Up In The Air

The biggest question mark heading into Syracuse's spring football practices is at the quarterback position. Not since Donovan McNabb graduated in 1998 have the Orangemen had a definitive starting quarterback in consecutive seasons. This year is no different as four players, junior Xavier Gaines, sophomore Perry Patterson, redshirt freshman Matt Hale and true freshman Joe Fields compete for the spot.<br><br>

Head coach Paul Pasqualoni is putting off his decision to name the starting quarterback until at least the end of spring practice. In 1995, Pasqualoni did the same thing. McNabb, Kevin Johnson and Keith Downing were all competing for the starting job. It wasn't until just before the opening game of the season at North Carolina that Pasqualoni named McNabb the starter. As history showed, Pasqualoni made a wise decision. McNabb led Syracuse to four straight bowl games and three Big East championships.

The following year, Troy Nunes moved into the starting role for the Orangemen. The Orange finished with a 7-5 record and a victory over Kentucky in the Music City Bowl.

But, starting in 2000, the Troy Nunes and R.J. Anderson quarterback carousel began. That year, Nunes started seven games, while Anderson played in nine games, starting in four of them. The team finished 6-5 and did not make a bowl game.

In 2001, Nunes was once again named the starter for the first five games of the season. But Anderson, who played in all 13 games, and started the final eight games, outperformed him. After starting the season 0-2, Anderson led the team to a 10-3 record and a victory over Kansas State in the Insight.com Bowl.

The 2002 season saw just the opposite thing happen at the quarterback position. Anderson, coming off a successful sophomore campaign, was the starter out of the gates. But Anderson was very inconsistent. He started seven games, and played in nine games total. Nunes took over midway through the season for Anderson. Nunes guided Syracuse to a few wins, but the Orangemen ended the season with a 4-8 record, the first losing season under Pasqualoni.

With Nunes out of eligibility after the 2002 season (he graduated in 2001), the job was Anderson's to lose. Last spring, Patterson was supposed to compete with Anderson for the starting role. But a torn ACL set Patterson back. The job was all Anderson's. Anderson returned to his 2002 form, without the same results. He started every game and was consistent, but the team only compiled a 6-6 record.

Fast forward to 2004. Anderson is gone. The most tenured quarterback on the roster is Patterson, who played in only six games, and has yet to attempt a pass. Patterson came to Syracuse as someone who would challenge Anderson, and eventually take over when Anderson left. The torn ACL has limited his abilities. He often ran the option last year with a noticeable limp. If healthy, the southpaw Patterson could prove very effective in the option offense of the Orangemen. But, if his knee continues to plague him, his chances to start diminish significantly. More on this article can be found in this month's issue of The Juice.

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