The Syracuse offense has really struggled all spring against their red-jersey wearing counterparts. The defense has made the offense look inconsistent at best, and then pushes them when they're down after many plays. As Saturday's scrimmage, which was played in front of hundreds of high school coaches and a few handfuls of recruits as a part of SU's coaches clinic, opened, the offense decided made a real statement in the form of a long run down the sideline by Antwon Bailey on the first play from scrimmage. Bailey was stopped a few yards short, but would break into the endzone a few plays later, the first of a number of quick touchdowns for the SU offense.
The defense would shore up as the scrimmage went on, especially when facing the back-up offense, and responded with some huge hits. However, this day definitely belonged to the green jerseys, a great sign for those SU fans who worried about the unit's struggles against the defense this spring.
On the notable visitor front, along with the many coaches and local players who were on hand for the scrimmage, halfback Adonis Ameen-Moore took in his third straight spring practice during his extended stay in the 'Cuse, and was joined by his future classmate, Michigan wide receiver Kyle Foster.
More somewhat delayed (sorry everyone, busy weekend) reflections after the jump...
Quarterbacks - Ryan Nassib had a huge day. It's becoming repetitive to write, because he has been consistently good, even when the rest of the offense struggles. I think the biggest thing Ryan's improved on from last season is his pocket presence. Last year, under extreme pressure, Nassib would get happy feet and struggled to deliver the ball or make good decisions. This spring Scott Shafer hasn't been shy about sending all different looks at Nassib, and he's done a great job of stepping up into the pocket and finding an open receiver.
Charley Loeb also had a very nice practice. He's been great since the Rochester debacle, and he is cementing himself as the second quarterback. On the other hand, John Kinder has struggled recently. He obviously has great athleticism, but he looks very nervous under pressure and has some bad habits, like throwing the ball off of his back leg. He also lacks a lot of touch, which he will hopefully develop with another season under Nassib. Jonny Miller struggled in his series against the defense.
Running backs - Antwon Bailey had a big day, which began with his huge run that began the scrimmage, and the touchdown that ended the same drive. Prince-Tyson Gulley was also pretty dominant with the ball in his hands. He also had a run of over 60 yards, before being run down by Kevyn Scott who looked almost equally impressive showing off speed that we've never seen out of the corner to catch Gulley. Jerome Smith had some nice carries in between the tackles and had a touchdown. Steve Rene has continued to improve, and had some nice runs off tackle. I have a feeling that we're going to find a way to get him on the field in some situations.
Wide Receiver - Marcus Sales continued his good spring, highlighted by a big catch over the middle on a toss from Nassib. He did fumble on one play later on in practice, but was great overall. Alec Lemon provided one of the highlights of the day on a slant route where he burned linebacker Dyshawn Davis and ran all the way up the field to the one yard line. The play was ruled a touchdown, although it looked like Lemon was down just short. Either way, Alec looks like he's added a whole new gear to his speed this season.
Tight Ends - Nick Provo and David Stevens continued their solid play, so I'm going to focus on walk-on Thomas Trendowski. Obviously, most people don't like the idea of a walk-on being thrust into a major role due to a lack of depth, but Trendowski, who is a Syracuse native, has looked very impressive. He may not be as fast as Provo or Stevens, but he is a very solid blocker and is sure handed. I hope that Beckett Wales finds his way back to the team, but if Trendowski is forced into action as a third tight end, we should be okay.
Offensive Line - The line did a much better job on Saturday, especially early on as the offense dominated the scrimmage. The tackles did a great job sealing off the edge, allowing for the huge gains for Bailey and Gulley off the edge (with help from our receivers who are all very solid blockers, especially Dorian Graham). The team works a lot on zone blocking, which will definitely help Macky MacPherson in the middle, and is a good system for shifty backs like Bailey and Gulley.
Defensive Line - It seems like every day, there is a shift in playing time between the three major defensive tackles—Jason Bromley, Deon Goggins and Cory Boatman. On Saturday, Bromley and Boatman got most of the reps, although Goggins continued his streak of huge hits on Jerome Smith at the line of scrimmage. Goggins got the worst of the hit, however, as he stayed down on the field for a few minutes before walking off to the side. The hit looked really bad, but Goggins was able to reenter practice late.
Linebackers - With the departure of Brice Hawkes, the last outside linebacker position appears to be solidly Dyshawn Davis' to lose. He, Dan Vaughan and Marquis Spruill make up a very solid linebacking corps. With only one year of starting experience under their belts, and that was Spruill as a freshman last year, conventional wisdom would say that this unit may struggle, but they have shown few signs of that all spring. Spruill has been a huge player all spring, and continued his great play on Saturday; I would not be surprised if he has an All-Big East caliber season as a sophomore.
Defensive Backs - Safety Olando Fisher was incredibly impressive, as he seemed to be in on literally every tackle, including a few that saved touchdowns. He has done an admirable job filling in for Shamarko Thomas, and really attacks the ball, and should be a valuable depth players this season, even after Shamarko returns. Phillip Thomas was out for blood on Saturday, especially after his defense took it on the chin early on in the scrimmage. Towards the end of practice it seemed like Phil was laying big hit after big hit, including a huge one on Jerome Smith on one of the last plays of the scrimmage.
Special Teams - Shane Raupers has been pretty solid as a punter this spring, but we saw our first taste of his work with a full rush on. Needless to say the results were...not good. He got a few nice punts off, but for every kick that went over 40 yards, he would have one that went between 25-30. Jonathan Fisher, come on down!
Practice resumes today at 4:20, and is currently scheduled for Schwartzwalder-Katz Fields outside of Manley Field House, but as always, that location is tentative.