Syracuse Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
Syracuse Orangemen
Posted Aug 1, 2006

Syracuse Orange Preview 2006 - SU Further Analysis

1st and Ten – Is there another #44 in this bunch? – The hallowed #44 jersey made famous in up-state New York symbolizes all that is right about Syracuse football.  Ernie Davis.  Jim Brown.  Floyd Little.  Definitely a symbol of their greatness.  Unfortunately, it’s also become a symbol of what this Syracuse offense is supremely lacking – a breakaway, stud running back.  Guys like Walter Reyes and Damien Rhodes, among others, were solid running backs, 1,000 yard caliber talent, but never in the mold of #44.  But, then again, that space is reserved for the all-time greats.  However, that duo would look a lot like one of those #44 in this Orange offense in 2006, compared to the gaggle of backs that are due to step into the starting/playing role.  Rhodes got the lion’s share of the carries last year, as he was the only offensive threat the team had, but in so doing, the youngsters who’ll have to carry the rock this year lost out on some much needed experience.  But, ask head coach Greg Robinson and he’ll tell you that he’s intrigued by the options at running back this year – Paul Chiara, Kareem Jones, Curtis Brinkley and Jeremy Sellers.  Jones, Chiara and Brinkley combined for only 65 carries on the year, so the decision on who’ll start and whether it’ll be a back-by-committee concept will be a difficult call to say the least.  Youth and inexperience don’t always have to be a team’s death knell, but then again, in a conference like the Big East, ‘rookies’ can get you killed.  If one of these combatants can prove worthy, it’ll take some pressure off of QBs Perry Patterson and Joe Fields, which could lead to even more effective play from that position.  There may not be a #44 in the building this year, but a close facsimile would work just as well.

2nd and Seven – The Magic Eight Ball – Syracuse had some stout defensive players last year.  Safety Anthony Smith.  DE James Wyche and Ryan LaCasse.  DB Steve Gregory.  But, none of those three guys return this year; however, All-Big East candidate linebacker Kelvin Smith does.  And, that brings a smile to Greg Robinson’s face.  Smith led the Orange in tackles with 84 and is a menace on the field.  He’s not a guy that gets a lot of face time on a national level, but he’s one of the most consistent players on this side of the world.  He doesn’t miss a lot of tackles and he’ll run through ball carriers (which would seem logical, but you’d be surprised how many good players can’t do this very well at all).  He’ll take over as the leader of the Syracuse defense this year, and a triple digit tackle season is definitely on the horizon.

3rd and Three – The Smartest Guy in the Room – Football coaches are such a mixed bag.  College coaches in particular.  Some played at high profile universities.  Some climbed through the ranks to get to a mid-major Division 1A job.  Some never played one down of college or pro football.  And, very few went to Harvard.  Or, have a MBA, either.  Or, both.  Sure, it makes some sense – smart guys end up being investment bankers or IT specialists, not offensive coordinators, right?  But, somehow new ‘Cuse offensive coordinator Brian White missed the memo when he graduated from Harvard.  After spending a bulk of his coaching career with the Wisconsin Badgers, White takes over at Syracuse with something to prove and with essentially a blank canvas in front of him.  After what this SU offense did last year (or didn’t do), the next step is going to be a positive one – it has to be.  His power zone run scheme at Wisconsin was well known and often times dominant, but whether he can find that same success without a Ron Dayne or an Anthony Davis or a Joe Thomas, for that matter, remains to be seen.  Whether White can adapt his scheme to ‘fit’ Patterson or Fields, an average, at best, offensive line and a rookie at tailback is a huge key to this season.  That’s a tough road for anyone, even for an Ivy League ‘smaht’ kid.

4th and One – A work in progress – As a Syracuse fan last year, it was hard to be excited about what you saw on the field, week in and week out.  L’s piled up like pizza bones at a local pizzeria and there wasn’t ever a thought that the offense could score enough to beat anyone, outside of UB.  Defensively, the talent was evident, but every time Ryan LaCasse or Anthony Smith made a play, it struck you that there was no future with those guys off to the NFL in 2006.  Greg Robinson came to Syracuse to capture that old Dick Macpherson magic, but he has such a dearth of offensive talent that if the defense didn’t score for them, they might not get to 20 points - a number they didn’t reach one time in either October or November.  Robinson didn’t walk into a cushy situation, to say the least, and the man will need some time.  Progress will come slower than ‘Cuse fans would like, and the unrealistic ones expect.  Works in progress aren’t pretty until they’re entirely complete.

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