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Thursday, June 2, 2011
First, first look: Syracuse

By Pedro Moura

There are 10 weeks until fall camp begins for the USC football team the first week of August. During each of those in-between weeks, and traditionally later in the week, we'll offer up an early first look at the 12 scheduled opponents for the 2011 season, in chronological order. We began with Minnesota and we continued last week with Utah. We now present Syracuse, who the Trojans will face at home on Sept. 17:

There are a few links between USC and Syracuse, if you go back far enough. Defensive line coach and defensive coordinator Ed Orgeron spent three seasons coaching the defensive line at Syracuse in the 1990's. Football administrator Mark Jackson spent a year with the Orangemen in 2005 as the executive senior associate athletic director.

Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross received his master's and PHD from USC and worked in athletic administration for the Trojans for 14 years, helping hire Pete Carroll, volleyball coach Mick Haley and tennis coach Peter Smith, among others. Orange defensive coordinator Scott Shafer held the same position at Stanford when the Cardinal dramatically upset USC at the Coliseum in October 2007.

Reaching back a bit further, USC's third-ever football coach, Clair S. Tappaan, was a Syracuse alum. One early Trojan, Harold Huyck, transferred from Syracuse and played at USC in 1916.

That's about it, really. But the two schools agreed four years ago to a home-and-home series when Gross visited former athletic director Mike Garrett on a winter vacation in Los Angeles and it eventually ended up scheduled for 2011 and 2012. USC will play at the Meadowlands next fall.

Here's a compartmentalized look at the USC-Syracuse matchup this September:

Past history: For all those connections, the two teams have only went against each other once in the last 85 years -- an August 1990 matchup at Giants Stadium that the Trojans won, 34-16.

The previous meeting before that was in 1924, the first full season USC played at the Coliseum. USC won, 16-0, in front of a crowd of 45,000.

Offense: Syracuse's senior quarterback, Ryan Nassib, broke a few Orange records in 2010, his first full year on the job. Syracuse's senior receivers, Van Chew and Marcus Sales, combined for 67 catches, 1,025 yards and nine touchdowns a season ago. 5-7 senior running back Antwon Bailey, ran for nearly five yards a carry last season on 114 rushes as the backup to the departed Delone Carter and already has more than 1,000 rushing yards in an Orange uniform. Senior tight end Nick Provo is considered an early favorite to earn First-Team All-Big-East honors after a 33-catch season last year.

So, yes, the Orange offense is senior-laden, and, yes, the Orange offense has talent. They don't return too much on the offensive line, but the skill position players will give Syracuse a chance to be successful.

Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone came to the school from the NFL's New Orleans Saints, where he was the offensive coordinator for three years under Sean Payton. Marrone was also an offensive lineman at Syracuse for three years in the 1980's.

Defense: Syracuse was 17th in the country last year in points given up, allowing, on average, fewer than 20 points per game to opponents. Defensive coordinator Scott Shafer switched places with former Orange head coach Greg Robinson two years ago after resigning from the same post at Michigan and immediately experienced success with the Syracuse defense.

The Orange have four proven big-time players in their defensive 11: defensive end Chandler Jones, linebacker Marquis Sprill and unrelated junior safeties Phillip Thomas and Shamarko Thomas.

Sprill is the rising star of the bunch, only a sophomore who started every game a year ago. Both Thomases are undersized for their position but were All-Big-East Freshmen in 2009. Jones was a Second-Team All-Big-East selection in 2010 as a run-stopping presence on the line.

Shafer is known for some unusual blitzing schemes that could cause USC some trouble.

Special teams/special circumstances: Syracuse's kicker, sophomore Ross Krautman, is among the best in the country. A sophomore, he missed only one kick last season (18-of-19) and made 16 straight at one point.

Syracuse is losing punter Rob Long, a four-year starter for the Orange who missed the bowl game when doctors discovered what turned out to be a malignant brain tumor last December. He had surgery to remove it Dec. 14 and participated in Syracuse's Pro Day earlier this year before doctors announced in late March that the tumor was gone.

Former kicker Ryan Liechtenstein replaced him in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.