Syracuse Orange: 5 Reasons They Will Compete for BCS Title

Kenneth HicksCorrespondent IIApril 28, 2012

Syracuse Orange: 5 Reasons They Will Compete for BCS Title

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    The Syracuse Orange football team started the 2011 season 5-2, upsetting top-25 West Virginia in the process before losing five straight games to finish the season at 5-7.

    The Orange will also be heading into 2012 losing crucial players on defense: defensive linemen Chandler Jones to the New England Patriots in the 2012 NFL draft, Mikhail Marinovich to graduation, the suspension of safety Philip Thomas, who will also enter the 2012 NFL Draft.

    Even worse for the Orange is that on offense they will be losing their 1,000-yard running back Antwan Bailey, offensive linemen Andrew Tiller, tight end Nick Provo and wide receiver Van Chew, all to graduation.

    Things can't get worse, right?

    Wrong!

    The Orange will also have one of the toughest schedules in the nation in 2012, facing the likes of USC, who will be No. 1 in preseason college football rankings, playing at Northwestern, at Missouri, at Minnesota, and playing four out of their last five games of the season on the road.

    However dark the future looks for this team in 2012, here are five reasons why Syracuse will overcome the odds and compete for a BCS title in the near future.

The Returning Players on Offense

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    The most important piece of the puzzle for this Syracuse Orange football team in 2012 will be senior quarterback Ryan Nassib.

    In 2011, Nassib's completion percentage rose to 62 percent. He had nearly 2,700 yards and had 22 touchdowns compared to just nine interceptions.

    Nassib is very accurate in the pocket on short to intermediate passes and just as solid on the move. He struggles with the deep ball and needs to become a more complete passer for Syracuse to compete in 2012.

    The optimism for Nassib to improve can only be enhanced by his go-to receiver Alec Lemon.

    Lemon, whose great hands and sharp route-running abilities led the team in receptions (68) and receiving yards (834) and led to six touchdowns in 2011, will look for even better numbers in 2012.

    On the other side, Nassib will have the services of recently re-instated wide receiver Marcus Sales, who sat out all of the 2011 season for drug charges.

    Sales is Nassib's big-time threat down the field, and he was sorely missed in 2011, as the last time these two hooked up was in the Pinstripe Bowl Victory over Kansas State, where Sales had five receptions for 172 yards and three touchdowns.

    Protecting Nassib will be guard Zach Chibane, center Macky MacPherson and Justin Pugh.

    The running game will be a question mark for the Orange, as there will be a running back committee of Prince-Tyson Gulley and Jerome Smith. 

The Returning Players on Defense

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    The Syracuse Orange defense returns the hard-hitting duo of linebackers in second-year Dyshawn Davis and three-year starter Marquis Spruill. The two combined for 105 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 2011 and will look to be even better in 2012.

    The linebacker core is the best part of this attacking defense of Syracuse defensive coordinator Scott Shafer, who is first focused on stopping the run and then forcing the opposition to pass, making them one-dimensional.

    Syracuse will be returning two solid run-stoppers on the defensive line in Jay Bromley and Deon Goggins, which will put heavy pressure on opposing offenses.

    In pass coverage, Syracuse was snake-bitten in 2011 due to a ton of injuries and suspensions, but look for strong safety Shamarko Thomas to come up big in the defensive secondary in 2012. 

The Newcomers

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    The Syracuse Orange will have a new playmaker this year that can do a little bit of everything: play quarterback, line up in the backfield, play wide receiver or even run the Wildcat. Freshman Ashton Broyld, who stands 6'4'' and 229 pounds, would have suited up for the Orange in 2011 had he not gotten in trouble.

    Broyld, the former Rush Henrietta high school phenom out of Rochester, NY, will definitely get some snaps on the field in a variety of formations come the start of the season.

    Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone had this to say about Broyld: "He is a big, strong, physical athlete. I think he is going to be a great asset to us offensively."

    Also on the offensive side of the ball, the Orange was able to snag four-star recruit tight end Ron Thompson. Thompson, who is 6'4'' and 240 pounds, will be crucial to the passing game for the Orange as the offense relies heavily on tight ends in the passing game.

    On the defensive side of the ball, Syracuse was able to get another four-star recruit in safety Wayne Morgan, who is the 11th-rated cornerback prospect in the country and third-rated prospect overall in New York State. Morgan will fit right into the scheme of things on a secondary that has a lot of holes to fill.

    Morgan will be battling with another redshirt freshman, Durell Eskride.

    Filling out the defensive end spot will be junior-college transfer Markus Pierce-Brewster and fellow junior-college transfer Zian Jones, who will be solid pieces to the defensive line.

    The future looks bright for the Syracuse Orange for 2012 and beyond with these newcomers when it looks to join the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in 2013. 

Solid Coaching Staff

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    Head coach Doug Marrone has brought Syracuse football the image of being an aggressive, disciplined football team that will attack at all times. After finishing 5-7 in 2011, Marrone had to take a long look at what was done wrong with the team in all three phases and fix it.

    Nothing was more evident of this then when Marrone decided to close practice from the media and the public for spring football. Marrone said, "I wanted to make sure we have a true understanding of offense, defense, and special teams without any distractions from the outside."

    Moreover, the offense will be moving to a different scheme this 2012 season and beyond. In 2011, Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett ran a West-Coast offense that relied on quick passes from the pocket and just bland runs. Results were three-and-out and nothing to show for it.

    Marrone decided there needed to be a change for the Syracuse offense with all the dual threat quarterbacks you see right now in the NFL with Cam Newton or in the 2012 NFL Draft Robert Griffin III.

    Nolan Weidner at The Post-Standard interviewed Marrone about this. “Being more of a running threat, and a movement threat, rolling out and doing things,” Marrone said when asked how the position would change. “It’s been very successful for a lot of teams. Those are the things we’re moving forward on.”

    As a result, Marrone said the program is looking for three qualities in a quarterback on this team and for recruiting: a dual threat who provides leadership and can extend plays.

    The offense moves in the direction of a mobile quarterback that can neutralize fast, aggressive defenses with more roll-outs, play-actions and quarterback-designed runs. On the defensive side of the ball, Marrone will still utilize the successful aggressive 4-3 defense with Scott Shafer.

    Shafer and the aggressive nature of his defensive philosophy of pressuring the quarterback results in sacks, fumbles, interceptions and defensive touchdowns. With getting healthy players back on defense, this team will return back to the 2010 defensive form.

    Also, the defense will be adding two new coaches on the staff this year: former Michigan linebacker Steve Morrison is now the LB coach and former NFL assistant Donnie Henderson is the secondary coach.

Upgrades to Facilities

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    With a solid coaching staff in place at Syracuse and moving to the ACC in 2013, there will be a $5 million project to upgrade the locker room, student-athlete lounge, cafeteria, Hall of Fame lobby and team auditorium in the main football facility.

    Syracuse athletics director Daryl Gross went on to say, "We will integrate the great history of Syracuse football into the present vision of Coach Doug Marrone's football team, which is vital as we climb back into prominence and eventually transition into the ACC. It is very important that we maintain the highest level of student-athlete welfare for our football program.”

    Head coach Doug Marrone agreed. “The renovations to our facility will directly impact the accomplishments of our football program, as well as provide an enormous positive effect on our recruiting endeavors,” Marrone said in a statement.

    The future looks bright for the Orange in terms of talent, recruiting, coaching and upgrades to get back to football dominance and compete for a BCS Title.