True, there isn't much to look forward to this year in football. The recruiting class is, well, nearly non-existent. Kicker Rick Krautman is the highest rated Syracuse commit, with a ranking of four stars. The next closest? A position the Orangemen have already filled, twice.
Running back Jeremy Sellers, a three-star recruit, headlines the best efforts of the Syracuse football offseason.
For the moment, let's look at the bright stars. Backs Walter Reyes and Damien Rhodes combined for 1819 yards and 24 touchdowns. Rhodes, a sophomore, and Reyes, a junior, will provide a solid core for the next two years.
Keeping on the offense, RJ Anderson has been reported to have a solid spring training season, hitting his targets and showing better mobility. Still, after last year, that isn't saying much. But as the teams' only option (with Troy Nunes gone), Anderson doesn't have anyone to watch over his shoulder.
Defensive holes: The Orangemen were last or next to it in nearly every defensive category last year. With Clifton Smith gone, who will step up as the team's leader?
End of an era: For the first time in five years, no Orangeman was selected in the first round of the NFL draft.
Off on the wrong foot: Collin Barber was atrocious last year as the kicker, missing 9-of-20 field goals, including a PAT that cost the Orangemen a game against the Temple Owls. Physically, there's nothing wrong with him. Mentally? That's another story. Kicking can become a daunting task when you don't have any confidence in your own ability.
2002 results: 4–8 (2-5 Big East)
2002 Bowl Game: None.
Key Losses: David Tyree (WR). Clifton Smith. Chris Davis (FB). Will Hunter (CB). Mike Shaffer (P).
S. 6 at North Carolina
S. 13 Louisville
S. 20 Central Florida
S. 27 Toledo
O. 11 at Virginia Tech
O. 18 Boston College
O. 25 at Pittsburgh
N. 8 Temple
N. 15 at Miami
N. 22 West Virginia
N. 29 at Rutgers
D. 6 Notre Dame
Schedule Analysis: There's no such thing as an easy win for the Orangemen on this schedule as proven last year by a 17-16 loss to lowly Temple on Oct. 12. In the best-case scenario, the Orangemen can pull out a 6-6 record should they upset Virginia Tech, Boston College or North Carolina. Still, another four-win season isn't out of the question.
Final Word: Defense, defense, defense. That will determine the outcome of the Orangemen's season.
As for ultra-talented, but underachieving receiver Johnnie Morant, time's slowly fading away. Morant has just one more season to use the gifts given to him that he's wasted the past three years. Tick tock, tick tock.
2003-04 Football Overview
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