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Syracuse Orange spring wrap

2010 overall record: 8-5

2010 conference record: 4-3, fourth in Big East

Returning starters:

Offense: 8. Defense: 5. Punter/kicker: 1.

Top returners:

QB Ryan Nassib, RB Antwon Bailey, OT Justin Pugh, DE Chandler Jones, S Phillip Thomas, S Shamarko Thomas, WR Van Chew, WR Marcus Sales

Key losses:

RB Delone Carter, C Ryan Bartholomew, LB Doug Hogue, LB Derrell Smith, CB Mike Holmes

2010 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Delone Carter (1,233 yards)

Passing: Ryan Nassib* (2,334 yards)

Receiving: Van Chew* (611 yards)

Tackles: Derrell Smith (114)

Sacks: Chandler Jones* (4)

Interceptions: Doug Hogue and Da'Mon Merkerson (3)

Spring answers

1. Antwon's able: Replacing two-time 1,000-yard back Delone Carter was a main task this spring for Syracuse, and Antwon Bailey showed he is up to it. Bailey, a third-down specialist for much of the past two years, is smaller and shiftier than the bruising Carter and adds a different dimension to the running attack with his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He also proved he can run between the tackles this spring.

2. O-line strength: The offensive line figured to be one of the team's anchors this season as it returned four of the five starters from 2010. The big question mark was at center, where sophomore Macky MacPherson stepped into Ryan Bartholomew's shoes ably this spring. Despite weighing under 260 pounds, MacPherson excelled with his quickness and knowledge of the game. With one of the most promising linemen in the league at left tackle in Justin Pugh and several other veterans, the O-line should be very dependable this fall.

3. Ryan Nassib's progress: Nassib had a decent first season of starting in 2010 before turning in a big performance in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. His confidence from that game and from his experience in the system showed this spring as he distanced himself from a field of would-be replacements at quarterback. Without the comfort blanket of Carter, Nassib had to step up his leadership and accuracy on throws this spring, and he did both.

Fall questions

1. DT depth: The Orange lost both starting defensive tackles from last season and played this spring with Jay Bromley and Cory Boatman -- two guys weighing under 275 pounds -- at first string. Head coach Doug Marrone said the interior line would mostly be manned by committee this year, and he may have to sacrifice some size for athleticism. The defensive end position should be very strong with Chandler Jones, Mikhail Marinovich and Brandon Sharpe, but the Orange may have some trouble holding up on the inside against bigger teams.

2. Big-play potential: The Orange went nearly the whole season last year without making many big plays on offense before erupting in the bowl game. Was that a function of rest, as Marrone has suggested, or more a product of Kansas State's crummy defense? Nassib needs more reliable targets in the passing game. Postseason hero Marcus Sales continued to stretch the field this spring, but leading returning receiver Van Chew was banged up and Dorian Graham still has trouble holding onto the ball. Syracuse should have more bodies this spring with guys like Jarrod West helping the depth, but these guys have to prove it in Big East play.

3. Cornerback reconstituted: Fifth-year senior Kevyn Scott and sophomore Keon Lyn claimed the starting spots this spring from the departed Mike Holmes and Da'Mon Merkerson. Scott has experience, while Lyn is full of potential. Both must show they can get the job done in the fall. Depth there is probably a bigger issue. Right now, Nassib's cousin -- walk-on Joe Nassib -- is a backup behind Lyn. Freshman early enrolleee Jaston George couldn't get above third string this spring. Ri'Shard Anderson and Jeremi Wilkes could play nickel back, and the Orange are stacked at safety. But will they have enough to counter some of the stronger passing attacks in the Big East?