. He’s anxious to kick off the year tomorrow:
“The season-opener is definitely something different. If we can get that first win, I think we can get rolling and do something great this year. It is our first game, so we hope it gets rocking for us.”
ESPN released the Big East power rankings and SU slots seventh, only beating out new member of the conference Temple. So if Marrone really worked these guys hard over the last nine months, we’ll expect the Orange to respond with a large chip on its shoulder and give SU fans a season they won’t forget.
Posted: Brendan Glasheen