I can't believe I'm writing this now, but the reality is that this past Spring Game was probably the last time Orange fans will get to see Doug Marrone's squad in action until real football begins. From the players reactions, closed practices seem to be helping a team with a chip on their shoulders and mountain to climb in 2012-13.
With that in mind, I am assuming that the Orange are off into summer ball with a clearer idea of what their identity and team will be like. After talking to some people close to the team, many injured players are better off than we think and some or worse off, meaning summer ball will have an interesting dynamic. Here are the biggest things to watchout for after a casual observer's time at the Dome.
1) Marcus Sales and Jeremiah Kobena's development: Alec Lemon could miss the beginning of the season and that leaves Jeremiah Kobena and Sales as Nassib's primary targets. Sales looked good and apparently has good chemistry with Nassib even after being out of football for a year. Kobena also looked really good and has more speed than Sales. He is on the shorter side so don't look for any jump balls his way. However, if these two can effectively run their routes and create space like they did in the Spring Game, Nassib will survive without Lemon and hopefully thrive in his return.
2) Offensive line shuffle: This one is going to be interesting. Justin Pugh is out and could be out for awhile. Rob Trudo will be ready to go in the summer. Nassib was running all over the backfield on designed roll outs and improvised plays, but was no where near as accurate as he is when standing in the pocket. Last season, the line took a lot of heat for the pressure on Nassib and lack of running lanes and it's safe to say the same will happen this year. The Orange need solid line play at least in the ground game so that Orange have the threat of a balanced offense. I wish I had some idea on the candidates besides Macky MacPherson at center but the line always get banged up in camp and there's a 99% chance that whoever I say now will be out for 2012 so I'm staying quiet.3) Ashton Broyld: The X-Factor. The one guy everyone will talk about all season. He has the explosiveness to be the big play threat the Orange lacked after Van Chew disappeared and spread out the field with his match-up problems. The Orange cannot afford for him to not be on field but what I saw was raw talent still needing polish. He dropped a few easy passes and when the ball was in his hands, would try too hard for the breakaway play. He's got a whole summer and three years to keep improving so should we expect anything else? The goal for Marrone and Hackett will be to find the best packages that confuse the defense but don't confuse Broyld.
Overall, the Orange offense is the more talented side (which is why it's worrisome that the defense dominated them) and has some real intriguing aspects this Spring and Summer. If the offense can work out it's kinks, the Orange can legitimately compete for a Big East title even with the low expectations because this is the Big East. Here's to hoping Marrone knows what he's doing, which we all know he does.