Syracuse Offseason Notebook
NEW CONFERENCE, NEW LOOK
After two-plus years of turmoil, the Big East has finally landed on its feet and its commissioner couldn't be happier.
"I look at our league, and there is such excitement and exuberance" Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese said. "If you stop and look at our eight programs, they are all on the upswing, whether it is facilities, whether it's improvement on the field, whether it's new coaches."
Gone is conference charter member Boston College and heavyweights Miami and Virginia Tech. Replacing them are Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida, a trio of Conference USA defectors with limitless potential but zero credentials.
‘Cuse's Greg Robinson and Pitt's Dave Wannstedt – both former NFL coaches – are the new guys on the block. West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez (in just his fifth season with the Mountaineers) is the senior statesman in the conference.
BACK IN THE FOLD
Leading tackler Jerry Mackey and tight end Joe Kowalewski were both cleared for fall camp after sitting out of spring practice with surgically repaired shoulders. Mackey led the Orange in tackles in 2005 with 106. Kowalewski will play a major role as a pass catcher in offensive coordinator Brian Pariani' s new West Coast attack.
"In our system, the tight end is a factor," Robinson told the Post-Standard. "Brian coached Shannon Sharpe for 10 years (in Denver). He had Brent Jones with the 49ers. It's a key position and I think with Joe, Brian thinks, from what he's seen, he likes."
Robinson told writers at the Big East Media Days that he wants to have a clearcut frontrunner at the quarterback position well before the season-opener. The coach wouldn't reveal if incumbent Perry Patterson or sophomore Joe Fields was ahead.
"I don't want this to be a big mystery going into the West Virginia game," Robinson said. "I want it to be established and go from there. I'd like to think 10, 12, 14 practices, I'm hoping to get a feel."
NEW JERSEYS, NEW FIELD
Nike revamped the old-school Syracuse look over the offseason, outfitting the Orange with a lighter weight and tighter-fitting jersey. The Orange can wear blue or white tops with either blue or orange pants. The orange helmets will be adorned with each individual player's number, just like Alabama.
"Now that we have it, it brings a lot of energy to the players," senior tailback Damien Rhodes told the Daily Orange. "It feels like we got what we have been asking for. We feel like if you look good, you play good. We feel like we are out there looking good and looking fresh and we are going to play fresh."
The Orange also discarded the Carrier Dome rug for field turf. Nine NFL teams and 26 college teams now use the artificial surface. The turf is permanent, so a protective cover will be rolled over it when the dome is used for basketball games.
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