David Fox Rivals.com College Football Staff Writer
Doug Marrone enjoyed a promising start in his first season at Syracuse. The Orange ended September with a 2-2 record, with one of those losses coming in overtime to Minnesota.
By the end of the season, injuries decimated the team. Syracuse finished 4-8, and with only one Big East win. Syracuse has not won multiple conference games in a season since 2004.
Syracuse has good reason to believe this is the season that embarrassing streak can change. Marrone could have as many as 19 returning starters in 2010, but some key problems remain.
Syracuse lost its top defensive playmaker in tackle Arthur Jones. Greg Paulus added some name recognition and leadership at quarterback, but he was only available for a year. Someone will need to fill those shoes. Marrone will take primary responsibility for finding a quarterback and installing an offense. The coach will serve as his own coordinator after firing Rob Spence.
Here's a look at the Orange entering spring drills.
Doug Marrone still has a lot of work to do.
Coach: Doug Marrone Last season: 4-8 overall, 1-6 in the Big East
Spring practice: March 22-April 7
When healthy, Delone Carter is one of the top running backs in the Big East. He finished last season with 1,021 yards and 11 touchdowns, and cracked the 100-mark four times in the last six games. On defense, Doug Hogue (a converted tailback) and Derrell Smith were one of the league's most underrated defensive duos. In an upset of Rutgers, Hogue had 6.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Syracuse also returns two of the top specialists in the Big East in Rob Long and Ryan Lichtenstein.
HELP IS NEEDED
Syracuse again is searching for a quarterback. Ryan Nassib was Syracuse's backup last season and saw some situational work behind Paulus. Nassib and redshirt freshman Charley Loeb will compete for the job. Syracuse also has work to do on the defensive line, particularly at tackle. Veterans Bud Tribbey, Anthony Perkins or Ollie Haney will vie to replace Jones. Syracuse also will be without LB E.J. Carter, who was a Rivals.com Big East All-Freshman selection after starting eight times; Carter is not part of the program for unspecified reasons.
THREE GUYS TO WATCH
DE Chandler Jones: Arthur's brother is poised to carve out a name for himself as a sophomore. Chandler Jones is an end while his brother was a tackle. Chandler finished last season with 10 tackles for loss and was most effective at the end of the season.
WR Alec Lemon: Mike Williams' late-season departure left Syracuse without a No. 1 receiver. Lemon could grow into that role after starting as a true freshman. He caught 29 passes for 295 yards and a touchdown last season.
DB Shamarko Thomas: Thomas started at three positions as a freshman. This spring, he'll begin as the starter at the "Okie" position in coordinator Scott Shafer's defense. It's a linebacker/safety hybrid, but Thomas also can play cornerback.
ON THE SPOT
CB Kevyn Scott: Cornerback remains a question mark after several players were given starting opportunities last season. Scott started most of the season, but the defense was so poor against the pass that some changes seem likely. Scott and Da'Mon Merkerson go into the spring as the top corners, but Rishard Anderson and Phillip Thomas will compete. It doesn't help that Scott will be limited in spring by injury.
Spring practice 2010 is a continuation of the 2009 season in some ways. The Orange still are dealing with players leaving the program or having to worry about injuries. Still, if Marrone can find a quarterback and establish the right mix on defense, Syracuse could enter fall practice as a bowl hopeful.
David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.