With new head coach Doug Marrone at the helm, the Syracuse Orange are a team in transition.
In these kinds of situations, opportunities tend to present themselves for talented freshmen to see the field early and often.
One such freshman who will look to make an immediate impact on the Syracuse offense is wide receiver Alec Lemon of Maryland. On Monday the true freshman was named a starter heading into Syracuse’s week one match-up against Minnesota.
“I said it during (camp) that Alec Lemon, the guy that caught 100-something balls his senior year in high school, it's just a matter as a receiver, do they come in and are they physical enough to play," Marrone said after making the decision to name Lemon a starter.
"Can they block? Can they catch? Can they go over the middle? Can they do the things from a physical standpoint that they need to do? Are they smart enough to move around to different positions? And Alec Lemon has done that.”
Marrone has been raving about Lemon ever since he stepped on campus. He’s mentioned several times in his post-practice press conferences how impressed he’s been with Lemon’s physical play, something he perhaps didn’t expect from a true freshman.
Lemon flew under the radar as a recruit, with Scout.com listing Syracuse and Delaware as his only offers. In his senior year, though, he put up some stellar numbers.
He broke the Maryland state record for receiving yards with 1,616, and he tied the state records for receptions and receiving touchdowns with 103 catches and 23 touchdowns.
Lemon originally committed to Syracuse while Greg Robinson was still the head coach, but after Robinson's dismissal and Marrone's hiring he stood firm on his commitment the entire way.
As did Marrone. While he discontinued the recruitment of some prospects that Robinson had been chasing, he too believed that Lemon was worth a scholarship.
“I'm looking for someone who caught the football,” Marrone said of Lemon after he signed his letter of intent. “He's someone who caught the football 103 times. This is what we're looking for at the receiver position: Height...speed...someone who's shown the ability to catch the football."
In addition to having the height and speed Marrone wanted, Lemon has since proven to have a great work ethic and a commitment to hitting the weights.
When his signing was announced, he was listed at 6'1" and 175 lbs. Between that time and the beginning of fall practice, Lemon grew to a more stout 6'2", 193 lbs.
With his size, speed, and commitment to improving, Lemon seems like a guy who should be a major asset to the Syracuse offense going forward. He’ll get his first crack at showing his stuff on September 5th when Syracuse takes on Minnesota.
If the Gophers are not prepared for Lemon, Minnesota’s trip to Syracuse could leave them feeling a little bitter.