ACC: Marcus Sales

Syracuse Orange spring wrap

May, 7, 2013
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SYRACUSE ORANGE

2012 record: 8-5
2012 conference record: 5-2 Big East (tied for first)
Returning starters: Offense: 5; Defense: 6; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners: C Macky MacPherson, TE Beckett Wales, RB Jerome Smith, NT Jay Bromley, LB Marquis Spruill, LB Dyshawn Davis, CB Keon Lyn, CB Ri’Shard Anderson, FS Jeremi Wilkes, PK Ross Krautman, P Jonathan Fisher

Key losses: WR Marcus Sales, WR Alec Lemon, QB Ryan Nassib, LG Zack Chibane, LT Justin Pugh, DE Markus Pierce-Brewster, DE Brandon Sharpe, DT Deon Goggins, LB Siriki Diabete, SS Shamarko Thomas

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Smith* (1,171 yards)
Passing: Nassib (3,749)
Receiving: Lemon (1,070)
Tackles: Thomas (84)
Sacks: Sharpe (7)
Interceptions: Lyn* (3)

Spring answers:

1. Deep stable of running backs. Offensive coordinator George McDonald compared this group to the talent he saw while an assistant at Miami. It’s a good mix of experience, with a 1,000-yard rusher in Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley (617 yds), and youth, sophomores George Morris III, Ashton Broyld and Devante McFarlane.

2. Replacing Thomas by committee. It will take more than one player to compensate for the loss of the first-team All-Big East safety and team’s leading tackler. The good news is three starters return to the secondary, and there are plenty of options to see playing time, including juniors Ritchy Desir and Durell Eskridge at safety.

3. Familiarity on staff eased transition. Scott Shafer was Syracuse’s defensive coordinator for four years before he was promoted to head coach, and he surrounded himself with a staff that had worked together before at previous stops. Their familiarity with each other and their philosophies and personalities transferred to the players as everyone adjusted.

Fall questions:

1. Quarterbacks. The transfer of former Oklahoma quarterback Drew Allen added even more competition to an already-wide open race for the top job. While some think Allen is the Answer, the position is still a question, as Charley Loeb, Terrel Hunt and John Kinder have more experience in the system and went through the spring in it.

2. Replacing receivers. Cuse lost the Big East’s best receiver in Alec Lemon, and veteran Macus Sales also has to be replaced. Senior Jarrod West (43 catches) had a good spring and leads a group of candidates including seniors Chris Clark and Adrian Flemming, juniors Keenan Hale, Jeremiah Kobena and Arkansas transfer Quinta Funderburk. “Yeah, Jarrod West had a good spring game and had a good spring,” Shafer said. “He did a nice job. Then we have a handful of kids that are in a fight. It's a good fight.”

3. Depth on the defensive line. Syracuse has to replace three of its starting front four, but it is also looking for an eight-man rotation up front. Competition for those will continue this summer to see who gets the most reps.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 29, 2013
4/29/13
12:00
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Catching up on the draft ...
It's never too early to look ahead to next season, especially since there are going to be some changes to both the Big East and ACC.

With that in mind, Heather and I have taken up one very timely debate: Which incoming Big East team will do better in the ACC in Year 1 -- Pitt or Syracuse?

Depends on whom you ask.

Heather says: Syracuse.

Ok, so Syracuse needs a quarterback.

But Boston College and NC State need to start from scratch, and Wake Forest and Maryland are, well, beatable. So my argument starts with the competition in the Atlantic Division, where Syracuse already has a leg up on three of its opponents because this season will be the first in which coach Doug Marrone has a roster filled entirely with his recruits.

Can’t exactly say the same for BC’s Steve Addazio, Dave Doeren at NC State, or even Randy Edsall at Maryland.

SportsNation

Which team will have more success in its first year in the ACC?

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Discuss (Total votes: 2,663)

Not only does Syracuse enter the ACC in 2013 with an upper hand in stability over three opponents, but it also brings a legitimate running game that will take some pressure off of whomever does start at quarterback (and Texas native Zach Allen, an Elite 11 player, is a pretty good option to start with). The Cuse has a solid stable of running backs, led by 1,000-yard rusher Jerome Smith, and it will have a veteran offensive line with all five starters expected to return. (Justin Pugh has not decided yet if he’ll leave early for the NFL draft, but even with four starters returning up front that will help break in a new quarterback.)

Don’t forget tight end Beckett Wales also returns, and he was an asset in the passing game as well. Speaking of the passing game, Arkansas transfer Quinta Funderburk is eligible to play this year and should help compensate for the graduation of Marcus Sales and Alec Lemon.

Defensively, Syracuse returns nose tackle Jay Bromley to anchor the middle, and while several talented players have to be replaced up front, the Orange rotated plenty of linemen, so depth and experience shouldn’t be a problem.

Special teams will probably be the least of Syracuse’s concerns, as everyone returns, and the Orange also ended the regular season on a positive note with three straight wins to build on, including back-to-back road wins against Missouri and Temple.

Syracuse is joining a new league, and it will usher in a new quarterback, but there is plenty in place for the Orange to have a successful first season in the Atlantic Division -- more success than Pitt will find in Year 1 of what should be a much-improved Coastal Division.

Andrea says: Pitt.

Heather makes a convincing argument about Syracuse, but her initial premise is flawed. How is Syracuse going to do better than Pitt when it plays in the toughest division in the ACC? Good luck getting past Clemson and Florida State, guys.

Let us turn our eyes to the Coastal Division. Pitt was miles better than Virginia Tech this season. Miami should be better in 2013, but will still be pretty young in many spots. North Carolina loses Giovani Bernard, Jonathan Cooper, Sylvester Williams and Kevin Reddick.

Virginia, Georgia Tech and Duke? Pitt will be better.

So I am going to say it right now, before everybody else hops on the bandwagon: The Panthers not only will do better than Syracuse in Year 1 in the ACC -- they will be in contention for the ACC championship game.

Here’s why.

Pitt will be better on offense with a first-year starter at quarterback. The moment Panthers fans have been waiting on is almost here -- Tino Sunseri is about to hit the road, ending his up-and-down career as a three-year starter. Sunseri had his best season to date in 2012, and yet it still was not quite enough to lift the Panthers above mediocrity.

Waiting in the wings is veteran Tom Savage, a senior who was a freshman All-American at Rutgers before transferring first to Arizona, then Pitt. He will have a competition on his hands with four-star recruit Chad Voytik, who redshirted this season. I am fairly confident that no matter who starts, Pitt will get an upgrade at the position.

Losing Ray Graham at running back hurts. But the Panthers return Rushel Shell, who should be one of the top running backs in the ACC. We saw glimmers of his talent this year. As the starter next year, he will be better.

Now on to the defense. While it’s true the Panthers need to hire a defensive coordinator, the new coach is going to inherit what should be one of the most talented groups in the division. Nine starters return. Among them -- Aaron Donald at tackle, Lafayette Pitts at cornerback and Todd Thomas at linebacker. All three should be preseason candidates for All-ACC honors.

Pitt showed marked improvement on defense from Week 1 to Week 12 this year, holding their last two opponents to a combined nine points. I expect that improvement to continue no matter who coaches this group.

Plus, coach Paul Chryst will be in his second year. He will be more comfortable in charge, and his players will be better in his system. For all these reasons, Pitt will be just fine in Year 1 in the ACC. Check that. More than fine. Pitt will be better than Syracuse.

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