There were quite a few people who at some point in the last few moths laid claim to the starting weakside linebacker spot on the SU football team. Most of them have transferred or quit football altogether and it made you wonder if perhaps the position was doomed to never to filled. The Orange would constantly be plugging in new players after the previous one just spontaneously combusted or shattered into a thousand tiny pieces.
In the background the entire time was Ryan Gillum. Early on, Doug Marrone deemed him unworthy of the top spot. Time and time again he was passed over, even by true freshman E.J. Carter. For his part though, Gillum never stopped fighting for what he thought was rightfully is. And now he's earned it:
|Syracuse University football linebacker Ryan Gillum|
As you probably guessed, Doug Marrone has a very specific word to describe how Ryan has grown into the role this off-season:
"I don't know if last year I would have been up here saying Ryan is going to play for us," Marrone said. "He struggled during the spring running. He did a tremendous job this off-season, proved to us he can run."
That he's done this after recovering from surgery on his left foot to remove accessory navicular (extra bones), which caused him to miss all of last season, makes it all the more impressive.
Gillum will have the benefit of anonymity as he tries to maintain his hold on that top spot. His teammate, Greg Paulus, has no such luxury. His every play, every throw and every decision on Saturday will be dissected by everyone watching the game. For his part, Minnesota coach Tim Brewster thinks the Duke transfer should do well and holds Greg in high esteem:
"I admire him, tremendously."
Brent Axe spoke with Brewster about the upcoming game as well as Gopher play-by-play man David Lee, who shared the uneasy expectations that he has, or doesn't have, for his squad:
"This is one of the strangest years I have seen. No one can figure out how this team will be. I think there is a number of reasons for it. The offense is different than it has been the last couple of years. There is much more experience at the quarterback position, which has been good in the first place. New offensive coordinator, new defensive coordinator, so what kind of changes will they bring?
And so we inch closer and close to gameday. The Three Idiots have a great breakdown of how the Orange can show improvement on the field this season. Six simple keys to getting the program back on track.
- No blowouts
- Score some f***ing points.
- Get to the quarterback.
- Make special teams special again.
- Get out of the Big East basement.
- Doug Marrone needs to keep on being tremendous.
The blowouts is a pretty important and overlooked one. If we're being realistic, SU is going to lose a lot of games this year. But losing 17-13 sounds a lot better than losing 42-6. Obviously you play to win the game, but proving that the Orange are at least competitive again will go a long way.