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Report Card: v. Virginia

Ideally, it would be nice if Syracuse could win some of these white-knuckle games.

Given the construct of this Syracuse team and the youth of the coaching staff, seeing progress on a week to week basis may be all that should be asked for by the Orange faithful this season.

Hopefully basketball season will be a little less frustrating.

Report Card: v. Virginia
Quaterbacks: B
At times during Saturday’s contest it appeared as if two different quarterbacks were draped in a blue number 10 uniform.

During a handful of drives, there was classic Perry Patterson – the deficient decision maker hell bent on tossing incompletions and ruining the field position the Orange defense graciously granted its offensive counterpart. For the other set of offensive possessions, there was freaky efficient Perry Patterson – swinging the ball out smartly to Damien Rhodes and staying poised as he rolled out of the pocket to deliver the ball with a deft touch.

The question is whether Patterson will transform himself into a passer more reminiscent of the latter incarnation. If he does, Coach Pariani would probably be more willing to open up the playbook a little more.

Running Backs: B
Damien Rhodes, like Perry Patterson, was schizophrenic against the Cavaliers. In the opening stanza, Rhodes looked unstoppable. In the second and third sets, Rhodes looked very average and nothing like the back that ran around and through Buffalo’s defense the week before. As the final quarter came to a close, the promise of Rhodes being the primary cog in the Syracuse offensive machine appeared to be more of a reality.

The bottom line is that Rhodes needs to find some consistency not only from a game-to-game perspective, but from a snap-to-snap one as well. Rhodes has all the tools to be terrific, it’s just a matter of Rhodes choosing to achieve his substantial potential.

Receivers/Tight Ends: B
This grade is greatly lifted by the play of Joe Kowalewski and Alex Shor. Had these tight ends not had the day they did, this grade probably would have been closer to a C-.

Moss and Lane have yet to show that they can get open on the Division 1-A level. This is putting an undue burden on Perry Patterson to deliver the ball and the offensive line to give Patterson the time to do so. Despite the growth of much of Syracuse’s offensive unit since Labor Day, the receiving corps continues to lag behind the learning curve to a substantial degree.

Totally unacceptable.

Offensive Line: C-
Terrible. Simply terrible.

The loss of Kurt Falke should not have had this much of an impact on the Orange front five. Unable to pick up the blitz and provide reasonable pass blocking, the offensive line was downright terrible.

It has become commonplace to see defensive players charging unabated at Patterson or Rhodes in the backfield. The offensive line needs to remedy this situation and learn to go out there and smack someone around.

Defensive Line: B
Someday someone will teach Ryan LaCasse and James Wyche the concept of containment. Until that day comes, Syracuse will be unable to stop dual threat quarterbacks and spread-style offenses.

As Dave Pearson so aptly notes, “was Josh Thomas out there?”

Outside of the problems with containment, Drame and LaCasse turned in notable individual performances. It seemed like LaCasse had a Tedy Bruschi-like game with his number appearing in every shot of a defensive play being made. Drame did a nice job of eating up space in the middle and deflecting yet another pass attempt.

Linebackers: C+
I could probably count on my left hand the number of times Kellen Pruitt or Kelvin Smith was mentioned on the broadcast Saturday. When the linebackers on this team aren’t making plays, that means that either a) the defensive line is doing an awesome job (which they weren’t); or b) the secondary was being called upon to make too many stops (which they were).

This was supposed to be the strength of Syracuse’s revamped defense this season. I have yet to see these guys start drilling people in the aggressive nature Coach Robinson promised.

With Florida State’s running game looming only two weeks in the future, the linebacking corps will have no choice but to assume their role as the defensive unit’s finest feature. If they don’t, things could become even more painful to watch.

Secondary: B
Not bad. Not bad at all.

Anthony Smith, Steve Gregory, and Tanard Jackson were outstanding. Dowayne Davis chipping in an interception was a pleasant surprise.

If the secondary can make this kind of dramatic growth over just one summer, there’s no reason for the receiving corps to be so maddeningly inept.

Special Teams
Placekicking: A
John Barker just might be this team’s savior if he can continue to knock down his field goal attempts. Kickers may not routinely win games, but they certainly can take a team out of contention.

Carney: C
Well, it’d be a B for anyone else on the planet, but when you’re looking for a seat at the Yale Club in December, Saturday’s performance just isn’t going to cut the mustard.

Offensive: C+
When George DeLeone left the hill over six months ago, so to did the expectations of watching Damien Rhodes run inside traps on first, second, and third down.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Coach Pariani appears to be hopelessly dedicated to dumbing down the playbook in order to slowly teach the offense his offensive philosophy. While lined with good intentions, such a methodology is dooming the offense’s chances to outsmart and outplay its opponent. Half the snaps that Patterson takes seem to be anticipated and subsequently stymied by the opponent’s defense.

There’s no way success can residually result from such an approach.

Defensive: B-
Everyone on the planet knew that Marques Hagans was a serious threat to run all over the field. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear as if the Orange coaching staff took enough time to drill the concept of containment into the defense’s head during this past week of practices.

If Hagans had just played remarkably, it’d be tough to slam the defensive coaching unit. However, Hagans did not play above and beyond what he was capable of. He could have, and probably should have, been stopped. Hagans’ success was directly attributable to poor tackling and technique. There’s no excuse for this and the blame for it must ultimately lie with those responsible for preparing the team to combat such an approach.

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