Big East Previews - Part 4

With only about one month to go until camp begins, will continue taking us around the Big East Conference. WE will be taking a team-by-team look by giving you the inside slant, taking a look at personnel and personnel changes, and much more. For our fourth installment, we continue with the Syracuse Orange.



Although the Orange had a lot of questions heading into spring practice -- who will start at quarterback, how will Syracuse replace a total of 13 starters? -- there was no question about who will be the star of the show.  Senior TB Walter Reyes gives the Orange a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate after rushing for 1,347 yards and scoring 20 rushing touchdowns a year ago.  But coach Paul Pasqualoni is still trying to figure out the players that will be surrounding Reyes when the offense takes its first snap come fall. Four different players competed for a chance to start under center, but none of the four -- sophomore Perry Patterson, junior Xzavier Gaines, redshirt freshman Matt Hale and true freshman Joe Fields -- is considered the frontrunner.
Wide receiver, tight end and the offensive line are also spots on the offense that will have new faces. Defensively, the line was hit hardest by graduation, losing three of its four starters. The Orange have quite a few possibilities to fill the holes, but the new players will take some time to put together some chemistry.  The Orange have another tough schedule in 2004, so its imperative that the they are ready to play from the opening kickoff. Spring practice helped out a bit as Pasqualoni was able to get a good look at his options for filling all the open spaces on both sides of the ball, but there's much work to be done for Syracuse to get back to its elite status.  Safety Diamond Ferri was arrested and charged with assault following a May 24 fight in which he reportedly broke a man's nose. According to police, Ferri, 22, struggled with police officers and had to be physically subdued. Ferri was released on his own recognizance.



PRESEASON PREDICTIONS: RB Walter Reyes, 2nd team All-America by Lindy's; 3rd team by Street & Smith's and Athlon.
KEY GAME: Only one of the Orange's first four contests is at the Carrier Dome, which is what makes the Sept. 18 meeting with Cincinnati -- that one home game -- so important. Syracuse needs to get some wins under its belt early, and playing the Bearcats won't be an easy task, even at home. A loss could have the team reeling for the rest of the season.
THE MINDSET: Coming off a 6-6 campaign, Syracuse isn't expected to contend in the Big East, even in a league without Miami and Virginia Tech. Syracuse has an elite player in TB Walter Reyes, but he's going to need other players to step up and take some pressure off of him, especially with so many defenses keying on his every move.
BIG SHOES TO FILL: Reyes gives Syracuse a running game, now it's a question of finding a passing game to balance things out. The four contenders for departed starting quarterback R.J. Anderson's spot are all fairly equal heading into the summer, so someone needs to step up and take control of the race.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The fact we've got inexperienced quarterbacks did not deter us from how much we tried to get done this spring. I think we've got as much offense in, which is going to be important for us as we work through the summer program and come back. I think the dividends will be seen. " -- Head coach Paul Pasqualoni on his team's inexperienced offense.



PROJECTED OFFENSIVE STARS: Is there any doubt who will be the Syracuse offensive star? Barring injury, TB Walter Reyes should be one of the top ground gainers in the country in 2004. He'll need some help from his teammates to stop defenses from keying on him, but Reyes is an elite back who should get his yardage one way or another.
PROJECTED DEFENSIVE STARS: Junior DE James Wyche, the only returning starter on the defensive line, could end up being an impact player up front. He recorded two sacks in the Syracuse spring game and will be counted on to disrupt the opposition's plans up front.
INJURY IMPACT: QB Xzavier Gaines was slowed a bit by a hamstring injury during spring practice, but he was still able to play.

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