In a new feature, 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.
What type of freshman year do you expect from Ashton Broyld?
Jeremy Ryan: Honestly? Not much. College football isn't like college basketball, and true freshmen don't make a huge impact nearly as often. That goes double for Syracuse, where Marrone hasn't shown much of a desire to play rookies unless injuries force his hand. I could see Broyld making a few nice plays as a receiver, wildcat QB, or in some sort of gimmick offense, but I don't see him as an every down type of player this year.
Matt McClusky: This is a funny question seeing as I'm the guy who wrote this about Broyld. But as we get closer to the start of the season, the reality of what is coming is starting to be realized. I'm not saying that SU is going to finish with one win, but I think, given the inexperience at key positions, the lack of real depth throughout the roster, and the tough schedule, fans sense 4 wins may be more realistic over, say, 8 or 9.
Andy Pregler: I think Broyld sits a good amount to open up the season. As the season progresses and the offense becomes increasingly stagnant, Broyld comes in as a spark. I don't think the stats will accurately reflect his impact, but he will be the big play guy after teams find out how to stifle the Orange passing attack.
Chris Daughtrey: I honestly expect him to struggle. Having ATH next to a recruit's name is a double edged sword. On the one hand, it has the potential for great flexibility in how you use a player. The possibilities are nearly endless and players like Tim Tebow, Denard Robinson and Terrelle Pryor show how valuable and dangerous an ATH can be playing QB. But Broyld isn't playing QB. He still doesn't really have a position and I think that lack of consistency will hurt him. I think he'll have flashes but have a pedestrian season overall.
Sean Keeley: Honestly, I'm going to say that Broyld ends up not meeting our expectations, which is probably a good thing. Coaches are going out of their way to talk about how much of a weapon he's going to be and I don't know if they're savvy enough to be using some kind of misdirection here or what, but I don't think he's going to have the impact we're thinking. He'll get touches and he'll probably make some nice plays based on his speed, but overall I think we're just going to get the tip of the iceberg (not a reference to Ashton's lewd past, I swear).
Is this going to be another season riddled with injuries?
JR: Probably. I think when teams head toward the end of the season and start to lose hopes of a league title, players who may have otherwise been able to play with an injury start to drop out of the lineup. They don't want to risk making an injury worse with little to gain.
MM: Tough to speculate on, but given the amount of players sitting out due to injury or fatigue so far this camp, and given Syracuse's recent history of having significant injuries derail seasons for players, it's probably a safe bet.
AP: Based off of the spring game and current reports you have to say so. This has to be a worry for Marrone and the entire SU staff. Either the players are not conditioned right or Marrone is pushing them far too hard because this many injuries to key players year after year indicates something is array.
CD: The way things are starting off, it sure looks like it. But, really, it's impossible to tell. They main thing is going to be to not rush to get the guys that are dinged up already back on the field too soon. The Orange have a killer schedule all year, so it's not as if having onw or two guys back ay 75-80% is going to be the real difference. Wins this season are going to be a total team effort. Better to wait until guys are fully ready to go and reduce the chance of re-injury.
SK: Yes. This is Syracuse football. This is what happens. Who's going to get injured? That I can't tell you. All I do know is, pray for the upper and lower bodies of our players because they will be tarnished.
JC: I wish, for once, we could just head into the season at full strength. But alas, it's not going to happen. Having key guys hurt isn't ideal. But I guess as long as Nassib's healthy, we have a glimmer of hope? (knock on wood)
Is Syracuse's series with Penn State still as valuable when considering PSU's sanctions?
JR: SU's series with Penn State lost its luster when the two sides joined separate conferences and stopped playing each other altogether. The sanctions certainly don't help, but the ship sailed on a 'valuable' rivalry years ago.
MM: There are two answers to me on this one:
1. No, because by most likely next year Penn State will be a below average team - no bowl berth, not likely to be anywhere near the top 25, and probably, by then, well off the nation's radar. So, if SU were to rise while the Lions fell, it wouldn't be nearly as significant as if Penn State hadn't been hit so hard by NCAA sanctions. And...
2. Hell yes it will be as valuable! It's Penn State. As mentioned in the previous answer, I think Penn State will stink by at least next year. But, going back to '87, it's just always fun to beat PSU. Whether its program is down or ours, whether the rivalry isn't actually a rivalry, and whether most SU fans don't even remember what it was like to beat Penn State, a win over that program is always sweet.
AP: Yes for the rivalry. SU football could use another rival other than Pitt going into the ACC and Penn State alums from the 70s and 80s tell me about how SU would paint the Nittany Lion Orange when 'Cuse rolled into town for football games. I think a rivalry like that would be good for Syracuse in the long term.
CD: It depends on if Bill O'Brien can keep the Nittany Lions fairly relevant without the benefit of post-season play. I mean, USC was still a good and talked about team when they were under sanctions. If Penn State can do the same, there's no reason that playing them should have a downside aside from the stigma of associating at all with the program. As terrible as the Sandusky situation was, it will eventually fall into that realm of "bad stuff that happened back in the day".
SK: The only reason I still like the series is because I think we actually have a legit chance to win some games now. They're still going to be decent based on their ability and the emotional impact of what's happened, but it's a slightly more even game now. And we need to take some steps to even that series up. Throw in the fact that Doug Marrone and Bill O'Brien are besties and I think there are still a lot of good angles here for an ongoing series. That said, I'm glad we're not playing them this year. I don't want to deal with that (not to mention the fact that everyone would bring up Bernie Fine all over again).
JC: If the value didn't end in the late 80s, it sure did the first time Penn State returned to the Dome and soundly thrashed us (I recall leaving early that day). But I'd have to think this game won't be the big media draw it would've managed to be otherwise, given the issues with the Nittany Lions program.
Will the Orange defense be able to stop the running game this year?
JR: It depends on who they're playing. Against Stony Brook? Sure. Against USC? Yikes.
MM: I'll say this, I hope so. Gone are Chandler Jones, Mikhail Marinovich and Phillip Thomas. Huge losses from a unit that ranked in the 70s in total defense last season. So while I think the D will likely get burned up front and in the back seven a lot, I am holding out hope Deon Goggins and Jay Bromley, along with some newcomers make up for the losses and get back to the Scott Shafer defenses that we've all come to know and love. You know, one that can ACTUALLY STOP SOMEONE!
AP: They had better. Based off the first three or four opponents alone, the run defense will be the difference between a 3-1 start or a 1-3 or 0-4 start. I'm legitimately scared for the Stony Brook game. The Seawolves have a rushing attack that only USC can match on paper. The linebackers will be the key here and I think they'll step up... Just not in week one or two.
CD: I don't have any numbers in front of me, but from what I can recall of last season, stopping the run wasn't a huge issue. What I remember most is getting gouged on bubble screens. For whatever reason, that was the play thet the Orange really struggled to defend the whole season. As far as run defense, though, I think it'll be good. I think the linbackers will be the strength of this defense. Spruill, Davis, Lynch and Vaughan make up a nice rotation. And now that Deon Goggins is on the end, I think he'll be a great help in funneling runs into the middle where the LBs can clean up.
SK: This frightens the hell out of me. Not just because our defensive line remains a work-in-progress, but because we're going to face some elite running backs, especially early on. In two consecutive games, we're going to face four RBs with over 5,000 yards combined rushing last season (USC & Stony Brook). And that's not counting the fact that we play four or five teams with very mobile quarterbacks and guys like Pitt's Ray Graham.
I have faith that Jay Bromley is going to validate the fact that he attended Big East Media Day. And I'm also very excited about The Meat (Pierce-Brewster, Walls, Raymon). These newbies could be the most critical guys in the line-up this year.
JC: I'm actually more scared of mobile QBs given our shoddy run D, than I am of running backs. Somehow, we were just always caught out of position by guys who could scramble. Be it B.J. Daniels, those clowns over at UConn, or the mostly-anonymous passers from Toledo and Rhode Island. Just awful.
Who is your surprise player for the fall?
JR: Broyld, but for the wrong reasons as mentioned above. I think there will be some undue expectations on him that won't be met until next season or beyond.
MM: I'll go out on a limb a little and pick Jeremiah Kobena. As a frosh he played in all 12 games, mainly as a return man on special teams. Still, with injuries (Wide receivers Alec Lemon, Adrian Flemming, Jarrod West and Kyle Foster are all battling or have battled injuries.) and depth concerns, Kobena could be a guy who, thanks to his speed and raw ability, could impact a number of games positively this season.
Plus, Dave Rahme of the Syracuse Post Standard wrote recently that Kobena had an impressive practice. Why is that a big deal? Because it seems like head coach Doug Marrone has been upset about everyone on the team at one point or another these past two weeks. A really outstanding practice, with this team, could lead to an increased role.
AP: I am watching Jerrod West. As the number three guy, he will be in to spread the defense out and his size could create matchup issues against a three corner. If Sales continues to struggle in camp, I see West even making a strong push at the number two spot. He's got the potential to be a top line receiver, it's time for him to live up to it.
CD: I'm just gonna fess up and admit that I haven't followed the preseason anywhere near closely enough to really have a surprise player. From what I've read by the various folks on TNIAAM, the only real surprise if how big Ron Thompson is and the fact that he's still able to do a back flip. Other than that, everything seems to be standing pat.
SK: I'm going with David Stevens. I'm extremely high on Ron Thompson and Beckett Wales gets a lot of love for his name but David Stevens just kind of sits there under the radar. Meanwhile, he was a stud in the Saturday scrimmage and could potentially be the rock at tight end that we need to transition from the Nick Provo Era to the Ron Thompson Era. Tight end is such a critical position for Ryan Nassib and I'm beginning to think Stevens will end up being the one that steps up consistently.
JC: Here's a name -- Siriki Diabate. When he actually got enough minutes last year, the linebacker was pretty effective, and I'd like to see him get some time in his senior year. He played a nice role in the West Virginia shellacking (seven tackles, .5 sacks), so if anything, that should make you want him to succeed.