Going beyond the win column and digging a little deeper, the Syracuse Orange made real progress last year in their first season under Doug Marrone.
Almost overnight, Marrone and his defensive coordinator, Scott Shafer, transformed the Orange defense from being absolutely abysmal, to one of the top rushing defenses in the entire country.
The defense, which returns 10 starters from a year ago, will be led by Butkus Award nominees Derrell Smith and Doug Hogue at linebacker. The defensive line should be solid, led by up-and-comers Chandler Jones (Arthur Jones’ brother) and Mikhail Marinovich; and the secondary returns veteran Mike Holmes and talented youngsters like Phillip and Shamarko Thomas.
The offense is where most of Syracuse’s question marks come into play.
They’ll be breaking in a new starting quarterback once again, in Ryan Nassib; they have a number of new starters on the offensive line and questionable depth at wide receiver.
However, reports out of training camp suggest that the offensive line should actually be improved this season, despite the new starters. A few receivers have also been turning heads, specifically Alec Lemon and Van Chew.
Delone Carter is back after rushing for over 1,000 yards last season, along with their number two option, Antwon Bailey. Even if the passing game struggles this season, the Orange should be able to move the ball on the ground effectively. That, along with their stout defense, should keep them in a lot of games and maybe even help them escape the Big East basement.