When the Syracuse Orange storm into Akron, Ohio, on Sept. 4, its offense is going to look quite a bit different than it did last year.
Gone are playmakers Greg Paulus and Mike Williams, along with a decent portion of the offensive line.
However, despite the changes, the Syracuse offense could end up looking better than it’s been in a very long time.
There are lingering question marks, specifically with depth in a few areas, but in terms of the starting lineup, reports from camp have been encouraging.
Here's what the Orange two-deep might look like two weeks from now:
xWR: Van Chew Marcus Sales
LT: Justin Pugh Sean Hickey
LG: Zach Chibane Adam Rosner
C: Ryan Bartholomew Macky MacPherson
RG: Andrew Tiller Jarel Lowery
RT: Michael Hay Ian Allport
TE: Nick Provo Jose Cruz
QB: Ryan Nassib Charlie Loeb
HB: Delone Carter Antwon Bailey
FB: Adam Harris Tombe Kose
zWR: Alec Lemon Aaron Weaver
Ryan Nassib quickly silenced the doubters and firmly established himself as the starting quarterback in training camp.
The redshirt sophomore may have been the single greatest beneficiary of the “Greg Paulus experiment,” last season, even though it must have stung to lose the starting job to him last year.
Sitting behind someone like Paulus, a true leader with experience competing at the highest level in college athletics, could only have helped him.
He had a year to slowly learn the offense, get his feet wet and observe how Paulus prepared himself week in and week out.
Nassib seems to have developed some swagger since last season, which is encouraging since that was one thing he didn’t seem to exude a year ago. He knows this is his team this year, and perhaps he knows better than anyone what they’re capable of.
While Ryan Nassib will be taking the snaps for this offense, the guy that defenses will really have to gameplan for is running back Delone Carter.
Carter is back from his suspension and is in line to reclaim his spot on top of the depth chart. The bruising tailback ran for over 1,000 yards last season and should be primed for an even better year in 2010.
In the spring, he appeared to be a step quicker than he was in 2009—an encouraging sign considering breakaway speed is really the one thing he’s lacked as a tailback.
Also returning in his role as a change of pace to Carter is Antwon Bailey, who has had a solid training camp and could be in for a breakout season.
The Orange offense will also make use of an endangered species in college football—the fullback.
Adam Harris and Tombe Kose appear to be competing for the job, but for now Harris looks like the starter. Harris will help in a number of ways, but will mostly be featured as a blocker. He’s also looked like a potential pass catching threat at times.
The running backs are known quantities. When Delone Carter is barreling through linebackers and Antwon Bailey is zipping by them on their way to the end zone, nobody is going to be surprised.
The guy to keep an eye on for a breakout season is wide receiver Alec Lemon.
As a true freshman last season, Lemon led the team in receptions (not including the deserter, Mike Williams) with 29 for 295 yards and a touchdown.
While those numbers aren’t staggering, he came on late in the year following Williams’ departure, including the final game of the year at UConn in which he made nine receptions for 140 yards and a touchdown.
Lemon is was nothing short of dominant in the spring and is clearly the No. 1 receiver right now. He and Ryan Nassib seem to have great chemistry already and the duo has, at times, victimized the Orange secondary.
Van Chew and Aaron Weaver have also established themselves as the team’s top receivers after Lemon.
Chew has turned into something of a weight room freak and is rumored to have posted some ridiculous numbers in both the bench press and the 40 yard dash. What we know for sure is that he does have solid hands and is undeniable quick, making him a potentially dangerous threat going deep.
Weaver, with size like a tight end, could be a solid third receiver who will present problems for opposing cornerbacks near the end zone.
The question is who will emerge as the No. 4 receiver in Marrone’s offense?
Marcus Sales could, and probably should, be that guy but has been inconsistent in camp.
With 324 yards and three touchdowns he actually led the Orange in both categories last year (excluding Williams), but for whatever reason he hasn’t been able to nail down a spot in the rotation.
Also in the discussion for the fourth receiver spot are former defensive back Dorian Graham (the fastest player on the team) and a walk-on, Cody Morgan.
Despite replacing a few starters, the offensive line actually looks to be better than it’s been in years.
That’s not necessarily saying much, as it’s been the greatest weakness of this team for the better part of the decade.
However, Doug Marrone himself may be the best offensive line coach in the Big East; and the man who actually carries that title, Greg Adkins, is no slouch himself. Marrone has insinuated that the unit is already better than it was last year and Delone Carter has also expressed excitement about the holes they’re opening up for him in practice.
That’s particularly encouraging considering the defense they’re facing returns 10 starters from last season, when they led the Big East in rushing defense.
What the unit lacks is depth.
The first team appears to be fairly established right now with the only major question mark remaining is whether senior Adam Rosner can hold off sophomore Zach Chibane. Rosner has missed a few days of practice this week though and may be playing catch-up.
Also of note on the second team, true freshman Machy Macpherson may also find his name on the two-deep in place of junior Nick Lepak.