NCF Nation: Dan Conley

Thoughts from Syracuse practice

April, 12, 2011
4/12/11
8:56
PM ET
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Some observations after attending Syracuse's 13th practice of the spring on Tuesday (if there are any typos, it's because I spilled Dinosaur Bar-B-Que sauce on my keyboard):

  • With the spring game on tap Saturday, the Orange did quite a bit of scrimmage work in a somewhat-abbreviated practice. The defense had the upper hand at last weekend's scrimmage and kept that going on Tuesday. The offense did well in some short-yardage work, but the defense dominated in goal-line and two-minute drills. That's notable, given that the offense returns far more starters than its relatively young counterparts on the other side of the ball. Doug Marrone said the offense had "some lingering bad taste" from Saturday's performance.
  • Of course, the offense might have had a better day if Marcus Sales had caught a ball that deflected off his hands on fourth-and-10 from about midfield in the two-minute work. Sales said afterward that he would have caught that in a game. And the best news, at least for the offense, is that he was able to get behind the defense in such an obvious passing situation.
  • Sales looked good the rest of the practice and seems to be carrying over his big Pinstripe Bowl performance. The receivers have a little more depth with him, Alec Lemon and Van Chew, who isn't fully healthy yet. Jarrod West looks like he can be a solid possession receiver. Dorian Graham is fast but still has trouble catching the ball.
  • You don't hear much anymore about a quarterback competition. Ryan Nassib is the obvious starter and showed some nice skill in a couple of play-action bootleg passes to tight end Nick Provo. Nassib probably isn't going to wow you, but he's solid and there's no one really pushing him for playing time right now. Charley Loeb wold be the backup if the season started today.
  • Antwon Bailey showed some nice moves as Syracuse really focused on running the ball during most of the scrimmage portions. He got around the corner a couple of times and flashed good shiftiness between the tackles. I have questioned whether or not the 5-foot-8 Bailey could hold up as an every-down back, but hey, Noel Devine and Dion Lewis have done it in this league. Prince-Tyson Gulley is also coming on. He had maybe the play of the day by the offense when he juked Jeremi Wilkes out of his shoes on a pitch play.
  • True freshman Dyshawn Davis is currently running first-string at linebacker. Coach Dan Conley spent time giving Davis a lot of extra instruction. Syracuse could be awfully young at linebacker with Davis and true sophomore Marquis Spruill in the middle. Senior Dan Vaughan is trying to hold on to a starting job at the other spot and would give the Orange some experience.
  • The other big question mark on defense is at the interior line spots. Cory Boatman (256 pounds) and Jay Bromley (273) were manning that position with the first unit on Tuesday. While they had success against a veteran line, they are still undersized for those spots. Marrone said the defensive tackle position probably would be filled by committee this season.
  • Overall thoughts: The Orange are well-stocked on the offensive line, at defensive end and at safety and will have a veteran quarterback and some potential playmakers at running back. They will need the young guys at linebacker and defensive tackle to really come on, and for the passing game to improve over last year. But it's not unrealistic to consider them a Big East contender in 2011.
As spring practice kicks into high gear around the Big East, here's your handy-dandy guide to all of the offseason coaching moves around the league. Clip and save: (Oh, wait. This is a blog. Do not clip your computer screen.)

Cincinnati

No changes

Connecticut

Out:

Randy Edsall, head coach (to Maryland)
Todd Orlando, defensive coordinator/inside linebackers (to Florida International)
Lyndon Johnson, outside linebackers/special teams coordinator (to Maryland)
Terry Richardson, running backs (to Miami)

In:

Paul Pasqualoni, head coach
George DeLeone, offensive coordinator
Don Brown, defensive coordinator
Clayton White, special team coordinator/running backs

Internal moves:

Former offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead is now quarterbacks coach

Quick take:

Pasqualoni, the Connecticut native, comes aboard with two new coordinators (three if you count special teams). But the rest of the staff stayed intact. Edsall took only one assistant with him to Maryland, which is strange. There should be more continuity in this coaching change than most. The trick will be getting the old and the new styles to mesh.

Louisville

Out:

Mike Groh, quarterbacks (to Alabama)

In:

Shawn Watson, quarterbacks

Quick take:

Charlie Strong scored a victory by keeping his staff almost fully together after a successful first year. Watson, the former Nebraska offensive coordinator, looks like a great addition to coach a position in flux.

Pittsburgh

Out:

Dave Wannstedt, head coach (forced resignation)
All of Wannstedt's assistants

In:

Todd Graham, head coach
Paul Randolph, executive associate head coach/co-defensive coordinator/defensive line
Calvin Magee, assistant head coach/co-offensive coordinator/running backs
Mike Norvell, co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers/director of recruiting
Keith Patterson, defensive coordinator/linebackers
Tony Dews, tight ends
Todd Dodge, quarterbacks
Tony Gibson, cornerbacks,/recruiting coordinator
Spencer Leftwich, offensive line
Randall McCray, safeties/special teams coordinator

Quick take:

It's certainly a sea change at Pitt, with an new staff and a whole new philosophy. The presence of several West Virginia assistants lends a little more spice to the Backyard Brawl, as well. Graham has done a good job of building some excitement after the whole Wannstedt/Mike Haywood mess.

Rutgers

Out:

Kyle Ciarrocca, co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks (not retained)
Randy Melvin, defensive line (not retained)
Ed Pinkham, co-defensive coordinator/defensive backs (to Elon)

In:

Frank Cignetti Jr., offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Brian Angelichio, tight ends
Jeff Hafley, defensive backs

Internal moves:

Phil Galiano moves from tight ends to defensive line
Robb Smith will coach linebackers as well as special teams

Quick take:

After a 4-8 season, Rutgers needed to make some major changes. Head coach Greg Schiano took advantage of the Pitt staff turnover to hire three former Panthers assistants. Hafley's ties in New Jersey already helped in recruiting. Cignetti will be charged with fixing a stale offense.

South Florida

No changes

Syracuse

Out:

Bob Casullo, assistant head coach/special teams (parted ways)

In:

Tim Daoust, defensive end

Internal moves:

Nathanial Hackett was promoted to offensive coordinator
John Anselmo becomes assistant head coach and will work with linebackers
Dan Conley will concentrate on inside linebackers
Defensive coordinator Scott Shafer will work with defensive backs
Jimmy Brumbaugh will coach defensive tackles
Special teams will be divided among the staff

Quick take:

Casullo left before last season ended, so Syracuse had already moved on. The changes in responsibilities reflect the areas of concentration for the Orange this summer, as they have many young players who need tutoring.

West Virginia

Out:

Jeff Mullen, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks (not retained)
Lonnie Galloway, receivers (to Wake Forest)
Dave Johnson, offensive line (not retained)
Chris Beatty, running backs/slot receivers (not retained)
Dave McMichael, tight ends/special teams (not retained)

In:

Dana Holgorsen, offensive coordinator/head coach in waiting
Shannon Dawson, receivers
Bill Bedenbaugh, offensive line
Robert Gillespie, running backs

Quick take:

The entire offensive staff was let go except for Galloway, who left for Wake Forest a couple of weeks ago. West Virginia hasn't named a replacement for Galloway yet, but Dawson and Holgorsen will likely coach the receivers, with someone coming on board for special teams. The defensive staff remains intact, and Bill Stewart will coach his final year before handing the reins to Holgorsen. It will be a fascinating chemistry test.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Cincinnati's seeds of success were sown by Mark Dantonio, and the Michigan State coach couldn't be happier for the Bearcats, Bill Koch writes in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

"It's a great feeling for myself and I know it's a great feeling for everybody involved in Cincinnati football that they've been able to take the next step," Dantonio said. "I knew it was possible."

• Keeping Dan Conley on as an assistant was a wise move by new Syracuse coach Doug Marrone, Bud Poliquin writes in the Syracuse Post-Standard.

• Though he still regrets a big mistake that cost him playing time last year, West Virginia defensive back Ellis Lankster has rebounded for a nice senior year, Mike Casazza writes in the Charleston Daily Mail.

• A UConn defense that's been susceptible to big plays needs to avoid those versus Buffalo, Desmond Connor says in the Hartford Courant.

• It's kind of appropriate that Jim Leavitt's South Florida Bulls are playing a football game in a baseball stadium, because Leavitt used to be quite a baseball player in his youth, Greg Auman writes in the St. Petersburg Times. Included with that story is a priceless picture of Leavitt in his baseball uniform -- and with shaggy hair.

• Rutgers linebacker Ryan D'Imperio has come a long way since a leg injury last year had him wondering if he'd play again, Keith Sargeant writes in the Home News Tribune.

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