Big East Roundup: Syracuse Orange

In our first installment in a series of Big East spring recaps, Irish Eyes takes a look at 2005 Notre Dame opponent Syracuse. The Orange will try to improve on a 1-10 record from 2005, but we don't expect to see Syracuse making a run for the Big East Championship any time soon.

Syracuse Orange

1-10 Overall
0-7 Big East
Head Coach: Greg Robinson

New Faces

The Orange will have two new coaches for 2006. Offensive Coordinator Brian White comes to Syracuse from Wisconsin, where he was the Offensive Coordinator/Running Backs coach. He is replacing the departed Brian Pariani, who opted to leave Syracuse to become the Tight Ends Coach for the Houston Texans. Quarterbacks Coach Phil Early comes to Syracuse from Auburn, where he was an assistant to the Offensive Coordinator. Brian is replacing Major Applewhite, who left for a coaching position at Rice University.

The Offense
The 2005 Syracuse Orange were one of the worst teams in the country on the offensive side of the ball. The 2006 team returns just five starters including quarterback Perry Patterson. There wasn't much that the Orange did well on offense. The Orange managed just 106.5 yards a game rushing to go with 150.8 yards per game passing. That ranked them No. 105 in each category to go along with averaging just 13.8 points per game. It is not hard to envision why the Orange finished 1-10.

The quarterback position seems set with 2005 starter Perry Paterson back. Backup quarterback Joe Fields has been moved to safety, so the backup will be Matt Hale or incoming freshman Andrew Robinson. I would not be surprised to see Patterson beat out at some point in the season simply because the passing game was horrible by any standard last year. Patterson had a passing efficiency rating of just 93.1. That ranked him dead last in college football. Patterson did appear to make some strides in spring ball by tossing two touchdowns in the spring game. That would be one-third of the touchdown pass he threw for in the entire 2005 season.

The running back positions are up for grabs with tailback Damien Rhodes graduating and fullback Stephen McDonald injured. The tailback position is a three-way battle between sophomores Paul Chiara, Kareem Jones, and Curtis Brinkley. All three saw plenty of action in the spring game with Jones leading the three with 41 yards on ten carries. Look for incoming freshman Delone Carter to also make a push for playing time. The fullback position looks to be locked down by Breyone Evans. The running back positions appear to be the deepest on the team. There needs to be solid play from both of these positions if the Orange are to improve in 2006. They only averaged 2.96 yards per rush last year, which is near the bottom in the NCAA.

The wide receiver and tight ends return two starters at the X and Z wide receiver positions, and tight end appears to be locked up by Brandon Darlington. Last year wide receivers, Tim Lane and Rice Moss, combined for just 53 catches. Both had a productive spring capped by Moss catching four balls for 86 yards and a touchdown in the spring game. They both need to prove themselves in the new offense or incoming freshman Andrey Baskin may crack the starting lineup at some point. Baskin is a bigger target for the quarterback at 6-4 than either Lane or Moss.

The offensive line returns just two starters in OG Carroll Madison and C Justin Outten. The offensive tackle starters for 2006 will likely be Eugene Newsome and Corey Chavers. The other guard spot will be manned by Ryan Durand. The offensive line was a major problem for the Orange last year. Usually when you see an offense that ranks 105 in rushing and passing, the offensive line is usually to blame. The Orange signed nine offensive linemen in the 2006 recruiting class, so that should give a clue as to how the coaches feel about the offensive line heading in to the 2006 season. If the Orange are going to improve on offense, it needs to start up front. It appears that they made some significant progress in pass protection in the spring, but the line still struggled to open running lanes for the rushing attack. This unit has a lot of work to do before fall camp begins.

The Defense
The 2005 Orange defense finished the season ranked No. 57 in total defense giving up 372.73 yards per game. That is a pretty decent accomplishment considering how much they were on the field due to the lack of offense. In 2006, the defense has its own problems by replacing seven starters. All-American candidates linebacker Kelvin Smith and cornerback Tanard Jackson will lead the 2006 unit.

The defensive line returns just one starter in NT Chris Thorner, but DT Tony Jenkins saw plenty of action in 2005. Both defensive ends will be first-time starters. LE Cornelius Campbell and RE Lee Williams combined for 20 tackles in 2005. Campbell managed two sacks in the spring game, and Jenkins added another. This should be a very productive unit for the Orange in 2006. They look to be one of the better defensive lines in the Big East again this year.

The linebackers are led by their only returning starter in middle linebacker Kelvin Smith. Smith tallied 108 tackles and two sacks in 2005 and will likely be an All-Big East selection in 2006. Unfortunately the weak side linebacker, Vincenzo Giruzzi, and strong side linebacker, Luke Cain, combined for just 12 tackles in 2005. Smith should have another stellar year as long as the defensive line can keep offensive lineman away from him again. Jerry Mackey got the start in the SAM position over Giruzzi in the spring game, but Giruzzi is still listed as the starter on the Orange roster.

The defensive backs should be solid in 2006 with cornerback Tanard Jackson and strong safety Dowayne Davis returning. Reggie McCoy and Nick Chestnut will start at the free safety and cornerback positions respectively. The secondary should be solid again in 2006.

The Special Teams
Back for 2006 is punter Brendan Carney who averaged 42.6 yards per punt last year. John Barker and Patrick Shadle will be the place kickers in 2006. Neither has stood out after spring ball, so expect this battle to extend into the 2006 season. The return game should feature running back Kareem Jones, but the other spots have not been locked down after the spring sessions.

The Outlook
In Head Coach Greg Robinson's second year, the Orange fan base expects to see some improvement on offense. The offense was awful in 2005, and with the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator leaving; the players will be learning their third system in the last three years. However, with the offense winning the spring battle, 34-25, behind Patterson's two touchdown passes, there is hope that the offense has improved in the spring. The defense was solid last year, but must replace seven starters.

Defense was Greg Robinson's specialty in the NFL, so I expect Syracuse to be solid again on that side of the ball. At least the schedule looks to be a bit more manageable in 2006. Gone from the slate are Notre Dame and Florida State. The non-conference opponents are Wake Forest, Iowa, Illinois, Miami (OH), and Wyoming. Syracuse should be able to muster a couple of wins against Wake Forest and Wyoming. Illinois and Miami (OH) are winnable games, but not games that Syracuse will be the favorite in. The Big East schedule will be difficult again for the Orange, but they should be able to give Cincinnati, UConn, and Rutgers a good game. Look for Syracuse to improve on the 1-10 record from 2005, but still finishing near the bottom of the Big East. Top Stories