So much to catch up on, let's get to it.
We're at the 2 week point now until the Minnesota Gophers come to town and the 2009 season begins. There's been plenty of off-the-field (and on-the-field) distractions for the Orange along the way. Most glaringly, the lack of depth thanks 18 players leaving the team, not to mention injuries.
"I don't think we're going to be the type of team this year that has a lot of depth," Marrone said. "We have to find some versatility from our players and make sure we stay healthy."
There is no guarantee of the latter, and the Orange will enter the season an injury or two away from having to use the nickel (five defensive backs) as its base defense.
That's a scary proposition especially given the recent news that Dorian Graham is out for the year, just one more player on the depth chart gone. Still, if the secondary is going to be needed to step up, Doug Marrone believes the unit is in good hands with Mike Holmes in charge:
"I'm not one to sit here and say what should be written or not be written, but I am just always shocked about how good of a player Mike Holmes is," Marrone said. "He is, gollee, is he under the radar, at least from I think our fans standpoint. I really believe that.
Can I get a ruling on gollee/golly? I would go with the latter on the spelling but perhaps I've been going about this all wrong.
If nothing else, the secondary does have a lot of veteran leadership. Holmes joins Max Suter, Kevyn Scott, Nico Scott and Randy McKinnon in the secondary, where freshmen Phillip Thomas and SHAMARKO Thomas are both coming up fast. It's one of the few defensive areas where depth still remains.
The team ran a 150-play scrimmage on Saturday though media was not allowed to attend. It's been said that Marrone has expanded the playbook now that Paulus is firmly established as the starter. Those still trying to understand how Paulus made the leap can point to this as another sign, the veteran athlete who can absorb more information and use it.
"I think it relates quite a bit (to Paulus)," Marrone said. "It really does. When you have someone that can handle that information, you can expand further. I don't think we're waiting for Greg to grow in the offense. I think we're force-feeding it on him."
Marrone was pressed on what fans can expect from the Syracuse offense. Would we see some things he did in New Orleans? Would we see things he had done at Tennessee? Would we see things from Rob Spence's Clemson package? Would we see things from Marrone's days as a player here?
...is it going to be llke the New Orleans offense or a Clemson offense? What kind of signature is it going to be? And I've answered this question. You're going to see things that easily, you can identify with what we did in New Orleans. You're going to see things at Tennessee. You're going to see things at Tampa, also, that we put in. And you'll probably see some things from when I was a player here.
So...everything. Got it.
And of course, a major catalyst in whether or not the offense will be able to do anything with those plays is the offensive line. The unit has been moved around, re-worked, juggled and re-shaped so many times it's hard to keep track of who's going to be the starters. It might not even decided yet. It would seem that we're looking at Nick Speller at left tackle, Ryan Bartholomew at left guard, Jim McKenzie at center, Adam Rosner at right guard and Jonathan Meldrum at right tackle, but that could all change yet.
OL Coach Greg Adkins says its a case of unlearning everything that was wrong in order to do what's right.
"Our whole deal is to get them to understand a little more how to play the game of football and the techniques we're going to coach," he said, "which are different from what they were taught before. That's been the biggest adjustment for these kids. The techniques and fundamentals have totally changed from what they have been taught before here, and that takes time."
And of course that brings us to the ever fun reminder that the previous coaching staff didn't seem to have any clue what the hell they were doing. And nowhere has that been more evident than in the weight room:
Ambitious weight-room and running goals and the dogged pursuit of them is a decidedly different direction than the one Robinson chose to take, although neither [strength and conditioning coaches Will Hicks or Hal Luther] would comment beyond that.
The two coaches have been working overtime to make sure each player is challenging themselves in the weight room and improving on the field. If nothing else this season, the behind-the-scenes issues seem to be fixed. How the team responds at gametime remains to be seen.