2008 CFN Syracuse Preview
Former Syracuse WR Mike Williams
Former Syracuse WR Mike Williams
Posted May 20, 2008

Syracuse actually has several good players, like WR Mike Williams, but it hasn't been able to catch a break and it has gotten progressively worse on offense. Can this finally be the season things turn back around? Check out the CFN Syracuse preview.

Syracuse Orange

Preview 2008

By Richard Cirminiello

- 2008 Syracuse Preview | 2008 Syracuse Offense
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8 Syracuse Defense | 2008 Syracuse Depth Chart 
2007 Syracuse Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Syracuse Preview 

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Learn more about one of SU's early opponents  2008 CFN Akron Preview

Head coach: Greg Robinson
4th year: 7-28
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 17, Def. 18, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 28
Ten Best Orange Players
1. NT Arthur Jones, Jr.
2. LB Jake Flaherty, Jr.
3. QB Andrew Robinson, Jr.
4. OG Ryan Durand, Sr.
5. RB Curtis Brinkley, Sr.
6. RB Delone Carter, Jr.
7. CB Mike Holmes, Soph.
8. PK Patrick Shandle, Sr.
9. P Rob Long, Soph.
10. OT Corey Chavers, Sr.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 30 at Northwestern
Sept. 6 Akron
Sept. 13 Penn State
Sept. 20 Northeastern
Sept. 27 Pitt
Oct. 11 at West Virginia
Oct. 18 at South Florida
Nov. 1 Louisville
Nov. 8 at Rutgers
Nov. 15 Connecticut
Nov. 22 at Notre Dame
Nov. 29 at Cincinnati

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record:

Aug. 31 Washington L 42-12
Sept.8 at Iowa L 35-0
Sept. 15
Illinois L 41-20
Sept. 22 at Louisville W 38-35
Sept. 29
at Miami Univ. L 17-14
Oct. 6 West Virginia L 55-14
Oct. 13
Rutgers L 38-14
Oct. 20 Buffalo W 20-12
Nov. 3 at Pitt L 20-17
Nov. 10
South Florida L 41-10
Nov. 17 at Connecticut L 30-7
Nov. 24 Cincinnati L 52-31

Do or die.  Now or never.  Must win.  Every tired sports cliché applies to Orange head coach Greg Robinson, whose 7-28 career record has left him as close to job extinction as a coach can get while still remaining employed. That Robinson wasn’t canned after going 2-10 a year ago was a shocker, meaning it might take an improbable bowl game to stave off the axe. 
A former Eastern power under Dick MacPherson and (to a lesser extent) Paul Pasqualoni, Syracuse has been sinking fast in the 21st century, playing in just two bowl games the decade and becoming the bottom feeder in the Big East.  Worse yet, the program has been lapped by the rest of the league, including regional rivals Connecticut and Rutgers, and fan interest has never been lower.  Robinson was brought in from the NFL to energize the program, but after three years, it’s in worse shape than when he arrived.
If there’s going to be a paradigm shift in Upstate New York, the offense will be the catalyst.  While help is needed along the offensive line, hope can be found behind center and at the skill positions. 
Andrew Robinson is back for his second season as the starting quarterback after throwing for 2,192 yards and nearly twice as many touchdowns as interceptions, but now he’ll be without his two best receivers, Taj Smith and Mike Williams. This was supposed to be the big national breakout year for Williams, but he couldn’t find the classroom and was suspended from the team.

The question marks in the passing game only makes an anemic offense that much more reliant on the running game.  It’s a big “if”, but if running backs Delone Carter and Curtis Brinkley can return to their pre-injury forms, the Orange will become a balanced offense capable of winning shootouts.  And thanks to one of the nation’s softest defenses, there will be plenty of shootouts.  Syracuse was last in the league in total and scoring defense in 2007, a growing and disturbing trend under the defensive-minded Robinson.            
The talent and depth, especially on both lines, just isn’t there for Syracuse to make the surprise run to the postseason that’s needed to salvage Robinson’s job.  Three or four wins is about as much as the staff can milk from this group, which could create openings for a whole new set of coaches in 2009.     

What to watch for on offense:
The running game. The Orange was second-to-last in the nation in rushing offense averaging just 62.75 yards per game, but that wasn’t helped by 54 sacks bringing down the overall total. Now with Mike Williams out of the picture, and the receiving corps a mess, the coaching staff has figure out how to pound away with the running game and hope for an explosive element to come out of it. SU can’t win with its passing game without Williams.  

What to watch for on defense
The defensive back seven to be an issue up until the opener, and beyond. Considering the SU defense was last in the Big East and 111th in the nation in yards allowed, the last thing this team needed was to have to start from scratch. The line will turn out to be fine with some good prospects working around tackle Arthur Jones, but the secondary is trying to rebuild with several different options, including a few from the offense, while the linebacking corps is a work in progress with position battles on the outside to work around Jake Flaherty in the middle.

The team will be far better if
… the offensive line overachieves.  The Orange just isn’t going to win with defense, but the offense has the potential to keep things competitive in track meets.  The key will be to protect Robinson, allowing him to develop without being under constant pressure, and opening an occasional hole for whichever back is ready to go.  Considering how often Robinson was decked or flushed from the pocket, it’s amazing he played as well as he did in his debut as the regular.  With time to settle in the pocket and locate a receiver, he can take the next step in his maturation process.  

The Schedule: There can't be many, if any, home gaffes with a rough road slate to deal with. Unfortunately the Orange has to play Penn State in the Dome to go along with supposed layups against Akron and Northeastern. The away dates would be tough for anyone, much less a team trying to rebuild. It doesn't get tougher in Big East play than going to West Virginia, South Florida, Rutgers and Cincinnati, and there's a trip to South Bend to face Notre Dame to make it three road games in the final four weeks. There are five away games over the second half of the season, while the season opener at Northwestern isn't going to be a breeze.

Best offensive player: QB Andrew Robinson. With his top receiving weapons gone, and the loss of Williams, Robinson has to make everyone around him better. He has the talent and the experience to do just that, at least that’s the hope. He has to be nothing short of sensational, and nearly flawless, for the passing game to have any pop.               

Best defensive player: NT Arthur Jones.  A relative unknown before last season, Jones erupted for 51 tackles and 17.5 tackles for loss, earning a spot on the All-Big East Second Team.  Quick off the snap, he’s also plenty strong enough to fight through double teams and make stops for negative yards.  At a sturdy 6-4 and 291 pounds, he has the unmistakable frame of a tackle, yet slides up and down the line with the agility of some ends.                            

Key players to a successful season: RBs Delone Carter and Curtis Brinkley.  At this time last year, the Orange appeared set in the backfield for at least the next few seasons.  That was before Carter suffered a serious hip injury and Brinkley broke his leg.  For the offense to keep defenses honest, it needs much more from a running attack that disappeared once its two horses went down.  Considering the problems Syracuse has pass blocking, it can’t produce 62 yards a game on the ground and expect to win many games.        

The season will be a success if
... the Orange grinds out a sixth win to earn bowl eligibility.  While it’s a reach considering how deep the Big East has become, Syracuse needs tangible evidence that it’s moving in the right direction under Coach Robinson.  Tacking a win or two on to last year’s 2-10 mark isn’t going to move the needle.  The program is pining for the momentum that comes with a bowl game, no matter how small the venue or the payout may be.                 

Key game: Aug. 30 at Northwestern.  A fast start is an absolute must for a program that’s won just seven games over the last three years and is running on empty in the confidence area.  The Orange will be underdogs in Evanston, but the Wildcats aren’t out-of-reach opponents.  With an upset, Syracuse can look forward to a full month of home cooking and a chance to build a case for bowl eligibility.

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Sacks: Opponents 54 for 324 yards – Syracuse 9 for 65 yards
- Total scoring: Opponents 418 – Syracuse 197
- Rushing TDs: Opponents 30 – Syracuse 5