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2006 NFL Draft Recap: Syracuse Edition

Frankenstein failed to draft any Syracuse Orange. . .
Praise Allah!

In what can only be described as "mind-boggling," Syracuse University had four former football players drafted over the course of the 2006 NFL Draft. For the record, I am not sure whether to be thrilled for the Syracuse football program or worried what will become of the National Football League.

Anthony Smith: Pittsburgh Steelers
Anthony Smith, an All-Big East free safety from Hubbard, Ohio, was Syracuse's highest selection in this year's draft. Taken by the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers, he was the 19th pick in the third round and 83rd overall. He is the first Syracuse player to be drafted by Pittsburgh since 1982, when the Steelers selected linebacker Craig Bingham in the sixth round.

In a piece penned by Post-Standard staff writer Donnie Webb, Smith appears thrilled with where he ended up:

Smith said he's been told he can compete for a starting job with the Steelers, who defeated the Seattle Seahawks earlier this year to win the Super Bowl.

The Steelers are looking for a replacement for starting free safety Chris Hope, who signed a free-agent contract with the Tennessee Titans. Smith said he's ready to compete and win the job.

"It's exciting for me," Smith said. "I'm just going to do what I do and handle my business."
Quinn Ojinnaka: Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons selected offensive lineman Quinn Ojinnaka with the sixth pick in the fifth round (139th overall). Ojinnaka's selection makes him the first former Orange student-athlete to be drafted by Atlanta since 1986, when the Falcons chose linebacker Tim Green with the 17th overall selection in the draft.

As Webb notes in his blog, Ojinnaka, suprisingly, had a number of suitors:

Ojinnaka said he received calls from the Cowboys and Patriots in the fifth round telling him to hang tight, that each club was prepared to possibly draft him. He said when the Atlanta Falcons came on the screen, he looked away thinking they had no interest. As soon as he did, the phone rang. Ojinnaka said he did not recognize the number and thought, "this is it." The call was from Altanta Falcons coach Jim Mora, announcing his selection.
The best quote from Ojinnaka, however, comes in the same blog entry. Asked about whether he was excited about playing with human video game controller Michael Vick, Ojinnaka had this to say:

"Oh man. It's like Perry Patterson times 10," he said.
Obviously, Ojinnaka was talking about talent and not pants size as Patterson is literally 10 times the man Michael Vick is.

James Wyche: Jacksonville Jaguars
Round seven saw the selection of Syracuse defensive end James Wyche by the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars took Wyche with the fifth pick in the round (213th overall selection). Wyche is the first Syracuse student-athlete to be taken by the Jaguars since 2000 when they chose offensive tackle Mark Baniewicz.

As Donnie Webb dutifully posts in his blog, it does not appear that Wyche expected to be selected this afternoon:

Wyche said he was outside of his home in Roosevelt talking with friends when his mother, Delores Wyche, came running and screaming. Wyche said his mom was crying after seeing his name flash across the television screen.

"I started crying too," Wyche said. "She was always there for me. She came to every one of my Syracuse games. She was always behind me."
Ryan LaCasse: Baltimore Ravens
In what could only be deemed as fitting, Ryan LaCasse -- Wyche's bookend on Syracuse's defensive line -- was drafted six spots after Wyche by Baltimore with the 219th overall pick. LaCasse will join former Orange offensive tackle (and permanent injured reserve fixture) Adam Terry on the Ravens roster. Baltimore chose Terry in the second round in the 2005 NFL Draft.

. . . And The Rest
Instead of writing a fancy introduction, I'll let Webb do the work:

Free Agents

Tailback Damien Rhodes said he accepted a free agent contract to sign with the Houston Texans. Talk about going to a team that screams, help wanted!

Offensive center/guard Steve Franklin says he's signing with Kansas City. Franklin said he had 14 offers including Arizona, SC, Indy, Cincy and Baltimore. "The Chiefs fit my style of play," he said. "They want me to be a swing guy (guard and center)."

Cornerback Steve Gregory says he is signing with the San Diego Chargers (and being reunited with former SU assistant coach Brian Stewart, who coaches the SD secondary). Gregory said he also had offers from Arizona, Cleveland and KC. "I signed with San Diego pretty quick," he said. "They're a good fit. I was here my first year under Coach Stewart, so I have a history and a good chance to make the team. It's a good deal."

Outside linebacker Kellen Pruitt says he has an invitation, but no contract, to participate in a rookie minicamp with the Washington Redskins. Pruitt said he's still hoping to land a free agent contract.

No word yet on defensive tackle Kader Drame.

Tight end Joe Kowalewski, who had season-ending shoulder surgery and was essentially unable to work out for teams, said he did not have an offer but is still hoping to get in someone's mini-camp. JoeKo said his shoulder is 100 percent , but his inability to work out for teams since the surgery was clearly a factor. "You want to go out there, run the 40, show them my speed and my athletic ability," Kowalewski said. "Hopefully, someone will give me a shot and I can show them what I’m about."

Lacrosse Saturday?

Carrier Dome + Senior Day = Minuteman Demolition.
Mass Carnage

The opponent may not have been [Hate] Johns Hopkins, Virginia, or Princeton, but Massachusetts' presence in the Dome this afternoon was expected to prompt quite the tussle. As Post-Standard staff writer Donna Ditota penned in today's edition of the local rag, Syracuse was anything but unmotivated for its latest challenge:

No one can pinpoint exactly when Massachusetts became a date to circle on the Syracuse lacrosse calendar. But today, when the Minutemen visit the Carrier Dome for a 2 p.m. game with the Orange, they come branded with a Scarlet E for Enemy.

"My freshman year, it was just another game. It was no big deal at all," said former SU goalie Jay Pfeifer, who graduated last May. "It kind of escalated quickly, out of nowhere."


SU players, both past and present, list the game between the Orange and Johns Hopkins as each season's most anticipated event. The Orange trace the Hopkins' rivalry to the programs' differing offensive philosophies and their subsequent claims for national prominence.

UMass, though,is different. UMass is personal.

"I think with Hopkins, it's more of a respect factor," Vallone said. "Same thing with Princeton. It's a different philosophy. They play more controlled, more possession. With UMass, it's just that they're dirty. They're cheap. They will talk at any given time."

With emotions running so high, one could reasonably expect Syracuse to charge out of the gate and decimate its opponent.

And that's exactly what happened. Sort of.

Paced by strong play from outgoing senior Brett Bucktooth (3G, 1A), Syracuse took care of its opponent in business-like fashion. Trailing 4-2 after the first period, the Orange quickly recovered, tallying five scores in the second and ultimately outpaced the Minutemen over the final two quarters of play.

Victory Factors: v. Rutgers

Despite Syracuse's abysmal performance in the face-off "x" (9-23), the Orange offense and defense turned in one of their most efficient outings of the season. The numbers above highlight this assessment terrifically.

Against a fast-paced, transition-based offense, Syracuse's defense performed admirably. Holding Massachussets to only 19% shooting and less than a shot per possession, Steve Panarelli & Co. may have won the game for the Orange. Given the fact that Syracuse's defense has struggled mightily against transition offenses this year, today's performance is heartening.

Not to be outdone, Syracuse's offense also turned in heroically efficient performance. Shooting a remarkable 41% on the day (on just 29 shots), Syracuse's young core of midfielders -- Abbott, Perritt, and Hardy -- were able to create great scoring chances all day long. It may have taken 11 games, but the Syracuse offense has officially found an identity to which it can flourish on a consistent basis.

Next up for Syracuse is a Saturday showdown against upstate compatriot Colgate. While the Orange has likely locked up a first-round home tournament game with its win today against Massachusetts, a win on the road at Colgate's Andy Kerr Stadium would eliminate a lot of questions about Syracuse's resume.

This Just In reports that Duke Lacrosse transfers may not be so out of the question as Darryl Gross earlier let us to believe. Gross states that his quotes were taken out of contest and he states...
“The situation at Duke and in the Durham community is unfortunate. Our heart goes out to those who are going through this. We believe and trust in due process. While we, as an athletics department and as a lacrosse program, will not exploit someone else’s misfortune, we always consider all students individually who show interest in the university. Our concern, at the moment, is to support the resolution of this matter.”

Will this produce a viable Duke lacrosse transfer not involved in any way with this scandal playing for Desko only time will tell, but yet again Dr. Gross is failing to provide a clear policy on this issue. I'm sure there will be further developments and commentary from the staff here. Also interesting in the potential for (Hate) Johns Hopkins to pick up some of these blue chip guys as well. Stay tuned.

Jimmy V

Jim Boeheim was yet again honored with his counterpart from the University of Connecticut, Coach Jim Calhoun, on April 21st in New York City. Both Hall Of Fame coaches were honored with the "Spirit of Jimmy V" award for exemplifying former NC State coach Jim Valvano and his famous 1993 ESPY Award speech. Both cancer survivors, their work off the court has proven to be invaluable to the fight against cancer. As someone who has lost someone to cancer, as well as being an alumnus of Syracuse, I felt it was necessary to mention Jim Boeheim’s lesser known accomplishments. He really makes his alma mater proud, even if it’s not always on the hardwood.

If It's Too Good To Be True . . .

With pointless introductions out of the way, it's time to get back to the task at hand: wallowing in the pity that is Syracuse athletics.

Not that this should come as a surprise, but yet another Syracuse product has spurned Orange head football coach Greg Robinson for what is perceived as greener pastures.

Just two days after announcing that he narrowed his list of potential suitors to five, Christian Brothers Academy gunslinger Mike Paulus has given an oral commitment to the University of North Carolina. As Post-Standard staff writer Donnie Webb notes in a blog entry excerpted below, Paulus' decision came down to either Southern California or UNC:

Paulus to North Carolina
CBA quarterback Mike Paulus announced today that he has made a verbal commitment to sign with the University of North Carolina. In an email, Mike says:

"I couldn't be more excited about the program and have the opportunity to help turn it around. It came down to USC and NC, and I really liked USC and the idea of backing up Mark Sanchez for 3 years so I could develop and then go play. At UNC I have a good chance of playing early, and also trust that the new offensive cooridinator Frank Cignetti will develop me to be the best quarterback I can be. Him being at Fresno State the past 2 years and having a top 10 ranked national offense is tremendous. It came down to being extremely comfortable with the coaches and the area. I think its a beautiful university and has tremendous upside to becoming a great team at a national level. I think I have a lot of developing to do and that I can be a great contributor and recruiter for the university.

"UNC recruited me the most and the hardest and showed me why I should take a visit. And when I did, I fell in love with it. I felt like USC and UNC both were home to me. I loved both and when it came down to it, my heart told me UNC."

And with that, Mike was off to his prom tonight.
Paulus, apparently, could not be reached for comment as to his horrible use of grammar.

Paulus' commitment to North Carolina serves as another example of the Orange's inability to recruit the greater Syracuse area. In the last few recruiting cycles, Syracuse has been unable to convince local products such as Mike Hart (Michigan), Kevin Collier (Pittsburgh), and McKenzie Mathews (Pittsburgh) to enroll on The Hill.

With this kind of karma suffocating the onset of the weekend, one can only guess what New York Giants general manager (and resident freaky-looking guy) Ernie Accorsi will do tomorrow to ruin my afternoon.

1/2: Frankenstein.
1/2: Inexplicably moves up in the draft to take a Syracuse product.
100%: Didn't sign John Elway.

Freak. Out.

You see that young man on the right side of this essay? Well, his name is Mike Paulus.

He is the starting quarterback at Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse, NY.

He is generally considered one of the top quarterback prospects in the Class of 2007.

He has scholarship offers from over 25 academic institutions.

And for whatever reason, he believes that Syracuse University is one of the places he should seriously consider plying his trade.

CBA quarterback Mike Paulus says tonight:

"I have it down to 5! YES after all this time I have actually narrowed it!!"

From more than 25 scholarship offers, Mike has pared it down to a final five:

Alabama, North Carolina, Southern Cal, Syracuse, Tennessee

They're listed here in alphabetical order and are not ranked, so don't read anything into the post positions.
With these statements permanently etched into the internet, I am going to bed. For if I should stay awake any longer, I am convinced that the Earth will collapse upon itself due to the horrific irony.

The New Guy

The tradition of this blog as I have read it to be is to "chronicle the daily disaster that is SU Athletics". Seeing as I'm only going to be in Syracuse a little while longer the daily part might be a problem. But at least once a week or twice seems reasonable. Meanwhile, much like this picture of me on Syracuse's last bowl trip (that ended in heartbreak), I'll look for interesting things to chronicle on this page in the Matt Glaude/Dave Pearson tradition. I guarantee you won't see a huge amount of numbers or data from me, but you will hopefully see crisp, intelligent, interesting commentary on Syracuse Athletics while keeping in mind the BIG PICTURE. Of course, I'll try to keep the Duke Rape jokes at a minimum. Happy Reading.

Lacrosse Monday

This Wednesday marks the start of my final examination period. Accordingly, posting will be light (if existent) over the next two weeks. You, as one of ten dedicated readers of this notebook, have three options:

1. Wait patiently;
2. Bug Dave Pearson to write more material; or
3. Leave a note informing me that you would like to pen material for this notebook.

If you choose to explore the final option, I do require that you have at least a remedial understanding of the English language. (Read: state school flunkies need not apply.) I've been thinking about bringing somebody on board to blog Syracuse news and this might be an excellent opportunity for a trial run.

Virginia Number One, World Spins on Axis
For what seems like the umpteenth week in a row, the Virginia Cavaliers have been tapped as the nation's top lacrosse team in both the Inside Lacrosse Media Poll and the USILA/STX Coaches Poll.

Inside Lacrosse Media Poll
Like every edition of the Media Poll this season, the press release from Inside Lacrosse is short and to the point:

Virginia kept rolling and retained the top spot in this week's Inside Lacrosse media poll. The Cavaliers received all 23 first-place votes.

Hofstra remained in second place while Maryland, Georgetown and Cornell each moved up a spot to third, fourth and fifth, respectively. Navy, which was ranked third in last week's rankings, dropped into a sixth-place tie with Johns Hopkins.

For the first time this season, no teams ranked in last week's rankings dropped out of the poll this week. The biggest drop came from Loyola, which fell from No. 14 to No. 20 this week. The biggest gain came from Hopkins, which was tenth in last week's poll.

The Inside Lacrosse media poll comes out every Monday and features voters from media outlets across the country.

1. Virginia (24)
2. Hofstra
3. Maryland
4. Georgetown
5. Cornell
6. Navy
7. [Hate] Johns Hopkins
8. Syracuse
9. Princeton
10. Massachusetts
11. Pennsylvania
12. Towson
13. UMBC
14. Denver
15. Notre Dame

USILA/STX Coaches Poll
They're overglorified gym teachers and they vote in a poll. And they overvalue a Johns Hopkins victory over Navy.

1. Virginia (10)
2. Hofstra
3. Maryland
4. Cornell
5. Georgetown
6. [Hate] Johns Hopkins
7. Princeton
8. Navy
9. Syracuse
10. Pennsylvania
11. Massachusetts
12. Towson
13. UMBC
14. Denver
15. State Penn

Pointless NCAA Speculation
After this weekends' incredible slate of upsets and last second victories, there have been some minor yet notable changes in my prognostications for May's Field of 16. As usual, I have utilized the multi-step selection criteria devised by the NCAA selection committee to create what appears below.

Automatic Bids
America East Conference: University of Maryland-Baltimore County
Colonial Athletic Conference: Hofstra
Great Western Lacrosse League: Denver
Ivy Group: Cornell
Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference: St. Joseph's
Patriot League: Navy

At-Large Bids
America East Conference: None
Atlantic Coast Conference: Maryland; Virginia
Colonial Athletic Conference: Towson
Eastern Colleges Athletic Conference: Georgetown; Massachusetts
Great Western Lacrosse League: None
Independents: Johns Hopkins; Syracuse
Ivy Group: Harvard, Pennsylvania; Princeton
Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference: Get Fucking Real, Douchebag
Patriot League: None

1. Virginia
2. Hofstra
3. Cornell
4. Maryland
5. Georgetown
6. Navy
7. Johns Hopkins
8. Syracuse

Bubble Watch
The calendar reads late April and that means only one thing: the NCAA tournament bubble is getting crowded. From now until selection day, I will highlight those teams that could play themselves into or out of the tournament field. The table is organized with the most deserving team placed highest on the chart with the least deserving of the bubble teams placed the lowest.

2006 NCAA "Bubble Watch"
TeamRecordRPISOSGood Wins
Harvard6-4166Stony Brook; Pennsylvania; Denver
Stony Brook8-41015State Penn; Denver
State Penn7-42017Massachusetts
Notre Dame8-41227State Penn

Nothing Makes Sense Anymore

There are a lot of aspects of Syracuse's athletic department that are frightening. One aspect, however, stands out above the rest: inconsistency in departmental policy.

In today's edition of the Syracuse Post-Standard staff writer Donna Ditota pens a piece entitled "Duke Transfers Unwelcome Here." In this article, Ditota notes Director of Athletics Dr. Daryl Gross will not sanction the transfer of any current or prospective Duke Blue Devil to Syracuse's lacrosse program. The piece provides, in pertinent parts, the following:

At least one Duke University lacrosse player has indicated an interest in transferring from the troubled program. But Syracuse University athletic director Daryl Gross said Tuesday he will not sanction the transfer of any former Blue Devil to Syracuse.

"I think it would be inappropriate," Gross said.

SU coach John Desko said he's received written notification from Duke that sophomore attackman Zack Greer is seeking his release from the school. Athletes intent upon transferring from one program to another ask their athletic departments to issue releases to schools the athlete is interested in attending.


Desko said he would reserve comment about any transferring Blue Devils until the legal system sorts out what happened the night of March 13.

"My position would be that I couldn't comment about anything until speaking with the chancellor and the athletic director," Desko said Tuesday afternoon. "I'm assuming there would be no position until the situation is resolved."

Tuesday evening, Gross described the events at Duke as "really a sensitive situation on so many different fronts." Gross said he recently talked with Desko about the possibility of accepting Duke transfers and has advised Desko that the university would be unwilling to consider the option.

"I wouldn't be interested in our coaches recruiting players from Duke, given the situation," Gross said. "I think it would be inappropriate. . . . So the policy for us would be 'No.' "

Gross said he based part of his decision on the idea that those players initially chose to play lacrosse somewhere other than Syracuse.

Gross said he had not discussed the possibility of accepting Duke recruits, but was inclined to deter those athletes from playing for SU, too.

"It still kind of falls back to if a kid committed to Duke," Gross said, "then he had an intention to go to Duke."
As an initial matter, Dr. Gross' comments appear to be inconsistent with prior athletic department practice. As recent as this past August, the Orange lacrosse program accepted Joe Yevoli and Nathan Kenney as transfer students. Both individuals committed to and played significant minutes for the University of Virginia prior to enrolling at Syracuse. Thus, Gross has established a strong precedent that the Orange athletic department will sanction transfers to the Syracuse lacrosse program should an athlete academically qualify for admission.

Furthermore, the athletic department has sanctioned the transfer of non-lacrosse athletes to Syracuse. On April 17, 2006, the Syracuse women's basketball program announced that Fantasia Goodwin, the NJCAA Division III career and single-season scoring record holder, would enroll at Syracuse this fall. Goodwin spent the last two seasons at Monroe College in the Bronx.

The football team has also seen an influx of transfer students throughout Dr. Gross' tenure. This year alone, head coach Greg Robinson convinced three athletes who were enrolled at an institution not named "Syracuse" to join the team's 2006 recruiting haul -- Taj Smith, Larry Norton, and Ian Hammond. While these four athletes were all enrolled at junior colleges, they nevertheless failed to commit to Syracuse at the close of their high school careers. For Dr. Gross to permit these individuals to enroll at Syracuse and not any member of Duke's lacrosse program is, at the very least, hypocritical.

Latent in Dr. Gross' comments are also issues as to whether this departmental policy is actually enforceable. Eric Devendorf, Syracuse's excitable freshman sharpshooter, was an initial commitment to Tom Izzo and Michigan State University. The summer before enrolling at prep powerhouse Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, Devendorf re-opened his recruitment and committed to play for Jim Boeheim and the Orange.

According to Dr. Gross' comments, this necessarily means that Devendorf is unwelcome at Syracuse and should, therefore, transfer from the Salt City to Michigan State as that's where his original intention was placed. This, of course, will not occur nor should it. However, given Dr. Gross' comments, the only way to achieve a consistent departmental policy is for this hypothetical scenario to happen.

That, in and of itself, is mind-numbing and unacceptable.

The only reasonable explanation for Dr. Gross' decision to prohibit transfers from Duke's lacrosse program to Syracuse is that he fears associating the university with this unresolved scandal. While this is a noble pursuit, it is flawed.

It should be noted as a prefatory matter that I have no problem with Syracuse holding its athletes and prospective athletes to high moral, ethical, and academic standards. A university is a place for higher education. It is only residually an athletic factory. Thus, I can accept a modicum of failure on the athletic field if it means that Syracuse will not become the second coming of Florida State or Ohio State.

However, this does not mean that Syracuse should deny admission to quality students and athletes who, for one reason or another, carry some undesirable baggage. Only three lacrosse players on Duke's roster have been or will be indicted for crimes associated with the fiasco that may or may not have occurred in Durham last month. To punish an entire team for the transgressions of a select few seems patently unfair.

Zack Greer did nothing wrong. Why should he become collateral damage?

Furthermore, this raises the question of how the athletic department should treat the scholarship offered to football signee Jermaine Pierce. Pierce has, at the very least, a checkered past. He recently had charges against him withdrawn for possessing and dealing illicit drugs, having drug paraphernalia, illegally possessing weapons, and criminal conspiracy.

If Zack Greer is being denied admission to Syracuse for far less than what has been levied against Pierce, it necessarily follows that Pierce should not be permitted to enroll at Syracuse this coming fall as he has been involved in far more serious matters.

I do not believe that this should occur. Pierce is an individual that appears to be turning his life around for the better. Now that the charges against Pierce have been withdrawn, there is no reason to believe that he is not taking advantage of the opportunities afforded him. Zack Greer and other members and prospective members of the Duke lacrosse program should be given the same chance.

It must be conceded that the athletic department has set at least one barrier to admission to the university and has enforced it uniformly: if you are convicted of a crime, you are not welcome. The recruitment of Colt Brennan implemented this policy and the athletic department appears to have adhered to it consistently.

However, there is a big difference between being convicted of a crime and being the teammate of an individual convicted of a crime. As far as I know, there is nothing in the Syracuse code of conduct or athletic department policy manual that imposes vicarious liability in those instances. Accordingly, Dr. Gross should not act in a capricious fashion in his approach to the Duke transfer situation.

Thus, it appears once again that Dr. Gross is attempting to couch flawed policy in spin that fails to find consistency in actual practice. This has nothing to do with these lacrosse players originally committing to Duke. Rather, it has everything to do with Gross fearing a backlash from the media that, in most likelihood, will not occur.

Foot Firmly Placed In Mouth

Donnie Webb, staff writer for the Syracuse Post-Standard, is reporting that the charges noted below against Syracuse football signee Jermaine Pierce have been dropped.

Somebody Turn Down the Crazy

Arrested Development
There is an oft-quoted maxim that emphasizes that "it's always darkest before dawn."

Apparently, Syracuse football has a long way to go before daybreak.

As Post-Standard staff writer Donnie Webb notes in a brief blog entry this morning, Syracuse signee Jermaine Pierce was arrested last week for a laundry list of infractions:

SU signee arrested
Linebacker Jermaine Pierce of Kennedy-Kenrick Catholilc High School, who signed a letter-of-intent with SU in February, was arrested last week and charged with possessing and dealing illicit drugs, having drug paraphrenalia, illegally possessing weapons and criminal conspiracy, according to The Times Herald of Norristown, Pa.

Pierce and two others were picked up by Conshohocken police who found two .22 caliber handguns and marijuana in a Ford Mustang registered to Philadelphia 76er basketball star Allen Iverson. Pierce told police the car was used to travel from Norristown to Conshohocken. Apparently Iverson's nephew was in the group and had access to the car.

Pierce was expected to be an academic non-qualifier at SU. Here's a picture of him on signing day.
Webb goes on to illustrate a little bit more about Pierce's checkered past in a subsequent blog entry. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the Orange has had trouble with a former Glenn Mills recruit:

Glen Mills
The story about the arrest of SU signee Jermaine Pierce mentions that he attended Glen Mills before enrolling at Kennedy-Kenrick Catholic High School. Glen Mills is a residential school for court-referred young men in Concordville, Pa. I'm told that Pierce was sent to Glen Mills for one year by his mother and not because of a court order.

Glen Mills is the same school that took in Omain Gullette, a defensive lineman who signed with Syracuse in 2002. Prior to his arrival on campus, Gullette was shot and killed in Philadelphia. That murder has apparently never been solved.

Syracuse left Gullette's locker at Syracuse and his No. 66 jersey vacant for four seasons as a tribute to the player. That tribute expired after last season and the locker and number are now available. The No. 66 has yet to be re-issued.
There are two questions here that deserve either an answer or some brief commentary.

First, does this incident qualify for Orson and Stranko's Fulmer Cup Challenge? Even though Pierce is not an official member of the Syracuse football team per se, such a performance necessitates recognition in an outlet more venerable than this virtual notebook.

Second, does this incident all but burn the scholarship offered by Orange head coach Greg Robinson to Pierce? Neophite Syracuse Chancellor Nancy Cantor has stepped in on at least one occasion in the past and forced Robinson to withdraw a scholarship offer from a recruit with a checkered past. Will she issue a similar edict in this instance?

Even if Cantor -- or, for that matter, Director of Athletics Dr. Daryl Gross -- fails to force Robinson's hand, Robinson should act upon his own volition and withdraw Pierce's scholarship offer. This is not to say that I do not believe young people deserve a few chances in life to turn around their situations. They do. What concerns me is that Pierce has seemingly had numerous opportunities to reposition his circumstances and he has yet to take advantage of them.

In short, this is not the kind of signee the Orange needs to be bringing to The Hill. Academic non-qualifiers and juvenile delinquents are the makers of Bowden dreams. They are not, and should not be, members of the Syracuse community.

The Gladwell Revolution of College Football Continues
Earlier this year, I wrote a series of essays concerning author Malcolm Gladwell's "tipping point" theory and its applicability to Syracuse football. I indefinitely suspended the project after the Virginia debacle for fear that completing such an analysis on a weekly basis would cause me severe and untreatable depression. Hopefully, the analysis will be completed following the conclusion of the lacrosse season.

Anyway, College Football Resource recently published an essay applying Gladwell's principles of "physical genius" to, appropriately, college football.

The major flaw I find in CFR's essay is the analysis of Pete Carroll as an individual emblematic of Gladwell's "physical genius." As CFR notes:

Onward to Pete Carroll.

Because he's not an athlete, I won't bother to show highlights documenting his physical gifts. That's alright, because his mental gifts make a strong case for his status as a physical genius.
It is this very premise that necessarily eliminates Carroll from inclusion in the "physical genius" club. An attempt to shoehorn Carroll's accomplishments and passion into Gladwell's theory simply misinterprets the purpose of the theory.

In short, Pete Carroll is not within the ambit of subject matter defined by the theory. College Football Report sums up this sentiment concisely:

I’ll be the first one to admit that Pete Carroll is an above average coach, but to even qualify him as a “coaching genius” is a stretch. A “recruiting genius” maybe, probably. But neither a genius of the coaching or physical entities. Hell, Gerry DiNardo could have gotten 10 wins a year out of the USC teams of the past three years. Carroll knew how to maximize his most talented players to the best effect in any given situation. This is not “genius”, it’s coaching, pure and simple. You want to talk about maximizing the available talent? Talk about what Navy did last year, or the fact that ANY of the military academies can field a competitive team on a yearly basis.

Personally, I think that a lot of coaches do alot more, with a lot less than Pete Carroll. But the guy has had a pretty good run. 1 National Championship, and played for a 2nd in 3 years time. Hell of a coach, even better recruiter. But “genius”, No.

Carney For Heisman!

This punt went 132 yards.
The ball quit football after the strike.

The Heisman Trophy is an annual award given to the nation's most outstanding player. Originally conceived by members of Manhattan's Downtown Athletic Club, the award was first presented at the conclusion of the 1935 college football season. Jay Berwanger, described as a "triple-threat cyclone in Chicago's backfield," was the first recipient of the honor.

Brendan Carney, redshirt senior punter for Syracuse University, looks to become the 72nd member of this hallowed fraternity in 2006.

2006 Statistics
The 2006 Orange football season should prove to be Carney's finest on the gridiron. With a slate of games tailored made for incredible punting performances, Carney is poised to elevate his status from bona fide superstar to blasphemous demigod.

Next stop: Yale Club!

Brendan Carney: 2006 Punting Statistics
Wake Forest834443.0*58
Miami (Ohio)520340.650
West Virginia727539.3***45
South Florida----

*: Carney launched a 12-yard punt due to a poor snap from center Ian Hammond. Had that punt not been included in Carney's statistics, he would have averaged 47.4 yards per attempt.

**: Due to incomprehensible field position, Carney needed to take some distance of his punts. As a result, his average was somewhat low. However, three of his kicks landed inside the 20 and one inside the five. Still very, very impressive.

***: It has been announced the Carney is suffering from an Achilles injury. Thus, his numbers have becoming fairly pedestrian, at least by normal Carney standards.

****: It was windy. Really windy.

Career Statistics
Oftentimes cumulative statistics can be deceiving. Brendan Carney's career numbers, however, appear to be the exception to such concern. The numbers are gaudy, unmatched, and more impressive than a fat kid dominating a smell contest.

Brendan Carney: Career Punting Statistics

*: Carney redshirted in 2002.

Career Bests
Warning: Staring directly at Brendan Carney's career statistics may impregnate chaste women.

Brendan Carney: Career Bests
PuntsNumber12 (Virginia Tech - 2003)
Longest71 (Florida State - 2005)
Yards481 (West Virginia - 2005)
Average52.0 (Rutgers - 2004)

Lacrosse Monday

Redundant Virginia Number One Headline
In what has been a tumultuous college lacrosse season, Virginia has managed to escape the vile grip of defeat and remains the country's lone undefeated team. As such, the Cavaliers once again sit atop both the Inside Lacrosse Media Poll and the USILA/STX Coaches Poll.

Inside Lacrosse Media Poll
Like every edition of the Media Poll this season, the press release from Inside Lacrosse is short and to the point:

Virginia stayed atop the latest Inside Lacrosse media poll, receiving all 24 first-place votes.

Hofstra, last week's No. 3 team, moved into second following Georgetown's slip to fifth. Navy and Maryland came in third and fourth place, respectively.

Cornell, Princeton, Massachusetts, Syracuse and Johns Hopkins rounded out the top ten. Also of note, Notre Dame fell from No. 11 to No. 17 and Loyola rocketed from twentieth to fourteenth.

Delaware and Harvard, ranked 18 and 19 last week, dropped out of the poll while Stony Brook and Colgate entered the poll at 19 and 20, respectively.
What the release fails to note is how Notre Dame has managed to stay in the the poll's top twenty despite back-to-back losses to Denver and Air Force this weekend. Is there any reason to believe that the Fighting Irish would prevail against Colgate, Delaware or Harvard at this point? Methinks this is highly unlikely.

1. Virginia (24)
2. Hofstra
3. Navy
4. Maryland
5. Georgetown
6. Cornell
7. Princeton
8. Massachusetts
9. Syracuse
10. [Hate] Johns Hopkins
11. Pennsylvania
12. Towson
13. Penn State
14. Loyola
15. UMBC

USILA/STX Coaches Poll
In stark contrast to the Media Poll, Notre Dame dropped like a rock in the Coaches Poll falling from the nine position last week all the way to nineteen today. Also, the coaches spoke in a strong, unanimous voice that "Hopkins blows my stones!" by moving the Blue Jays from eight to twelve following a disasterous blowout at the hands of Maryland Saturday night.

1. Virginia (10)
2. Hofstra
3. Maryland
4. Navy
5. Cornell
6. Princeton
7. Georgetown
8. Massachusetts
9. Syracuse
10. Pennsylvania
11. Towson
12. [Hate] Johns Hopkins
13. Penn State
14. UMBC
15. Denver

Pointless NCAA Speculation
After this weekends' incredible slate of upsets and last second victories, there have been some minor yet notable changes in my prognostications for May's Field of 16. As usual, I have utilized the multi-step selection criteria devised by the NCAA selection committee to create what appears below.

Automatic Bids
America East Conference: University of Maryland-Baltimore County
Colonial Athletic Conference: Hofstra
Great Western Lacrosse League: Denver
Ivy Group: Princeton
Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference: Marist
Patriot League: Navy

At-Large Bids
America East Conference: None
Atlantic Coast Conference: Maryland; Virginia
Colonial Athletic Conference: Towson
Eastern Colleges Athletic Conference: Georgetown; Massachusetts
Great Western Lacrosse League: None
Independents: Johns Hopkins; Syracuse
Ivy Group: Cornell; Harvard; Pennsylvania
Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference: Get Fucking Real, Douchebag
Patriot League: None

1. Virginia
2. Hofstra
3. Maryland
4. Cornell
5. Princeton
6. Navy
7. Pennsylvania
8. Georgetown

Bubble Watch
The calendar reads late April and that means only one thing: the NCAA tournament bubble is getting crowded. From now until selection day, I will highlight those teams that could play themselves into or out of the tournament field. The table is organized with the most deserving team placed highest on the chart with the least deserving of the bubble teams placed the lowest.

2006 NCAA "Bubble Watch"
TeamRecordRPISOSBest Wins
Harvard5-4176Penn; Denver
Stony Brook6-31516Penn State
Notre Dame7-42025Penn State
Penn State6-31619None

Too Easy, Drill Sargeant
Syracuse did everything it possibly could to lose at Rutgers Saturday afternoon. Peter Coluccini played like a hopelessly lost freshman. The offense reverted to something indicative of peach basket hoops in the fourth quarter of regulation. And the defense decided it was allergic to successful clearing attempts during the extra period.

Yet, the Orange was successful. I guess precision execution is overrated.

Victory Factors: v. Rutgers

This game may have turned out markedly different had Rutgers been functional in the face-off "x" (the Scarlet Blight won only 11 of 29 draws). In terms of offensive accuracy and precision, both teams got the job done on Saturday. Both teams took a fair handful of shots on each possession it generated and was able to connect at a terrific rate.

In short, if Rutgers gets a few more possessions, that 0.43 goal per possession value may have been the difference in the game.

What is particularly interesting is that despite the stall offense Syracuse employed for the game's fourth quarter it still managed to generate 35 possessions on the afternoon. While most of these possessions can be attributed to Jon Jerome's performance at the "x," a lot should be attributed to the defense's efficiency in clearing the ball from its own end (15 of 16 on the afternoon). In the end, that gave a tremendous uplift to the Orange offense.

Next up for the Orange is a Friday night tilt against a snake-bitten Albany club in the Carrier Dome. Given Syracuse's recent performance against Rutgers, this game is not to be taken lightly.

Good Friday? Try Great Friday!

The last half of this week saw a lot of pissed off spewed onto this notebook. As such, this is as opportune a time as any for a few YouTube moments.

Submission #1
Six words: "Jim Boeheim cussing like a sailor."

Submission #2
Five words: "I'm gonna fuckin' kill you!"

Submission #3
Three words: "Agony of defeat."

While money can't buy happiness,
it certainly lets you choose your own form of misery.

What happens when a terrible idea meshes with horrific timing?

The impetus for a lynch mob.

There's a reason that the subtitle to this notebook is "Chronicling the daily disaster that is Syracuse athletics."

As Post-Standard staff writer Donnie Webb notes in the above link, Syracuse has made the inexplicable decision to raise ticket prices for the 2006 Orange football season. Thus, in addition to voluntarily witnessing the trainwreck that will be the Orange Rush this year, Orange Nation will have the luxury of paying more to do so.

Hooray! Somebody call the Awesome Police because I've just been exposed to too much terrific!

The packages that were affected by the price increases look as follows:

Season tickets are $180. They were $168 in 2005.

Single-game tickets are $35; $40 for Iowa. Last season, they were $32.

Upper end zone seasons are $144, up from $135.

Youth seasons are $97, up from $80.
Syracuse Director of Athletics Daryl Gross had the following to say about the "modest" price increase:

"We put a lot of thought about it," Gross said. "We have to be sophisticated in our thinking. We can't wait for years to go by for us to get good to implement change as far as pricing. It's pretty modest. When you think about we froze season tickets last year and they've been the same for 04, 05 and 06, it's about an 8 percent increase over three years which is less than the cost of living or inflation.

"Some of that has to do with just surviving. Some of it has to be attributed to building the kind of program we want to build. We have to think that way. We have to build that way. We need to be competitive with the BCS schools."

"If you really analyze the pricing structure, you'll see what we've done, the concept here is to reward the season-ticket holder. Because we're really looking for the community, that fan that will be there whether you're playing Buffalo or Iowa."

To be honest, I actually would have preferred a throwback Jake Crouthamel explanation for the ticket price hike. Back in December of 2003, Crouthamel retorted with these comments after being questioned about how the public would react to the university's decision to retain former Orange head coach Paul Pasqualoni:

“ We’re the only horse in town,” he said. “ If people are into college sports and wish to support it, we’re the shot. We’re the only Division I-A football team around.”

While I may not have agreed with Crouthamel's decision, I could at least respect it as he did not try to sell me a product I may have been disinterested in. That take it or leave it attitude is devoid of spin and inherently respects its audience as it allows an individual to form his or her opinion as to how he or she will react to such developments. Dr. Gross, contrastingly, appears to be implying that such a price increase is actually reasonable to Syracuse fans.

That is simply ludicrous.

Obviously, running an athletic department is an expensive venture. To achieve competitiveness there must necessarily be a large armory of resources available to exploit. However, to start placing the onus of revenue raising on the average Orange fan this season is an almost incomprehensible notion, regardless of how slight the increase is. Syracuse football is in a position of transition, teetering between disaster and hopefulness. If this season fails from a win-loss standpoint, this new pricing scheme may just be the straw that breaks the camel's back for the borderline Orange supporter.

That is an incredibly dangerous proposition. Carrier Dome attendance has been plummeting since Donovan McNabb left The Hill seven years ago. There's no reason to not believe that attendance will continue to drop with the increased rates and another poor product trotted out onto the green and white grid.

Perry Patterson: Scholar-Athlete

If for some reason you have not revoked your membership in the Perry Patterson Fan/Buffet Club, now would be a good time to do so.

In a blog entry entered last night, Post-Standard staff writer Donnie Webb published a conversation he had with the Pudgy Passer after Wednesday's practice. In what can only be described as a stunning exchange, Patterson exposed himself as hopelessly immature and utterly incompetent. While this comes as no surprise to any diehard Syracuse fan, it does explain a lot about Patterson's lack of development over the last three years.

In response to a query regarding his development this spring and what he has improved in, Patterson had the following to say:

"Just the overall aspect of the offense. When I'm dropping back, I actually know what's going on now instead of trying to guess. I think with Coach (Phil) Earley and the things we're doing in the pocket, it's a lot better for us because we have a lot of protection problems. We have a lot more movement in the pocket instead of just standing back there being a target. Just the knowledge of the offense and my footwork is a lot better as well."

"When we got into game situations, it was harder to understand. When we install offenses, we usually look at teams that ran that offense. But when I was watching like the O, when I first came here watching the past quarterbacks run the offense that Coach P was in, it was you get some type of thought in your mind, like, OK, that's how that play is ran. When we started this offense, we really didn't have no film on it other than a couple of Denver Bronco's film and things like that, but that's still at a different level. It was just tough to bring it on the field, how to create your installation film for other guys. It was confusing at times, especially in game situations. I didn't know where my check-downs were and with the protection, it was hard to get into a rhythm. Last year was just crazy."
To steal a line from John McEnroe, "You can't be serious!"

I do not know where to begin with such comments. Learning a new offense in a relatively short period of time is certainly a difficult task, but there is no excuse for simply throwing away technique and strategy for amateur decision-making.

Not only is that lazy, but it is counterproductive.

If Patterson was truly confused as to Syracuse's offensive philosophy, why not spend more time in the film room studying what little film they apparently had, running 7-on-7's with his offense, or simply picking the brains of the coaching staff? It appears to me that when things got tough for the Orange offense last season, Perry decided to go along for the ride rather than taking some affirmative actions to better himself and, residually, the offense.

That's unacceptable. For a Division 1-A athlete to be so afraid of a little adversity is frightening, especially because the hurdles Patterson had to leap were limited to an aspect of the game that can be easily remedied -- comprehension.

The other aspect of these comments that I find concerning is how Patterson appears to be pawning off his tribulations on the coaching staff. Now, there is certainly the possibility that former quarterbacks coach Major Applewhite and former offensive coordinator Brian Pariani were underprepared for teaching and installing the West Coast Offense. However, I find that very unlikely. Coaching is their profession, and being the consummate teacher and workaholic is necessarily part of their resume. Furthermore, it is inconceivable to believe that this team did not have an armory of film on the West Coast Offense for reference purposes.

Thus, I'm left with the conclusion that Patterson is once again showing his true colors by passing the buck. When Paul Pasqualoni left the hill last year, Patterson took every opportunity to attack the Pasqualoni and George DeLeone offensive system. Patterson proudly proclaimed during summer conditioning and practice that Syracuse's new offensive philosophy was much easier to understand and execute. Major Applewhite, according to Patterson, was this team's savior.

And now, suddendly, it is Applewhite and Pariani's fault that Patterson was borderline pathetic last season?

One would think that at this point Patterson would have learned from his prior instances of ineptitude and immaturity. Apparently he has not as the following quote reinforces everything that I have noted above:

"Going through that last season, it kinda humbled me a little bit. It made me realize how tough the things we can withstand when we're going through a 1-10 season. Coming off that year, I feel I already hit the lowest point. The only way is to go up from there. When Coach (Brian) White coming from Wisconsin (as SU's offensive coordinator), we're actually looking at film, things he did at Wisconsin so I'm able to see how their quarterbacks executed that type of play. With that visual, the teaching of it, it's easier for me to go out there and transform what I see on the video to things I see on the film. The transition and the process is going a lot smoother this spring."
Buckle up, 'Cuse fans. If it is up to Patterson, an historic 1-11 season awaits.

Syracuse Spring Football: 2006

Perry Patterson: Default starting quarterback
and future IFOCE National Champion

At 1:00 PM Saturday afternoon, the demarcating boundary between the disappoint of Syracuse football 2005 and the 2006 campaign of frustration will officially be drawn. As such, it is worthwhile to take some space on this notebook to make some cursory notes about the Orange's spring and summer outlook.

Thanks to Coach Robinson's policy of limiting media opportunities during the spring football period, very little information regarding player development and movement has emanated from Manley since the Orange kicked off its practice schedule on March 20th. Thus, there is not a significant amount of news regarding spring progress that has not been sanitized or previously reported in various outlets. Accordingly, Saturday will be the publics (and arguably the media's) first opportunity to consider what pathetically low expectations will be reasonable for 2006.

As the summer progresses I hope to examine each position in more depth. At that point, more should be known about position battles and player development. This should, ideally, allow for an analysis to have more consequence. For now, however, I am simply going to utilize the spring prospectus published by the Syracuse Athletic Department to create what follows.

Today's edition of the outlook includes some general notes on the 2006 schedule and brief comments regarding the quarterback situation.


Who Are You?
As Syracuse attempts to turn the corner on its worst season in the university's proud 116-year football history, it will attempt to do so against five non-conference opponents that have rarely, if ever, shared the same football field with the Orange.

Syracuse has tangled with Miami of Ohio on two occasions. In 1987, Syracuse drilled the RedHawks 24-10 on the Carrier Dome carpet. The Don McPherson-led Orange[men] finished with an 11-0-1 record that season.

The only other meeting between the two schools came in 1980 as Syracuse again reigned triumphant with a 36-24 victory. The win was Syracuse's first on the season. The Orange[men] finished with a 5-6 record that year.

The last time Syracuse saw Big Ten member Iowa was in 1976 when it notched a 41-3 win against the Hawkeyes. Syracuse finished with a 3-8 record that season. One year prior, Syracuse edged out Iowa in a 10-7 contest in old Archbold Stadium. Syracuse finished just above the .500 mark that year with a 6-5 record.

The most frequent non-conference opponent on the Orange's 2006 schedule is Illinois. The Illini and Orange have played ten times in each school's history. Syracuse has won only one game in the series. The lone victory came in 1977 as Syracuse traveled to Champaign and walked away with a respectable 30-20 result. Syracuse finished with a 6-5 record that year.

The other meetings against Illinois came in 1982, 1981, 1978, 1970, 1954, 1953, 1951, 1910, and 1909. Overall in the series, Illinois has dominated at home with the average result in those games being 20.17 to 10.5.

Syracuse has never met Wake Forest or Wyoming on the gridiron.


CAPS: Returning starter from 2005
Bold: 2006 Pre-Spring projected starter
*: Injured
#: Suspended from spring practice
^: Questions about eligibility
$: Heisman Trophy Candidate


2006 Syracuse Quarterbacks
Returning PlayersP. PATTERSONSr.
J. FieldsJr.
M. HaleJr.
C. DantleySo.
Incoming PlayerA. RobinsonFr.

Coach Robinson has echoed some interesting comments regarding the quarterback situation at Syracuse this spring. Obviously, the signal caller situation is predictably unsettled, but what is concerning is that nobody in the program seems to have an idea of how this is all going to turn out. In pertinent part, Robinson had the following to say in the prospectus:

At quarterback, we are going into Spring ball with the idea that Perry is the first-string quarterbacdoes notat doesn't mean that the others don't have a chance to compete, but he is ahead right now. It will be an interesting Spring to watch the development at that position.
Unfortunately, Robinson's expectations of development have not materialized. In a recent story by Post-Standard staff writer Donnie Webb, Robinson stated the following:

Patterson is first-string, but not named starter

Robinson offered a slight clarification. Perry Patterson is not the starting quarterback. He's the first-string quarterback. Robinson said a starting position is earned. Patterson must still earn his position, though there's been nothing this spring to suggest that hasn't happened.

That cannot be good. The Orange is thirteen practices into its spring season and Patterson has yet to establish his control over the position. This further affirms my fear that despite Patterson's weight loss he is still freakishly inconsistent. Consequently, I have resigned myself to the fact that he will never turn into a functional quarterback in the mold of the surprisingly efficient (yet erratic) Robin Anderson.

[Note: That Paul Pasqualoni reference was brought to you by the letter "L" and the number ".500."]

Despite Patterson's lack of development, I still anticipate that he will be named the starter come the end of spring practice or, at the very latest, moments before Syracuse's September 2nd contest against Wake Forest. This conclusion is based not on a hope that Patterson will somehow become functional come that date, but rather on the assumption that Joe Fields will continue to serve as the team's enigma.

Over the last two seasons, Fields has yet to wrestle away the starting spot from Patterson. Frankly, I have no idea how this has not happened. For much of the last two years Patterson has actually been an impediment to offensive success rather than a positive cog driving the Orange machine. If Fields could not establish himself as a viable full-time alternative to Patterson over this period of time, I cannot envision a scenario that would have Fields unseating Patterson now.

In short, Syracuse is stuck with Patterson running the show into the ground in 2006. Orange Nation needs to resign itself to this fact now before any unwarranted expectations are rooted this summer.

With respect to Andrew Robinson, I do not think he will be a factor in 2006. While there is a possibility that Robinson has the talent to challenge Patterson and Fields for the starting spot this coming season, I anticipate that Coach Robinson will redshirt the young Marylander this year. This assumption is based on two conclusions:

1) the West Coast offense is a complex system that requires a significant degree of comprehension that a true freshman will be unable to absorb over the short summer period; and
2) there is no reason to trot Robinson out onto the field as Houston did with David Carr his rookie season.

The only scenario that I can envision that would result in Robinson not redshirting in 2006 is if local Christian Brothers Academy quarterback Mike Paulus gives a commitment to join the Orange as a freshman in 2007. Paulus has already indicated in various sources that he wants to be the only quarterback in his recruiting class. While his comments have not indicated whether this desire requires a school to abstain from redshirting a quarterback that would graduate 2011, I am led to believe that Syracuse would become a more attractive option to him if he was the lone freshman option when he enrolled as his competition for the quarterback position would greatly diminish.

This scenario, however, is highly speculative and as such, I will rest on my above comments until the Paulus situation is resolved.

As for the third-string quarterback battle, reports indicate that recruited walk-on Cameron Dantley has hurdled recruited scholarship player and maple leaf-fueled Matt Hale. So, the scenario has finally arisen that if Perry Patterson eats himself into a coma and Joe Fields decides he is sick of failing to realize his potential at Syracuse and wants to underachieve somewhere else, Syracuse could field a starting offensive and defensive player wearing the number eight.

[Note: The fact that this scenario has me more excited than Syracuse's actual exploits on the football field in 2006 is proof positive that my pessimism is eclipsed only by my gluttony for the absurd.]

Anticipated Post-Spring Starter: Perry Patterson
Player to Watch on April 15: Perry Patterson (begrudgingly)

Hope Springs Eternal

Syracuse Orange - 12, Cornell Big Dead - 11

A Preview? On This Blog?

There's a reason Odysseus left for ten years.

To say that tonight's contest against Cornell is a "big game"/"must win" would be an historic understatement. The Orange desperately needs to defeat the Big Red tonight if it hopes to entertain any chance at cementing a position in next month's field of sixteen.

In short (and to break out one of the most tired cliches in all of sports), tonight is like a playoff game -- it's win or go home time.

Over the last couple of years, Schoellkopf Field has been a House of Horrors for Syracuse. Since 2000, Syracuse has lost two out of its last three contests against the Big Red in Ithaca, with the Orange's lone victory coming in 2004 when Mike Powell and Company gutted out a 12-10 decision. Coupled with the fact that Cornell is armed with its finest stable of athletes since its glory days of the late 1970's and it becomes painfully clear that Syracuse faces a monumental challenge this evening.

Thus, given the awesome ramifications of tonight's upstate throwdown, I thought I'd piece together what amounts to a shoddy preview. I figure if Post-Standard staff writer Donna Ditota can fumble through a half-assed assessment of tonight's game, I too should dabble in the arena of pointless drivel passed off as reasoned analysis and insight.

Offensive Comparison

Victory Factors: Team Offense

While Cornell may not blister the field with breakneck pace like Virginia, the Big Red maintains one of the most efficient and disciplined offenses in 2006. Led by All-America Joe Boulukos, Cornell takes advantage of every possession they generate by peppering the cage with terrific shot selection and measured pace. In a word, this Cornell attack could easily wear the tag of "assassins."

This assessment is buttressed by two notions. First, while Cornell isn't generating a lot of possessions, it is making the most of them by attempting more than a shot per possession. That is indicative of three things: a dedication to backing up errant shots, putting nice attempts on net that either result in a tally or a save by the goal tender, and a resilience to turning over the bean.

When a team focuses on such fundamental aspects of the game as those illustrated above, an opposing defense must work twice as hard to tread water.

Second, Cornell is scoring on a third of its possessions. That is awesome. Thus, not only is Cornell making the most of its possessions from a shot perspective, but each shot carries great value for the Big Red as they are ringing the bell a lot when the offense touches the ball. That is a testament to the number of finishers the team has this season.

While Cornell's terrific efficiency is worrisome, it may not ultimately rule the day for Coach Jeff Tambroni's bunch. Cornell, like Syracuse, has struggled mightily this season at the face-off "x" winning only 43.2% of its draws. If the Orange can continue its upward improvement at this facet of the game, Cornell's precision offense may be somewhat neutralized.

In essence, Syracuse needs to do everything it can to limit the number of possessions Cornell is able to generate.

As for Syracuse's offense, the Orange have been somewhere between average and above average all season. Clearly, the Syracuse attack has not matched what Cornell has been able to accomplish offensively this season from an efficiency standpoint. However, if the Syracuse offense performs at the level it has against Princeton and Loyola -- which is marginally better than its overall season performance -- the Orange can rely on its hottest unit -- the defense -- to win the game.

With that said, I would still like to see a dedication to sound shot selection out of the Orange tonight. That does not mean that Syracuse needs to slow down the pace of play as it did against Princeton on Saturday (in fact, I think this team plays better offensively when it plays with more pace). It simply means that Syracuse must put more shots on net from preferential scoring positions. A great way to measure whether this occurs is charting the number of assists the Orange register on the night.

In short, if Syracuse can raise its shooting percentage tonight, I think the offense will be able to do enough to give this team a shot at victory.

Defensive Comparison

Victory Factors: Team Defense

I am still not sold on the Orange's apparent defensive turnaround. Over the last two games, Peter Coluccini has been asked to make 34 saves, 19 coming Saturday against Princeton. That is indicative of both Coluccini's raw talent and the incredible amount of luck he has been toying with of late. Even Coluccini stated as much in a recent article published by the Post-Standard:

"To tell you the truth, I have no clue how I made those saves," Coluccini said. "I was just reacting to the shots. I was able to get my body on a couple of them and then I had that one from 5-6 yards that I just went the right way."
With that said, Syracuse must continue to ride the defensive wave it has been on the last couple of games. Tonight, the Orange defense will not have the luxury of facing a depleted offensive unit (as in Loyola) or a team that simply put a lot of poor shots on cage (as in Princeton). Cornell is lightening quick and have million scoring options that can fill up the net quickly and efficiently. As a consequence, a lot will be on Steve Panarelli, John Wright, and Nathan Kenney to mark their men closely and somehow limit the number of clean looks the Big Red gets on cage.

Also, if Syracuse provides Cornell the number of possessions it has allowed its opponents this season, the Orange will lose because the Big Red are simply too good with the ball (31.42 shooting percentage). So, it appears as if Syracuse's success hinges on two aspects of the defensive game: 1) limitation of the number of clean looks at Peter Coluccini; and 2) limitation of Cornell offensive possessions by forcing a solid ride and backing up errant shots in the defensive end.

As for Cornell, the Big Red defense may be one of the most underappreciated units in the country. The numbers above are a great illustration of an efficient unit simply doing its job correctly. The Cornell defense, with respect to its statistical output, has limited the number of good looks afforded to an opposing offense and is creating a lot of empty possessions.

What more could a coach ask for?

It is for this reason that I believe Syracuse needs to dedicate itself to making good decisions from a shot selection standpoint this evening. If Cornell's offense sputters tonight against what may be a resurgent Syracuse defense, Cornell's defense is good enough to keep the Big Red in the game. Thus, it is imperative that Syracuse perform efficiently against this highly undervalued unit.

Lacrosse Monday: SU Is Functional Edition

[Insert hilarious caption here.]

Same Shit, Different Day
The more things change, the more things stay the same. As Virginia continues to blister the college lacrosse landscape, the Cavaliers' grip on the top spot in both the Inside Lacrosse Media Poll and the USILA STX Coaches Poll becomes tighter and tighter.

Inside Lacrosse Media Poll
The top three in the Media Poll stayed the same this week, but mild chaos ensued from the four slot down. As the press release notes:

Virginia is still undefeated, and thus, still on top of this week's Inside Lacrosse media poll. Georgetown and Hofstra remained at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, but Cornell and Navy bumped up to fourth and fifth, respectively.

The top ten are rounded out by Hopkins, Maryland, Princeton, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, respectively.

After an absence from the poll Loyola returned, this week at No. 20. Albany dropped out of the rankings.
1. Virginia (23)
2. Georgetown
3. Hofstra
4. Cornell
5. Navy
6. (Hate) Johns Hopkins
7. Maryland
8. Princeton
9. Pennsylvania
10. Massachusetts
11. Notre Dame
12. Syracuse
13. Towson
14. Penn State
15. UMBC

This poll has made me scratch my head all season. Syracuse was not punished last week despite having an abysmal 2-4 record and losing to upstate neighbor Hobart at home.

This week, the Orange punishes then number five Princeton and moves up a whopping three positions.

In short, there has yet to form a consensus on Syracuse within this poll. It appears as if some people are giving the Orange the benefit of the doubt while others are harshly punishing Syracuse for playing a difficult schedule. That, frankly, is concerning.

USILA STX Coaches Poll
The Coaches Poll, similar to the media poll, solidified its top three this week as Virginia once again secured the pole position with Hofstra and Georgetown following reasonably close behind. The rest of the poll looks as follows:

1. Virginia (10)
2. Hofstra
3. Georgetown
4. Cornell
5. Navy
6. Maryland
7. Pennsylvania
8. (Hate) Johns Hopkins
9. Notre Dame
10. Massachusetts
11. Princeton
12. Syracuse
13. Towson
14. Penn State
15. UMBC

Pointless NCAA Tournament Speculation
Back for its second week of sure to fail prognostication is my futile attempt to read the selection committee's mind. Utilizing the multi-step selection criteria devised for this endeavor, I've come up with what appears below.

Automatic Bids
America East Conference: University of Maryland-Baltimore County
Colonial Athletic Conference: Hofstra
Great Western Lacrosse League: Notre Dame
Ivy Group: Pennsylvania
Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference: Providence
Patriot League: Navy

At-Large Bids
America East Conference: None
Atlantic Coast Conference: Maryland; Virginia
Colonial Athletic Conference: Towson
Eastern Colleges Athletic Conference: Georgetown; UMass
Great Western Lacrosse League: None
Independents: Johns Hopkins; Syracuse
Ivy Group: Cornell; Harvard; Princeton
Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference: Get Fucking Real, Douchebag
Patriot League: None

1. Virginia
2. Hofstra
3. Cornell
4. Maryland
5. Georgetown
6. Princeton
7. Pennsylvania
8. Navy

This, of course, is all subject to change. And is pathetically pointless.

Puck Frinceton
There is nothing sweeter than watching Bill Tierney lose a lacrosse game. He is to me what Samuel L. Jackson was to Bruce Willis in Unbreakable. As a consequence, I am still reveling in Syracuse's demolition of the Tiger defense.

Remember all that stuff I mentioned last week about Syracuse showing no improvement over the course of this season? Well, there's a good chance that was all a lie. Syracuse had its stuff together on Saturday (thanks in large part to Peter Coluccini's 19-save performance), and the numbers bear this out:

Victory Factors: v. Princeton
Poss. = Possessions
Sht% = Shooting percentage
Sht/Poss = Shots per possession
G/Poss = Goals per possession

So, while the offense may have performed under its efficiency average this season (which should have been expected given Princeton's ferocious defense), the Orange defense stifled the Tiger attack. That is very encouraging.

All in all, an acceptable result for the Orange. The big question is, however, whether Syracuse will be able to translate this recent success into a "w" down at Ithaca tomorrow night.

The State of the Program

"An unsophisticated forecaster uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts - for support rather than for illumination."
-Andrew Lang

There's no point in sugarcoating the truth: Syracuse is not going to hoist any championship hardware down in Philadelphia this coming May. This team has too many inherent flaws to topple the lacrosse establishment in the tournament this year.

What is really disappointing about the 2006 edition of the Orange, however, is that the team has yet to show any marked improvement since last year's campaign. That is simply frustrating. With all the talent dotting Syracuse's roster, one could reasonably anticipate that this team was poised to turn the corner and re-position itself as one of the nation's most competitive clubs.

This, unfortunately, has not happened.

I understand that there are a lot of things that cannot be measured by statistics. Intangibles such as senior leadership, go-to strategy, and injuries do not translate well onto a spreadsheet. However, given the stable of talent Coach Desko has armed himself with, the Orange should transcend most of these statistical drawbacks as Desko's slew of interchangable parts mitigate the anomalies that often arise.

With this in mind, I thought I'd present what I am now calling "Victory Factors." With the exception of shooting percentage, these statistics are possessed based illustrations of efficiency and value. They are indicative of offensive and defensive strength or weakness and depict those necessary elements for success.

For this essay, I've punched up the numbers for Syracuse's 2005 and 2006 campaigns. As you can see, not much improvement has taken place from 2005 to 2006. In fact, in many aspects of the game, Syracuse has actually shown regression.

That is sad, considering the 2005 edition of the Orange accumulated only a 7-6 record.

Victory Factors - 2005

Victory Factors - 2006

Poss/Gm = Possessions per game
Sht% = Shooting percentage
Sht/Poss = Shots per possession
G/Poss = Goals per possession

There are a couple of things that immediately jump off the page as significant. The first that Syracuse's defense has improved, at best, marginally from 2005 to 2006. While one may attribute this lack of improvement as indicative of Syracuse starting a new goalie in the cage, the statistics do not bear this out. If this were all Coluccini's fault, Syracuse would be yielding more goals per possession in 2006 than it did in 2005. That simply is not the case.

Thus, I'm left with the conclusion that Syracuse's lack of development falls squarely on the shoulders of Steve Panarelli and company. Opponent possessions per game is up in part because Syracuse's close defense and defensive midfield has been almost unwatchable clearing the bean this year -- the Orange has cleared the ball safely on only 80.43% of its opportunities (as opposed to 84.27% in 2005). If Syracuse would simply address this concern, the team would capitalize greatly as the offensive unit operates at a greater efficiency than its counterpart. The 2006 Virginia game is a terrific example of this.

Furthermore, Syracuse's opposing offenses are shooting the ball at a better percentage this season than in 2005. This is simply another example of the defense failing to take advantage of opportunities and play up to its potential. If Syracuse's poles and short sticks could actually clamp down on an opponent's offensive guns and limit the number of clean looks available, things would begin to fall together. Moreover, Syracuse's opponents seem to be scoring a great deal on unsettled situations where the Orange were unable to corral a loose ball in its own defensive end. A little more focus in this area in the game would greatly increase Syracuse's efficiency and, residually, its opportunities for victory.

Another aspect of the "Victory Factors" I find interesting is that Syracuse is playing at a remarkably slow pace this season. While probably due to injuries to its core group of midfielders (Rommel, Brooks, and Niewieroski), it is interesting to see how much Coach Desko has slowed down this team from last year. Getting out-paced by three possessions a contest is Princeton territory, not Syracuse.

Finally, I am very concerned about Syracuse's shooting percentage in 2006 as opposed to 2005. There are two aspects of this statistic that I find disturbing. First, as Syracuse is allowing its opponent more possessions per game than it can generate, every shot Syracuse puts on cage is precious. In essence, the fewer possessions a team has, the more important every shot in those possessions become as they are limited in number and scope. Thus, because the Orange is not connecting on a higher percentage of shots than its opponents, the team is necessarily playing behind the eight-ball for much of the game. This team cannot handicap itself like that on a game-to-game basis.

The second aspect of this statistic that is frightening is that once again, the stat sheet bears out that Syracuse has no go-to scorer. With a go-to scorer, a shooting percentage will rise as that player tends to fill the net with tallies on a relatively consistent basis. Syracuse's inconsistency -- in terms of shooting percentage -- illustrates that this team maintains no consistent scoring threat.

In other words, the Orange need another Powell. Or Gait. One of the two; I don't particularly care either way.

Lacrosse Monday

If You're Undefeated, You're #1
For the last month or so, Virginia has reigned supreme over the college lacrosse landscape. After a 15-5 drubbing of ACC-rival Maryland on Saturday, the Cavaliers further solidified their position as the 2006 championship favorite. The Inside Lacrosse Media Poll and USILA STX Coaches Poll appear to agree as Virginia took every first-place vote available in both polls.

Inside Lacrosse Media Poll
As the release notes:

Virginia retained the top spot in this week's Inside Lacrosse media poll after whipping up on Maryland this weekend to move to 10-0 on the season.

Georgetown, which was No. 5 in last week's poll, moves up to No. 2, followed by Hofstra, Maryland and Princeton, respectively.

Jumping in this week's rankings are Penn, which beat Cornell last week. Penn moved from No. 18 in last week's poll to ninth this week.

In other Ivy success, Harvard moved from twentieth to sixteenth in this week's rankings.

Penn State and Army both moved back into the rankings this week after receiving votes last week. Loyola dropped out of the top 20.

Also, Inside Lacrosse has decided that as long as play is suspended at Duke, the Blue Devils will not be eligible for the media poll.
1. Virginia (24) - 10-0
2. Georgetown - 6-1
3. Hofstra - 7-1
4. Maryland - 6-2
5. Princeton - 5-2
6. Cornell - 6-1
7. (Hate) Johns Hopkins - 4-3
8. Navy - 7-2
9. Pennsylvania - 7-1
10. Massachusetts - 6-2
11. Notre Dame - 6-2
12. Towson - 4-4
13. UMBC - 4-3
14. Delaware - 9-2
15. Syracuse - 2-4

I never thought I would see the day where I feared having to excerpt more than the top 15 teams in a lacrosse poll so as to include Syracuse. What is more interesting, however, is that Post-Standard staff writer Dave Rahme didn't even include Syracuse on his ballot this week. As he notes:

I felt compelled to leave SU out of the top 20 for the first time. The Tuesday home loss to Hobart, which then lost by six goals at Fairfield, forced the issue. Hopefully, Saturday's victory over Loyola will spark a turnaround, but right now at 2-4 SU doesn't deserve to be included in the poll, although my gut tells me it is still better than some of the teams in there.
Dave is right on one point: Syracuse, by Syracuse standards, does not deserve to be ranked. However, can you honestly say that Lehigh, Fairfield, Army, and Colgate all deserve to be ahead of the Orange?

Syracuse is struggling, but if you put the Orange on the field against anybody from this motely crew, I'm going to take Syracuse to win eight times out of ten.

USILA STX Coaches Poll
Apparently, the fine people over at USILA are allergic to words strung together to form sentences as no press release accompanied this week's poll. Thus, all we get are the rankings:

1. Virginia (10) 10-0
2. Hofstra 7-1
3. Georgetown 7-1
4. Maryland 6-2
5. Cornell 6-1
6. Princeton 5-2
7. (Hate) Johns Hopkins 4-3
8. Notre Dame 6-2
9. Pennsylvania 7-1
10. Massachusetts 6-2
11. Navy 7-2
12. Duke 6-2
13. UMBC 4-3
14. Towson 4-4
15. Syracuse 2-4

Pointless NCAA Tournament Speculation
There was a recent thread over on the lacrosse forums discussing Syracuse's chances to make the NCAA tournament field this year. With huge games remaining against Princeton and Cornell, and RPI boosters in Massachusetts, Rutgers, and Albany, the Orange certainly are not out of the tournament mix yet.

As things stand currently, however, the Orange are far from a lock to receive a bid.

With this aside, I thought I'd piece together a far too early projection of the 2006 NCAA Men's Lacrosse Tournament field. Utilizing the selection criteria supposedly employed by the selection committee, I came up with what appears below. Take it for what it's worth, because it is premised on a lot of projection and speculation.

Automatic Bids
America East Conference: University of Maryland-Baltimore County
Colonial Athletic Conference: Hofstra
Great Western Lacrosse League: Notre Dame
Ivy Group: Pennsylvania
Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference: Marist
Patriot League: Navy

At-Large Bids
America East Conference: None
Atlantic Coast Conference: Maryland; Virginia
Colonial Athletic Conference: Towson
Eastern Colleges Athletic Conference: Georgetown; UMass
Great Western Lacrosse League: None
Independents: Johns Hopkins; Syracuse
Ivy Group: Cornell; Harvard; Princeton
Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference: Get Fucking Real, Douchebag
Patriot League: None

If you're wondering where I would seed these teams, it would be: Virginia (1), Marist (16), and Everyone Else (2-15).

Remember When Loyola Was Good? Me Neither.
Box Score

For whatever reason, Syracuse apparently looked functional Saturday afternoon in a 12-6 annihilation of Loyola in the Carrier Dome. As Post-Standard staff writer Donna Ditota notes, Syracuse rode its talented young rookies to the decisive victory:

All told Saturday, Orange freshmen accounted for five goals. For a team decimated by injuries to veterans in its midfield, those five rookie goals were significant.

"Teams were kind of dropping in and helping out on (Joe) Yevoli, Leveille, (Brian) Crockett and (Brett) Bucktooth," Desko said. "And we needed these guys to step up for us and put some points on the scoreboard."

"I think it was about time," said freshman middie Pat Perritt (2 goals), "for the freshmen to not play like freshmen any more."
I noted last week that a lot of Syracuse's troubles this season were based on the fact that the Orange weren't playing "Syracuse lacrosse." Well, despite generating a win, Syracuse did little to improve on its woeful 2006 statistical output. Pacing itself to victory on the back of Loyola's laughable shooting percentage and Peter Coluccini's 15-save performance, Syracuse, stastically at least, was not much better than its opponent:

4.01.06: Loyola at Syracuse

F.O.W. = Face-offs won
Cl.Opp. = Total team clearing opportunities
O.F.Cl = Opponent failed clearing opportunities
Poss. = Possessions
Sht% = Shooting percentage
S/Poss. = Shots per possession
G/Poss. = Goals per possession

What can reasonably be taken from the above? Nothing new.

Syracuse is still turning the ball over too many times on clearing attempts and continues to get hopelessly dominated in the face-off "x." Given the fact that this defense has yet to prove itself over a two-game stretch, Syracuse needs to improve in these areas so as to limit its opponents' possessions and mitigate the potential for doom.

But a win is a win is a win. And considering this team finally showed greater efficiency than its opponent for the first time in a month (Virginia), I think that's cause for mild optimism tempered by the gloom of reality.

Schadenfreude? Sure!
There aren't very many things I'm good at, but one of them is laughing the less fortunate. Thus, I submit the following videos from my new favorite distraction -- YouTube.

Submission #1
What do you get when you combine Bill Brasky and some poor sap who is probably a better mathlete than lacrosse star? One of the greatest slow motion replays ever, of course.

Submission #2
The video on this submission is a little grainy -- kind of like recovered Bigfoot footage -- but I highly recommend sticking with it. Your reward? Some kid getting dusted from about ten yards away.

Nothing says "Sucks to be you!" like watching a kid crumple to the turf.

Submission #3
What was that? You want to see a pointless sideline ass-cracker? You got it.

Submission #4
And, finally, my favorite of the bunch. This appears to be emanating from some adult lacrosse club tournament and the hit is well worth the eight seconds necessary to watch the video.

Nothing beats a hit that jars the ball loose from the crosse. Especially when it is unexpected.


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