CFN Preview 2013 - Syracuse Orange
Syracuse RB Jerome Smith
Syracuse RB Jerome Smith
Posted Jul 7, 2013 2013 Preview - Syracuse Orange

Syracuse Orange

Preview 2013

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By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: Scott Shafer
First year: 0-0
Returning Lettermen
Off. 24, Def. 22, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 20
Ten Best Syracuse Players
1. RB Jerome Smith, Jr.
2. LB Dyshawn Davis, Jr.
3. RB Prince-Tyson Gulley, Sr.
4. C Macky MacPherson, Sr.
5. LB Marquis Spruill, Sr.
6. DT Jay Bromley, Sr.
7. CB Keon Lyn, Sr.
8. WR Jarrod West, Jr.
9. TE Beckett Wales, Sr.
10. FS Jeremi Wilkes, Sr.
2013 Schedule
8/31 Penn State (in NJ)
9/7 at Northwestern
9/14 Wagner
9/21 Tulane
10/5 Clemson
10/12 at NC State
10/19 at Georgia Tech
11/2 Wake Forest
11/9 at Maryland
11/16 at Florida State
11/23 Pitt
11/30 Boston College
Syracuse finished 2012 on quite a roll. Seizing that momentum will have to be done with a lot of new faces in critical places.

No team closed hotter than the Orange, winners of six of its final seven games. There were routs of Connecticut and eventual Big East champ Louisville, a win in Columbia over Mizzou and an exclamation point blowout of West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl. Syracuse was relevant on a national level. And then the changes began.

QB Ryan Nassib had used up his eligibility. Head coach Doug Marrone accepted the same position with the Buffalo Bills. Now that the two seminal figures in the program's resurgence are gone, can Syracuse maintain—or even build—as it prepares for its first year as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference?

Taking over for Marrone is Scott Shafer, the team's defensive coordinator since 2009. It was an attempt at continuity that made sense since the play of the attacking D had been instrumental in the Orange's recent success as well. Taking over for Nassib? Stay tuned. Shafer's most visible decision this offseason will be his choice of a starting quarterback, a gig that'll go to either sophomore Terrel Hunt or Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen. Allen has made plenty of headlines since leaving Norman, but Hunt had the luxury of impressing the staff in the spring.

The strength of Shafer's first team resides in the backfield and at linebacker. Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley will give the offense the kind of one-two punch on the ground that makes life a lot simpler for the first-time starting quarterback. And the linebacker trio of Dyshawn Davis, Marquis Spruill and Cameron Lynch will be among the most seasoned and the most active in the league. Everywhere else, Syracuse is somewhat ordinary, with an eye on changing that dynamic.

Syracuse is heading to the ACC with the steely resolve to show its new athletic home that it's a lot more than just a basketball school. Orange football has the wind at its back, courtesy of last season's torrid finish. Avoiding the see-saw of mediocrity that often follows success in Upstate New York, though, will be a challenge in 2013, as the program begins a new era behind center and on the sidelines.

What to watch for on offense: Hunt or Allen? The Orange needs a new quarterback to supplant Ryan Nassib, a competition that'll dominate the headlines during the summer. In the spring, sophomore Terrel Hunt seized control of the opening, displaying the best athleticism and the best control of the offense of the contenders. However, Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen has yet to have his turn in front of the coaching staff, an audition that'll begin in August. Obviously, this is a critical race that could impact the program in 2013 and beyond.

What to watch for on defense: More of the same. Syracuse has a new defensive coordinator, Chuck Bullough, but his predecessor, Scott Shafer, is now the new head coach. In other words, the Orange will still want to dial up the heat in an attempt to keep the pressure on opposing offenses. Since the program doesn't house a sure-fire pass rusher off the edge, it'll look to outside linebackers Dyshawn Davis and Cameron Lynch and safeties Jeremi Wilkes and Durell Eskridge to flood the backfield as much as it's feasibly possible.

The team will be far better if… it does an about-face on special teams. Yeah, it's a small detail, but it's those small details that are often the difference between winning and losing. A year ago, the Orange ranked 115th nationally in net punting, 108th in punt returns, 106th in kickoff returns, and missed eight field goals. For Syracuse to have a fighter's chance of competing in the ACC in 2013, its offense and its defense has to start receiving more help from all areas of the special teams unit.

The Schedule: The Orange can't ask for much more for its first year in the ACC. It's a bad break havign to go play at Georgia Tech from the Coastal, but dealing with the Yellow Jackets and former Big East brother Pitt is far, far better than facing Miami or Virginia Tech. Okay, so going to Florida State isn't a prize, but the Clemson game is at home for the conference opener after getting two weeks off to prepare. The trip to Evanston to face Northwestern is the Orange's only true road game until mid-October. Starting out against Penn State will be interesting, and facing NU will be a battle, but Wagner and Tulane should be layups. The only possible hiccup to deal with will be the two back-to-back road games, facing NC State and Georgia Tech in October and Maryland and Florida State in November, but overall, there isn't too much to complain about.

Best offensive player: Junior RB Jerome Smith. After Antwon Bailey graduated, the Orange dispatched a want ad for a new feature back. Smith answered the call in 2012, his first serious action with the program. The figurehead of a very good backfield ran the ball 227 times for 1,171 yards and three touchdowns, and will begin the year as one of the top backs of the ACC. Smith is a rugged 6-0, 217-pounder who won't be arm-tackled or stood up in the hole. He's the new face of an offense about to adjust to a first-time starting quarterback.

Best defensive player: Junior LB Dyshawn Davis. The linebackers form Syracuse's toughest and deepest defensive unit. Davis is the best of the group. At 6-2 and 212 pounds, he possesses linebacker toughness with safety speed, roaming all over the field in the pursuit of destruction. The third-year starter is fresh off his most productive season with the Orange, collecting 69 tackles, 14 stops for minus yards and two fumble recoveries. Syracuse likes to attack; Davis is ideally suited to carry out the wishes of the coaching staff.

Key players to a successful season: The defensive ends. Syracuse absolutely, positively needs to generate some pressure from the flanks, especially now that DE Brandon Sharpe has exhausted his eligibility. While the Orange certainly won't be bashful about releasing the linebackers and safeties on occasion, it would prefer not to leave the cornerbacks naked more than it has to. The program struggled against the pass in 2012, ranking No. 91 in the country, and will face even more challenges this season as a new member of the ACC.

The season will be a success if ... Syracuse returns to the postseason for a second straight year. What better way to say that you're ready to compete in the ACC than by gobbling up one of the league's automatic bowl berths? The schedule is tougher than anything this program has faced in a long time, but back-to-back games with Wagner and Tulane will get the Orange one-third of the way to bowl-eligibility. From there, it'll need to show that it can hang with the likes of NC State, Wake Forest, Maryland and Boston College in order to reach the required six wins.

Key game: Nov. 30 vs. Boston College. Over the last few years, realignment has ended a lot of rivalries in college football. The revival of Syracuse-BC is a welcome exception. The two Northeast schools have played 45 times, the first coming in 1958, yet have only met once since the Eagles left for the ACC prior to the 2005 season. Now that both schools are members of the Atlantic Division, they'll square off each fall, searching for regional bragging rights and the attention of local recruits.

2012 Fun Stats:
- Third-down %: Syracuse 49.3% – Opponents 36.9%
- Sacks: Syracuse 26 – Opponents 16
- Rushing yards per game: Syracuse 187.0 - Opponents 144.7
- 2013 Syracuse Preview | 2013 Syracuse Offense
- 2013 Syracuse Defense | 2013 Syracuse Depth Chart