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Monday Morning QB - 8/31/09

The choice is clear. For now.
Editor’s Note: The following article is a new weekly feature from Orange::44 correspondent John Brennan that will run every Monday morning called Monday Morning Quarterback, assessing the quarterback situation of the Syracuse football team on a week by week basis.

Welcome to the first edition of Monday Morning Quarterback here at Orange::44. As this inaugural edition comes before the start of the season, there’s not much Monday morning quarterbacking to be done, in the most common meaning of the phrase. Rather, I will recount the off-season QB controversy and preview what Greg Paulus needs to show us in the first game against Minnesota.

When the Greg Robinson Era whimpered to a close last November, Cam Dantley had basically solidified himself as the starting QB of the Syracuse Orangemen. But when Doug Marrone was hired as head coach, the role of starting QB was up for grabs. Prior to the Spring Scrimmage, redshirt freshman Ryan Nassib was named the starting QB, and I was anxious to see what the coaches saw in him that had earned him the starting nod. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, I was disappointed. Both Nassib and Dantley got a number of reps in the scrimmage, neither one showing any real “flashes,” as a not so great man once said. The spring practice sessions ended with Orange Nation not feeling too good about the QB situation.

Meanwhile, a chapter of a book in North Carolina was nearing its conclusion. Greg Paulus, once the starting point guard of the Duke Blue Devils, had exhausted all his NCAA basketball eligibility and was about to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. News came out that he was interested in playing football, even working out with the Green Bay Packers. Evidently the Packers missed having a nationally hated quarterback since Brett Farve, er, uh, Favre, had left, and thought that Paulus may be a great fit for that role. But that didn’t work out. In fact, no NFL teams believed that Paulus had what it would take to compete at that level, having not played the sport in four years.

So that’s when Paulus turned to the idea of playing football at the D-1A level. Due to a convenient loophole, even though his basketball eligibility was exhausted, he could apply for a waiver to play another sport at another school for one year, since he did not redshirt while at Duke. Immediately, Syracuse seemed the logical pick: a new head coach, an offense lacking leadership or an impressive QB, and well, Paulus grew up there. After visiting a few other schools in similar predicaments, Paulus settled on the Orangemen, after being accepted into the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications for a graduate program.

So it would be a done deal on Paulus being the starting QB for Syracuse, right? I mean, sure, he hadn’t played football since high school, four years ago; but even a rusty Greg Paulus had to be better than a fresh Dantley or a fresh Nassib. Not so fast, said head coach Marrone. Paulus would have to compete for the job, just like anyone else. Whether this was true, or just a sham competition like the Bachelor or Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire, it didn’t matter. I think we all knew Greg Paulus would get the starting nod.

I have to admit, I was pretty skeptical about the whole Greg Paulus coming to Syracuse thing. I mean, what good could this do to the program, ultimately? Sure, let’s say he’s amazing and SU goes 6-6 or even better. Where does that put them next year, when he’s gone? Back to 3-9 with a corps of QBs with no meaningful game experience. But then I got thinking, well, this could have better long-term results than that. First of all, there’s positive buzz about the Syracuse football program in the national news again. And if he really is as good as we hope he is, then he can serve as a team leader, as a mentor to the other QBs to follow in his footsteps. And he can be one of the best recruiting tools since, well, Donovan McNabb I guess. We get through the next year or two with Nassib or true freshman Charley Loeb at the helm, and then hope that the Paulus magic has gotten us a 4-star QB recruit to finally resurrect the program since the McNabb era.

So the passage of time, and these thoughts in mind, finally pulled me onto the Paulus bandwagon. So was it a surprise that, a week into preseason practice, Marrone named Paulus the starting QB? Not at all. I trust that it’s because he’s the best QB on the team. Because despite everything I just preached, winning football games has nothing to do with the name on the jersey of the man behind center.

In fact, winning football games does not have everything to do with the man behind center, whoever he may be. It has everything to do with the cohesiveness and execution of the team. Luckily (or unfortunately, as the case may be), the success of that man behind center directly correlates to the success of the football team. A QB is only as good as the time is linemen give him, and only as good as the skills of the receivers he throws to.

I feel great about the receiving corps. With Mike Williams back on the squad, Marcus Sales, Donte Davis, and Paulus’ familiar target Lavar Lobdell, Paulus has an athletic and talented group of receivers on the field. He can make them look good, and they can make him look good. Always the type of situation you want to see in a QB-WR relationship.

However, the offensive line situation is troubling. Mike, Marcus, Donte, and Lavar won’t even see a pass if the OL doesn’t do its job. For the past several years, the OL has been a sore spot on a poor team. A lack of discipline with false start penalties, holding penalties, and way too many sacks or rushes allowed. Paulus may be a talented QB, but the man needs a few seconds for the receivers to run their routes and get open to catch the pass. I believe the success of Paulus, and indeed of the entire offense, will rest squarely on the success of the OL.

Looking forward to Greg Paulus’s debut this Saturday against the Minnesota Golden Gophers… wow, I hope the Dome is rocking! A noon start will cut down on the drunkenness of fans (like me, though an 8AM tailgating start may change this statement), but there’s a ton of reasons for SU fans to pack the Dome. After all, hope springs eternal in Syracuse, right? No matter how bleak things look, we always have that sunny optimism going into that first game. Sure, it usually comes crashing down 2 or 3 series into the game, but can’t we have our moment?

The 2009 Golden Gophers have three-quarters of its defensive secondary returning this season – a unit that ranked 10th in pass defense in the Big Ten(11) last year. So IF Paulus can get the ball into the secondary, we may see a potent Syracuse offense. Assuming the Gophers haven’t improved since last year. And let’s not forget the fact that the Gophers haven’t seen this offensive unit; not on the field, and not on film. With a new QB and a new coaching staff (and this being a season opener), who knows what the Syracuse offense will throw at Minnesota? Answer: not Minnesota. A quick couple of offensive strikes by Syracuse can set the tone for the rest of the game, and leave the Gophers scratching their heads (or digging holes… is that what they do?).

The Weekly QB Watch
Going into the upcoming game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, the probability of starting is as follows:
Greg Paulus – 100%
Ryan Nassib – 0%
Cam Dantley – 0%
Charley Loeb – 0%
Other – 0%
Follow this section each week for the predictions to change. Or stay the same. Hopefully stay the same.

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BlogPoll 2009 - Preseason

RankTeam
1Florida
2Texas
3Oklahoma
4Southern Cal
5Alabama
6Penn State
7Ohio State
8Virginia Tech
9Oklahoma State
10Mississippi
11LSU
12California
13Georgia
14Georgia Tech
15Boise State
16Utah
17Oregon
18TCU
19Brigham Young
20North Carolina
21Iowa
22Nebraska
23Kansas
24Pittsburgh
25Florida State


The BlogPoll is back for the 2009 season, and in case you live in a cave you know that I am one of the many blog voters for this, some would say more accurate, poll of the top 25 best teams in college football. I will post my initial submition here most likely every Sunday. If you feel so compelled to tell me I suck (in a nice way), leave a comment and if I agree or it is of sound reason, I will change my ballot, which will be finalized every Wednesday morning. The final polls can be found on CBSsports.com. Enjoy. My justifications below.

Penn State is pretty good this year. #6 may be a slight stretch right now, but it is the preseason poll so they can prove me wrong after the season starts.

I had to rank one Big East team right now, so congratulations Pittsburgh.

Florida State is pretty good and probably better than #25, but that is my own personal sanction for their academic fraud.

So there you go. Leave comments above if you think I'm way off, and do the same throughout the season. Welcome back football, but especially welcome back BlogPoll.

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Another Open Letter to Donnie Webb

Mr. Webb, reporter for the Syracuse Post-Standard.
August 21, 2009
Greetings Mr. Webb,
It has been several months since I last wrote to you. Our last interaction was not a pleasant one and that was unfortunate for both parties, as I feel you are a congenial enough fellow, and I have a generally pleasant demeanor to everyone. I was obviously displeased when you released this article “calling me out” as it were. I then issued you this last correspondence, which I assume you were not excited to receive, and caused quite the discussion on my notebook as well. But that is the past, and I indeed will let bygones be just that. But that brings me to today’s unfortunate bit of business.

I want to state for the record that again you do excellent work for the Syracuse Post-Standard covering the Syracuse football beat. You have the access, do the diligent dirty work, and deservedly get “props” for your hard effort. But it is time for you to decide what exactly you plan to do this season in terms of your writing voice, and to a greater extent your professional title. You see, I recently read this football update you posted in the Orange Football category on Syracuse.com. In it, it contains a very clever editorial cartoon that artist Frank Cammuso illustrated with the premise that the fans were being deprived by DOCTOR Gross of some excellent football games in Syracuse’s home venue. The premise of your article was simply to say there were various opinions on the matter. You then went on to say “Me? I’m Switzerland. I see both sides. I’m looking forward to the weekend.” This caused me some trouble and confusion.

Your premise is again a valid one. As a reporter you have reported that many different people feel different ways about the story. A reporter’s primary, and really only, job is to report things that are, in theory, 100% undeniably true. In this case, that is so to a point. A reporter is not supposed to interject his own feelings, views, or opinions, but rather report the facts and allow the reader to draw any conclusions on their own they see fit. Once you do interject an opinion, you are not a reporter anymore, but a commentator or, in my case, a blogger. There is nothing wrong with choosing any of those paths, but a reporter is a position that comes with several responsibilities. By you stating at you have no opinion is pointing out that you have an opinion. An opinion that you have no opinion is still an opinion. As we all know, there have been many opportunities to criticize this athletic administration, or even Syracuse University as a whole, in the context of football, the subject to which you cover. Yet, like many beat writers, you have been, for lack of a better term, gun shy when it comes to pointing out obvious inconsistencies or shortcomings. This is, again, not to be confused with giving opinions, but rather presenting facts in a gentler way than the situation probably deserved, thus creating an impression to the reader that whatever has occurred is a better situation than is actually the case. I could understand why you would want to not interject your own opinion as it would make your job as a reporter difficult if in fact you ever decided to give a negative one. However, then you cannot have it both ways. You cannot state any opinions as a good reporter of the facts. In this case you have stated an opinion, despite the fact that there are vacant ideals behind it. That is something that good journalism cannot stand for. Additionally, it simply reads as extremely unprofessional. That is something that can damage any person’s credibility, no matter what industry they are in.

From the article I previously mentioned that started our first encounter we all know you are prone to bouts of opinion, and that again cannot happen when claiming to be a reporter. Day in and day out you write your opinion. If that is so, you must afford to be critical when the situation is warranted. As of right now the Orange Football section is full of mostly news shaded opinions. That is not news. That is opinion. Something that has its rightful place, but should not be in the space in which you have control as a reporter of sporting news.
Unfortunately, even the web address has the word blog in it. Again, that is fine if it is in fact simply a weblog of your reporting, but when you consistently interject your own opinion into your reporting then you lose the title of reporter and become something else entirely.

I point these facts out to you simply to keep you adhering to the highest standard of integrity. As a reporter you continue to produce good, informative work, but that is where it has to end. Or you can chose the other route, which you seem to favor lately, and that is one of a more free format, like you are conversing with your audience which you have done so quite often as of late. But you cannot have it both ways sir. Despite it being a blog format on Syracuse.com, you are still purporting to be wearing your reporter hat. Therefore you must restrain in giving opinion, even if that opinion is empty of any true substance. Of coruse, this kind of standard would not apply to Twitter, or any other social media that you may participate in both in a professional or personal setting. As it stands however, Syracuse.com purports itself to be the online version of the Syracuse Post-Standard, so the rules should obviously apply. I hope this letter has caused you no offense, but rather will serve as inspiration for your continued good work and success, in the proper manner and venue of course.

Best wishes,

Brian Harrison
Editor, Orange::44
Chronicling the daily disaster that is Syracuse University Athletics.

Editor’s Note: This is an open letter to Donnie Webb, football beat writer for the Syracuse Post-Standard. The context of this letter is two fold. One, to expose the creeping line of journalistic integrity that is drifting backwards and closer to a blog format among our leading newspaper reporters, and second, to simply write for the exercise of writing, something I enjoy and have missed as of late. An ancillary result is hopefully a more honest discussion of the blogger v. mainstream conflict and to cause a congenial discussion here on the pages of my site. Mr. Webb will hopefully read this and adjust his conduct, or his title, accordingly.

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Back To Business

Awkward Position: Rooting for this guy.
It’s been a while since I have written anything here. Bloggers need vacations too, but even so I apologize. Either way, football season is right around the corner. That means that the blog is once again fully open for business and recommitted to the sharp analysis and quality writing that you have come to appreciate from this site. We will also be back to chronicling the daily disaster that is Syracuse University Athletics. Something everyone can appreciate. Today we get back into the fold with a massive grab bag however, addressing several football topics, as well as a little basketball. The new school year approaches, and as a future lawyer waiting for my certification I have a lot of time to do this nonsense for no money and little fame. Let’s get to it.

Bloggers v. The Media
No this isn’t another thread about bloggers versus the mainstream media. Rather this is about the results of various Media Day polls. First, as you saw I submitted a ballot to our little group of bloggers for expert compiling. H/T to Jon from Bleed Scarlet, a fine Rutgers blog, as well as Eye of a Panther for hosting the results. The bloggers agreed with me that USF will win the league this year. Syracuse was picked seventh, with Louisville in the eighth and final spot. The full results are here, as well as picks for individual positions and awards.

That being said, the media had a different take. The “experts” selected Pittsburgh to take the crown, which is not that far fetched a pick. They return 14 starters and will look to improve on their record from last season. The media were uncreative and picked Syracuse to finish last, with L’ville in seventh. The bloggers disagree, so that means Syracuse has to win some more Big East games. Media results here.

Greg Paulus
Greg gets the call up to be starter for the ailing Syracuse offense. An offense that has ranked dead last most of the past several years. With the likes of Perry Patterson, Cameron Dantley, and Andrew Robinson at the helm, clearly Greg Paulus has no where to go but up. Announcing him as the starter will get him more repetitions in practice, and allow him the best chance to win some games for the ailing Orange. I never thought he was going to start this season, but it looks like he is now the guy, and Axeman states my thoughts and the way we all should think about this perfectly.

We In Here Talkin’ ‘Bout Practice
Syracuse kicked off practices in the Carrier Dome last week. God it must be hot as balls in there. It was during band camp for me and I wasn’t in pads and a helmet doing Oklahoma drills. However, all reports are all systems go and there have already been impressive things from the quarterbacks, and a shuffle of the depth chart for the offensive line. The good news is, despite players leaving (which I will get to), hyped QB’s, and a concern for lack of talent, we should see moderate increments of improvement each game and each day. That is a refreshing change from the previous era in SU Football.

Fab
Yes, it is true. Old Man Boeheim still has it. It is funny that only a year or two ago people were actually blogging about how he should retire. Mike Hopkins is still a gem as an assistant and heir apparent. Things are looking great for the future of SU Basketball. While I do think we will finish about the same as we did, about 7th or 6th place, the 2010-2011 season should by all accounts be off the chain.

Meadowlands
Is it cool that we will be having three games there? Yeah I suppose. But really, taking away a chance to fill the Carrier Dome for a USC game seems like sheer robbery for the hometown faithful. That is a chance to generate revenue at home, so I hope either USC or the stadium is shelling out big bucks to Syracuse.

Players Leaving
I have said this point before, so I’ll surely reiterate it here. Players leave for various reasons. Some are just done with football, some just hate the new staff. Mostly and most probable I believe that this coaching staff is making this kids work harder than they ever have, and are also being more critical then they are used to, so they quit. Either way, if they are not willing to put in the work, or they can’t handle a coach critiquing them at this level, then thanks for stopping by and best of luck in the future. It was the soft attitude and obviously weak practices that Greg Robinson led that contributed to this weak play and inability to last all four quarters on the field. Marrone is doing the right thing by putting these people through the toughest regiment of their lives to get back to the level of athletic ability the Syracuse football team should have.

College Gameday
The Gameday crew will once again be in the Carrier Dome on February 27th, 2010 for the contest between Villanova and Syracuse. I have attended the previous two College Gameday affairs in the Carrier Dome, and they are always an exciting game. This should be no exception. The full Gameday slate is here, which includes a women's game from the Big East as well for the first time.

Marrone
Still making all the right moves in my mind. The man is working hard and as he said in a closed meeting to one of my sources a few weeks ago, “we gotta win some fucking games.” Marrone knows what he has to do to keep his job, and that is to turn the SU Football program back into a winner. He publicly says when something is not to his liking, and although many things are “tremendous” to him, we are not getting the same double talk and sheer delusions that we did the previous four years. It is a refreshing change and at the very least already an improvement over before.

I do have to give some dap to some folks that have done quality work all summer while I have been studying/test taking/goofing off. Sean at Nunes/Magician has always been solid, but the guys over at Orange Fizz are doing some really underrated work and as we all know they were on top of the Fab Melo situation from the start. Kudos to you folks and keep up the good work.

So there are some of the topics circulating but I have a golf game to get to. Either way, the regular writing of articles will commence again right here at Orange::44 so check back often. Starting on September 1st we here at Orange::44 will bring back our Big East Prospectus, a comprehensive and critical guide to each Big East team and specifically the Orange’s realistic chances of picking up a W on them. It will again be a must read for you Big East football fans out there, all 17 of you. That will again premier September 1st, with two teams being released each day until Friday, the day before Syracuse begins their 2009 football campaign in the Carrier Dome against Minnesota at 12:00pm. You can always keep up with me via twitter as well right here.

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Big East Blogger Ballot

I'm chomping at the bit to get back into football.

Jon from Bleed Scarlet had the great idea to get a representation from several major Big East blogs and have them rank the teams and players in the league just like the media do in preparation for the upcoming season. Here is the ballot I submitted. Some have the slight twinge of homerism, but others I believe are dead on or have a good reason behind it. For instance, I have Rob Long as Special Teams Player of the Year. Syracuse plays eight games in the Carrier Dome this season with no wind. If he is not the best punter in the league we have a problem. For Rookie of the Year I just picked Paulus because. Either way I feel I have a solid list. Thanks to Jon again for having the idea and organizing it. When the ballots are calculated I of course will post the results here, along with the other blogs that submitted ballots. Feel free to commence debating with me in the comments section, or on my newly created Twitter page here. The first player listed would get two points, while the second would get one in the tabulations.

Rankings
1. USF
2. Pittsburgh
3. West Virginia
4. Cincinnati
5. Rutgers
6. Connecticut
7. Syracuse
8. Louisville

Offense
QB: Matt Grothe – USF, Tony Pike – Cincinnati
RB: Noel Devine – WVU, Mike Ford – USF
RB: Victor Anderson – L’ville, John Goebel – Cincinnati
WR: Mike Williams – Syracuse, Donte Davis – Syracuse
WR: Mardy Gilyard – Cincinnati, Jonathan Baldwin – Pitt
TE: Nate Byham – Pitt, Mike Owen – Syracuse
OT: Anthony Davis – Rutgers, Mike Hicks – UConn
OT: Jeff Adams – L’ville, Jeff Linkenbach – Cincinnati
OG: Josh Jenkins – WVU, Zach Hurd – UConn
OG: Zach Hermann – USF, Alex LaMagdelaine - UConn
C: Jim McKenzie – Syracuse, Ryan Blaszczyk – Rutgers
K: Shane Raupers – Syracuse, Maikon Bonani – USF
KR/PR: Max Suter – Syracuse, Mardy Gilyard – Cincinnati

Defense
DL: George Selvie – USF, Terrell McClain – USF
DL: Arthur Jones – Syracuse, Jabaal Sheard – Pitt
DL: Greg Romeus – Pitt, Mick Williams – Pitt
DL: Scooter Berry – WVU, Lndsey Witten – UConn
LB: Reed Williams – WVU, Jon Dempsey – L’ville
LB: Ryan D’Imperio – Rutgers, JT Thomas – WVU
LB: Scott Lutrus – UConn, Lawrence Wilson – UConn
CB: Aaron Berry – Pitt, Jerome Murphy – USF
CB: Devin McCourty – Rutgers, Brandon Hogan – WVU
S: Robert Vaughn – UConn, Sidney Glover – WVU
S: Nate Allen – USF, Joe Lefeged – Rutgers
P: Rob Long – Syracuse, Teddy Dellaganna – Rutgers

Awards
Preseason Big East Offensive Player of the Year: Matt Grothe – USF
Preseason Big East Defensive Player of the Year: George Selvie – USF
Preseason Big East Special Teams Player of the Year: Rob Long – Syracuse
Preseason Big East Rookie of the Year: Greg Paulus – Syracuse
Preseason Big East Coach of the Year: Jim Leavitt – USF

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