2007 Syracuse Preview

Posted Jul 31, 2007

Syracuse, once a Big East superpower, hasn't been able to pull up out of its nosedive, but with a loaded receiving corps, led by WR Mike Williams, there's hope for things to finally turn around in the Greg Robinson era.

Syracuse Orange

Preview 2007

By Richard Cirminiello

- 2007 Syracuse Offense Preview | 2007 Syracuse Defense Preview
2007 Syracuse Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Syracuse Preview 

The Orange improved by three wins last year, but that was coming off a rock bottom 1-10 campaign. It’s gotten so bad at SU, a former perennial powerhouse, that the concept of progress is all relative for a school that hasn’t finished over .500 or won a bowl game since 2001.  Yeah, there were strides last season, but not enough to satisfy the fans of a program that used to be one of the proudest in the East.  Head coach Greg Robinson is trying to turn things around, and now he needs to get the compass pointed in the right direction or there will be a new era in Orange football next year at this time.

Head coach: Greg Robinson
3rd year: 5-18
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 20, Def. 20, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 18
Ten Best Orange Players
1. WR Taj Smith, Sr.
2. WR Mike Williams, Soph.
3. DE Jameel McClain, Sr.
4. FS Joe Fields, Sr.
5. RB Curtis Brinkley, Jr.
6. SS Dowayne Davis, Sr.
7. OG Carroll Madison, Sr.
8. PK Patrick Shadle, Jr.
9. WR Rice Moss, Sr.
10. QB Andrew Robinson, Soph.

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

Aug. 31



at Iowa

Sept. 15


Sept. 22

at Louisville

Sept. 29

at Miami Univ.

Oct. 6

West Virginia

Oct. 13


Oct. 20


Nov. 3

at Pitt

Nov. 10

South Florida

Nov. 17

at Connecticut

Nov. 24


2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2006 Record: 4
Preview 2006 predicted wins

9/2 at Wake Forest L 20-10
9/9 Iowa L 20-13 2OT
9/16 at Illinois W 31-21
9/23 Miami Univ. W 34-14
9/30 Wyoming W 40-34 2OT
10/7 Pitt L 21-11
10/14 at West Virginia L 41-17
10/21 Louisville L 28-13
10/28 at Cincinnati L 17-3
11/11 at South Florida L 27-10
11/18 Connecticut W 20-13
11/25 at Rutgers L 38-7

Robinson now has three years worth of recruits that best fit his desire to run the West Coast offense, and attack on defense with a unit that’ll be built more on speed than size.  Besides a 3-2 start that generated premature whispers about bowl eligibility, the best thing to come out of 2006 was Robinson’s decision to get playing time for a slew of underclassmen that’ll form the foundation for the next few years.  Chief among the young upstarts were the team’s top two rushers, Delone Carter and Curtis Brinkley, and leading receiver Mike Williams.   

If nothing else, the upcoming season will be the dawn of a new era with the offense being turned over to sophomore Andrew Robinson, one of the most coveted quarterbacks to sign with the school.  If you could point to one nagging flaw that’s plagued the Orange throughout this five-year drought, it’s been the play of the offense, specifically a compete lack of consistency behind center.  For the first time since Donovan McNabb graduated in 1998, Syracuse fans may not have to shield their eyes when the quarterback drops back to pass.

Syracuse is just 1-13 against a suddenly feisty Big East over the last two seasons and is nowhere near ready to compete with the conference elite.  However, it’s taking baby steps in the right direction, and the infusion of youth on offense should cause a welcomed rise in points and fan interest in Upstate New York.

What to watch on offense … It’s taken three years of handpicking the right recruits to transition from Paul Pasqualoni’s freeze option to the pro-style offense, but the Orange is finally close to having the right mix of personnel.  A lot will hinge on how quickly Andrew Robinson adapts to his new role as the Syracuse triggerman.  He’ll benefit tremendously from the best group of skill position players the school’s had in years, including receiver Taj Smith who was eyeing a breakout season before fracturing his collarbone in week four.  Carter, the projected starting running back, however, is lost for the year with a dislocated hip, leaving Brinkley to be the workhorse.    

What to watch on defense … Robinson wants to attack opposing offenses from all angles creating takeaways and pocket pressure.  The unit’s been real successful getting to the quarterback and picking off passes, but tackles poorly and gives up way too many big plays.  Linemen Jameel McClain and Tony Jenkins have all-league potential, but the back seven will have too many new faces to expect much improvement on defense in 2007.    

The team will be far better if … Robinson doesn’t play like a rookie in his first season as a starter.  He’s got the talent around him for this offense to be downright respectable, and he has to become a difference maker from the first game to show SU football has changed.  It’s going to have to be to compensate for a defense that figures to be porous again this fall.      

The Schedule: It would've been nice if there were more near-certain wins instead of challenging non-conference dates against Washington, at Iowa and Illinois to start the year, but victories in two of the three could serve as a confidence booster before starting off the Big East season at Louisville. West Virginia, Rutgers and South Florida have to come to the dome, so if the program is planning on making a big jump this year, wins against two of the bigger boys is a must. The second half of the year isn't all that bad playing Buffalo, at Pitt, South Florida, at UConn and Cincinnati.

Best Offensive Players: Senior WR Taj Smith and Sophomore WR Mike Williams.  If the Orange is going to snap out of its three-year offensive slumber, it’s going to be because of players such as Williams who showed flashes of excellence as a true freshman, catching 24 passes for 461 yards and four touchdowns.  A bona fide home run hitter with a bounce in his step, he’s about to become one of the pass-catching stars of the Big East. Smith was on his way to a huge season before getting knocked out for the year. Healthy again, he’s the team’s most dangerous weapon.

Best Defensive Player: Senior DE Jameel McClain.  A converted linebacker with terrific speed and quickness, McClain is too much for most tackles to handle when he’s exploding off the edge.  Making the switch to defensive end a year ago look like a stroke of genius, he tore up the Big East for 14½ tackles for loss and a league-best 9½ sacks in 2006.                       

Key player to a successful season: Robinson, or Cameron Dantley. One of the two will be the new leader of the attack, and neither can do less than Perry Patterson was able to. Patience will be the virtue for Robinson with several ugly mistakes to deal with before the big payoff comes. No matter what happens, more passing production is vital. Just getting better might not be enough for most SU fans, but weekly improvements will be important to keep an eye on.

The season will be a success if ... SU flirts with a winning record. That might be a big-time dream considering how good the Big East is and how bad Syracuse has been, but the schedule has several big games at home and the team should be better as the season goes on. Five wins is a realistic goal; six would be special.

Key game: Aug. 31 vs. Washington. In a battle of two one-time powerhouses, SU could desperately use a confidence builder right away with road trips to Iowa and Louisville in the following two weeks. With such a bear of a first half of the season, SU can’t afford to give away any home dates.

2006 Fun Stats: 
- Total offense: Opponents 399.3 yards per game – Syracuse 264 yards per game
- Third down conversions: Opponents 73 of 162 (45%) – Syracuse 63 of 173 (36%)
- Sacks: Opponents 45 for 345 yards – Syracuse 34 for 207 yards



Related Stories
2007 Syracuse Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 31, 2007
2007 Syracuse Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 31, 2007
2007 Syracuse Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 22, 2007

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