The scoreboard read Anselmo 9, Moore 0, but the score of the annual Syracuse Orange spring football game was not what spectators were watching. Rather, fans wanted to make their opinions of a team coming off a late-season collapse that saw a legitimate chance of a second consecutive bowl bid slip out of reach.
What they saw had to impress, especially in areas with giant question marks. First, I have been saying that the wide receiver position was going to make or break the 'Cuse offense. Ryan Nassib is in his senior year and lost Van Chew to the NFL draft, leaving Alec Lemon to carry the load. Lemon missed the game due to an unspecified injury that has also kept him from spring practices.
Kobena played well and was able to haul in a deep fade in the beginning of the fourth quarter to put team Anselmo out of harms reach. (Nassib was in the end zone as he released the 48-yard deep ball.) But Kobena was backed up by reinstated player Marcus Sales. Sales looked good as he hauled in two catches of over 30 yards. Nassib still needs work on his deep fades, though.
Each time he under-threw the fade to the receiver's opposite shoulder, forcing the wideout to turn around and head towards the sidelines. An athletic corner would be able to intercept or at least deflect these kinds of passes. Many times, they almost were. (Although, Nassib juked Jeremy Wilkes out of his shoes by the goal line. GIF, anyone?)
Nassib was also constantly on the run. There were many designed roll outs for him in this game, but he is nowhere near as accurate as he is in the pocket. Twice he missed wide open receivers while throwing on the run, one aimed more for the cheerleaders than tight end Beckett Wales.
Wales will be replacing Nick Provo's role as Nassib's safety outlet and midfield target. Wales looked much better than expected. He will be provide time for star recruit Ron Thompson to learn the system, leading me to think that next year's tight ends will be the primary offensive weapons.
As for the ground game, the Orange struggled. Prince-Tyson Gulley and Jerome Smith split time as the main runners, and Smith looked much slimmer from last year. A source said he has been working on more lateral movement to complement his power game. Syracuse could have a great slash-and-bash combo if the line can open up holes.
The X-factor will be Ashton Broyld. Used today as a shotgun running back and wideout, he could make an impact if the ball is in his hands. He showed the ability to run after the catch and see the field. He has speed and explosiveness—the problem is going to be mixing him in effectively without telegraphing plays to the defense.
On the offensive line, the reality is that they are really hurt this spring. Things could change quickly with this unit when healthy.
The defense was the story of today's game with their dominating ability and scored the only points on an early safety and a fumble recovery. Again, looking at the injury list, the Orange could be missing some key cogs for a while and the summer will be a time for adjusting the strategy.
Cornerback Brian Reddish looked really good and is making a case for a starting shot. If he and Keon Lynn can become a solid one-two duo, Shamarko Thomas will be more free to be the hard-hitting safety he is.
If the defense is this good all year, the Orange have a legitimate shot to hang in games with anybody. On the flip side, some would argue the defense is not really all that good and the fact that the offense struggled so much is cause for an early panic button.
Regardless, it's only April 21, and the Orange don't open the season for another three months.