2007 Syracuse Preview |
2007 Syracuse Defense Preview
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2006 CFN Syracuse Preview
What you need to know:
The pieces are there among the skill players for a night-and-day
improvement from last year’s putrid attack that cranked out a
mere 264 yards and 17.4 points per game. The receiving cops,
helped by the return of Taj Smith from injury, should be one of
the best in the Big East, while Curtis Brinkley is a good back
to work around. Sophomore QB Andrew Robinson is a star in the
making, but he’ll have a hard time with his consistency behind
an offensive line that needs work even with three starters
returning in the interior.
Passing: Andrew Robinson
3-8, 20 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Curtis Brinkley
139 carries, 571 yds, 2 TD
Receiving: Tom Ferron
30 catches, 351 yds, 2 TD
Star of the offense: Senior WR Taj Smith & Sophomore
WR Mike Williams
quarterback, line depth
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore
QB Andrew Robinson
Unsung star on the rise: Robinson
Best pro prospect: Smith
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Smith, 2) Williams, 3)
RB Curtis Brinkley
Strength of the offense: Wide receiver
Weakness of the offense: Proven
Projected Starter: Okay, Andrew Robinson,
here are the keys to the Orange offense. Now go out in your
first year as the starter and erase nearly a decade of
unbearable Syracuse passing attacks. Fair or not, the
short-term fate of the program and its coach Greg Robinson rests
squarely on the broad shoulders of its sophomore quarterback.
And he just might be up to the challenge. Unlike any recent
Syracuse hurler, Robinson has the physical and intangible
attributes to flourish in the West Coast offense. At 6-3 and
222 pounds, he has great zip on his passes and quick feet to go
along with the mindset of a point guard looking to distribute
the ball. Robinson possesses a field presence and a command of
the offense that will serve him real well in his debut. Think
Troy Aikman before he really emerged at UCLA.
Projected Top Reserve: The Orange had just two
quarterbacks on the roster in the spring, leaving junior
Cameron Dantley as Robinson’s backup. The son of former NBA
great Adrian Dantley walked on to the team in 2005, earned a
scholarship earlier this year, and is now in a position to be
the No. 2 quarterback. He’s got a cannon for an arm and is
nimble when flushed from the pocket, but with zero career snaps,
he’s way too close for comfort to being the every down guy.
Watch Out For… freshmen Cody Catalina and
David Legree, a pair of coveted signees with bright
futures. Whichever true freshman picks things up quicker might
avoid a redshirt year out of necessity, or even challenge
Dantley for the backup job.
Strength: Supporting cast. With the best group of
skill position players the Orange has had in many years,
Robinson will not have to go it alone this fall. The receivers
are dynamic and the backfield has Curtis Brinkley, leaving pass
protection as the final missing piece for an offense looking to
blow past last year’s benchmarks of 17 points and 264 yards a
Weakness: Inexperience. The most experienced
Syracuse quarterback is current safety Joe Fields, an indication
of just how young and green this group will be in 2007.
Combined, the four quarterbacks on this year’s roster have
thrown eight career passes, meaning Robinson better stay
healthy, or else things will unravel quickly on offense.
Outlook: For the first time in a long time, Orange
fans may not have to cover their eyes when their quarterback
drops back to throw. Robinson has enough natural ability and
talent around him to have the kind of debut that gives hope for
the future and lays the foundation for much bigger things in
Even when there aren’t games taking place, the Syracuse offense
can’t seem to escape misfortune. Slated to have a potent
one-two tailback punch with sophomore Delone Carter and
junior Curtis Brinkley, the Orange lost Carter for the
year to a dislocated hip suffered in the spring. Oh, and
Brinkley underwent arthroscopic knee surgery, but is expected to
be ready for the start of the season. A darting, cut-back
runner, he rushed for 571 yards and a pair of scores on 139
carries in his first year as a full-timer. If the offense is
going improve this fall, Brinkley has to be a 12-game catalyst
for the running game.
Syracuse has long been a haven for unselfish fullbacks that hit
like a sledgehammer. Opening holes for Carter and Brinkley this
year will be senior Breyone Evans, a 6-0, 242-pound
bruiser with three letters and good enough hands to make the
occasional catch out of the backfield.
Projected Top Reserves: Now that Carter is on the
shelf, junior Paul Chiara slides into the all-important
backup slot behind Brinkley. A steady, heady veteran that can
catch passes out of the backfield, he has to become more than
just a star on special teams.
Junior Tony Fiammetta is
neck-and-neck with Evans at fullback and actually hits the hole
a little quicker on those rare occasions when the Orange use the
up back for more than just opening holes.
Watch Out For… the health of Brinkley’s right
knee. With the backfield depth suddenly a concern, any
lingering effects from his spring surgery would wreak havoc on
the running game and Andrew Robinson’s development at
Strength: Brinkley. The junior brings a valuable
year of starting experience and home run potential to an offense
that lacked big-play potential throughout much of last year.
Weakness: Receiving. It’s not as if the backs
have stone hands; however, they caught just 19 balls for a
meager 137 yards in 2006. That has to change in 2007,
particularly as Robinson gets acclimated in his new role as
pilot of the offense.
Outlook: How well will Brinkley hold up as the
feature back now that Carter is done for the season? He’ll be
just fine, as long as the offensive line does its job by
creating more space for the junior.
The Orange receivers are big, fast and loaded with upside
potential. Now all they need to flourish is a little more
consistency and someone that can get them the ball with some
authority. All it took was four games to realize that senior
Taj Smith has a chance to be real special in this offense.
After watching him score four touchdowns and compile 295
all-purpose yards before breaking his collarbone last September,
the Orange can’t wait to see what he can do over a 12-game
schedule. A game-breaking junior college transfer, Smith will
force Syracuse to concoct ways to get the ball in his hands in
Smith’s injury cleared a path in 2006 for Mike Williams
to become the first freshman to lead the school in receiving
yards since Scott Schwedes did it in 1983. An acrobat with
great leaping ability, the 6-2, 205-pounder averaged almost 20
yards a reception and scored four touchdowns, despite playing
sparingly in the first half of the year and being saddled with
Perry Patterson as his quarterback. In year two, the sky is the
limit for Williams.
An offensive afterthought his first two seasons, junior tight
end Tom Ferron emerged in 2006 as Syracuse’s leading
receiver, grabbing 30 receptions for 351 yards and two scores.
While not great in any one area, he blocks and runs well, and
will haul in any pass within arm’s length.
Projected Top Reserves: Unlike recent years,
receiver depth will not be a concern for this team. The twos
will be a solid group led by sophomore Lavar Lobdell and
senior Rice Moss. Lobdell was the gem of the 2005
recruiting class, a 6-3, 200-pound athlete that can go up and
grab the ball in traffic. After two years of seasoning, it’s
time that he emerges as a legitimate threat as the No. 3
Moss is the veteran of the group with 53 receptions
and 20 career starts. While not spectacular, he’s a reliable
6-2, 200-pound target with the experience to benefit the younger
Donte Davis was pressed into action last year, starting
two games and catching nine passes as a true freshman. He’s got
good wheels, but at 6-0 and 170 pounds, needs to add weight to
handle more playing time. Tight end
Jawad Nesheiwat won his appeal to the NCAA for one more
season of eligibility, a win for both he and the program. A
five-game starter a year ago, he gives the Orange two quality
players at the position that can catch passes and block
Watch Out For… the Orange receivers to cause
serious match up problems for opposing secondaries this season,
especially if Lobdell enjoys a breakout season. This is
potentially as good a group as they’ve ever had in Upstate New
York, putting pressure on offensive coordinator Brian White to
max out its potential.
Strength: Athleticism. Highlighted by Smith and
Williams, this is a unit that’s brimming with a number of tall
receivers capable of skying over defensive backs and making
plays downfield. The only possession receivers the Orange have
on this year’s roster are about 250 pounds and play tight end.
Weakness: Consistency at wide receiver. Aside
from Moss, the wideouts haven’t played a ton of football at this
level which means dropped passes and running the wrong routes
can still be a nagging problem. While the receivers are
physically gifted, they do need to tighten up their fundamentals
and play at a high level every Saturday.
Outlook: The receiving corps is one of the big
reasons there’s a rare buzz surrounding the Orange offense. As
long as Andrew Robinson isn’t a total bust at quarterback, this
unit will be very productive and a blast to watch for a change.
If there’s one unit that could make or break the Orange in 2007
it’s the offensive line which has killed the offense for the
last couple of years. The line has been below average in run
blocking and downright noxious at pass protection, trends that
must be reversed if the program’s plethora of skill position
talent will be unleashed. Greg Robinson craves stability up
front, a longshot for a group that’ll have more combinations
than a padlock factory from now until the opener.
safest bets to be in the lineup when Washington visits Aug. 31
are the guards, senior Carroll Madison on the left side
and junior Ryan Durand on the right. A starter since his
sophomore season, Madison is a bright, hard-working lineman
that’s played guard, tackle and center during his career. With
a year of starting experience under his belt, Durand has taken
the first step toward becoming Syracuse’s most reliable
lineman. At 6-5 and 312 pounds, he can be physically imposing
opening holes for the backs, but needs to keep working on his
pass blocking skills.
After starting the last four games of 2006 at right tackle,
senior Marvin McCall is permanently shifting to center,
his natural position. He’s played in just ten career games,
raising concerns about his ability to step right in and
quarterback this line.
The job of protecting Andrew Robinson’s
blindside belongs to Corey Chavers, a junior that started
the first eight games of 2006. The line’s most athletic member,
he’s still too raw to feel super comfortable about Robinson’s
safety this season.
Although his hold on the opening at right
tackle is a tenuous one, the staff really likes the potential of
senior Larry Norton. In his second season out of
Bakersfield Community College, he needs to turn the corner and
dominate at 6-3 and 320 pounds now that he has some game
experience and last year’s turf toe has healed.
Projected Top Reserves: The second unit ought to
stay in good shape this year because it’s going to be
interchangeable with the starters in 2007. At least that’s the
plan of Greg Robinson.
Massive Eugene Newsome logged six
starts in 2006 before getting benched, however, he’s currently
In a sea of young faces, junior
Ryan Ehrie stands out as the lone reserve with game
experience. He’s not going to win a starting spot, but after
two quiet years, it’s time for him to approach the play that
made him one of the top prospects of 2004 in Pennsylvania.
After Ehrie, there’s going to be a freshmen invasion at Syracuse
as the heralded members of the Class of 2006 remove they’re
redshirts. Guards Adam Rosner and Ryan Bartholomew,
tackle Jonathan Meldrum and center Jim McKenzie
are already in the hip pockets of the starters after just one
spring and season on the scout team. Rosner is a 6-6, 308-pound
drive blocker who’s closest to a starting gig if he shows he has
the feet to play tackle.
Watch Out For… the freshmen. With as many as four
on the two-deep this season, their development will be the most
closely watched story all year for the offensive line. There’s
no doubt this talented group represents the future, but will it
be an integral part of the program’s present as well?
Strength: The guards. With so much uncertainty
along the interior this year, Madison and Durand are two veteran
linemen the Orange can rely on to be the pillars of the ground
Weakness: Pass blocking. The numbers over the
last two seasons do not lie. Syracuse collectively struggles to
pick up blitzes and keep its quarterbacks from ducking for cover
a few seconds after dropping back to pass.
Outlook: A new line coach and an infusion of new
blood will lead to better results from the unit, but not enough
to make it one of the team’s strengths in 2007. That might not
happen until 2008 when the freshmen become sophomores.