Syracuse Orange Football: 5 Gifts on Coach Marrone's Holiday Wish List
The 2011 Syracuse Orange football season left a bitter taste in every fan's and coach's mouth as the Orange found a way to drop five straight and fall out of bowl contention one year removed from a program reviving postseason Pinstripe Bowl triumph.
As with every football program, the end of the season leaves holes that must be filled by another player as upperclassmen leave. The Orange seniors and underclassmen testing draft waters have left Coach Doug Marrone looking for some help at key areas.
So as all of us fill out our holiday wish lists, what can we expect Doug Marrone to write down? Click through to see the top five things on his list, outside of another fancy zip-up of course.
Strong or Free Safety
This area was a huge bright spot for the Syracuse Orange this season. Phillip Thomas was by far the best individual on the defense, although he has been suspended for one full season and will more than likely not be returning to the Orange.
Shamarko Thomas was among the three juniors testing draft waters but not hiring an agent, so his return is still possible if he is not drafted.
This means that the most stable unit within the secondary of the Orange is going to be completely vacant next season if Shamarko Thomas is drafted. This is a huge area concern for a defense that is already looking less than stellar moving into next season.
Backup Jeremi Wilkes will have to take the place of Phillip Thomas, but he did not show the instincts or athleticism that Thomas used to make plays in both the secondary and the backfield.
Even worse, Olando Fisher is a senior as he was the backup to Shamarko Thomas, so unless Thomas does return, the Orange will have a huge gap at strong safety. Marrone needs to hope that he does or unproven players such as James Jarrett will be expected to fill huge shoes in a shaky secondary.
Explosive Wide Receiver
This was a hole this season for the Orange, and losing Dorian Graham does not help matters moving forward. Graham had the most potential of all Orange receivers to be the game-breaker Ryan Nassib could have used.
Losing both Graham and Van Chew puts a serious strain on Alec Lemon to be the main man in the Syracuse air attack, but he cannot be the only target or the Orange will surely become a one-dimensional team relying on the running game.
Jerrod West saw action this season, but he looked to be more along the lines of an over-the-middle/route runner rather than a big-play guy. Unless Jeremiah Kubina can really improve his skills as a wide receiver, Doug Marrone may be out of luck here.
Another potential Hail Mary option is Marcus Sales. Sales, suspended all of this season, will most likely be reinstated for 2012 but no one is sure of how effective he will be.
With Chandler Jones sending mixed signals on his commitment to the Orange, Doug Marrone has to assume that he will be losing both of his stellar defensive ends in Jones and Mikhail Marinovich this offseason.
In a defense that is already losing so much talent in a shaky secondary, the second-best way to disrupt the passing game is to pressure the quarterbacks. While the Syracuse linebackers may be a stellar returning unit, the pass rush starts and ends with the defensive line.
Jones and Marinovich combined for 6.5 sacks this season and the Orange need the same production out of whomever takes their place. Without an effective pass rush, the Orange defense could be just as ineffective as last season.
Obviously Marrone is hoping that Jones returns for his senior season, but the logical player to replace the impact Jones had is Brandon Sharpe, a junior who filled in for Jones when he was injured.
Consistent Option Tight End
Losing Nick Provo, potentially one of the best tight ends in school history, is going to have huge ramifications on the offense.
As mentioned earlier, Alec Lemon is going to have to carry the load in the passing game as the only returning player with a decent amount of experience. It will not take defenses long to look at Lemon's role and take him out of the Syracuse game plan.
This means that the Orange will need another consistent option to help Ryan Nassib manage the passing game. Unfortunately, this slot is lacking major depth on the Orange roster.
Backups David Stephens and Thomas Trendowski are both seniors, leaving freshman Louie Addazio to carry the load. If Addazio is another Florida find for the Orange, then the lack of depth may be something the Orange can overlook in the short term.
The unfortunate news that Adam Harris' career as a football player is over was surely difficult to deal with for both the bright student-athlete as well as his coach on a personal level.
Looking at the Syracuse personnel, this will also leave Doug Marrone with a hole at fullback going forward, as Harris was expected to return next season.
A fullback is not necessarily all that important in modern offenses but Harris was one of the best blockers on the offense and was used in 3rd-and-short situations.
With the lack of punch in the passing game, the running game will be key for success next season. The Orange will need a good blocking fullback to help with an offensive line as they lost All-Big East lineman Andrew Tiller.
A potential candidate is Adonis Ameen-Moore thanks to the emergence of Jerome Smith as the future power back of the Orange.