With Syracuse's tenth practice, we are now officially two-thirds of the way through the spring. The spring game, which Doug Marrone wants to be an actual intra-squad scrimmage this year, is only ten days away, so naturally some players are banged up at this point. Jerome Smith, who has a knack for taking huge shots from the defense, was held out of practice completely. Linebacker Dyshawn Davis looked to have tweaked an ankle early on as well, and although he looked really upset that he could not participate in the rest of practice, he had an obvious limp and the coaches kept him out. Such is the life of a player ingrained in a position battle.
Yesterday's practice was not the most eventful, so there isn't as much to report on as usual, but there were some definite moments of interest in the Dome.
Impressions and the normal Syracuse football musings after the jump...
Quarterbacks - The song remains the same with the signal callers. Of all the positions on the team, the quarterbacks are probably the most set in stone at this point. Ryan Nassib remains way ahead of the other three, with Charley Loeb pretty solid as the backup at this point, followed by John Kinder and Jonny Miller. One interesting thing that happened yesterday, was Kinder entering the huddle with the first two teams to listen to how Nassib and Loeb run things. It is pretty obvious the Nassib has the full trust and command of his teammates, and it's nice to see a young player like Kinder trying to learn from and emulate him.
Running Backs - The one thing that is true about all of our backs is that they embrace contact. While Smith is the only "power back" that is on the roster at the moment, all four backs look to deliver the blow rather than receive it. It's especially impressive for young players like Prince-Tyson Gulley and Steve Rene, who are small backs, but they all run with a lot of strength. Gulley has been great since his return from injury, and hasn't shown the fumble problems that we saw from him last season. Rene is also really coming on as a runner, and probably has the most pure speed of anyone in our backfield.
Wide Receivers - Early in practice, the team split into two units which really showed the line of demarcation between the seven major receivers on the team. Marcus Sales, Van Chew, Alec Lemon and Dorian Graham went with the first team, with Adrian Flemming, Jarrod West and Jeremiah Kobena taking snaps with the second team. While all seven have been very impressive, and I think they may all see the field this year in some capacity, this is definitely how things have shaken out so far. The receiving corps might be the deepest unit on the team.
Dorian Graham has greatly improved this spring, and could be the X-factor on the team if he brings his hands with him onto the field on a weekly basis. There are few, if any, corners in the Big East, or all of college football, who can run with him. He's also incredibly strong, so jamming him at the line is difficult, and if a corner misses, Graham is ten yards behind him in a matter of seconds.
Jarrod West has improved as well, and had his best practice on Tuesday. He's a really big target, and could create great match-up problems if he sees the field.
Another nice thing about our receivers is that they all block exceptionally well for the position, especially Graham and Lemon. This is important because Bailey and Gulley's biggest strength is rushing off tackle, and a good stalk block from a receiver can spark a huge run for a back with that kind of speed. We saw it a number of times during Saturday's scrimmage.
Tight Ends - Like the quarterbacks, there isn't much more to say here because things have really fallen in line. Nick Provo, David Stevens and Thomas Trendowski have all been very steady. Some of you asked about Louie Addazio in the comments section. He has been suited up for every practice, but because of recent surgery he does not participate in contact drills. He does look very solid catching passes, and has a nice frame for a tight end.
Offensive Line - This unit might be the most improved as a whole since the beginning of the spring. They are no longer completely dominated by the defensive line, and while they may have some trouble with Chandler Jones and Mikhail Marinovich on a given play, they won't be the only Big East offensive line who has those issues. They seem to work really well together as a team, which is absolutely crucial for any good o-line.
Defensive Line - Deon Goggins has had an amazingly up-and-down spring. On one day, he will be pretty dominant in the middle and play almost every first team snap, and on the next he may look very pedestrian and spend most of his time on the second team. Yesterday, we saw good Goggins who has a knack for getting into the backfield. On one play, where Gulley ran off tackle, the entire defense flowed to him and had him stopped in the backfield. Gulley decided to cut back and try to run around the other way, but Goggins did an incredible job of staying poised and keeping contain, and stopped him for a four yard loss. Less experienced defensive tackles would have over-pursued, and a player like Gulley could have taken that run to the house with no one there to make the play after his cut back. If Goggins can gain some consistency by the fall, we have a great player on our hands.
Linebacker - While an injured Dyshawn Davis is a bit disconcerting, I have a feeling the ankle was just a minor setback. Luckily, Mario Tull looked very solid in his stead, and our depth at linebacker has looked good this spring.
Defensive Backs - I absolutely love the physicality and the swagger of this group. We play constant press coverage, and look to take receivers out of their patterns and knocking them off of their routes. Ri'Shard Anderson has looked great all spring, as does the new and improved Kevyn Scott, who I was never a big fan of during the past few seasons. Jaston George looks very good as a backup corner, and has great speed and shows some good ball-hawking skills.
Practice continues tomorrow, with another scrimmage on Saturday that may or may not be open to the public.