This Is Still Syracuse Football...Right? Right.

USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse football has transformed itself -- for better and worse -- a lot lately. Hopefully that's all in the past.

Remember when this guy was Syracuse's starting quarterback?


Duke's former starting point guard named Syracuse's starting signal caller by Doug Marrone, all before Marrone's first game ever as head coach. Yes, Greg Paulus was a four-year star at CBA, someone who helped make highlights like the following during high school:


But there is no denying that Marrone went out on a limb in choosing Paulus over someone who was already in house, and would stay in house, like Ryan Nassib. It turned out to be a somewhat successful gamble by Marrone. Syracuse became more competitive in year one of Marrone than the previous four seasons combined under Greg Robinson -- even with Paulus throwing too many interceptions.

Yet, Paulus under center for Syracuse in September of 2009 against Minnesota, at the Carrier Dome, was...jarring and unfamiliar, but in a eerily familiar way. Change. The program had already been through two coaches in five years. Not to mention the nickname change of Orangemen to Orange, the uniform changes, the Big East looking more like Conference USA, and even the field turf upgrades at the Dome.

Think back to September of 2005:


The shinny new coach leading the shinny "new" team out on to the shinny new field. And then...


(The sad part is, it wasn't just the season that was over after kickoff, it was the next four years!)

((Sorry for the old/overused Family Guy clip.))

All though it was a long time coming, it still seemed like we all went to sleep with Donovan McNabb as the Syracuse star and woke up with...something totally unrecognizable.

And the real reason why Syracuse football became a little distant for some fans was mostly due to the losing. The Orange went from Big East contender to Big East doormat -- losing anywhere from 8 to 10 games a season. It was like some school from Central New York, with the orange block S on its helmets, was someone else. It wasn't Syracuse. Not the program that had produced game-changers like Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Art Monk, McNabb, Dwight Freeney, etc.

Which leads us back to Paulus. Before that season I was worried Marrone was going gimmicky -- searching for headlines over looking at building the program. I figured the experiment would fail miserably and Syracuse would continue to deteriorate. A Duke basketball player is now Syracuse's QB? That's not Syracuse football. That's not even football!

Obviously, I was wrong. While '09 wasn't one to remember, Syracuse was feisty, playing tougher than it had in a long time. In fact, the Orange closed out the season with a Dome upset of then ranked Rutgers. Just like that, Syracuse, even with its one-year rental in Paulus, looked more like Syracuse than it had in years. And really, save for a slide to end 2011, Syracuse football, with its "new" uniforms, playing in the ever-changing Big East, and all the other changes surrounding the program, things have evened out.

But now the recent stabilizing of the program could be in question. Syracuse is winding down spring practice with a new, first time, head coach. On the verge of setting sail into the Atlantic Coast Conference. With the possibility of having a one-year rental, Drew Allen, at quarterback. The more things change the more things stay the same.

Of course, 2013 is nothing like 2009, or '08, '07, etc. Scott Shafer may be new to the head man position, but he has already proven his worth at Syracuse as defensive coordinator. In fact, without Shafer it's likely Syracuse wouldn't have turned itself around. Plus, Allen, while not playing much at OU, is no Greg Paulus. He's a highly recruited player who sat behind pro-level QBs during his time in Norman. And SU is clearly in a much better position in terms of talent than it was four years ago.

All very comforting thoughts for the Syracuse fan still waking up to flashbacks of the Penn State game at the Dome in '08.

Still, come this weekend's spring game, it won't be Marrone's team and Marrone's way. It'll be something else. Drew Allen won't be out there this time, but come September, he very well could be under center for the first snap from scrimmage. And that's not even mentioning all the key four-year (and three-year) players that have moved on, too.

Certainly a lot of change, which may cause some real worry. But unlike the past, there is a real believe that Syracuse football will be fine. This is nothing like the end of Paul Pasqualoni's reign, or Robinson's ruining. In many ways it could be considered Marrone simply handing the baton to Shafer -- who seems like, at the very least, a true leader.

I guess, all things considered, it may take a little squinting for fans to see the resemblance, but sooner than later you should recognize this team, this program, as Syracuse football and not as whatever it was for those years in between.

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