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... And We're Going To Springfield!

I made it in the hall...after paying $8.50
I know it’s the time of the year for College Football to start swinging. This very weekend the Orange begin their campaign at Wake Forrest. Therefore this notebook was of course covering all the hoopla associated with it, as well as the ridiculously talented special teams unit the Orange possesses. However, as much as I enjoy football (and apparently must cover it in the absence of the talented Mr. Glaude), I thought I’d make a return to writing for this chronicle by talking about my recent and first time visit to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. Everyone this time of year could use a Boeheim fix.

There are a lot of interesting connections between the Basketball Hall of Fame and Syracuse. Not just the university, but the city as well. For instance, the 24 second shot clock was invented in Syracuse by the then Syracuse Nationals (eventually to be the Philadelphia 76ers) owner Danny Biasone. A founding father of the NBA, some maintain that it is still the most significant rule change to the NBA.

Before there was the NCAA Tournament, and the beloved “March Madness” we all enjoy while we fill out our brackets, Syracuse University actually won the “National Championship”. Led by Hall of Famer Vic Hanson, the team apparently won everything you could win at that time in 1926. Whatever that means. Nothing was too clear as to what this meant then.

Next is Syracuse great Dave Bing, a member of the Orangemen from 1962 to 1966. His senior season, while being co-captain with Jim Boeheim, was named consensus All American. He was fifth in the nation in scoring his senior season (28.4ppg). Other career highlights include being named NBA Rookie of the Year in 1967, as well as being named one of the 50 greatest NBA players in history. He was named MVP of the All Star game in 1976 as well. Bing was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990. Being more then qualified, he got to help induct his former teammate Jim Boeheim into the hall in 2005.

Finally, Jim Boeheim finally got his ticket punched to the hall in September of 2005. He was inducted with friend and rival Jim Calhoun. While regular readers of this notebook probably know the full annals of Boeheim’s career, I’ll provide some highlights anyway:

NCAA Championship in 2003, 3 Final Four Appearances, Big East Coach of the
Year 3 times, USA Basketball Coach of the Year in 2001, overall Lord and
Master of the 2-3 Zone Defense.
Needless to say, he deserved a trip to Springfield. It was an enjoyable day and pretty cool to see the rich history of basketball. If you love the game, college basketball, or the NBA, you’ve got to see it for yourself. You can check out who is enshrined and everything else about the hall here. And it was nice to see a little piece of Syracuse now that I’m not there anymore.

Oh, and one more thing...

Say hello to your captain.

You're on Notice!

Be Somebody!

See you in hell, ten readers.
This is where the story ends.

Or where it begins.

I forget; blame it on the heroin, I suppose.

Anyway, from this point forward I am moving virtually all my football-related material over to AOL Sports. The only football-related contributions I will be making to this notebook are Big East Conference, national college football, and BlogPoll-related musings. I may excerpt material designated for AOL here, but will not make any promises about that at this time.

For the record, the College Football FanHouse has yet to launch (it is scheduled to go "live" on September 5th). Material that I have produced, however, can be found here. As you can tell, the initiative is still a work in progress, but when complete should become the internet's finest portal for all things college football.

So, until basketball season begins, enjoy the dolcid tones of Collin and Brian.

Paul Pasqualoni Moment

A picture paints a thousand words.
For this picture, those words are of the four-letter variety.

Checkmate, Brian!

I posted a link to this YouTube video below, but it probably deserves its own space on the notebook.

In case you haven't been paying attention (and given the ADD-riddled readership of this notebook, you probably haven't), Brian Cook of mgoblog fame has jumped on the "Punters Are Better Than Cheese Fries" bandwagon. His entry to the sweepstakes is Michigan punter Zoltan Mesko.

Mesko, despite having a cannon for a leg (if that's even metaphorically possible), has the accuracy of Ray Charles in a Hogan's Alley. That hasn't deterred Brian, however, as the Michigander has upped the ante in the competition by creating arguably the greatest t-shirt ever designed in the history of everything:

As one who loves debating the inane, I proudly submit the following video as further proof of Brendan Carney's dominance over all things pursued by modern man. Although he performs under his stage name "Kevin," those pipes are all Carney.

I Love Kickers

L-R: Some guy, another guy, GPA booster, The Greatest Football Player Ever In The History of Everything, some guy, some guy that shouldn't shave his head.
A somewhat quiet Friday has suddenly turned into the event of the pre-season. Today, Syracuse Athletics published its official preview of the Orange's special teams unit. In pertinent part:
Senior Brendan Carney returns to handle the punting and kickoff duties for the Orange in 2006. Carney was an All-BIG EAST First Team selection in 2005 after ranking 24th nationally and first in the conference in punting average (42.6). He also set single season records for punts 982) and most punting yardage (3,491). He enters the season second at Syracuse all-time in punting average (42.8), and third in most punts (199) and punting yardage (8,513). Carney also handled kickoffs for the Orange in 2005, averaging 62 yards a kick.
I don't care how many "Zoltan For Heisman" t-shirts Brian sells, Brendan Carney is still the strongest punter eligible for Heisman consideration.

Plus he's American, and these colors don't run.

Williams Likely on 5-Year Plan

While Syracuse head coach Greg Robinson has not officially made the decision, freshman wide receiver and Buffalo native Mike Williams will likely serve a redshirt season in 2006.

In a blog entry penned today by Syracuse Post-Standard staff writer Donnie Webb, Robinson comments on the maturation of the receiving corps and that group's potential makeup and depth for this upcoming season:

Freshman Mike Williams has been impressive in camp, but asked if Williams would make the rotation, Robinson hesitated.

"I don't know that. I don't know that when you say four or five, if freshmen are in that group right now. Those freshmen are still working and doing good things on the field. Mike's done some things to get everybody's attention. I don't want to get the cart ahead of the horse, yet, but I do feel like, you know, some of those young guys have come along very well."

Therefore, the next two receivers behind starters Rice Moss, Tim Lane and Taj Smith would be Lavar Lobdell and Jeremy Horne.
These comments lead to two obvious points of emphasis. First, with a somewhat settled five-man rotation, the need to put Mike Williams onto the gridiron in 2006 is nullified.

The West Coast Offense rarely calls for sets featuring more than four wideouts. Rather, the West Coast Offense generally displays two and three-man wide receiver sets with backs and tight ends serving as options in the passing game. Given the fact that Robinson and White plan to use a rotation at the wide out position, potential fatigue should not necessitate a sixth contributor to the unit. Thus, there is no need to worry about the receiving corps "tiring itself out" through a self-imposed depth restriction.

Secondly, Robinson obviously has an affection for Williams, but for whatever reason, Williams has not yet grasped enough of the offense to become an effective option in 2006. As Robinson noted in a recent piece penned by staff writer Donnie Webb for the Syracuse Post-Standard, Williams has all the tools to accomplish great things:
Redshirt freshman Lavar Lobdell of Christian Brothers Academy may be establishing himself as the fourth wide receiver behind Rice Moss, Tim Lane and Taj Smith. Robinson calls the group competitive.

"You do flow with five guys," Robinson said. "Lavar has come back and looks like the Lavar we were hoping to see. He's done a lot of good things. Jeremy (Horne) flashes. The young kids, all three of them, have done good things. It's early, but they're football players. And the team knows it."

One is Mike Williams, of Buffalo. Williams was unable to enroll with the other freshmen in summer school but has impressed since his arrival.

"He's got gifts," Robinson said. "He's a real good athlete, No. 1. He can run, he can jump and he's strong. He's got good hand-eye coordination. His greatest strength is he's very competitive."
Thus, one can only come to the conclusion that Robinson fears walking down the same path he crossed last season with wide receiver-turned-safety Bruce Williams. If Mike Williams can contribute on offense as a wide out (which probably constitutes dropping less than four passes a game), Robinson will likely place Williams into the rotation. If Robinson does not believe that Williams can effectively contribute and that a redshirt season would both benefit Williams and the program, then he should err on the side of caution.

In short, if the entire receiving corps is going to frustrate Orange Nation, it is better than the old blood due so in order to protect the young. There is no need to recontribute to the myriad of problems associated with Paul Pasqualoni's decision to play Rice Moss and Johnnie Morant in potential redshirt seasons. Robinson must recognize this and take appropriate precautions.

Thursday Fodder

Bud Poliquin Is A Crazy Old Coot
As Syracuse's September 2nd tilt against Wake Forest draws ever closer, expectations and tempered optimism appear to have found a foothold on The Hill.

Whether this is reasonble or not is certainly subject to debate. Syracuse Post-Standard columnist Bud Poliquin, however, has managed to both define the optimism and wake up the echoes of an old and disturbing recruiting nightmare:

The great good news on this morning is that there are still plenty of believers out there. A 1-10 record? Nine losses in a row? An offense that couldn't move the ball against a double strand of Charmin last autumn?

Didn't matter on Wednesday night up there on the big campus in town. Didn't matter, anyway, to the crowd of 500 or so rubberneckers who came out on a gorgeous summer evening to take a gander at Greg Robinson's Orange Edition No. II.

* * * * *

The breezy affair was billed SU's "Wednesday Night Lights," and if it wasn't a stroke of marketing genius, it was at the very least a nice conciliatory gesture. As in, "Why don't we all forget about Ought-Five and concentrate, instead, on those no-good Demon Deacons?"

And, sure, most of the visitors so many of whom had to have hoped that last season's 1-10 was an accident and not an omen seemed to buy in. This Orange bunch, after all, was 0-0, it was tied for first place in the Big East Conference and it hadn't yet executed a single three-and-out.

* * * * *

What, then, was not to like on this August evening?

That is, beyond the fact that Greg Paulus was taking it all in at the base of one of the end zones while wearing a "Duke Basketball" shirt and not an orange helmet?

* * * * *

Happiness was seeing that 1-10 campaign in the rearview mirror. Melancholy was watching Greg Paulus, the Duke point guard and not the Syracuse quarterback . . . watching.


And bittersweet.

As much of a curmudgeon as I may be, Poliquin sets the standard for cantankerous behavior. Reminding the Syracuse populace of what should have been a recruiting coup at a time when most of the Orange faithful has buried not one, but two Paulus debacles into the deep recesses of its collective fandom takes a blind wit that few appreciate.

Poliquin does, however, accurately depict the tension between the optimism held by many members of Orange Nation and the biting reality gripping Syracuse's football program. Paulus is the shining example of where Syracuse must go before recapturing its place amongst the college football elite. The fact that Paulus is still tied to the Orange program yet not participating shows the talent and recruiting deficiencies Greg Robinson must overcome. Granted, Robinson has accumulated a nice incoming class for 2007, but until that class enrolls on campus and matures, pre-season optimism is the only good tidings that this fanbase will experience on an annual basis.

Dave Rahme is Unimpressed; Benches Volkswagens
Continuing the theme set by Poliquin in today's edition of the Post-Standard, staff writer Dave Rahme chimes in with his thoughts on the blind optimism held by many of the Orange faithful:

Hope springs eternal
A friend at the gym stopped me yesterday as I was lifting weights and asked, "Hey do you really believe all that stuff you've been writing in the paper about the football team?"

My response: "This is August. The team is 0-0. I'll have three months to analyze what goes wrong."

Thinking about it afterward, I realized I had evaded his question, but I really do feel that way. Everybody knows the team was 1-10 last season. Everybody knows the offense was horrible. Everybody knows the best players from that team graduated. All has been well-chronicled in the pages of the P-S. But that was last year. The team is 0-0 this season. Does it need to be reminided in every preseason story of its 2005 failings? The players and coaches tend to look ahead; the media tend to look back.

* * * * *

That noted, my sense is that this is an improved football team despite the losses to graduation. I think the defense will be solid again, I think Perry Patterson will be much improved, I think the stable of running backs is deep and that Delone Carter is the real deal, I think the receiving corps has been upgraded substantially. But I worry about the offensive line. I see great potential for this unit in the future with guys like Tucker Baumbach, Ryan Bartholomew and Jim McKenzie on board, but they are a year or two away, although expediency may dictate otherwise. In the meantime, the unit will have to find a way to give the upgrades around it time to shine. I worry that it will be unable to do so.

But, hey, it's August. The team is 0-0. Let the players and coaches have their say. We'll get ours soon enough.

Rahme has hit the nail on the head: things should improve this year for the Orange, but a Notre Dame-esque "Return to Glory" is still eons into the future. In the truncated season preview appearing on this notebook, I have written much material similar to that posed today by Rahme. 2006 is truly going to be a year of transition, marked by continual growing pains and frequent bouts of abject frustration.

An Answer Without An Answer
The verdict is in: Greg Robinson loves everyone:

Freshman Delone Carter will play in a three-man rotation at tailback for Syracuse University in the opener against Wake Forest. Head coach Greg Robinson, though, admitted Wednesday night that starting a true freshman in his first game leaves him anxious.

"I don't expect that," Robinson said.

So he'll either call sophomore Curtis Brinkley or Paul Chiara to be the Orange's starting tailback. Still, all three tailbacks are going to play, he said.

"I think Delone's going to play," Robinson said Wednesday night before practice. "To say right now he's going to start . . . to be the starting guy, there's a lot more on your plate. He'll be in the flow of things and we'll go from there

"Curtis has had a good camp. I feel Curtis Brinkley. I think Paul Chiara broke out a good run a couple of days ago, made a nice play on a check-down pass play to him yesterday. Delone Carter yesterday did two or three things that got everybody's attention. I think we're going to see three tailbacks in the game on Sept. 2."
Entering the sanctioned summer training period, the rumor mill was abuzz that Delone Carter would find his way onto the playing field in 2006, thus eliminating the possibility of a redshirt season. This premonition appears to have come true.

Despite the significant gains Carter has made this summer, it should be noted that I am still uncomfortable with Carter potentially burning his redshirt. As noted in a previous essay, if Carter is truly the type of game changing back that far surpasses the talents of Curtis "Boonah" Brinkley and Paul Chiara, then Carter should play; if not, let him sit and learn:

Should Carter show flashes of prodigal talent during the summer, there is going to be a lot of pressure on head coach Greg Robinson to throw Carter into the mix, especially if neither Brinkley nor Chiara secures the starting position without question. Ideally, either Chiara or Brinkley will establish themselves as viable first and second options, thus allowing Carter to redshirt this season and apply some weight and resilience to his frame. If Carter truly is the kind of game changing back that those in the business believe he can become, there is no reason to force him onto the field before he is ready.

This is not to say that Carter should not see playing time if he is truly the strongest rusher on the depth chart. Freshman running backs in recent history have had success on the gridiron. However, the Orange program made the mistake of playing a highly rated recruit in Johnnie Morant early in his career when he was not ready to step onto the field. He lost a year of eligibility and only late in his career began achieving his potential. Hopefully, Greg Robinson will not make the same mistake with Carter this year.
Robinson's comments in today's edition of the Post-Standard, however, do not appear to be the result of community pressure to play Carter early. Rather, Robinson appears either truly enamored with Carter or unbelievable unimpressed with Chiara and Brinkley. Either way, the running back debate has been settled, albeit in an unsettled manner.

Eds. Note: Does anyone know what Greg Robinson means about "feeling" Boonah Brinkley? This is the second time that Robinson has made such a statement about a player (most recently about Delone Carter). If this is an attempt at slang, it is the most awkward phrase ever created. Especially coming from Robinson, as his speech inflection and tone is eerily similar to that of Grady Little.

West Virginia Loves Tax Reform, Hates Syracuse
(Hat Tip: Orangeyes)

Dan Page, editor and publisher of The State Journal, waxes poetic on his favorite memories from West Virginia Mountaineer past:
With all eyes focusing on Morgantown Sept. 2, I wonder what memories the 60,000-plus spectators will carry away from the West Virginia-Marshall football game.

The first of my many Mountaineer football memories came on Nov. 22, 1958. I remember the brisk Morgantown air crackling with excitement. Male students dressed in sports coats and ties and young women in wool suits, some with bright mum corsages, huddled together as they slowly made their way down steep steps to splintery bleachers.

The sing-song chorus from the student section was the strongest taunt in those days. It surely amused the Orangemen from Syracuse:
We don’t give a damn for the state of New York, state of New York, state of New York . . .
We don’t give a damn for the state of New York . . .
For we are the Mountaineers . . .
We are the Mountaineers . . . .
That's some good, old fashioned disdain right there. To hate an entire state is impressive, especially since Syracuse has never been chartered as a public university.

I'm Flattered . . . But Angry Nonetheless

Just say "No" to bitching and moaning.

Due to obligations not associated with Syracuse Athletics (read: I'm moving), essays have been in short supply recently. Features should return sooner rather than later.

Until then, keep the "where are the posts?/my life is now meaningless" emails to yourself. My advice: read some of the blogs listed on the right hand column of the notebook. Generally those blogs are better than mine and, as an added bonus, you can beat Donnie Webb to his somewhat regular "Around the Blogosphere" entries.

Justin Schuver Hates America

You're on notice, Madison County Record!

But that is only the end of the story. The real fun (fortunate for literate Americans; unfortunate for vagabond sports editors employed in Huntsville, Alabama), however, is the journey to this glorious conclusion.

In a piece appearing in yesterday's edition of the Madison County Record, sports editor and resident village idiot Justin Schuver attempts to convey to the tens of Record subscribers college football's "best" and "worst." Syracuse Post-Standard staff writer Donnie Webb provided his beatdown of Schuver earlier this morning. Now it is time that this notebook brings the goods.

Rather than cropping Schuver's article in totem and penning a running diatribe against it, I'm simply going to expose the article piecemeal and attack Schuver surgically.

Justin Schuver Doesn't Research: Traditions
In pertinent part:
Best tradition: Dotting the "I" at Ohio State - It's something I've never gotten the chance to see live, but you have to admit the idea is absolutely fabulous. For that one brief moment, the Ohio State band's sousaphone player has to feel like he or she's on top of the world as he or she runs to dot the "I" in the band's "Script Ohio" formation. (Honorable mentions: Texas A&M's Yell Practice, Clemson's Death Valley rock)

Worst tradition: Auburn fans rolling Toomer's Corner after a win - is a great way to celebrate a football victory. If you're a high school freshman.
Quite frankly, "Dotting the 'I'" at Ohio State is pretty awesome. Any tradition that has incorporated Jack Nicholas and Bob Hope is unstoppably awesome. However, the real issue with Schuver's listing is his nonchalant assessment of "Clemson's Death Valley rock."

First of all, it isn't called "Clemson's Death Valley rock." It is called "Howard's Rock," named after former Clemson head football coach Frank Howard. The rock, of course, has one of the most interesting histories in college football:

In either 1964 or 1965, a Clemson student (class of 1919) named S.C. Jones, went to California and stopped in Death Valley, CA, and found a white flint rock which he brought back with him. The rock was presented to Coach Frank Howard as "being from Death Valley, CA, to Death Valley South Carolina."

The rock laid on the floor in Howard's office in Fike for a year or more. One day Howard was cleaning up his office and he told Gene Willimon, who was the executive secretary of IPTAY, to, "take this rock and throw it over the fence or out in the ditch . . . do something with it, but get it out of my office." Willimon didn't think that was the way a rock should be treated. After all, it had been brought 3000 miles by a very sincere Tiger fan.

In September of 1966 it was placed on a pedestal at the top of the hill, a gameday in which the Tigers managed to come back from an 18-point deficit with 17 minutes remaining and win by five points against Virginia.

Contrary to what is mentioned in the previous section about Howard's Rock, the team does not rub it for "Magical powers". A player is allowed to rub "the Rock" if they are going to give 110%. Coach Howard was quoted as saying "if you are going to give a hundred and ten percent you can rub my rock...if you are not going to give a hundred and ten percent keep your filthy hands off my rock". Many times announcers who either don't know the true story behind "the Rock" or don't feel like explaining it on television will over simplify it by making the "magical powers" reference or some variation thereof.

Secondly, while one of college football's most vaunted traditions, it is not better than (in no particular order):

  • The Cadets' march over to Michie Stadium at West Point;
  • The Army-Navy procession prior to the annual Army-Navy game;
  • The "12th Man" at Texas A&M;
  • Jump Around and the Fifth Quarter at Wisconsin; and
  • Touchdown Jesus

Justin Schuver Doesn't Research: Stadiums
In pertinent part:

Best stadium: Bryant-Denny Stadium (Alabama) - It has a nice location and seats a large crowd without being obnoxiously big. The scoreboard is nice while not terribly intrusive and the acoustics are great. Following its new expansion, this stadium can match up to any field in the country. (Honorable mentions: Doak Campbell Stadium - Florida State, Jordan-Hare Stadium - Auburn)

Worst stadium: Carrier Dome (Syracuse) - Football was not made to be played on turf. Football was not made to be played indoors. Apparently the folks in upstate New York missed the memo. It's like watching a game in a warehouse.
First of all, I am not going to attack Schuver's assessment of the best stadiums in the country. However, the fact that LSU's Tiger Stadium, Tennessee's Neyland Stadium, and Virginia Tech's Lane Stadium are missing from this list is an absolute farce. At night, there may be no better place than the three I have just listed to watch a football game. Frankly, Schuver's conclusions smack of homerism and misguided television perception.

Now, onto his cheapshot against the Carrier Dome. From a pure football standpoint, the Carrier Dome is not the cat's meow. There is much to be said for playing outdoors on turf. However, even conceding this argument, the Carrier Dome cannot be considered the college football's worst stadium.

Out in Moscow, Idaho, the University of Idaho Vandals play in a glorified barn called the Kibbie Dome. If you are in the market for a visual representation of this abomination, I submit the following:

Airport hangar or football facility?
The Kibbe Dome holds a whopping 16,000 rabid Idaho fans and has all the allure of a week-long visit to the proctologist. This, dear reader, is truly the dregs of college football stadia.

Also, if Schuver truly has a disdain for domed stadiums, how can the Carrier Dome outpace the Metrodome in Minneapolis? As a large, barren, off-campus facility that is forced to share its playing surface with a baseball team, the Minnesota Golden Gophers easily play in confines that are poorer than that of the Syracuse Orange.

Justin Schuver Doesn't Research: Color Schemes
In pertinent part:
Best team color combination - Iowa (black and yellow) - Legendary Iowa coach Hayden Fry chose these colors because they were the same ones worn by the then-dominant Pittsburgh Steelers. The yellow also reminds a viewer of corn, which is of course Iowa's signature agricultural export. I like the colors; they're unique but they don't clash or look garish. (Honorable mentions: Notre Dame - blue and gold, North Carolina - powder "Carolina" blue and white)

Worst team color combination - Florida (blue and orange) - Ugh. Just say no. These two colors look awful together. And that boring helmet with the bubbly cursive "Gators" doesn't help the look one bit.
Are you serious, Schuver? Blue and orange looks worse than this:

Looks bad in my toilet.
Looks even worse on a uniform.
Justin Schuver Doesn't Research: Nicknames
In pertinent part:
Best name: Nebraska Cornhuskers - It's easily shortened, it's colorful and it's unique. It identifies itself with the state and flows well with the word "Nebraska." Plus if you're a Nebraska fan you get to wear a giant ear of corn on your head, and who wouldn't love to do that? (Honorable mention: Alabama Crimson Tide, Notre Dame Fighting Irish)

Worst name: Syracuse Orange - This is political correctness gone amuck. The original name of Orangemen had historical significance but the new version sounds like the name of an Arena League football team.
Shuver's assessment that Syracuse has the worst nickname in college football is one of the greatest logical fallicies ever created. To wit, Schuver lauds Nebraska for having an easily shortened name that is colorful and unique.

Doesn't that exactly describe Syracuse's moniker?
  • No other college or university in the country has the nickname "Orange";
  • Crayola and I agree that it is very difficult to find a nickname more colorful than "Orange"; and
  • Every hardcore Syracuse fan shortened the moniker "Orangemen" to its current permutation even before the university's administration took what was then seen as a radical paradigm shift.

Moreover, is "Orange" any worse than Harvard Crimson, Dartmouth Big Green, or Stanford Cardinal? All these school's moved to the "It's not just a color, it's a state of mind" nickname following efforts to placate well-intentioned protesters. While all the moves were motivated by political correctness, all show an institutional willingness to progress out of the 1800's and actually respect both its students and local tribes.

Unlike the aforementioned three schools (with the possible exception of Dartmouth College which has referred to itself as "The Green" or "The Big Green" for what appears to be eons), however, Syracuse has a tradition of referring to itself as the Orange. To chastise the university for its nickname, consequently, is a failure to recognize its long and storied history.

Dome Improvements

Dr. Gross to Concrete: "Hit the Bricks!"
There's no reason to beat around the bush: the Carrier Dome is a very dank and cold building. The familiar gray of concrete surrounds virtually every nook and cranny of the building, save the ominous white of the teflon ceiling. In 2006, however, the Carrier Dome will become a little more chic and a lot more awesome.

As Syracuse Post-Standard staff writer Donnie Webb notes in today's truncated edition, Dr. Gross has once again placed his substantial fingerprint on the Northeast's finest athletic facility:
When you walk into the Carrier Dome now, you know that national championships have been won at Syracuse University.

The banners have been replaced by what are essentially national championship billboards. They have been installed into the upper corners of the Carrier Dome.

Not all of the banners have arrived or gone up. Some of them were on display during a media event on Wednesday to inspect the new Executive Club Box that's taken over Section 208 in the mezzanine corner of the end zone.

There are three billboards per corner and each is about 30 feet by 20 feet. They are made of mesh by a Michigan company called Britten Banners & Event Solutions.

Football has been assigned the southeast corner. Basketball has the southwest corner and lacrosse will go into the northeast corner.
While such a grandiose project smacks of tackiness, the end products are surprisingly tasteful:

UPDATE: Syracuse Athletics has posted a "banner gallery" for your viewing pleasure. The photos aren't as clear as the Syracuse Post-Standard images appearing above, but they do provide a better context as to how the banners are placed within the Dome's confines.

(Hat Tip: Collin Long)

The lacrosse banners, according to Webb, have not yet arrived. One need not stretch his or her imagination too far to expect that some combination of Gary/Paul Gait, Casey/Ryan/Mike Powell, and Roy Simmons Jr./Sr. will appear on the giant placards.

Someone Would Actually Pay $6,000 to Watch the Orange?
In an effort to generate revenue (and, residually, to create a caste system within the Dome), Syracuse Athletics has announced the creation of an "Executive Club Seating Area." For a mere donation of $6,000, you can have the privilege of sitting alongside some of Central New York's stuffiest people:
The Executive Club Seating area is located in sections 207 and 208, and will feature a host of amenities, including: two 42” LCD color televisions, a gourmet buffet (complete with complimentary soda and beer), a wait service, and a cash bar. The area features premier visibility for both football and basketball games.

“We wanted to enhance the amenities we offer to our fans,” said Director of Athletics Dr. Daryl Gross. “The Executive Club Seating area adds to the menu for those who support Syracuse Athletics. We’re excited about the atmosphere we’ve created, and we believe that everyone will enjoy the game from this area.”

With your donation of $6,000 per year, you will receive one football and one men’s basketball season ticket in addition to all of the above amenities. A portion of your donation is tax deductible. Access to preferred parking is as a benefit from your donation.

Syracuse Football: 2006 (Part IV)

Sieve! Sieve! Sieve!
[Eds. Note: This essay is the second in a series of less than eighteen previewing the 2006 Syracuse Orange. Previous installments can be found here.]


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

2006 Syracuse Offensive Tackles
Returning PlayersC. ChaversSo.
E. NewsomeJr.
I. HammondJr.
Incoming PlayersA. RosnerFr.

2006 Syracuse Centers
Returning PlayersJ. OUTTENSr.
M. McCallJr.

2006 Syracuse Offensive Guards
Returning PlayersC. MADISONJr.
R. DurandSo.
M. SklaroskySr.
D. BouchardSo.
R. EhrieSo.

2006 Syracuse Offensive Line
Incoming PlayersR. BartholomewFr.
T. BaumbachFr.
J. McKenzieFr.
J. Meldrum^Fr.
L. NortonJr.

To say that Syracuse's offensive line was poor in 2005 may be the understatement of the century. Generating only 2.96 yards per rushing attempt and yielding an incredible 37 sacks on the season, the Orange offensive line was downright terrible in its 11-game campaign a year ago.

Unfortunately, the execution is not likely to improve significantly in 2006.

Through approximately ten pre-season practices, the Orange have yet to solidify its starting rotation up front. As it stands currently, Syracuse Post-Standard staff writer Donnie Webb believes the offensive line will eventually look as follows:

Based on what's taking place in the short period of practice open to the media, it seems SU is sticking with a working order of Corey Chavers and Eugene Newsome at tackle, Ryan Durand and Carroll Madison at guard; and either Outten or McCall at center.

There are two frightening aspects of this report. First, Syracuse is likely to start a combination of two sophomores and two juniors at the guard and tackle position. Given the youth of this group and Bob Wylie's new strategic approach, a premonition that appeared in this notebook in March of 2006 may just come to fruition:

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.

While this is a cause for concern, the real issue with the offensive line is the center position. Last year's starter Justin Outten had a horrific 2005 campaign, often playing hurt and frequently drawing the ire of more than a few Orange fans. As any knowledgeable football fan knows, the success or failure of an offensive line turns on the talent at the center position. Having the responsibility of identifying the defense and audibling offensive protection packages, the man crouched over the football is the linchpin in an offense's ability to move the football.

And Syracuse still has no idea who is going to snap the bean to Perry Patterson in 2006.

Recent reports indicate that Justin Outten and Marvin McCall are locked in a tight battle, but unfortunately, neither has particularly distinguished himself:

Senior Justin Outten and junior Marvin McCall continue to rotate in their battle for the starting center job. Coaches say they won’t make a decision on a starter any time soon.

"We don’t want to,” Robinson said after practice on Monday. “We want to find out how good they can get. The moment you shut it down, one of them is going to shut it down a little.”

Robinson said he has seen growth in his troubled offensive line.

“Periodically, they do real well,” Robinson said. “Then there will be somewhere where they won’t. I’m just saying, they’re better than when we ended spring ball. I see it. I like the way they’re playing together as a unit. I like the camaraderie of the group. In the offensive line, that’s important. I see their run blocking is getting better and their protection world is getting better. I like the progress. They’re not there. We’ve still got plenty of work to do.”
There is still significant strides to be made, however, as recent comments made by Outten and McCall indicate that they are still learning as opposed to instinctively executing:

"We sat down in the meeting rooms the whole summer and went over each play and the calls," Outten said. "We definitely have a better grasp. I'm recognizing the defenses better and the blitzes and putting guys where they have to be now instead of just second-guessing myself."

"When theyfirst installed, it I didn't really understand the calls and stuff like that," McCall said, perhaps explaining why he stood on the sideline while Outten played injured last season. "Now there is much more confidence."
In terms of analysis, there is not a lot to say about this unit. The Orange's 2006 season should be a repeat of its 2005 campaign, although expectations of mild improvement are not particularly radical. So long as this unit stays relatively injury free, Greg Robinson will be able to exercise the option of redshirting his long list of newcomers, allowing the group a full year of exposure to the West Coast Offense and its intricate blocking schemes.

If that can occur, Syracuse will have positioned itself spectacularly for 2007.

BlogPoll: Pre-season

. . . but only if you're not a registered sex offender.

After much deliberation with fellow cohort Collin Long (read: we just averaged our ballots), what appears below serves as this notebook's official pre-season submission to the BlogPoll. There were significant problems with comingling only two ballots, and as such, there will be a significant change to the way this ballot is created on a week-to-week basis once the season starts.

Until then, however, this is going to be the way the ballot looks.

1Ohio State 25
2West Virginia 24
3Notre Dame 23
4Auburn 22
5Texas 21
6Southern Cal 20
7Florida 19
8Louisiana State 18
9Louisville 17
10Florida State 16
11Cal 15
12Penn State 14
13Iowa 13
14Oklahoma 12
15Miami (Florida) 11
16Michigan 10
17Georgia 9
18Virginia Tech 8
19Clemson 7
20TCU 6
21Texas Tech 5
22Tennessee 4
23Oregon 3
24Boise State 2
25Nebraska 1

Dropped Out:

New York City = The Big Orange?

Welcome to Orangetown!

Usually, I tend to wait for either an official press release from the Syracuse Athletic Department or confirmation from the Syracuse Post-Standard before publishing what I consider a "rumor."

However, given the circumstances surrounding the information I have received over the last two days, I feel pretty confident that what follows will be substantiated over the next 24 hours or so by various media sources.

The news is fairly straightforward: Syracuse has finally grabbed a substantial media foothold in New York City. Starting this season and continuing for what is believed to be a three-year period, 1050 ESPN Radio will air Syracuse's complete lineup of football games as well as a handful of select hoops contests. The contract also includes the broadcast rights to the Jim Boeheim Show as well as the Greg Robinson Show.

For all the grief Dr. Gross has taken lately, this is a major accomplishment. New York City has always been dominated radio-wise by Notre Dame (currently broadcast on 660 AM WFAN) and, arguably, Penn State. With Syracuse's alignment with 1050 ESPN Radio, the Orange has aligned itself with a broadcast station that not only reaches the largest media market in the world, but also extends south to Northern/Central New Jersey and north up through the Connecticut River Valley.

In short, Syracuse has just put itself in a position to own southern New England and the northern Mid-Atlantic region. And, more importantly, there is not another university in the northeast that can boast such a wide broadcast net.

UPDATE: I just received an email that verifies what appears above.

Also, if one should feel the need, Dr. Gross will be appearing live at the ESPN Zone in New York City to publicize the agreement. His appearance should begin around 12:40 in the afternoon. Hopefully, I will find some time to "LiveBlog" the conversation.

UPDATE II: As anticipated, the announcement is official. Per Syracuse Athletics:

“To be on ESPN Radio in New York City and to start this long-term partnership with our friends at ESPN Radio is monumental for Syracuse University,” Gross said. “We are very excited about the opportunity to broadcast our games in the city. At Syracuse, we believe that we should represent the entire state of New York, including New York City.

“This is all part of our ‘Oranges in the Apple’ campaign. We do believe we are New York’s college team. This reinforces that. It is important for Syracuse to be in New York City with all of our wonderful alums and fans who live there. This is the most significant radio announcement we believe we have had in the history of the program. ESPN Radio brings so much to the table. They are always on the cutting edge of presenting sports the right way. This partnership will be unbelievable for both of us.”
However, Syracuse's alignment with 1050 ESPN Radio is coming at a price. As Syracuse Post-Standard staff writer Donnie Webb reports in his blog, the Orange are going to be paying 1050 ESPN Radio a sizeable chunk of change:
Athletics director Daryl Gross said the move cost the Orange some money - which he declined to specify - but he thinks it's worth it to find a prominent home with a powerful station that will promote Syracuse teams in the Big Apple.

"The establishment of this thing is a wonderful thing for us," Gross said Monday night. "We've talked about being New York's team. We want to make the whole state proud. We feel like we're one of the big boys."

Gross said SU logos will appear on 1050 ESPN Radio billboards throughout the city, so in spending the extra money to get on one of New York's major sports station is offset in the promotion.

Gross said Syracuse athletics has a new digital billboard ad running in Times Square. He said the 30-second spot runs 20 times a day for a year on the ABC SuperSign screen and will feature the SU logo and footage of Orange teams.
Given the nature of this agreement, the cost that Syracuse is paying to 1050 ESPN Radio is likely tied to the advertising associated with the agreement, and not the rights to broadcast Syracuse games. Thus, while it appears as if the Orange bribed 1050 ESPN Radio into carrying its games, it is probably just to cover its end of the advertising needed to publicize the relationship.

Come See The Horror Live!

Have you been itching for a disappointing adventure? Then maybe this is for you:

Syracuse head football coach Greg Robinson invites Orange football fans to get a preview of the 2006 squad. Fans are invited to watch the Orange practice on Wednesday, August 23 on the football practice fields behind Manley Field House. The Orange will take the field from 3:00 p.m. to 5:20 p.m. Team posters and schedules cards will be available for all fans. After the practice, the players and coaches will be available for autographs.

Watch practice.
Make the Greg Robinson face.

Friday Smorgasbord of News

Animosity, Thy Name Is Boston College
As Michael Vega reports in today's edition of the Boston Globe, Syracuse is now very close to inking a long-term football contract with the Eagles:

Although the Eagles have not faced their former Big East brethren since defecting to the Atlantic Coast Conference, Boston College is close to finalizing a long-term deal to play Syracuse, according to athletic director Gene DeFilippo.

"It'll be a six- to eight-year deal that won't begin until 2010, -11, or -12," said DeFilippo.

* * * * *

The Orange dealt BC a humiliating 43-17 defeat in the last meeting two years ago at Alumni Stadium. It will mark the renewal of ties between former Eastern Independent and Big East rivals who had played continuously for three decades, from 1971 to 2004.

Even before Connecticut's arrival on the scene, Syracuse, which owns a 28-17 all-time record vs. BC, had been long considered one of the Eagles' fiercest Big East football rivals, largely because of the geographic proximity of the schools. In making the matchup, DeFilippo was hoping to renew a natural rivalry.

"A lot of teams in the [ACC] seem to have one," DeFilippo said. "Virginia had Virginia Tech before [the Hokies] came into the league and Florida State plays Florida, Georgia Tech plays Georgia, so I think this would be a pretty good thing for us to do."

Unlike many Syracuse and Big East Conference fans, I think that renewing the rivalry with Boston College is non-stop terrific:

  • As two private schools located in the Northeast, the schools maintain a similar student body and academic cirriculum conducive to a bitter, yet healthy disdain;
  • The obvious ACC-Big East storyline underlying the two school's athletic history makes the game a red magic marker circler on the calendar;
  • Syracuse maintains a large alumni base in Boston, thus allowing the rivalry to flourish off the field;
  • The two institutions recruit from essentially the same regions of the country; and
  • Keeping Boston College on the schedule maintains Syracuse's commitment to scheduling worthwhile and strong opponents.

Mr. Excitement To Ruin Football Games, Too
Syracuse Post-Standard staff writer Donnie Webb reports in his blog today that the Syracuse Athletic Department has found a replacement for long-time Carrier Dome announcer Carl Eilenberg:

Bill Orange told me yesterday that Michael Veley will replace Carl Eilenberg as public address speaker at the Carrier Dome. Let's hope Mr. Excitement doesn't turn into one of those god-awful NBA Arena guys. Remember - less is more, less is more. The school should have an announcement, soon.
Get Your Daily Dose of Crazy
From Syracuse Post-Standard staff writer Donna Ditota:
Aspiring minor league
Talked to Evan Kaseguma today about his organization's plan to build an eight-team minor league lacrosse league that would provide skilled college players with a summer outlet.

Kaseguma, the Chief Operating Officer of Minor League Lacrosse, said the league hopes initially to lure eight teams, split geographically between Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, to start play in the summer of 2007.

Each team would consist of 24-26 players, all of them amateurs. There would be tryouts, or in some instances, special invitations issued to players particular franchises deemed desirable. The games would start in June and stretch until late July or early August.

"There really wasn't a whole lot of options for college lacrosse players over the summer," Kaseguma said. "There wasn't a unified league focused on development or a high level of play."

Kaseguma likened the proposed lacrosse league to the Cape Cod Baseball League, which has nourished the skills of amateur baseball players for years.

Minor League Lacrosse officials, he said, have been talking to prospective franchise owners, including people in Syracuse. They hope to make an announcement about which cities might have franchises by the fall.

"Syracuse," he said, "is certainly one of the areas we'd love to have a franchise."

The league's two co-founders, Matt Camp and Mike Agrillo, are former Harvard players. Camp is from the Syracuse area. He was a goalie at Jamesville-DeWitt High School in the early 1990s.
There appear to be three primary issues with such a circuit:
  1. As Minor League Lacrosse is looking to lure college players to its league, the organization is precluded from offering compensation to its players. With a lack of compensation, what incentives do these student-athletes have to compete? Unlike the Cape Cod league, where professional scouts are everywhere and the opportunity to generate a huge future payday is just around the corner, Minor League Lacrosse is resting its hopes on Major League Lacrosse -- an entity still in relative infancy and lacking in financial and manpower resources.

  2. Even college lacrosse diehards like myself are probably not going to be interested in watching these games. Unlike baseball, great lacrosse needs team chemistry and game planning. By cobbling together 25 lacrosse players from different backgrounds and strategic systems, the pace and style of play is likely to be jilted and rough. In short, there is no way that even the best coaches in the game could possibly get 25 different guys to play on the same page in less than a month of practice and gameplay.

  3. Finally, there is the coaching issue. Most college coaches would rather spend their summer recruiting the myriad of prep lacrosse camps conducted across the country. Moreover, such contact with current collegiate players may constitute an NCAA violation. Also, it is unlikely that professional coaches are to take over the reigns of these teams, as they are competing simultaneously on the Major League Lacrosse circuit. That leaves high school coaches, and given the fact that the purpose of this league is to develop players, a high school coach may not have enough experience and knowledge to push these athletes to their potential.

Syracuse Hoops 2006/7: An RPI Adventure
In what can only be perceived as an attempt to dominate the RPI formula, Syracuse has officially released the majority of its non-conference basketball schedule for the 2006/7 season. Highlighted by games against Witchita State and Oklahoma State, the Orange are clearly constructing a dangerous schedule:

2006/7 Syracuse Non-Conference Schedule
11/10-12PennsylvaniaSyracuse, NY
11/10-12St. Francis (NY)Syracuse, NY
11/15NortheasternSyracuse, NY
11/22CharlotteSyracuse, NY
11/25CanisiusBuffalo, NY
11/27Holy CrossSyracuse, NY
12/2Witchita StateSyracuse, NY
12/5Oklahoma StateNew York, NY
12/9ColgateSyracuse, NY
12/16BaylorSyracuse, NY
12/19DrexelSyracuse, NY
12/22HofstraSyracuse, NY
12/30St. BonaventureSyracuse, NY

NOTE: Syracuse is still seeking one more non-conference opponent for the BCA Invitational to be held November 10 - 12.

"Let's Go To Work!"

Another day, another blog submission by Post-Standard staff writer Donnie Webb:
Orange began practice today for the first time in shells. That's the get-up of shorts, helmets AND shoulder pads. Things are gearing up for Saturday when full pads start rocking.

Watched the offense again in the pre-practice phase. Almost the entire group of receivers was rolled into the drill including freshmen Mike Williams, Donte Davis and Dan Sheeran along with walk-on Max Meisel. Maybe I missed him, but I did not see Lavar Lobdell, who was dressed and practicing, get into the drill.

Second quarterback into the team work during pre-practice was Cameron Dantley. Andrew Robinson had bag duty (scout team) during the dozen or so plays. Saw senior walk-on tight end Arthur Kapalanga used in a pass play, too.

Ryan Durand is one good-looking offensive lineman. The Orange need more bodies like his. First offensive lineman to hit the practice field was Ryan Ehrie. He's pushing to overtake Eugene Newsome at right tackle. Has anyone watched Newsome run? It's not pretty. Little knee bend. Swings his legs and feet out like Frankenstein. But in a blocking drill I watched, Eugene moved pretty good and looked better than his jogs during stretch. Freshman offensive tackle Tucker Baumbach is a big boy. The roster says he's 330. Call me skeptical. Today's soup du jour at center in the snapping drill was tackle Ian Hammond, who is also the long snapper. Offensive line coach Bob Wylie says he wants to develop five centers.

Head coach Greg Robinson led a spirited tackling technique drill with defensive backs. Players converge. lock up ball carriers and drive them into one of those oversize landing pads for pole-vaulters. The big guy was fired up. After the stretch, I think it was Robinson who led a pretty passionate cheer with: "We got to go to work. We got to go to work right now." Each unit then answered with, "let's go to work."

The big blue curtains went up today along the fence line that separates the track and the football practice fields. That's a sure sign the Orange is about to get down to business.
While Dantley had the luxury of taking snaps after Patterson this afternoon, freshman quarterback Andrew Robinson may still have the opportunity to serve as the Orange's backup gunslinger this year. In a piece penned by the aforementioned Webb appearing in this morning's print edition of the Post-Standard, Syracuse head coach Greg Robinson seems more than willing to allow his first full crop of recruits to play their way onto the gridiron in 2006:
Freshman football players have been on campus more than a month. They enrolled for second-semester summer school. That allowed them to participate in voluntary workouts with varsity players. Coaches are prohibited by NCAA rule from watching them.

The first days of practice are the first real look at the freshmen for Robinson and his staff. He said, "I like our group.

"It's been hard to really evaluate the linemen. They haven't gotten as many turns, both offense and defense. They've gotten in there a little bit. I like what I see from that group. It's early and we've got to get pads on for them, I think, and really for everybody.

"I've seen (defensive backs) Nico Scott and Derek Hrinya . . . they move around well. They're good athletes. They don't much know what they're doing yet, but that's OK. They're intent about what they're doing.

"On the offense, the three freshmen receivers, I've felt all three of them. I've felt Mike Williams. I've felt Dan Sheeran. I've felt Donte Davis. I like their focus. They're three young guys that are very focused about what they're doing. You can tell they've been around the older guys for awhile. I think those older players have helped those guys and its showing up a little bit."

In addition to Robinson, the other high-profile freshman is tailback Delone Carter, who was named Mr. Football in Ohio last season.

"You feel Delone," Robinson said. "You can tell he's an explosive athlete. You can tell that the older players have helped him. He has a feel for what he's doing, as does (tailback) Derrell Smith. Both those guys . . . I like what I see.

"There really is not a freshman that I say, well, you know, I'm kind of concerned. I don't have that feeling."
I'm not exactly sure what "feeling" Delone Carter and Syracuse's three new receivers means, but as long as it doesn't involve a bag of candy and a conversion van, I can tolerate the neophyte coach's poor attempt at slang.

Finally, the Post-Standard produced another epic piece featuring new Syracuse offensive coordinator Brian White. While most of the article covers White's unmitigated optimism for this season, the real gold in the piece concerns White's straightforward offensive philosophy:
"You have to have more winning plays and score more points than your opponent, plain and simple," he said.
[Insert hilarious tagline here.]

QB Robinson Has Inner Ear Problem

Sorry, that's a lie.

But given Donnie Webb's latest submission to his Syracuse Post-Standard blog, it would be a nice explanation for freshman Andrew Robinson's inauspicious start to his second official collegiate practice:

The offense jumped into a team drill on the other field, just as it did yesterday. After starting quarterback Perry Patterson took a number of snaps, the second quarterback summond to the line of scrimmage was freshman Andrew Robinson.

As Robinson stood behind center, there was a problem in his cadence or mechanics. The play was stopped briefly by assistant Phil Earley for a little direction. Robinson got the play off, went back into a five-step dropped, got his feet tangled and went tumbling to the ground. Earley put his arm around the player's shoulder and walked him back to the line. On the second try, Robinson kept his balance and delivered a pass over the middle. Receiver Tim Lane was unable to make a tough catch. Whistle. On to stretch.
This, of course, raises three thoughts:
  • First, the fact that Robinson is taking snaps right after Patterson leads one to reasonably conclude that the Orange would rather not redshirt the young Marylander this season and rather have the future Syracuse gunslinger sit shotgun in 2006. If this is so, today's little practice escapade illustrates how far Robinson must come in 28 practices.

  • Next, if Robinson is going to serve as the Orange's second-string quarterback this year (which has been hinted at in this depth chart), the staff must either (1) anticipate that Robinson can quickly learn an offense that Perry Patterson has yet to understand; or (2) believe that Cody Catalina or David Legree -- two Syracuse recruits in the Class of 2007 -- will eventually wrestle away the primary quarterback from Robinson down the line, thus negating the necessity to redshirt Robinson this season.

  • Finally, it's refreshing to hear "Tim Lane was unable to make a tough catch. Whistle." With that phrase officially etched into the internet, the 2006 campaign can officially begin.

Pre-BlogPoll Poll

. . . but not for Syracuse.
Eds. Note: The college football season is rapidly approaching. As such, it's time to debut a few "Sure to Go Fabulously Awry" preseason polls. Today's edition features future prognosticatory punching bag Matt Glaude.

Orange::44 Poll - Matt Glaude
RankCollege/UniversityPrevious (2005)
1.West Virginia5
2.Ohio State4
4.Notre Dame9
8.Southern California2
9.Louisiana State6
13.Florida State23
14.Penn State3
15.Miami (FL)17
17.Virginia Tech7
20.Texas Tech20
22.Texas Christian11

1. West Virginia
If you don't believe in Pat White and Steve Slaton, I feel truly sorry for you.

The Mountaineers were able to accomplish great feats last season with a very young team on both sides of the football. The offensive line -- underrated last season for its execution in Rich Rodriguez's spread offense -- returns intact and should destroy its opponents all season long.

2. Ohio State
Boasting arguably the most talent in the country, Jim Tressel's Scarlet and Grey are poised to run roughsod through a strong Big Ten Conference this season. Troy Smith is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate and the defense, as always, looks to be very stalwart

3. Texas
One issue: Must replace Vince Young.

4. Notre Dame
Brady Quinn.
Darius Walker.

That should be enough to win 8 to 10 games.

5. Florida
Year two of the Urban Meyer experiment begins.

The defense is underrated and Chris Leak is poised to wreck some solid Southeastern Conference opponents this season. Right now, it's just a matter of all the pistons firing together.

6. Auburn
War Eagle is my preseason pick to win the National Championship, but in order to do so, Auburn must solidify its interior defensive line. Outside of that one weakness, the Tigers have an incredible array of talent, highlighted by superstar running back Kenny Irons.

7. Louisville
If West Virginia's Steve Slaton and Pat White aren't the nation's best backfield duo, Brian Brohm and Michael Bush are.

Once again, Bobby Petrino has a gluttony of offensive talent to work with. Yet, this season the Cardinals need to find some stoutness on the defensive line, as quarterback terrorist Elvis Dumervil has left the building. However, with nine starters returning on the defensive side of the football, filling the hole left by Dumervil's departure should be fairly manageable.

8. Southern California
I don't care what kind of program Pete Carroll has developed, when a team loses a host of All-Americans and becomes mired in various scandals, there is going to be a drop off in production.

That isn't opinion. That's the hard core truth.

9. Louisiana State
The defense is going to be simply awesome. However, Les Miles and his hat are still at the helm, and that may be enough to keep the Tigers from hosting the crystal at the end of the season.

10. California
For a team that has built its reputation on tossing the football, Jeff Tedford may have the finest rushing attack -- in terms of pure talent -- in the country. THe defense is going to take its lumps playing in the PAC-10, but there is enough pop on the defensive line to keep the Golden Bears amongst the nation's elite.

11. Michigan
Continuing with the theme of solid backfield mates, the Wolverines sport two of college football's better pairs in Syracuse-bred Mike Hart and Pennsylvanian Chad Henne.

Lloyd Carr has enough talent for nine to ten wins, but there probably isn't enough pop on the roster to get past Ohio State in the Big Ten.

12. Iowa
Drew Tate and Albert Young constitute arguably the most underrated backfield tandem in the country. With talent at the wideout position and a bunch of corn-fed beasts up front, the Iowa offense should be pretty tight.

The biggest question for the Hawkeyes, however, concerns the Black and Gold's defensive back seven. If that group gets its act together, good things should happen.

13. Florida State
Lots of talent.
Lots of speed.

And yet, the Semionles will underwhelm as Jeff Bowden is still on staff.

14. Penn State
The Nittany Lions probably aren't as good this season as they were last, but there is still a ridiculous amount of young talent on the roster to notch some impressive victories.

9 wins is certainly a reasonable expectation.

15. Miami (FL)
Until Miami figures out what the hell it is trying to do on offense, this team will not be better than a Top 20 club. Even with the ridiculous amount of talent on the roster.

16. Georgia
Mark Richt has lots of young, raw offensive talent, but it is going to take a while for the Red & Black to gel on the football field. The runningback situation is nice, and those rushers are going to have to carry a lot of the load before Georgia figures out its passing attack.

17. Virginia Tech
Lots of youth and question marks, but Frank Beamer has done a nice job restocking the "Miami of Virginia." Should the Hokies stay out of lockup, Virginia Tech could contend for an ACC title.

18. Oklahoma
The Sooners return with basically the same attack it ran last season: Adrian Peterson left, Adrian Peterson right, Adrian Peterson up the middle. With defenses loading up against the run, Oklahoma is going to find it hard sledding for most of the season.

19. Clemson
2006 once again bring high expectations for Tommy Bowden's bunch. Chasni Stuckey has big play ability and reminds me a lot of Santonio Holmes while he was with the Buckeyes. The big question for the Tigers, however, is replacing Charlie Whitehurst.

A lot of pundits are anticipating 10 wins, but I think the actual number will probably be closer to seven.

20. Texas Tech
Driven by the power of the pirate, Texas Tech will once again make a mockery of college football by passing for Playstation-like numbers.

The issue, as always, will be the defense.

21. Tennessee
Phil Fulmer managed to underachieved last season when he had all the weapons necessary to take a shot at the national championship. Until the Volunteers actually get on the field and win some football games, there is no way I can put them higher than the bottom four or five in this poll.

22. Texas Christian
Uhhh, sure. I figure somebody must fill the "Fresno State/BYU" spot this year.

23. Nebraska
This may be the year that Bill Callahan actually wins more games than he is supposed to.

Both sides of the ball have nice depth and experience, but the real barometer for this team is going to be QB Zac Taylor. How Taylor goes, so too will the Huskers.

24. Oregon
7? 8 wins?

Are they really better than Boston College? Does anyone care?

By the way, how are there no Oregon blogs in the BlogPoll?

25. Rutgers
I think I just puked in my mouth a little bit by putting the Scarlet Knights in my Top 25.

Everybody knows Brian Leonard, but the real cog in the Rutgers backfield may be Ray Rice, a Syracuse de-commit. He has all the tools to generate yards and is scary elusive. A poor-man's James Mungro, if you will.

The Power and the Glory

The 2006 Syracuse University kicking unit.
L-R: War, Pestilence, Famine, Death, and Niko Rechul.

Monday Drivel

Perry Patterson: Majoring in Excuses
The refrain has become tiresome, yet Perry Patterson continues to bang his Drum of Woe. In a piece appearing in today's Post-Standard, staff writer Dave Rahme allows Patterson to wax poetic on why he and his fellow Orange performed so pathetically in 2005:
First, the senior quarterback must raise his level of play substantially higher than it was last season, when he completed only 47.9 percent of his passes and tossed nearly twice as many interceptions (11) as touchdown passes (six) during the Orange's 1-10 tumble.

"When it was over, I really felt as if I could have played a lot better," Patterson said, "so I put a lot of pressure on myself to improve. I just know I can get this job done. I just want a shot at getting Syracuse back on the map. That's probably what I think about most. It just keeps that fire inside me burning."

Patterson's second job will be to make sure that fire spreads to the three players vying to become his backup junior Matt Hale, redshirt freshman Cameron Dantley and true freshman Andrew Robinson. It is a thin group, thanks to Joe Fields' off-season decision to try his luck at safety this season.

Hale, a Canadian, has been considered a project since being added to the roster late in the 2003 recruiting season after celebrated recruit Joe Dailey ditched SU for Nebraska. Dantley is a walk-on, and Robinson is a rookie.

"I'm just trying to help them along the way," Patterson said. "When Andrew came in, right away we started to get into film. I started helping him out, helping him understand some of the things we're doing and how to recognize defenses and stuff like that."

With coaches unable to give Robinson, who arrived in the summer to get a head start on school and football, hands-on coaching until today's first practice, Patterson has assumed the role of mentor, a position he said he never benefited from during his previous four seasons at SU.

"Troy (Nunes) helped me out a little bit," Patterson said. "But I think they (Nunes and R.J. Anderson) were so involved with their quarterback situation that it was hard for them to really mentor me. Three quarterbacks coaches and three offensive coordinators . . . I didn't feel that I had somebody just bringing me along through my college career, so I'm trying to help Andrew and Cameron with that."
This raises three important issues:

  1. It is about time that Patterson took a leadership role. Last year, Patterson did not appear to have a commanding presence both on and off the football field. With his efforts to tutor and guide Andrew Robinson and Cameron Dantley this summer, it appears as if Patterson finally realizes what it takes to be a high-major college quarterback.

  2. With that said, I think it is horrifying that Patterson is trying to tutor Robinson and Dantley. Patterson has said on numerous occasions that he did not understand (1) what defenses were doing to him last year; and (2) where receivers and other members of the Syracuse offense were going to be on the football field on a play-by-play basis.

    Clearly, the fact that Patterson has taken the initiative here is a double-edged sword.

  3. Finally, when is Patterson going to stop blaming his poor performance on Greg Robinson's and Paul Pasqualoni's coaching staffs? I've written pages upon pages of material referring to this terrible character trait of Patterson [if you really want to read it, use the "search" box to the above right], and, as a consequence, I am starting to believe more and more that Perry's lack of development is directly attributable to his lack of personal responsibility.

New Season, New Uniforms
As Donnie Webb notes in his prodigal blog, Syracuse will be sporting the same jerseys as last season, except different:

New uniforms
This always seems to be a major topic of discussion among fans, but, yes, the uniforms have been updated again. The Orange trotted out the new look at Media Day this morning.

The jerseys were blue with orange stripes over the shoulder pads. They're no longer trimmed in blue. The pants were orange. Instead of one extra wide blue stripe, there are two smaller ones.

It's basically the same uniform worn by the Indianapolis Colts, only it's in blue and orange.

"What do you think of the new unis," asked athletics director Daryl Gross to players as they left a photo shoot.

"They're hot," said fullback Breyone Evans, who was talking about the wow factor, not the temperature.

Coaches wore bold orange shirts with the new enhanced Syracuse logo (the block S with the word "Syracuse" arched over the top of the letter) right in the middle of their chest. The same logo is on the yoke of the team uniforms.

There were no helmets and only a few issues.

There was lots of pulling and stretching by players around the neck line, indicating these babies are skin tight.

* * * * *

Gross told me earlier this year the team will no longer use white pants. The white jersey stays, though it will be worn with the orange pants. There is no orange jersey in the works, even though they're apparently out in stores.

I'll post a picture when Syracuse Athletics decides to release one.

UPDATE: As anticipated, the new uniforms are pretty beat:

U-G-L-Y, you ain't got no alibi. . . .

Remember When . . . .
A poster over at has set up an interesting website chronicling Syracuse's football history. Amongst the highlights of the site are:
  • Game stats since 1983
  • Attendance figures
  • Rosters
  • Player and team statistics
It's a pretty good site and well worth a thorough perusal.

Let the Unwarranted Expectations Begin

Syracuse's 2006 football campaign officially starts today.

As seasoned Post-Standard staff writer Dave Rahme notes, today marks the start of what could be another frustrating season of following the Orange:

The roar of excitement that accompanied the opening of Greg Robinson's first preseason camp at Syracuse University a year ago has been replaced by whispers of doubt, the byproduct of SU's worst season in 110 years of college football.

The Orange players who report to camp today to officially embark on the 2006 season will do so knowing they have been picked to finish in last place in the Big East Conference. A 1-10 season will do that to a team. So will a new West Coast offense that went south from Day 1, eclipsing 300 yards only three times in 11 games and finishing No. 115 in the nation in total offense (257.36 yards per game) among 117 Division I-A teams, No. 114 in scoring offense (13.82 points per game).

It was a far cry from what the Orange players envisioned when they reported to camp a year ago with a veteran offensive line, a junior quarterback who had established the potential for a breakout season by completing 58.1 percent of his passes for 1,851 yards as a sophomore and a senior tailback who had averaged 5.7 yards per carry as a junior.

That promising mix, combined with Robinson's defensive pedigree, had the public and the local media believing the transition from Paul Pasqualoni to Robinson would be smooth. Three of the four Post-Standard writers who covered the team predicted a 7-4 finish; the fourth an even more optimistic 8-3.

The rosy prognosis was benched by early October, when it became brutally apparent during a 26-7 loss at Connecticut that the team's offensive problems were without a short-term solution. When SU ended the season seemingly no closer to solving the riddle than it was at the beginning of the season and then bid farewell to arguably its best players, its 2006 preseason fate was sealed.
Interestingly, yet not surprisingly, this appears to be the only ink penned today referring to Syracuse's first official day of preseason workouts. If that is not the best indicator of expectations entering this season, I do not know what is.

UPDATE: The Syracuse Athletic Department made Brendan Carney, Jerry Mackey, Kelvin Smith, and Perry Patterson available to the media this afternoon. As Brendan Carney is the most decorated athlete of the group, his comments are reproduced below:
How does it feel to be back?
“We got that week off just to go home and say goodbye to our families. Now we are here to get to work and get things started.”

Do you feel more pressure coming off a bad year, knowing that this is the time to dig in and start working?
“There is a little bit of pressure, especially for the seniors because we are looking at it as our last go around. So we are going to leave it out on the field. We really reached out to these younger guys this off-season and really made them understand that they have to be there for us and are going to have to contribute a lot. I think they are really starting to understand that heading into Wake Forest.”

What’s the number one message, aside from contributing, that you are telling the younger guys?
“Just follow us. We are the guys who have been there. We have been through it all. Just to follow our example. Just stay behind us and we’ll lead.”

As far as confidence level, where are you now as a team?
“It’s high. A lot of people would probably think we’d be down, but we’re up. We’re feeling good. We’re very refreshed. We are very excited to get this thing started. We have a number of seniors coming back and a number of juniors who played last year who are coming back and we are all very excited and our confidence is high.”

Does it matter that it’s year two under the same coaching staff as opposed to the first time around?
“It definitely helps. We have a new offensive coordinator in Coach (Brian) White, coming in from Wisconsin, with knowledge and experience. That’s going to help us tremendously, too. So, we’re really ready to get this thing going.”

How anxious are you guys to get this thing going, given last season. Does that make the off-season longer?
Definitely. The first thing we did when the season was over was we buried that season. But we are ready to get this show on the road. We met at Coach (Greg) Robinson’s house a week ago for the barbecue and you could just see it in the guys eyes when he was talking to us and Coach (Will) Hicks talked to us, they were fired up. It looked like they were ready to play right then.”

Do you guys feel like you’re so much more ahead this year as opposed to last year because it is the second year?
“I believe so. I believe the offense is a lot further ahead than they were. Last year it was hard for them to adapt to it at first, but we have a lot of guys returning there, including Perry (Patterson) and he’s making great strides and he’s bringing the other guys with him. He’s working those guys out everyday and making sure they’re getting their film in, getting their lifting in, getting their field work in. And then the defense is ... I mean, you have K.J. (Kelvin Smith) and (Jerry) Mackey out there and that pretty much answers all questions there.”

Does it make a difference to guys that last year there were expectations that it was going to be a new era, big rise and this year the expectations are very low?
“No, not at all. People are going to have their opinions and that’s OK. I know what you’re saying, last year we had a lot of those big name guys coming back and we were expecting a lot of big things for them. The transition was a little difficult for everyone. Unfortunately we lost those guys and would love to have them back, but we have a great group of guys coming in here. Our expectations are high. All we can control is what we do on the field, so that’s what we’re really looking forward to.”

What was Coach Robinson’s message at BBQ?
“He always fires us up. He was talking about the phases we’ve been through with winter workouts into spring ball and summer workouts. He just talked about how much growth he and the coaches have seen from us and how impressed he is with us. And Coach Hicks got up there and he can fire us up with one word. He was really excited, he had tears coming out of his eyes and he said it was probably one of the best summers he has ever seen in 25 years with college athletics.”


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