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09 Homer Preview: The Orangemen Edition

homer previewIn an effort to provide coverage of teams outside of the OTP Preseason Top 25, we’ve asked some of our friends and fellow college football aficionados to follow our preview format for their team or go outside the box. This edition of The Homer Preview is courtesy of Matt Tobia, Syracuse alum and fan, and proprietor and creator of Get Gross Out, one of the only websites out there dedicated to firing the Athletic Director. Giddy up.

Homer Preview: Syracuse Orangemen
syracuse logo

What You Need To Know
After 4 years and only 10 wins, the Greg Robinson Experience at Syraucse has ended. Along with losses to Akron, Miami (OH), Rutgers and Washington, Robinson led the Orangemen to their worst 4 year stretch in their 120 year history. Following the 2008 season, Robinson was let go and former Orangeman and New Orleans Saints Offensive Coordinator Doug Marrone was hired as the new head coach. Marrone is another first time head coach, but he brought with him some experienced assistants and according to the committee that oversaw the hiring process (which included Donovan McNabb and Hall of Fame Coach Dick MacPherson), Marrone came into the interviews with binders upon binders of information on how he planned on turning the ship around. If nothing else, it sounds like Marrone is well prepared to attempt to right the ship.

While the Greg Robinson Experience left Syracuse fans with a sour taste in their mouths, Marrone seems to be making all the right moves and saying all the right things. Whether or not he will have the talent to actually turn the Orangemen around is another story. A total of 18 players have left the team since Marrone took over, with the latest being the Orangmen’s only scholarship PK, Shane Raupers. Punter Rob Long returns with the sixth best punting average in the country.

Returning for the Orangemen are three starters on an offensive line that improved from their abyssmal 2007 season. Marrone has focused extensively on both the offensive and defensive lines and both units look to be much improved. Being a former lineman himself and getting his coaching start on the line, Marrone has returned to the basics for what he is teaching the both units and the players are already noticing a marketed improvement.

Also on offense, converted tight end Cody Catalina should provide some balance to Mike Owen (TE) who was the second leading receiver last season. Leading receiver Donte Davis also returns. In the backfield, Syracuse will look to attack by committee. Returning are Averin Collins, Antwan Bailey and Delone Carter. Carter was a Sporting News Freshman All American in 2006 and had the most rushing yards by a Syracuse Freshman since Joe Morris in 1978. Carter was injured for the 2007 season and lost his starting job to Curtis Brinkley in 2008 but still managed to play in 5 games.

Fortunately for Marrone, he made two key acquisitions in the offseason. Starting off the acquisitions is the return of senior wide receiver, Mike Williams in March. Williams led the team with 10 touchdown receptions in 2007 but was suspended from the school in the spring of 2008 for academic issues. Williams returns to the team as their top receiving threat and his streak of 9 games with a touchdown catch leads the FBS division.

Marrone’s recruiting coup of the year was bringing in everyone’s favorite, flopping white guy, Greg Paulus. Paulus was last seen on the basketball court for Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils. Paulus was heavily recruited by the football programs of Notre Dame, Syracuse, Miami, etc. coming out of high school to lead their offenses. Paulus was the Gatorade National High School Football Player of the Year his senior year of high school and still holds most New York State passing records. Recently, Paulus was named the started for Syracuse and his effect will be seen immediately if only in the butts in the seats statistical category.

Defensively, Syracuse returns All Big East Nose Tackle Arthur Jones. Jones returned for his senior year (possibly so that he could play with his younger brother, Defensive End Chandler Jones). Jones led the team in tackles for a loss last season with 13. A candidate for the Outland Trophy, Jones is considered a Top 10 NFL draft pick and is the #2 Defensive Tackle behind #1 Draft Prospect Ndamukong Suh out of Nebraska.

If personnel issues aren’t enough to hamper the Orangemen this season, the schedule won’t do them many favors. While the Big East has no clear favorite for this season, the Orangemen are still considered the worst team in the conference and have little chance of beating most of their opponents. Fortunately for Marrone, Louisville is still on the schedule.

The Orangemen will be helped by the fact that they play 7 of their first 8 games at home with only a road trip to Penn State in their second week. Their first three games are against Big Ten opponents, starting with Minnesota and ending with Northwestern. A date with FCS opponent Maine gives the Orangemen a little break before the Big East season hits with home games against South Florida and West Virginia. Last season’s spoilers, Akron, return to the Loud House a week before the final game of the home stand against Cincinnati at the end of October. The Orange will play at Pittsburgh and Louisville before a home date with Rutgers and the season finale at Connecticut.

Picking up a win against any Big East team will be difficult this season for Syracuse and they can only hope that teams underestimate them and are looking ahead to other opponents. This will certainly be a tough year for the Orangemen, but there is a definite sense of calm amongst the fan base now that Greg Robinson is gone and former Orangeman Doug Marrone is at the helm.

Who You Need to Know And Their 08 Stats
QB Greg Paulus: None (HS Total: Over 11,000 passing yards, over 150 TD passes)
WR Mike Williams: None (2007: 60 rec, 837 yds, 10 TDs)
NT Arthur Jones: 60 tkls, 13 TFL, 3.5 sacks

Game To Watch
Syracuse has to start the season strong with a good showing on ESPN2 against Minnesota (9/5). It will be an extremely difficult game for the Orangemen to win, but if the team shows signs of improvement it could lead to a better year.

They’ll Do Well If…
..Greg Paulus plays half as well as he did in high school. This season is all about Greg Paulus and whether or not he can lead an offense that ranked at the bottom of the Big East and FBS last season in practically every category.

Season Outlook
There is no reason to believe that Syracuse will do better than 3-9 this season. Maine and Akron provide the only two non-conference games that the Orangemen can win and they have to hope that Louisville is just as bad as they were last season or that another Big East team chokes when they come to play in the Carrier Dome. Greg Paulus will provide some sort of boost to a floundering program and hopefully it is enough to allow Doug Marrone to move forward with recruiting and start setting the tone for future programs. On the positive side, they only direction that the Orangemen can go is up.

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2 Responses

  1. While we certainly feel your pain on a dismal 4 years (cue Letterman), I have to say it’s refreshing to see a fellow blogger have a realistic look at their team’s 2009 season. I have to agree with everything you’ve said here, and since BSU and Syracuse will not play each other, I have to offer you and fellow Syracuse fans the best of luck and a speedy recovery — although I’m not sure Paulus is the answer this year.

  2. Great write up Matt! I have feeling with Greg “Flopper” Paulus in the in the backfield, there will be an epic shitton of roughing the QB calls.

    And seriously… Gross has got to go.

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