For a while, it seemed as if this year's signing day event was doomed to never occur. On National Signing Day, a fairly large snow storm forced SU to cancel the event at Manley Field House. Today's practice, and subsequent event for season ticket holders (or who ever had the presence of mind to show up, as it turned out) was originally supposed to be held at the Carrier Dome, but last night's WNIT game caused it to be moved back to Manley.
The reception began before practice, outside in the Manley lobby. SU provided the normal cheese and cracker fare, chips, dip, and drinks.
The athletic department also set up a number of flat screen monitors showing various highlight reels of our commits.
The practice officially began shortly after all spectators were let into the bleachers. The turnout was very solid; a few hundred SU fans came out to watch practice with most of them throwing normal Syracuse conventional wisdom to the wind and staying all the way through practice until the end, and remaining for the coaches' presentation on the recruits and the Q&A session that followed.
While the first two practices that I've attended have been pretty even between the offense and defense, yesterday's was absolutely dominated by the defense the entire time. The entire unit made big play after big play, and the offense was never allowed to get into any kind of a rhythm.
Details, impressions and a summary of the post-practice presentation and Q&A with Doug Marrone after the jump...
Quarterbacks - Ryan Nassib continued his incredibly solid play that we've seen all spring. The battle for the backup QB spot is becoming more intriguing by the day. While Charley Loeb and John Kinder were pretty even during the early practices, the momentum has definitively swung to Kinder's side. Loeb struggled mightily all practice long, and was overthrowing players on nearly every difficult throw he attempted. Meanwhile, Kinder's day consisted of beautiful pass after beautiful pass. He continues to struggle at times with making good reads, especially during 7-on-7 skeleton drills, but he looks very good for the most part. Jonny Miller was not at yesterday's practice.
The QBs took part in a very interesting position drill that involved them dropping back to throw, while having large agility bags thrown at them, simulating the pass rush. As the drill progressed, the assistant running the drill began using two bags at once, which seemed to give the quarterbacks trouble.
Running backs - Prince-Tyson Gulley was kept out of most of yesterday's drills after coming up lame during a cone drill. This opened the door for Steve Rene to receive a ton of reps during practice in his place. Rene is very explosive, and might have the best raw speed of any of our backs. He does not seem to possess the same natural running back instincts that I see in Antwon Bailey or Jerome Smith, but he is definitely an interesting player and could be very dangerous in open field with his speed.
Wide Receivers - The receivers had a very up-and-down practice. Sales continues to impress every practice, picking up where he left off at the Pinstripe Bowl. Jeremiah Kobena has also looked very good all spring thus far. His speed was well documented coming to SU, but his ability to make spectacular catches is impressive. Dorian Graham, who was very impressive during Tuesday's practice, could not hang on to the ball yesterday. Jarrod West also continued to struggle with drops, which have plagued him all spring.
Tight Ends - With the departure of Beckett Wales, and the unfortunate injury to Carl Cutler, who is now out for the season with an ACL tear, the Tight Ends corps is quite thin. Nick Provo continues to be a large part of the offense. He made a particularly nice catch down the sideline on a deep play-action pass from Nassib. David Stevens also got a lot of reps, but struggled catching the ball. Freshman Lou Addazio is not cleared for full contact, but looked decent running routes.
Offensive Line - Not much to share here, but the unit struggled against the very aggressive defense today. Jarel Lowery was also out with an ankle injury.
Defensive Line - The D-Line looked very strong, with the defensive ends creating a ton of havoc in the backfield, especially Mikhail Marinovich.
Linebackers - Today was supposed to be Brice Hawkes' first full practice of the spring, but he and defensive end Max Beaulieu were notably absent from practice today. It turns out that they were excused from practice to work on school work. In his stead, Dyshawn Davis has moved into the starting role at outside linebacker, taking almost all of the reps with the first team. The other two starters, Marquis Spruill and Dan Vaughan, both had great days to practice. Linebacker is one of the big questions heading into the season with the graduation of Derrell Smith and Doug Hogue, but Spruill and Vaughan are doing a lot to quell those worries.
The second linebacker team also looked strong, with Siriki Diabate being especially impressive. He shows good instincts and really flies to the ball.
Defensive Backs - The defensive backs continue their strong play, as well as their aggressive, brazen attitude on the field. Ri'Shard Anderson, Jeremi Wilkes, Keon Lyn and Kevyn Scott have all looked great all spring. Anderson and Phillip Thomas continued to clash with players on the other side of the ball, with Phil Thomas getting into it with Kobena, and Anderson with offensive lineman Justin Pugh.
Special Teams - Ross Krautman and Shane Raupers worked extensively on their kickoffs. Both looked very solid, with Raupers getting especially good hang-time on his kickoffs.
The recruiting discussion, which was led by offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Greg Adkins did not provide too much new information that was not already available, but there were some nice nuggets about the players and our recruiting strategy.
-Marrone opened by saying that we need to recruit "bigger, tougher, stronger players" in order to win the Big East.
-Our recruiting is focused in the immediate 250 mile radius, as well as Florida and places like Atlanta and Detroit where Syracuse has direct flights available.
-All 27 of our incoming freshman were team captains, and many are exceptional students, with three of them coming in to study engineering.
-We have one scholarship available, and it was extended to a player but it is now off the table.
-Adonis Ameen-Moore was among our top running back targets, and is important because he keeps our pipeline at Colorado powerhouse Mullen HS open.
-Kristofer Curtis has been getting into great shape this winter playing basketball, and has shed around 20 lbs.
-Durell Eskridge was heavily pursued after his commitment to SU, and will start on defense although he can play on either side of the ball.
-Keenan Hale comes from a great academic boarding school, and is also a track star. He excels in the high jump and runs the decathlon, and may do track as well as play football at SU.
-Robert Trudo finished #2 in his graduating class.
-When asked on where he would like to focus more in future recruiting, Marrone highlighted western New York, Ohio, Detroit, eastern Pennsylvania, and New Jersey where we just added another recruiter.
-Marrone is proud to say that when it comes to recruiting, "we do things the right way".
After the recruiting talk, Marrone opened things up for a general Q&A with the fans.
-When asked about TCU joining the Big East, he said that it helps solidify our BCS bowl bid, and he likes the inclusion because they are a comparable school to SU in terms of size and academics.
-The biggest things that SU needs to work on on the recruiting front is our facilities and our fan support, while the biggest strengths are the life skills program and the family atmosphere.
-One person asked about future scheduling. Marrone said he will play Penn State and Notre Dame "any time, any where". He also would like to play schools like Ohio State and Michigan State, big schools from places we recruit.
-Perhaps the most interesting anecdote came when a young fan asked about the possibility of unretiring the legendary number 44. Marrone said that if a player produces well both on and off the field, and stands for the values that are reflective of the greats who have worn 44, there is a system in place where we may see a player be allowed to wear it once again.
Overall, the event was a great success, even though Marrone seemed disappointed that they could not host the normal signing day event this year, and hopes to do the event on signing day again in the future.
SU heads to Rochester on Saturday for a scrimmage at Sahlen's Field from 12-2:15. I hope to make it out to Rochester for the scrimmage.