In Focus: Scouting Stony Brook

Syracuse returns to the Carrier Dome on Saturday to face Stony Brook. The Orange look for their first win of the season after two impressive performances did not achieve the desired result. CuseNation.com breaks it all down inside.

History under Head Coach Chuck Priore:

Priore, as only the Seawolves' second head coach in their history, has seen the team through milestones in their existence. In his third season at the helm, Priore helped lead the team to second overall in all of the Big South Conference in their inaugural season as members of the conference.

During his fourth season, Stony Brook's second season in the Big South, Priore assisted the Seawolves to a share of the conference title, which the team would also achieve the following season.

Last season, Priore went one step further with the Seawolves, becoming sole owner of the Big South regular season title. He also aided the team in the postseason to the second round of the Division I Football Championship. In 2009 and 2011, Priore was named the Big South Conference Coach of the Year.

He is 39-31 while at the helm at Stony Brook.

Offensively for Stony Brook:

In the backfield. Running Back Brock Jackolski was responsible for over 2,400 yards accumulated last season by Stony Brook. Upon his graduation, the Seawolves had to find their next impact rusher. They found four.

The player on the roster with the most experience at Stony Brook was Miguel Maysonet. Maysonet gained over 1,600 yards on the ground last season (1,633) and reached the endzone on 15 separate occasions.

Add in a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) transfer in Marcus Coker, and the Seawolves gain even more productivity to their rushing game. Coker, as a sophomore last season for the Iowa Hawkeyes, attained a trip to the endzone 15 times. Along with his ability to score, Coker also was an impressive ground-gainer, ending last season with 1,384 rushing yards; that number was second only to the Wisconsin Badgers' running back Montee Ball in all of the Big Ten Conference.

Last week against Pace University, Coker scored two of Stony Brook's first three touchdowns. Maysonet followed with two rushing touchdowns of his own.

Both backs had respective averages from the game. Coker ended the game with 11 carries for 81 yards, an average of 7.4 yards per carry. Maysonet gained 53 yards on his seven carries, giving him an average of 7.6 yards per attempt. The week before against Central Connecticut, Coker opened the game with a score. Maysonet came after the initial score to reach the endzone on the Seawolves' next three scoring drives, two on the ground and one off of a reception. Maysonet took the first of his two scoring runs 84 yards to the promised land. Maysonet was the team's leading rush with 16 carries for 171 yards, resulting in a very respective 10.7 yards per carry.

Despite scoring on one of his carries, Coker did not perform as well on the ground as Maysonet, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. Yet, Coker still added 75 yards from his carries to the Seawolves' offense.

Besides Maysonet and Coker, the Seawolves also utilize Jamie Williams and Davon Lawrence. Besides Williams' touchdown in their first game of the season, both were relatively quiet. In the following match against Pace, Williams and Lawrence were the leading rushers on the team, respectively. Williams gained the most yards on the ground (144) and had the best average per carry (16.0), while also reaching the endzone more than any other running back on the Stony Brook roster with three touchdowns. Lawrence accumulated the second-most yards (122) and the second-best average per carry (12.2). Williams and Lawrence joined Coker as newcomers in the sense of playing time. Williams was redshirted last season, while Lawrence saw limited time all last season, amounting 94 yards on 25 carries and reaching the endzone once. Lawrence already smoked his yard total of last season, but is still looking for his first touchdown.

Syracuse's defense will have to look for ways to slow the run, something they were inconsistent in doing in their first two games. Against both Northwestern and USC, Syracuse showed good reads on rushes, sped to the ball, and brought opponents down. But positive play was followed in both matches with substantial gains allowed that kept drives alive and led to scores.

Though the Orange defense has applied pressure and gotten to the quarterback, recording seven sacks over two games, they still are illustrating a Jekyll and Hyde motif. The defense has allowed their opponents into the red zone seven times and, each time, have given up a touchdown. But, only one of those touchdowns has been on the ground. Where Syracuse struggles is allowing the big runs that get their opponent's downfield and closer to their endzone.

Last week, the Syracuse defense, despite preventing a rushing touchdown, allowed four different players to take one of their carries 22 yards or more.

Between the two matches, the Orange have given up an average of over 190 yards rushing per game.

Through the air. Stony Brook quarterback Kyle Essington begins this season as the starter for the first time in his three-year career with the Seawolves. Essington played minimally in 2010 over four games. Last season, Essington was involved in all 13 games, starting in nine of those games. He ended the season completing just above half of his passes (54.4%), amounting 1,919 passing yards. Essington finished last season with 20 touchdowns to four interceptions.

This season, Essington has attempted 23 passes in two games. Syracuse's quarterback Ryan Nassib has completed more than three times the attempts that Essington has taken, with 75 completions.

In Stony Brook's first game, Essington attempted 17 passes, connected with his receivers on nine of them for a total of 188 yards. Three of those nine completed passes were for touchdowns to one interception.

Against Pace, Essington only attempted six passes, but he completed every one of them, totaling 158 yards through the air, some of which came on two touchdown passes. He did not throw a pick in the game.

Essington, though productive at quarterback based on his numbers, does not get involved in the offense as much as his running backs do. Stony Brook has attempted 23 passes, while testing the ground over 100 times.

The Seawolves' lopsided offense aids the Orange secondary, which continues to struggle with preventing completions. The passes knocked away from potential receivers seen in Fall camp have been a relative ghost through two games, as Syracuse is left chasing receivers more than they are taking away opportunities through the air. Credit does go to strong safety Shamarko Thomas for getting in front of the passing lane last week for the team's first interception of the young season, but the emphasis this week will be stopping the run.

However, Syracuse will have to stay close to Stony Brook wide receiver Kevin Norrell who is the team's leading receiver in receiving yards (208) and touchdowns (2). Norrell's high output in the receiving yards' category in both games, 99 against Central Connecticut and 109 versus Pace, have come off of very few catches. In each contest, Norrell caught two balls. An 89-yard reception against Central Connecticut and an 86-yard catch versus Pace padded his stats. Good man coverage by the corners and help downfield by the safeties can help Syracuse silence the long completions, and thus the main component of Essington's success through the air.

The hourglass factor. In both of their first two games, Stony Brook has prolonged their time-of-possession in the second half. Against Central Connecticut, Stony Brook had the ball for 8:46 in the third quarter and 9:34 in the fourth quarter, possessing the ball for 18:20 of the second half, whereas the Seawolves had the ball for 9:11 in the first half.

The following week versus Pace, Stony Brook had possession for 8:31 in the third quarter and 10:45 in the fourth quarter, for a total of 19:16 as opposed to 13:08 in the first half. Longer drives mean more time taken away from the opposing team.

In their first two games, Syracuse has taken approximately three to six minutes to obtain touchdowns on most of their scoring drives. Three of the Orange's four touchdown drives against the USC Trojans surpassed four minutes. Versus the Northwestern Wildcats the week before, four of Syracuse's five touchdown drives took approximately three minutes or more. If Stony Brook is able to hold onto possession in the upcoming game, which with a deep and productive rushing attack has been and is a realistic threat, then Nassib will have to get the offense down the field faster and into the endzone, instead of settling for field goals, as the team has done early on while in the red zone in both of their games.

Defensively for Stony Brook:

Against the pass. Stony Brook has sacked the opposing quarterback three times in each of their first two games this season. Linebacker Jawara Dudley leads the Seawolves with two sacks, but did not record any last week. Defensive end Victor Ochi has been most consistent in getting to the opposing man under center, credited with aiding on a sack against Central Connecticut and then obtaining a solo sack versus Pace.

Nassib has been protected well from the left side, thanks to the immediate positive impact left tackle Sean Hickey has had after gaining his first opportunity at starter this season while Justin Pugh has been rehabbing from a shoulder injury.

Next to Hickey, left guard Zack Chibane has also been consistently helpful in protection. Where the trouble lies has been at the right end of the offensive line where Lou Alexander has started at right tackle for the first time in his career. Alexander has not been locking up defenders after his initial hit. The hit is not followed but the push to keep opponents out of the backfield, which has left Nassib vulnerable. How Alexander performs on Saturday will be a big indicator of whether or not he is the best option for right tackle, especially with a young lineman in Kyle Knapp, who was impressive in Fall camp for his ability to stay with defenders after the initial hit and who has been brought up in conversation for how his play helps the Orange defense prepare for games.

As far as passing offensive productivity against Stony Brook, the Seawolves allowed a mere 64 yards through the air against them with no touchdowns when facing Central Connecticut. The following week versus Pace, Stony Brook continued to muzzle their opponent, allowing Pace 102 passing yards and not giving up a touchdown.

Going into their contest with the Orange, the Seawolves have yet to give up a touchdown through the air.

However, with the nation's top quarterback in passing yards and completions, Syracuse will test the secondary more than anyone that they have faced so far. Nassib's six touchdowns are tied for third best in all the FBS/Division I-A. His output is aided by the fact that he spreads the ball out, without having one or two targets, making it difficult for defenses to know who to cover. Nassib completed passes to nine receivers against Northwestern and eight versus USC.

Against the run. Stony Brook, although initially allowing 213 rushing yards in their first game, took 61 yards away from Central Connecticut before closing out the contest.

In their second game, the Seawolves gave up 53 yards, then took away 51 yards, allowing a mere two yards to Pace.

Between two games, the Orange have gained an average of about 124 yards per contest. The output of Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley has helped make Syracuse successful moving the ball upfield. Not only on carries, but with receptions, Smith and Gulley have kept drives alive not only on the ground, but also with receptions.

The evolution of Ashton Broyld, who came out a few times in the wildcat formation, taking direct snaps, can also aid the depth at running back.

Adonis Ameen-Moore, George Morris, III, and DeVante McFarlane also stand in the stable. Syracuse has talent, and that talent has depth. Their growth and improvement means the team's growth and improvement.

Defensive notables to watch. Defensive end Leston Simpson has the most cumulative tackles for Stony Brook with 11.

Christian Ricard, who plays the rover position, which is essentially a cross between a defensive back and a linebacker, has accumulated five tackles per game in the first two contests. Free Safety Naim Cheeseboro has had four tackles in both of Stony Brook's games leading into their match with Syracuse.

Keys to the game:

Stony Brook:

Run the ball. Syracuse is giving up almost 200 rushing yards per game and, with the productive backfield the Seawolves' have, the Orange will have at least four players to contain in their rotation.

When USC utilized their rushing attack in Syracuse's last match-up, the passing game opened up. If Stony Brook can establish a progressive running game, Essington will free himself more to take chances down the field, like the team has done, for big gains, in each of their first two games.

Pressure the right side of the offensive line. Syracuse's Alexander continues to struggle to protect Nassib. With a team that is no stranger to sacks, with six split evenly between their first two games, pressuring the right side will give the Seawolves their best opportunity to get to Nassib.

Challenge Syracuse's special teams' unit. The Orange allowed 134 yards on a mere two punt returns, including an 82-yard return for a touchdown to Venric Mark of Northwestern. Against USC the following week, Syracuse gave up 31 yards to Robert Woods on one punt return. Poor positioning and tackling have allowed Orange foes to flourish so far this season in this phase of the game.

Syracuse.

Improve on special teams. When defending, getting through blocks and taking down the opponent on the first attempt is a must for Syracuse. The more yards they give up on returns, the less yards Stony Brook will have to gain on offense to reach the end zone.

This phase of the game needs the biggest upgrade for the Orange, not only with defending but also on their own returns. With Jeremiah Kobena out indefinitely, Syracuse will have to find speed and elusiveness on their roster to fill that position on kick returns.

On punt returns, the Orange are in need of productivity. Syracuse has amounted -6 yards on three returns. Ritchy Desir did not gain any yards and Rene was responsible for the six yards lost. Where the ball is punted to has been where Syracuse begins from, if not farther back. The Orange need someone who can start fast and make quick moves in traffic. Unfortunately, the best player for that job was not given the chance so far and will not be given the chance against Stony Brook either way due to injury.

Keep spreading the ball out through the air. Without having a dominant target, defenders do not know where the ball is going, making double teams less likely. The more receivers and tight ends who can make plays, the harder Syracuse is to defend. Nine players in the first game and eight in the second caught passes from Nassib. If Nassib keeps numerous players involved, Stony Brook's defense will not have enough personnel to spread out to every target.

Catch the ball. Syracuse has to continue to work on catching opportunities. Dropped balls will occur with no team being perfect, but Nassib's accuracy is only as good as the receivers that hold onto the balls that are thrown their way.

Prediction: Syracuse will face a ground attack that will break away for some large runs. Both of Stony Brook's touchdowns will come on the ground.

The Orange will score in each quarter and will win their first game of the season handily with a 38-14 victory.

Nassib will reach and surpass 1,000 yards passing for the season.


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