"The people here have been welcoming," says Paulus, who starred in football and basketball at Christian Brothers Academy, a private school less than 10 miles from Syracuse's campus. "It's been a lot of fun to see people who I haven't had the opportunity to see the past few years being down south at Duke to see their excitement and to feel that people are anxious for this football season. It's something that gets me even more excited."
Rivals breaks down the long, strange trip Paulus has been on since he started his college athletics career at Duke. His teammates talk about his focus on building relationships and friendships. And his former coaches and friends talk up what Syracuse fans can expect.
One interesting opinion comes from former Syracuse OC (and former Syracuse hotel denizen) Mitch Browning, now a "graduate assistant" at Tennessee.
"Greg Paulus must be an upgrade for him to go in and earn the starting spot as quickly as he did, especially when you consider he hasn't played football for four years...He obviously is a mature, intelligent and talented athlete. We thought Cam Dantley played well at times and did a nice job of managing the game. And based on what we saw during Ryan Nassib's redshirt freshman season, we thought he had a great future ahead of him."
One group of players that will be happy if Paulus can come through on his expectations is the receiving corp. Mike Williams will be the main recipient of that but the other WRs will have a chance to step up and become household names, at least in Onondaga County. But despite the fact that the depth chart is set, questions abound. No one was stepping up to take their rightful place at Mike Williams' side. The answer, as far as Rob Spence was concerned, would be found in...science!
Hunting for the best receivers behind Williams became a science for Syracuse coaches. They charted every catchable ball thrown to every receiver. Thus, each receiver had a glaring catch/drop ratio attached to his name.
With a catch percentage above 90, Lemon snared the No. 2 job. For now. The real test will be Saturday when Minnesota dares Lemon and all of the other Orange receivers to make a play.
Considering Lemon passed Da'Mon Merkerson, reliable Donte Davis and other upperclassmen, expectations are for him are going to be sky-high. Thankfully for him, all he has to do is be there to make solid plays. Leave the heroics to Williams and Sales.
Six freshman in-all made either the first or second spot on the depth chart. Along with Lemon there's safeties Phillip Thomas and Shamarko Thomas, cornerback Rishard Anderson and LG Justin Pugh. Those four are all 2nd-teamers though expect to see one of the DBs in as the nickel back. Starting kicker Ryan Lichtenstein is also a freshman.
One surprise swap late in the preseason was Ryan Gillum overtaking E.J. Carter for the weakside linebacker spot. Gillum had initially been passed over by Marrone and his staff. Looks like he made a late run:
He did a tremendous job this off-season, proved to us he can run. I believe he had an injury (ankle) that he overcame. When we saw those numbers and knew he could run we knew he'd be in the mix to play. We're fortunate to have two players who we believe we can win with at the (weakside) linebacker position."
H/T: Ryan W.