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excitement that accompanied the opening of Greg Robinson's first preseason camp at Syracuse University a year ago has been replaced by whispers of doubt, the byproduct of SU's worst season in 110 years of college football.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