2010 Syracuse Preview – Offense
Syracuse C Ryan Bartholomew
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Syracuse Orange Offense
Preview 2010 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: The offense that was so dominant for the ground game a few years ago struggled to find its groove last year. It was solid throwing the ball with Chris Masson emerging as a nice passer, but the rushing attack turned into a committee approach that didn't really work. Expect more of the same. The great line of last year loses three key starters and might need a while to figure out what it's doing, while there will be a steady rotation of runners including from backup quarterbacks Blaine Gautier and Brad McGuire in a Wildcat formation. The receiving corps might not be anything special, but tight end Ladarius Green should be an all-star.
Star of the offense: Senior C Ryan Bartholomew
Passing: Ryan Nassib
36-68, 422 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: Delone Carter
236 carries, 1,021 yds, 11 TDs
Receiving: Alec Lemon
29 catches, 295 yds, 1 TD
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore QB Ryan Nassib
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Alec Lemon
Best pro prospect: Bartholomew
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Bartholomew, 2) Lemon, 3) Senior LG Adam Rosner
Strength of the offense: The backs, tight ends, the interior of the line
Weakness of the offense: Inexperienced quarterbacks, the tackles, lack of big plays, turnovers, third down conversions, finishing drives
Projected Starter: A year ago, Syracuse went the free agent route, giving the ball to Duke transfer Greg Paulus for one season. Now, it's back to the farm system and 6-2, 224-pound sophomore Ryan Nassib, who played in nine games and went 36-of-68 for 422 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. He's solid where the coaches need him to be, performing with poise, sound fundamentals, and a good feel for the offense. As a passer, he exhibits a quick release, throws a catchable ball, and has good footwork. More than anything, he just needs additional snaps and better support from the rest of his teammates.
Projected Top Reserves: Firmly entrenched as the backup following a solid offseason is 6-4, 208-pound redshirt freshman Charley Loeb. A left-handed pocket passer, he has the size to see the whole field and the touch to present receivers with catchable balls. Accurate in the short and intermediate range, he still needs to prove he can complete the deep passes.
A distant third in the pecking order is 6-2, 204-pound redshirt freshman James Jarrett . A walk-on, with good overall athleticism, he's preparing to be ready in the event that an emergency happens in the fall.
Watch Out For … Nassib to begin settling down now that he's the man in charge. This time last year, the sophomore was looking over his shoulder as Paulus made all of the headlines. With the job in his grasp, he should grow exponentially as the leader of the offense.
Strength: Poise. More than anything else, the one thing that stands out about Nassib and Loeb is their maturity for such young players. Neither quarterback seems to get flustered under heat, throwing with accuracy on the move and with men in their face. On this team, poise under pressure is an absolute job requirement.
Weakness: The snap. Yeah, it's not all the quarterback's fault, but Syracuse has to find a way to eliminate the number of fumbled snaps that plagued it throughout 2009. Too often, the Orange had trouble with the exchange, killing drives before they ever had a chance to get started.
Outlook: While it was nice having Paulus around and made for good copy, it's time for Syracuse to start developing its young quarterbacks. Nassib shows the potential to be a three-year starter and an accurate distributor in the passing game. Even if he starts slowly, as long as he improves as the season progresses, the Orange will be able to chalk it up as a small victory.
Unit Rating: 5.5
Projected Starters: Coming out of the spring session, the Orange's top back was 5-8, 192-pound junior Antwon Bailey, a letterman in each of the last two seasons. In a reserve role last year, he carried 67 times for 312 yards and a touchdown, adding 27 receptions for 200 yards. Ideally suited as a third down back or change-of-pace runner, he's tougher than he appears and changes direction in an instant, using his stature to hide behind offensive linemen before slipping out into daylight.
Coming out of spring, the leading contender at fullback was 6-2, 232-pound junior Adam Harris, a former transfer from Cornell. Although he made the squad as a walk-on in 2009, he failed to appear in any games. He'll mainly be used as a blocker, but was a talented runner in high school, who could be utilized in short-yardage situations.
Projected Top Reserves: Running second to Bailey for the time being is 5-10, 191-pound sophomore Averin Collier, one of the program's key recruits from the 2008 class. A solid, physical runner, with a little wiggle in the open field, he debuted with 82 yards rushing and two scores on 12 carries, and eight catches for 74 yards. His best audition for more playing time came in the upset of Rutgers, when he went for 66 yards and a score on just carries, adding three catches for 20 yards.
Lagging a distant third on the depth chart is 5-9, 203-pound sophomore Ricky Azzoto , who joined the squad in the offseason. Running low to the ground and with good pad level, he turned some heads in March and April by fighting through tackles and constantly keeping his legs moving.
Watch Out For … the status of senior Delone Carter. Yup, the Orange has a returning 1,000-yard rusher, except he might not be returning. The team's best offensive weapon when he's available, he was charged with criminal assault in February and has been suspended until at least the fall semester. He's been working out independently in order to stay in shape, but no one knows for sure if he'll be available come September.
Strength: Flash. Bailey and Collier are both the type of scatbacks, who will hit the hole and break into daylight in an instant. The pair is dangerous in the open field and effective as receivers out of the backfield.
Weakness: A true workhorse ... if Carter isn't around. As it stands now, the senior has a long road back, which means the Orange's leading returning rusher had just 312 yards and 67 carries in 2009. At 192 and 191 pounds, respectively, Bailey and Collier could have a difficult time lasting an entire season.
Outlook: In Bailey and Collier, Syracuse has a pair of quality young backs, but does it harbor a feature runner capable of toting it 20-25 times a game? The best case scenario would have the two serving as valuable complements to Carter if the senior can make it back from off-field issues. The offense needs him, so stay tuned.
Unit Rating: 6.5
Projected Starters: Syracuse is in the market for a go-to receiver. Sophomore Alec Lemon might be just the guy to fill the void. He had an auspicious debut out of high school, catching 29 passes for 295 yards and a touchdown. Most encouraging, he had his best effort in the finale, pulling down nine passes for 140 yards and that lone touchdown versus Connecticut. He has soft hands and a long, 6-2 and 196-pound frame that'll be of even greater value when he can pack on a few more pounds of muscle.
Joining Lemon in the starting lineup at "Z" receiver will be 6-1, 170-pound junior Van Chew, who's on the verge of getting the most extensive action of his career. Little-used up to this point, he only caught six passes for 66 yards, doing most of his work on special. However, he's coming off his best offseason, and is the kind of smooth athlete, who can be an outside threat if he can add weight and avoid being stood up at the line of scrimmage by defensive backs.
With a young, unproven quarterback at the helm, Syracuse could spend a lot of time looking for its tight end. That's good news for 6-4, 241-pound junior Nick Provo, who has the athletic ability, soft hands, and size of an H-back. He was just beginning to gain traction, catching four passes for 55 yards in September, before a knee injury in the South Florida cut short his season before it could take flight. He's healthy again and eager to pick up where he left off.
Projected Top Reserves: While 6-0, 177-pound junior Marcus Sales was the team's second-leading receiver of 2009, he'll go into the summer second to Chew on the outside. He caught 28 passes for 324 yards and three touchdowns, but still lacks the consistency that the program has been seeking since he signed as a top recruit from 2008. A fluid athlete, with big mitts, he needs to bury his head into the playbook and film room in order to earn a promotion in August.
The Orange has missed 6-3, 231-pound junior Cody Catalina, who sat out the last quarter of 2009 and spring recovering from a knee injury. The quarterback-turned-tight end adapted well to his new digs, starting four games and catching 13 passes for 104 yards and a score. A good all-around athlete, he uses his body well and has the hands to earn the confidence of the passers.
Watch Out For … Provo to be used in a variety of different ways now that his knee and shoulder are healthy. A better athlete than most 6-4, 241-pounders, the Orange will look to move him around to tight end, H-back, and even U-back in an effort to create mismatches. If he stays out of the trainer's room, he's poised for a breakout year.
Strength: Outside speed. Lemon, Chew, and Sales give the Orange a trio of gliders, with the speed and gait to get behind the secondary. Although the polish may not quite be there yet, the passing game will have access to gifted athletes, who can create mismatches on deep routes.
Weakness: Proven wideouts. Last year, Syracuse had Mike Williams before he quit the team. This year's edition doesn't have a player of that caliber, someone who forces the opposition to assign more troops in his direction. Lemon could be that guy, but he's still just one year into his tenure.
Outlook: While the future looks good at receiver, this is still a work-in-progress. Sure, Lemon has the look of a budding star, but Chew needs to be more than a practice star, Sales has to bring on every down, and Provo must remain healthy. For now, it's an average group that hopes to grow up alongside sophomore QB Ryan Nassib throughout the year.
Unit Rating: 6
Projected Starters: Just a pair of starters return to an offensive line that will make or break the offense this fall. The headliner of the group is 6-3, 298-pound senior Ryan Bartholomew, a second team All-Big East guard making the move to center. The shift will allow him to showcase his versatility and improve his overall draft status with the NFL. A physical blocker and consistently one of the strongest of the Orange linemen, he's able to maul opposing players with his heavy hands and strong upper body.
The team's other returning starter is 6-5, 326-pound senior Adam Rosner, a regular for half the season. Although he hasn't reached the height of his expectations when he signed in 2006, he does bring experience and a certain physicality to the interior of the line. At his best in small spaces, he has the size and raw strength to bully smaller linemen and create running room for the backs.
Over at right guard is another massive senior, 6-5, 338-pound Andrew Tiller . A second-year transfer from Nassau (NY) Community College, he started in three of the games he appeared in last season. Though he has the sheer strength to overpower his man, he also has to watch his weight and improve his footwork in order to avoid getting whipped by the league's quicker tackles.
The greatest concern for this group will be at tackle, where two unproven players are set to take over. On the left side, 6-5, 287-pound redshirt freshman Justin Pugh is poised to begin making good on being one of the program's top recruits of 2009. While expectedly raw at this early stage of his career, he also has the long arms, light feet, and athleticism to eventually mature into a terrific blindside protector.
At right tackle, 6-4, 290-pound junior Michael Hay will be looking to make a step up in competition after spending time at Nassau (NY) Community College. Well-sized for the position and strong in the upper body, he also had an offer to play at Arizona State before deciding to remain closer to home.
Projected Top Reserves: The most experienced member of the tackles will be 6-5, 279-pound junior Josh White. Although he failed to play in his first two seasons on campus, he finally broke into the lineup in 2009, making six starts. A long and lean athlete, with excellent reach, he needs to continue working on his fundamentals and strength in the weight room.
The eventual successor to Bartholomew at the pivot is 6-4, 336-pound junior Nick Lepak , who has played in 13 games over the last two seasons, starting a pair at tackle as a rookie in 2008. A powerful blocker, he needs to watch his weight and improve his endurance in an effort to get more reps in the fall.
At guard, it'll be worth keeping tabs on the progress of 6-5, 298-pound Zack Chibane , who played in 11 games in his first season out of high school. Built like a tackle, with the size to add even more weight, he plays with advanced technique and a hot motor, which has drawn regular praise from the coaching staff.
Watch Out For … the development of the tackles. It's the single biggest concern surrounding the offensive line, if not the entire offense. As it stands now, the Orange could be putting its edge protection in the hands of Pugh and Hay, who have yet to play a down at this level.
Strength: The interior of the front wall. With Bartholomew at center and Rosner and Tiller at guard, Syracuse boasts three big and physical road graders with experience. Bartholomew, in particular, will bring leadership and a good example to the middle of the unit.
Weakness: Pass protection. This is an ongoing problem in Upstate New York that isn't likely to be solved this season. Not only are Pugh and Hay going to suffer through a baptism by fire, but the young quarterback is going to take some ill-advised sacks, making the overall situation even more dire.
Outlook: After making strides the last two seasons, Syracuse could take a small step backwards in 2010. The Orange lost a bunch of letterwinners from an already average ensemble, sapping depth and heaping pressure on young players to deliver right away.
Unit Rating: 6
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