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2011 Syracuse Preview – Offense
Syracuse RB Antwon Bailey
Syracuse RB Antwon Bailey
Posted May 16, 2011 2011 Preview - Syracuse Orange Offense

Syracuse Orange

Preview 2011 - Offense

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What You Need To Know: Progress is a relative thing. The Syracuse offense achieved some a year ago, but not quite what the coaching staff had in mind. In fact, it was hardly perceptible from a statistical standpoint, yet the Orange still found a few positive strides to rally around. A traditional system, featuring a fullback, tight end, and two receivers, was installed, a young quarterback earned his stripes, and the offensive line took baby steps. A big chunk of that group returns to Upstate New York, though 1,000-yard rusher Delone Carter does need to be replaced. Ryan Nassib enters his second season as the starting quarterback, surrounded by all of his top receivers and both of his starting tackles. The ground game, so pivotal to the offense’s success, will be in the hands of veteran Antwon Bailey, a mighty-mite who’s played plenty for the program. Syracuse needs to remain on a northern trajectory, bettering modest numbers, like 322 yards and 22 points a game.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Ryan Nassib
202-358, 2,334 yds, 19 TDs, 8 INT
Rushing: Antwon Bailey
114 carries, 554 yds, 2 TDs
Receiving: Van Chew
41 catches, 611 yds, 5 TDs

Star of the offense: Junior LT Justin Pugh
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior RB Antwon Bailey
Unsung star on the rise: Junior LG Zack Chibane
Best pro prospect: Pugh
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Pugh, 2) Junior QB Ryan Nassib, 3) Bailey
Strength of the offense: Quarterback play, run blocking, the receivers
Weakness of the offense: Pass protection, the running backs, third down efficiency, finishing drives


State of the Unit: At long last, the Orange feels as if it’s on solid footing at the quarterback position. It’s about time. No, the program doesn’t have one of the nation’s NFL-ready passers, but it does have a returning starter, his backup, and a legitimate shot of throwing the ball with success again. It’s a stark contrast to the offense’s recent history of sputtering in the passing game and lacking any offensive balance.

In his first season as a starter, 6-2, 227-pound junior Ryan Nassib played about as well as anyone might have hoped. He went 202-of-358 for 2,334 yards, 19 touchdowns, and eight interceptions, peaking in the Orange’s Pinstripe Bowl win over Kansas State. Although he doesn’t have the strongest arm on the coast or the biggest credentials, he’s a steady distributor, with a good grasp of the offense and the poise to lead his teammates. Barring an injury, he’s poised to become a three-year starter at the school.

Back as the caddy for Nassib is 6-4, 212-pound sophomore Charley Loeb, a left-handed pocket passer. He played sparingly in five games a year ago, going 3-of-5 for 41 yards. While he looks the part, he has modest arm strength and needs to improve his accuracy. After narrowing the gap in the spring, 6-3, 192-pound redshirt freshman John Kinder will attempt to pass Loeb on the depth chart. Still raw, he has the speed and arm strength that the coaches hope to massage into something special.

Watch Out For … Nassib to take more chances downfield. The staff was conservative with him in his first year, but will open things up somewhat now that he has a season of experience in the rear view mirror. Plus, it’s going to help immensely to have a healthy contingency of receivers at his disposal.
Strength: Poise. More than anything else, the one thing that stands out about Nassib and even Loeb is their maturity and awareness. Neither quarterback seems to get flustered under pressure, throwing with accuracy on the move and with men in their face. The Orange tied for fewest picks in the Big East, testament to Nassib’s penchant for being a smart passer.
Weakness: Depth. Syracuse likes where it’s headed with Nassib at the controls, but can it survive an injury? Loeb has limited reps and failed to blow anyone away in the offseason. Behind him is a gaggle of underclassmen with even less game experience.
Outlook: The Orange plans to nurture Nassib, hoping to elevate the level of his play and keep him healthy. He has a bright future as the leader of this attack, making good decisions and putting his team in a position to win. It’ll be enough for a program that’s suffered for years from poor play behind center.
Unit Rating: 7

Running Backs

State of the Unit: Now that Delone Carter is a member of the Indianapolis Colts, Syracuse needs to develop a feature back to carry the load on offense. The Orange employs a conservative attack that leans heavily on the running game, making this a position of great significance. Ideally, the staff can feed one player the bulk of the carries, but a committee approach won’t be ruled out.

The starter at halfback will be 5-7, 197-pound senior Antwon Bailey , a veteran backup who’s played plenty of football for the Orange. As the top man off the bench last year, he rushed for 554 yards and two scores on 114 carries, adding 35 catches for 306 yards and three touchdowns. A short, yet strong runner, he can be shifty in the open field and is quick to change directions. He’s waited a long time for this opportunity and plans to make the most of it.

Trailing Bailey is a gaggle of underclassmen all fighting for playing time. Sophomore Prince-Tyson Gulley is 5-9, 189-pounder who played mostly on special teams in his first year out of high school. The primary kick returner, he also rushed for 74 yards and a score on 13 carries. Sophomore Steve Rene is more of a situational back, a 5-7, 174-pounder, with some wiggle in the open field. Bringing the best size is 5-11, 215-pound redshirt freshman Jerome Smith, who played in two games before injuring his shoulder.

Back for another stint at fullback is 6-2, 242-pound senior Adam Harris, who started 10 games in 2010. A former transfer from Cornell, he’s a capable blocker who caught four passes last fall and can do some short-yardage running when defenses least expect it.

Watch Out For … Bailey to be a bona fide weapon as a receiver out of the backfield. In an offense that likes to keep things close to the vest, No. 29 has the soft hands to fit nicely into the passing, using a diminutive frame to get lost behind the linemen on screen passes.
Strength: Flash. Bailey, Gulley, and Rene are the kinds of scatbacks who can make people miss in space and extend the potential of a play. None is very big, but they’re all playmakers, with the quick feet and agility to make opposing defenders whiff when attempting to make a tackle.
Weakness: A workhorse. Bailey is a nice player, the kind every coach likes on the roster, but is he an every-down back? That remains to be seen, but he represents a clear drop-off from Carter, who could truly carry a load on the ground.
Outlook: While Bailey is a nice story of dedication and perseverance, he’d be a better option out of the backfield with a little more help around him. As the focal point in 2011, the Syracuse running game could take a step in reverse. Even worse, depth at running is limited and littered with a lot of third down, situational backs.
Unit Rating: 6.5


State of the Unit: After struggling through injuries and inconsistency, the wide receivers are bucking to become one of the strengths of the 2011 offense. QB Ryan Nassib is keeping his fingers crossed. Including backs and tight ends, five different players caught at least 25 passes last fall, all of whom are back for another year. If they can remain healthy, the Orange could boast rare depth and talent on the outside.

Back at “X” receiver is last year’s leading pass-catcher, 6-1, 161-pound senior Van Chew , who caught a career-high 41 passes for 611 yards and five touchdowns. A fluid and long athlete, he has the speed to get behind the secondary. However, he’s not very big or durable, and is prone to taking a beating if forced to make too many plays in traffic.

At “Z” receiver, the one to watch is 6-0, 182-pound senior Marcus Sales, who began 2010 quietly, but ended it on a tear. After catching just five passes in the first nine games, he grabbed at least five in each of the final four games, including three touchdowns in the bowl game against Kansas State. A former top recruit, with huge mitts, he needs to achieve some degree of consistency in his final year.

At “Y”, Syracuse’s version of a tight end, the program will once again turn to 6-4, 246-pound senior Nick Provo. More of an H-back than a traditional tight end, he has good hands and the ability to get behind linebackers, catching 33 passes for 365 yards and a touchdown.

The top receiver off the bench is 6-2, 196-pound junior Alec Lemon, Chew’s backup at “X”. He finished third on the team with 32 receptions for 397 yards and four touchdowns, though faded down the stretch. He needs to become more consistent, but has the frame and athleticism to once again be a key target in the passing game. Behind Sales is 6-2, 202-pound redshirt freshman Jarrod West , a possession receiver who missed 2010 with a foot injury.

Watch Out For … how Sales gets out of the gates. A traditionally slow starter, the program is looking for a new level of consistency from its new starter at “Z”. If he’s able to pick up where he left off in the bowl game, it’s going to bode well for his hopes of a future beyond Syracuse.
Strength: Playmakers on the outside. In Chew, Sales, and Lemon, the Orange boasts a trio of gliders capable of getting behind the secondary and into the end zone. All are exciting athletes, with the quickness to take a short pass and turn it into a significant downfield gain.
Weakness: Consistency and durability. The receivers need to prove that they can deliver on a weekly basis and remain out of the trainer’s room for the better part of the year. This is a quality collection of athletes, but you won’t know it if there’s a repeat of last season’s problems.
Outlook: The Orange pass-catchers have impressive upside potential. The key will be to go out and reach it this fall. The staff—and Nassib—are hoping that Chew, Sales, and Lemon are able to put it all together at the same time, stretching opposing defenses on a weekly basis. If that happens, Syracuse will have a legitimate passing game that helps create more space for the backs on the ground.
Unit Rating: 7

Offensive Line

State of the Unit: Four starters are back for an offensive line that still needs work, but did make modest strides in 2010. The ground game produced more than four yards a carry and the quarterbacks had an extra second of time, products of intense recruiting at the position and hard work within the coaching staff. Steady Ryan Bartholomew leaves a hole at center, one of the top priorities leading up to September.

The Orange feels it has an anchor at left tackle, 6-6, 299-pound sophomore Justin Pugh . In just his first season of action, he started all 13 games and earned a spot on the All-Big East second team. A top recruit of the program in 2009, he’s filled out nicely and uses light feet, long arms, and improving fundamentals to keep opposing pass rushers away from his quarterback.

Flanking Pugh at right tackle will be 6-5, 279-pound senior Michael Hay , a transfer in his second year out of Nassau (NY) Community College. A starter in all but one game of his debut, he’s a little light and needs to avoid being bullied off his base. Sophomore Andrew Phillips is the veteran of the backup tackles, having played in a dozen games on special teams last season.

On the interior of the line, 6-5, 328-pound senior Andrew Tiller and 6-5, 298-pound junior Zack Chibane are the starting guards on the right and left side, respectively. Tiller is another former transfer from Nassau (NY) Community College, with 16 career starts since arriving. One of the most powerful players up front, he needs to watch his weight and improve his footwork. Chibane, on the other hand, is built like a tackle, plays with good technique, and does a nice job of pass protection. Senior Nick Lepak is a career backup who has played steadily over the last three seasons. A massive 6-5, 349-pounder, he’s a powerful blocker, especially on running downs. The newcomer in the starting lineup is 6-2, 265-pound sophomore Macky MacPherson, one of 15 true freshmen to play in 2010. The grandson of Syracuse coaching legend Dick MacPherson, he’ll give away a lot of size, but is very quick, both physically and beneath the helmet.

Watch Out For … Pugh to begin getting some attention from the NFL scouting community. While only halfway through his Orange career, he’s already shown enough to be considered a pro prospect down the road. Tackles with his size and feet are coveted at the next level.
Strength: Chemistry. Unlike a year ago, the offensive line has a sense of familiarity, a feel for what the others are going to do. Not only are four starters back, but each member of the quartet is an upperclassman, giving the front wall a lot of experience and leadership.
Weakness: Pass protection. Despite making progress, this continues to be a problem area for the Orange. The team was 94th nationally in sacks allowed, yielding 2.5 a game, and forced Ryan Nassib to throw on the run and get flushed from the pocket more than the coaching staff could tolerate.
Outlook: For the past few years, the Orange line has been on the uptick, recruiting well, filling in holes with JUCOs, and approaching respectability. With four starters back and an all-star at left tackle, this figures to be Doug Marrone’s best unit, a group capable of getting physical with opposing lines and being a building block for the running game.
Unit Rating: 7

- 2011 Syracuse Preview | 2011 Syracuse Offense
- 2011 Syracuse Defense | 2011 Syracuse Depth Chart
- Syracuse Previews  2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006