From the head coach to the scout team, Syracuse football and its components have been scrutinized all season long, but it has been magnified over the last three losses. In the meantime, there has been an extra week of preparation to help get back on track. Within the bye week, personnel changes were made, players were injured and the team feels it has addressed what is needed to finish the season strong.
After the loss to South Florida 10 days ago, Orange quarterback Ryan Nassib admitted that the leadership situation needs to change from within the locker room. After a week of practice and some time off, the signal-caller spoke of the improvements before Monday's practice.
"We're running out of time, "Nassib said. "But the leadership in the locker room has stepped up.
"The overall intensity and drive of the team picked up even more."
Some of the added effort in practice was evident because coach Doug Marrone pit the first-team offense against the first-team defense.
"We had a false sense of security with how we were playing," Marrone said. "(We had)The first-team offense against the first-team defense going against each other so I would have a batter sense of the level of practice and the level of windows for throws ad coverage."
"It raises the level of intensity, the level of competitiveness throughout the whole team," Antwon Bailey said. "Because when you are going against one's on both sides of the ball, no one wants to lose.
"The thought process of that is that it'll end up carrying over into Saturday (against Cincinnati)."
Moving on without Phillip Thomas
Not only is the defense dealing with the loss of Eric Crume and Micah Robinson for the season, but Phillip Thomas has been suspended from the team for a year. Jeremi Wilkes and Olando Fisher will have an increased role in Thomas' absence, and Ritchy Desir has the chance to play more as well.
"It always gives someone an opportunity to play," Marrone said. "That's what you look for.
"Whether it's Phillip Thomas or Chandler Jones when he went down (earlier this season), no matter what player, someone behind him is looking for that opportunity that's been working extremely hard for it."
The loss of Thomas won't just be felt at the back-end, he makes things happen in the running game as well.
"It's going to be hard (without him)," linebacker Marquis Spruill said. "He is a big impact player on our team from a statistical standpoint and emotion."
"That's our boy and he's not going to be with us. It's going to be different."