TNIAAM's football experts give their opinions on SU's big win over UConn, Saturday's matchup versus USF and which football player would make the best basketball player.
Each week, we'll be holding a roundtable discussion with TNIAAM's football "experts" to get a read on the program's most pressing issues on- and off-the-field. Have differing opinions? Feel free to share them in the comments.
In a UConn game full of great performances by Syracuse players, whose was most notable?
Matt McClusky: Jerome Smith! The defense held Connecticut to something like negative 400 yards* (statistics may be a little off), the offensive line gave Ryan Nassib time, and Sir Alec Lemon was off the charts good, again. But Smith ran like a man possessed and like a feature back Syracuse desperately needs. Just imagine him bulldozing defenses for the next couple of seasons?
Andy Pregler: If you made me pick one, I'll go with my boy Jerome "The Bus" Smith. I've been on his bandwagon since day one and I really like what he's showing off skill wise. He shows a nice burst into the second level where he has the power to run over anybody who tries to get in his way. If Syracuse can establish a strong running presence to compliment the weapons in the passing attack, this offense is dangerously balanced.
Chris Daughtrey: I'm gonna go with Jerome Smith. We all know what Nassib is capable of. Alec Lemon isn't SU's all-time leading receiver for nothing. The tailback spot, though, has been up in the air until the last couple games where Smith has really taken hold of it. His pounding UConn on the ground early is what allowed Nassib and Lemon to go off.
Dan Lyons: The offensive line as a whole. UConn had one of the top pass rushes in the country, and Ryan Nassib barely felt it. The holes that they opened for Jerome Smith were massive. I said it in my post about the game, but I think this was the best overall game a Syracuse offensive line has played since I've been watching the team.
Sean Keeley: I was so happy to see Jerome Smith have a breakout day and run for over 100 yards. It seems like sacrilege that Syracuse doesn't have a dominant running game and I'm glad we're figuring out how to get back to that. I'd love to have gotten Smith a touchdown but I'm not gonna be picky, considering how well the TANK was working. I just hope that we can find some consistency in the running game and get away from this "put PTG in as soon as Smith gets hot" mentality that was holding us back.
John Cassillo: It was great to see Alec Lemon finally bounce back. While still productive these past few games, he's obviously had some lingering injury issues. But in the UConn game, he showed no sign of letting up while catching eight passes for 166 yards and a score.
Not-so-SU-related: Will UConn fire Paul Pasqualoni after this season?
JR: I don't think so. He still has three years left at almost $2 million a year. I think he gets at least one more season to show something to the UConn fans and administration.
MM: Yes -- the fan base didn't just have to be talked into Pasqualoni, they were, most likely, bribed with large sums of money. A new athletic director and an overall changing of the guard in Storrs leads me to believe Coach P will be run out of town as Huskies football looks to re-brand itself in a new look Big East.
AP: I have a really good buddy who's a UConn fan and now Syracuse fan (obviously) who has been calling for his firing even after their redemption bowl against Maryland. I would think after absolutely no improvement to the program, lack of direction and overal fan displeasure, keeping Coach P in Connecticut is not in the works. But it's UConn. So watch them mess it up.
CD: I don't see why they would. I'm not up on all the buzz in Husky Town to know what the feeling is surrounding his job security. It's not like UConn is a power that has high expectations all the time. They were one game away from a bowl last season. This season look to be trending down, but come on. Who does UConn think they are that getting rid of a coach after his second year is going to make them winners?
DL: I think so. Remember, when he was fired from Syracuse it was after a change in both chancellor and athletic director. UConn recently brought in a new AD, Warde Manuel, and Pasqualoni clearly hasn't done much to warrant a ton of confidence. The Coach P hiring was pretty clearly one that was designed to a.) bridge UConn from Randy Edsall, who essentially built UConn's program from the ground up, to whoever there next established coach would be while maintaining Edsall's success, because P was never going to be long for that job no matter his success due to his age, and b.) reconstruct UConn's relationship with many of the high school coaches in Connecticut. Coaches in CT love Coach P, they consider him one of them. I'm not that familiar with how UConn's recruiting has been going, but clearly he hasn't done a good job on the field, and if he can't win there's no real reason to keep him around. P doesn't have a high ceiling, he is what he is, and if that's "a crappy coach" at age 63, it's not going to get much better.
SK: I wouldn't say yes, but Andrew at The UConn Blog reminded me that UConn has a new AD and he's not the guy who hired Paul. He may very well want to cut his losses and go find his guy. Sound familiar?
JC: I think there's a high likelihood he's shown the door due to UConn's new athletic director and a desire to start fresh. From any point of view, the Coach P experiment hasn't worked for them; not a great way to start the "new era" of Big East football (as a doormat).
With hoops on the horizon, which SU football player is best suited to play basketball, too?
JR: I think Marcus Sales averaged something like a 23-6-5 his senior season at Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse, the same school that produced Greg Paulus. I think he could carve out some playing time as a smallish SG off the bench for the Orange.
MM: I'd like to be super creative and funny here (but why start now!? Aaaa-yooo!), but I really can't think of anything too clever. I'll go with Ashton Broyld simply because everyone says how great of an athlete he is -- although basketball games have created issues for him in the past. (Too soon?)
AP: Going off pure size and athleticism, if Ashton Broyld can shoot, he's got the skill set for it. He's definitely not the listed 6'4'', but he could still be a decent size for a combo guard. I feel like his decision making at the point would be where we question him. Or just stick Justin Pugh in the middle of the court and dare anyone to move him.
CD: Ashton Broyld, hands down. A 6'4", 230 he has SG written all over him, though he might be a bit heavy for the position. He was an all area F/C in high school, so he might even be able to play an undersized PF for Coach Boeheim. He's an outstanding overall athlete. Basically, if Xavier Gaines can make the basketball team, Broyld definitely can.
DL: We have a number of guys who played basketball in high school, including Terrell Hunt, Jarrod West and, infamously, Ashton Broyld. I remember seeing West dunk, so maybe him? Perhaps some current students can chime in here, I know that in the offseason football players will play a decent amount of basketball at Archbold gym. I think after he graduates, Charley Loeb will have a long career playing honor student/point guard archetype characters in Disney Channel original movies, if that counts for anything.
SK: Well we know, for dubious reasons, that Ashton Broyld was a pretty good basketball player along with being a football star. At 6'4", he was a power forward/center for Rush-Henrietta, where he averaged 11.5 PPG, 11.9 RPG and 4.0 APG. He'd have to adjust his game to the world of the small forward/guard, but we certainly know he's got the speed for it. Would love to see what it might look like (Ashton's play, not the, uh, other thing).
JC: #Shamarko might be a fun one; though he'd definitely come in as a smaller guard. He'd spend half of his time playing aggressive defense, and the other half getting beat off the dribble.
Where would Syracuse football be if we'd hired Skip Holtz instead of Doug Marrone?
JR: Probably in an even bigger mess than they are right now. I mean, a few people here and there are rumbling about Marrone's job, but nothing like what's going on down at USF. Yikes.
MM: Who knows? Did Holtz make a mistake choosing the supposed greener grass of Tampa? They're all good questions, but I do think Holtz is a good coach who can still turn it around at USF. I'd be shocked if they gave him the boot so soon, but it's clear Holtz is on shaky ground while Marrone is still mostly accepted by the Syracuse fan base (AND I MAINTAIN HE HAS BEEN GIVEN AN EXTENSION!).
AP: I don't know if we'd be any better off. Skip Holtz has far more recruiting tools at his disposal but can you really say that USF has done better than Syracuse? I really think Skip Holtz would keep us in mediocrity and we'd be far less patient. Doug Marrone is the man for the future because he knows every dynamic of where Syracuse football is now. I really hope Marrone can take the program out of mediocrity, or else we'll always be waiting on the next season; a rut I really don't want to be in.
CD: Judging by the Bulls are doing this season, Syracuse would be 2-5 and 0-3 in the conference. Is there really anything else that needs to be said?
DL: I don't think it'd be very different. Skip has never impressed me as a 'great' coach, although some of the upsets he pulled at ECU were impressive. I don't think he'd do as well in reestablishing relationships and recruiting the New York City area, which will be key going forward in my opinion. Even if they're equals as coaches on the field, Marrone has way more potential as the coach at Syracuse than Skip would have.
SK: When Skip got to USF, the Bulls were an annual bowl team that had won at least 8 games in four-straight seasons. In his tenure, the Bulls had seasons with 8 wins, 5 wins and is now on pace to finish with no more than 5 this season. There's no doubt that he oversaw a program with a lot going for it and has turned them into an also-ran. It makes you wonder what he could have done with a program that was so bad, it would have killed to even be considered an also-ran (SU). My guess is this that this would be his last season at Syracuse after being given four years to revive the program and failing to show any sign that he could do so.
JC: We'd end up in the exact same place, except with occasional on-campus appearances from Lou Holtz. Unsure how much Skip would've been able to energize the CNY base or students, but maybe he'd have picked up a few more highly-regarded recruits in the process, too. He wouldn't be dealing with the same amount of goodwill from Gross or fans, however, that Marrone gets.
Which USF player (besides BJ Daniels) are you most concerned about this Saturday?
JR: Well, Daniels has to have someone to throw to. Andre Davis has 30 catches for 380 yards and 5 touchdowns. He seems to be the most explosive part of the Bulls' passing attack.
MM: They really haven't proven to be too many playmakers on the Bulls. I do worry about South Florida's ability to run the ball -- just in terms of the number of guys who can run -- including Daniels, USF has three players with 275 yards or more rushing on the season.
AP: Ummmm..... B.J. Daniels? Seriously he is their only real weapon. Shutting him down is essentially the way to guarantee a win for the Orange. If you make me throw out another name, I'll go with the running back Demetris Murray. With the way Syracuse has shut down opposing backs, I'm not too worried. However, the Orange really struggled against option style QB's last year so Murray could go off if Daniels unsettles the Orange defense.
CD: I had to dig for this one. Bulls' LB Devekeyan Lattimore is tenth in the Big East in total tackles and tackles for a loss and ninth in sacks. He'll need to be accounted for if the Syracuse running attack is to continue rolling.
DL: Considering how dominant our rush defense has been over the last few games, I think South Florida will need to beat us through the air. The Bulls don't have one big time receiver, but their top six receivers all average over 10 yards per catch. Their top receiver Andre Davis leads the team with 380 yards on 30 catches, and has five of Daniels' 13 touchdowns, so he's likely going to have the best shot to have a big game against Syracuse. Hopefully, Brandon Reddish and company can take him out of the game.
SK: Not too many guys on that offense scare me, but I am concerned about some of their defensive players, especially LB DeDe Lattimore. He leads the Bulls with 52 tackles (6 TFL) and has the ability to pull a Khaseem Greene on us. If he can get into the backfield and disrupt Ryan Nassib, that's how we're going to get ourselves into trouble.
JC: I think we have to key on top receiver Andre Davis. It's no secret we've been torched by several opponents' number-one options, and Davis definitely qualifies as one. The struggle will be how to play him, though. He can function as a deep threat or just catching passes in the flat as well. He only had 47 yards receiving last week on four catches, but two of those were TDs.
You just won the Big East Old Man's Regret Cup. What are you going to do now?
JR: Tell the damn neighborhood kids to turn down that dagnabbit rap music and stay the hell off of my lawn?
MM: Try to convince Atlantic Coast Conference fan bases that trophy is a northern tradition rich in glory.
AP: Can Old Man Regret make me some old fashioned bacon? Or anything besides regret? I'm broke and pretty hungry here on South, so that's all I really want right now.
CD: Are you kidding me? Hayrides and apple picking.
DL: Gonna go to the grocery, grab some fresh prune juice and maybe some cleaning goods for the spittoon. We're gonna rock the night away on the porch.
SK: Go take a seat in the rocking chair on my front porch and wax philosophical about my younger days when I was so arrogant and so mean, all in the name of my team winning the Big East Old Man's Regret Cup. And then I'll get over it and drink some beer out of it.
JC: I'm going to Disney World!