The fact that 29 players have left the Syracuse program since Doug Marrone took over looks bad. That's compounded when compared to Rich Rod & Michigan (ten players leaving), Kiffin & Tennessee (eleven players leaving) and especially now with Brian Kelly saying that he never lost one player upon arriving at Cincinnati or Notre Dame. No one's confirmed whether or not what Kelly is saying is true, but even if he lost a handful of players it still pales in comparison to the gaping hole of available talent created under Marrone' watch.
According to Kelly, "If you do it the right way you don't have to force them to quit or burn it all down." And that's part of the reason I wasn't surprised to read Brian Cook's article at The Sporting Blog which wonders if Syracuse is actually worse off now than it was under Greg Robinson.
This isn't a matter of oversigning, a topic I rail about whenever given the opportunity. Syracuse had just 49 scholarship players this spring even with five early enrollees. If every one of their 29 recruits qualifies, Marrone will roll into the season a whopping twelve scholarships short of the 85 maximum. Whatever the reasons for the massive attrition, they apparently do not include a ruthless attempt to be really good really soon.
...losing a third of your roster in a year seems like a bad way to go about improving things. "My way or the highway" sounds good until the highway looks like New Orleans a day before Hurricane Katrina.
This is also on the heels of the Daily Orange article that spoke to many of the players no longer with the team. You know how I feel about it and that hasn't changed. I think there's three sides to the story and we only heard one of them.
I'll say two things about it, starting with comparing SU's situation to the attrition suffered at Michigan, Tennessee, Cincinnati and Notre Dame.
Look at that list of schools. Three of them are among the most elite programs in the nation. All three might have been down when their new coaches took over but none of them were rock bottom. Each of those programs contained star players, blue chippers and guys who probably still deserved to be there despite the bad times. And as for Cincinnati, everyone forgets that the Bearcats weren't exactly in the dumps before he got there. They were doing well enough that Kelly's predecessor left to go coach Michigan State, so he was walking into a good situation with good players.
Now compare all of that to what Doug Marrone walked into at Syracuse. I don't mean to get all hyperbole on everyone but compared to what Rich Rodriguez walked into at Michigan and Lane Kiffin walked into at Syracuse, Doug Marrone walked into the friggin' apocalypse. He walked into a program practically devoid of real FBS talent save for a few players. He walked into a culture that didn't care about regiments or training or discipline, all courtesy of Greg Robinson. He walked into a football team that, as Mike Jones put it in that article, "got away with a lot of things" under Greggers and got used to it.
In some of the cases, maybe Doug was a little harsh. Maybe he stepped on the gas a little too much and didn't take his foot off. But by and large, it doesn't sound like he's guilty of too much more than being a real hard-ass. And you know what Syracuse football needed after Greg Robinson? A f**king hard-ass.
The second thing is the idea itself that Syracuse is worse-off than it was under Greg Robinson. Record-wise, after one season, I can't argue it's that much better, but I can tell you that anyone who has watched this team the past five years knows things are better.
They watched the offense take shape slowly but surely last season, looking more and more like the kind of unit that could actually score points from time to time. They watched the way the team battled against unbeatable opponents like Penn State, earning the respect of their opponents and opposing coaches time and time again. They watched the defense actually make plays when needed and do everything they could to give the offense a chance.
I can't give you a full explanation as to why Syracuse lost so many players other than the fact that Marrone and Robinson's recruits did not mix. But I can tell you that there's no doubt the program is heading in the right direction. On paper, it might not look it, but its evident from what we've seen on the field so far.