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BlogPoll Roundtable: Part Infinity



What's 257 minus 20?
Still fat.

With the lacrosse team ruining my spring and the basketball team topping off another frustrating season on the hardwood, it's about time to pen some thoughts on Syracuse's spring football exploits.

In case you haven't heard, Greg Robinson has been putting the Orange through its gridiron paces since last Monday afternoon, with the hope that this team will look functional come April 15's annual Spring Game. The coaching staff appears happy with the progress the team made during winter workouts and, from all published accounts, are expecting great things to transpire during official spring practices.

Is anybody else having flashbacks to late-March, 2005?

Anyways, most of my comments concerning the 2006 edition of Orange football will likely appear over the course of this summer (assuming I can create lucid thoughts while studying for the Connecticut bar examination). However, as Joey over at Schembechler Hall has re-energized the BlogPoll community with some interesting questions, I thought I'd join in the fun and drop some Orange-tinted commentary.

1) It's early, but thus far, which offseason change or changes in college football are you most excited about?
To be honest, there really isn't an offseason change or changes in college football that particularly excites me right now. Currently, what interests me is how the slew of coaches that took over notable football programs in 2005 will compete in 2006.

Obviously, Charlie Weis is poised to take Notre Dame to terrific heights in 2006. However, with the amount of expectations heaped on the porky playcaller for this upcoming season, it will be interesting to see how the Irish perform on the gridiron. With once again a difficult slate of opponents, if Weis can't get the Irish into BCS-consideration, how will the most volatile fanbase in college football respond?

In addition to Weis, guys like Urban Meyer and Dave Wannstedt will have eyeballs affixed squarely on their teams' respective performances this year. Pittsburgh was supposed to, at a minimum, hoist a Big East championship in 2005. Florida, similarly, underachieved in many critics eyes last year as well.
2006 will be a pivotal year for both headmen.

2) With spring practice underway, what are the three concerns about your team that are causing you the most anxiety? (USC fans can't just list the departures of Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, and LenDale White.)
A. Quarterback Play
It has come to the point that Syracuse must enter spring practice every year with gigantic question marks surrounding quarterback play. It's Orange law or something.

Perry Patterson, Syracuse's much-maligned signal-caller in 2005, has apparently entered spring practice 20 pounds lighter than his playing weight last season. While this should be heartening to any reasonable football fan, I'm not exactly sure that Patterson's weight loss will impact his ability to not throw the ball squarely into the turf on nine out of ten passing plays.

In short, I simply don't see a correlation between poor decision-making and substantial weight loss.

For most other programs, this would not necessarily be a problem; just call in the back-up. However, given that Syracuse refuses to make my life enjoyable from late-August until early-December, there doesn't appear to be a functional alternative to Patterson. Joe Fields has yet to progress in his two years in Orange and all indications are that Syracuse's future quarterback, freshman Andrew Robinson, is going to be redshirted this upcoming season. Thus, it appears likely that the Orange are poised for a wondrous season of "More of the Same - Buy More Whiskey" in 2006.

B. The Horribly Pathetic Offense
Look, 2005 redefined how bad a team can look when they possess the football. As I noted in a previous essay:

Speaking of Syracuse, the Orange were just pathetic on offense. I know this serves as no news flash, but it is eye-opening to see Syracuse get outpaced by Cincinnati by almost 70 points this season. And the Bearcats were essentially playing with nine new starters on offense this season.

Furthermore, the Orange reached a new four-year low with their offensive output this season. I'd like to believe that it's always darkest before dawn, but I think this offense is still a few hours away from sunrise.
I think it's too early to believe the sun is going to poke its head over the horizon any time soon, but at least the coaching staff took some steps to push the hands on the clock closer to six o'clock. The first step, of course, was to shake up the coaching staff itself.

Gone in 2006 is former offensive coordinator Brian Pariani, who may be the only man on the planet that could not find a way to effectively run the football utilizing the Denver Broncos offense. In his place steps Brian White, a man who guided the Wisconsin Badgers' offensive attack for the last seven seasons. While the fruits of this hire have yet to bloom, it is at least an indication that somebody in the coaches booth knows that an offense has the ability to snap the ball more than three times on one drive.

In terms of player development/movement, the Orange offense is going to look a lot different than it did in 2005. Whether this is a good thing or just another demoralizing aspect of Orange football, I do not know as of yet.

Gone after a mediocre four-year campaign is local Syracuse high-school legend Damien Rhodes. His absence has created a void sought to be filled by one of three runners: Curis "Boonah" Brinkley, Paul Chiara, Kareem Jones. Brinkley is the only "stud" amongst the bunch, generally tabbed as a four-star recruit by both Rivals and Scout.com. However, in brief appearances last season Brinkley impressed only mildly, thus creating the situation the Orange backfield is now forced to deal with. Throw in promising young rusher Delone Carter (who was Ohio's "Mr. Football" last season), and it becomes clear that the runningback situation at Syracuse is anything but.

With respect to the Orange's most maligned group - the receiving corps - things will look different in 2006. Once again, the new makeup may or may not pay dividends for Syracuse. Highlighted by JUCO transfer Taj Smith (who has apparently shown in spring practice that he is not wearing ovenmitts) and Lavar Lobdell (who was coveted by both Miami and Southern California), the receiving corps should be more effective than last season's edition. Plus, if Rice Moss, Tim Lane, and Jeremy Horne progress even marginally between now and August, the receiving unit should move from most frustrating group to watch to second most frustrating group to watch, just edging out the offensive line.

Speaking of the offensive line, the more things change, the more I fear they will stay the same. On Syracuse's 2006 pre-spring depth chart, Greg Robinson has listed four new starters on a group that was amongst the Big East's worst in 2005. Things were so bad in 2005 for the Syracuse offensive line that coach Bob Wylie stated the following when asked about implementing a new, simplified approach to blocking:

"The learning curve wasn't as fast as I thought it would be," he said. "I thought they would grab it faster. I thought they knew what I was talking about."

"You can't assume that they know [the new blocking system], that they're going to be better because they've been in the system for a year. We're not taking that for granted. We're starting right from the beginning and we're putting it all back in again. Now, are they going to understand it better? They have a better chance to."
Great. Not only does the Orange lack any talent up front, they apparently have comprehension levels of a Pop Warner football team.

C. The Schedule
It would be one thing if Syracuse was terrible and they were playing Buffalo every other week. It's another thing when Syracuse is terrible and it puts 12 teams on the schedule with no gimmies:

2006 Syracuse Football Schedule
DateOpponentLocation
9.02.06Wake ForestWinston Salem, NC
9.09.06IowaSyracuse, NY
9.16.06IllinoisChampaign, IL
9.23.06Miami (OH)Syracuse, NY
9.30.06WyomingSyracuse, NY
10.07.06PittsburghSyracuse, NY
10.14.06West VirginiaMorgantown, WV
10.21.06LouisvilleSyracuse, NY
10.28.06CincinnatiCincinnati, OH
11.11.06South FloridaTampa, FL
11.18.06ConnecticutSyracuse, NY
11.25.06RutgersPiscataway, NJ

Syracuse has the luxury of starting the season playing nine consecutive weeks of football, highlighted by a murderous three-week stretch of Pitt, West Virginia, and Louisville. Consequently, if Syracuse can't get off to a fast start, it is very likely that the Orange could be staring down a record 1-11 season.

It's great to be me.

3) Care to take a stab at a preseason top five?
I would rather not take a stab at a preseason top five, but I will anyway, if only to reinforce the fact that I am a glutton for punishment.

1. West Virginia
2. Florida
3. Southern California
4. Texas
5. Louisiana State

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