Do you feel that chill in the air? Do you smell that crisp autumn air? Yes, it means football season is finally upon us. Although this marks the three weeks annually that I am on suicide watch and am prone to tackling a stranger due to my insatiable urge to play football, there is one thing that keeps me sane. Syracuse Orange football.
Sure, they sputtered to the finish line last season, eventually finishing agonizingly close to bowl eligibility at 5-7 but the new season always brings renewed optimism. Despite their shortcomings in the past ten seasons, I genuinely believe this is going to be a very good football team. I am personally insulted by the coaches picking my beloved Orange to finish second to last in a weak Big East Conference. Let’s take a look at the five reasons why I think the Orange will exceed expectations and finish toward the top of the Big East in 2012.
1) The Secondary
#Shamarko. That should say it all but for those of you who don’t know, this guy spends his spare time running hills and pushing cars(yes, automobiles) around. He is an absolute beast and will be the unquestioned leader of this defense at the strong safety position. He will be joined at safety by Jeremi Wilkes. Talented sophomores Ritchy Desir and Durrell Eskridge will also see plenty of action.
This will be Syracuse’s most talented and experienced secondary in a decade. Brandon Reddish has a potential to be the lock-down cover corner that is essential in Scott Schafer’s defensive scheme. Keon Lyn and Rishard Anderson, who both started last year will split time opposite Reddish. Freshman Wayne Morgan and Julian Whigham could also push for time.
The combination of experience and talent in this unit has me fired up. The fact that the new influx of talent is already threatening to unseat the incumbents in this secondary proves that this program is turning the corner, especially in recruiting. With Schafer’s scheme putting so much pressure on the defensive backfield, the fact that this will be a strength of the team will help the whole unit revert to its stingy form of 2010.
2) The Beef
Syracuse’s lack of size recently has left them vulnerable to getting pushed around against power teams like Louisville. That shouldn’t be a problem this year. Deon Goggins (6-1, 275), who showed flashes of brilliance last year will be chewing people up this year, whether it is at defensive tackle or end. He will be joined in the starting lineup by Jay Bromley (6-4-293), who will be giving centers nightmares at the nose tackle position. Other monsters who will be donning the Orange and blue this year are sophomore Eric Crume (6-0, 305) and newcomers Zian Jones (6-4, 335), Davon Walls (6-5, 312) and John Raymon (6-5, 315).
The girth that the Orange have added inside has this looking like an NFL defensive line, which is a welcome sight to any ‘Cuse fan.
3) Marcus Pierce-Brewster
Not everybody is a fan of bringing in JUCO transfers as a quick fix, but that will be a distant afterthought once Marcus Pierce-Brewster has his coming out party. The 6-3, 257-pound junior came to the program and immediately impressed, earning himself the starting nod at defensive end.
The amount of time this guy will be spending in the backfield is going to give Syracuse fans flashbacks to Dwight Freeney’s days in Orange(Yeah, I said it.) The dude possesses a rare blend of speed and power that is going to make him virtually unblockable. He may be a new name and a new face but I guarantee he will leave a significant mark on this Syracuse football season.
This kid has some gaudy expectations to live up to. From the moment he arrived on campus, Broyld has been billed as the playmaker this offense has desperately been lacking. I know he is just a freshman, but the athleticism that he possesses will bring the expectations to fruition.
If you have any doubt in Broyld’s abilities, check out his senior highlights. Yeah, I know. The guy is a stud and an absolute gamer. Aside from his physical gifts, Broyld wants to be great and I have no doubt that he will be. By the time Syracuse is done dominating Northwestern we will all know that the playmaker we have so desperately needed has finally arrived.
5) Ryan Nassib
Having already reserved himself a place in the Syracuse record books in just two seasons as the Orange signal-caller, Nassib is poised to have his best season in orange. At times, fans have griped about his reluctance to take shots down field, but a lot of that was due to a lack of speed at wide receiver. With the return of Marcus Sales and the addition of Christopher Clark, who is an absolute burner, expect more big plays from the Orange offense.
Some of the blame for the lack of big plays has to be put on the playcalling and offensive line. But I get the sense that Nathaniel Hackett and Coach Marrone have taken the shackles off of Nassib and he is going to flourish. Also, we cannot overlook the value of Nassib’s favorite target from last season, Alec Lemon. Lemon’s presence and the emergence of tight end Beckett Wales as a viable replacement for Nick Provo will help the offense to move the chains and set up some big plays down the field.
I know this team will not be perfect, but it is all relative. If you look at where this team is currently compared to where they were under Greg Robinson, you will see that Coach Marrone has done an admirable job of turning this program around. You will all see how far this program has come on Saturday when Syracuse wipes the floor with Northwestern in front of 40,000 rabid Orange fans. Saturday cannot come soon enough.