Time to start looking ahead to Saturday’s game against Syracuse, and I figured a good source of info would be one of the beat writers who covers the team, Dave Rahme of the Syracuse Post-Standard.
So I sent Dave six questions and he was kind enough to respond:
Q: Can you give a brief overview of the offense?
Rahme: The offense is multiple out of a base pro set. It can and will go from heavy (two TEs, two backs) to empty (four wides and no backs) in the same series. The run game is very diverse, with power, misidrection, toss sweeps, option, traps . . . basically the whole works. The goal is to establish the run, force a foe to bring eight or nine into the box and then pass over it with play-action. It will slot TEs and backs and use them as receivers. It lacks the deep threat to truly make it click, but all the elements appear to be in place.
Q: And same with the defense? Sounds like it’s supposed to be a particular strength this year.
Rahme: It is an attacking, aggressive 4-3 scheme designed to stop the run at all costs and as a result often leaves its corners out on an island with no deep help. Nine starters return from a defense that was No. 13 in the nation vs. the run, allowing 101.8 yards per game. It will blitz from anywhere and everywhere. Linebackers Derrell Smith and Doug Hogue combined for 16 sacks last season, evidence of the aggression. The flip side: It allowed 24 TD passes and way too many deep balls, the Achilles’ heel of such a scheme. It has not backed off this season so far.
Q: We hear that Syracuse’s QB is similar to Jake Locker in style. Can you describe him a little bit?
Rahme: Ryan Nassib (pictured above) may resemble Jake physically (6-2, 225), and he can run the option decently, but I see no real comparison. Nassib can run when he needs to; Jake is a running back when he decides to go. Not sure that makes sense, but that’s how I see it. Nassib has a strong enough arm to make all the throws and has a firm grasp of the offense but will be making only his second start Saturday, so again it’s hard to draw a comparison to a guy who is at the other end of the learning curve.
Q: What are the general expectations for this team this year?
Rahme: Good question. The team was left in shambles when Greg Robinson was dismissed following the 2008 season with a four-year record of 10-37. Hard to believe a team that once had Donovan McNabb, Dwight Freeney and Marvin Harrison help it win a bunch of Big East titles a decade ago could fall so far, but it did, as Husky fans must recall from watching the 2007 rout in the Carrier Dome in which Locker didn’t have to do much. SU alum Doug Marrone came in and laid down the law. The tough-love style didn’t fly with many players, who exited stage left shortly after his arrival. SU basically played the 2009 season with a smaller roster of scholarship players than a typical Division I-AA team (or whatever that thing is referred to these days). Despite that the team went 4-8 and could easily have been 6-6, as it lost in OT to Minnesota and 10-9 at Louisville on a late TD set up by a 49-yard punt return. Overall, it was much more tough physically and competitive and played hard even in games in which it was obviously outmanned, such as a 28-7 loss at Penn State a season after it fell at home to the Lions 55-13. Marrone’s expectations this year are to return to a bowl game for the first time since 2004. That noted, the team was picked by the media to finish seventh in the eight-team Big East and most SU fans, jaded by the worst five-year stretch in school history (14-45 entering the season), have taken a “show me” stance.
Q: How did the team play last Saturday in its 29-3 win against Akron?
Rahme: Two years after Akron came to the Carrier Dome and won 42-28 in one of Robinson’s biggest embarrassments – a game in which SU’s administration had to realize it had hired the wrong guy – the Orange crushed the Zips 29-3 to win an opener for the first time since 2003. Playing vanilla offense and defense throughout, it gained 431 yards of balanced offense and allowed only 166 yards on defense. It probably left three TDs on the field, too. It is how Syracuse used to treat MAC teams before it went into the tank under Robinson. It was a great step in the right direction, but Marrone knows Washington is no Akron. It made a bunch of mistakes but was simply physically superior to the Zips. Overall, a step in the right direction in year two of the Marrone era.
Q: Lastly, what’s the injury situation?
Rahme: Senior defensive end Jared Kimmel did not respond to his third knee surgery in the off-season and is out for the year and likely his career. Junior TE Cody Catalina suffered a catastrophic knee injury in loss at Pittsburgh last season and is out for the season. Freshman WR Jarrod West, who originally committed to Stanford but had his offer rescinded when he didn’t score high enough on his SATs for that school’s liking, was expected to provide the deep threat SU sorely needed but broke his foot in a freak injury before the team even started hitting and is out for the season. Sophomore tailback Averin Collier was declared academically ineligible and is out for the season. He would have played a lot. Junior CB Kevyn Scott missed last week’s opener with a lower body (i.e. hamstring) injury, forcing SU to use true freshman Jeremi Wilkes as its third corner. Scott could be back this week. Nobody was injured at Akron.
September 8, 2010 at 12:12 PM
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