2007 Syracuse Preview - Offense

Posted Jul 31, 2007

Preview 2007 Syracuse Orange Offense

Syracuse Orange

Preview 2007
- Offense

- 2007 Syracuse Preview | 2007 Syracuse Defense Preview
2007 Syracuse Depth Chart | 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.

Returning Leaders
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
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
quarterback, line depth


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 game.
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 2008.        
Rating: 6

Running Backs

Projected Starters: 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 quarterback.
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.
Rating: 6.5


Projected Starters: 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 2007. 

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 receiver. 

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 Orange receivers. 

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 downfield.                               

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.
Rating: 8

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: 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. 

The two 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 academically ineligible. 

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 game.
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.
Rating: 6


Related Stories
2007 Syracuse Preview
 -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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