ACC Football 2013 Season Preview: Syracuse Orange

Jerome Smith and the Syracuse Running Game Hope to Guide the Orange Back to the Postseason

Jerome Smith and the Syracuse Running Game Hope to Guide the Orange Back to the Postseason

Team: Syracuse Orange

2012 W-L: 8-5 (5-2 in Big East)

Head Coach: Scott Shafer (0-0; first season)

Returning Starters: 12 (6 Offense, 6 Defense)

After pulling his alma mater out from college football exile (more or less), former Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone headed off to “greener” pastures this offseason: Buffalo, to coach the NFL’s Bills. While some might argue that he wasn’t exactly done with the job — after all, this was a program that just a decade or so ago was finishing in the top 15-20 every year — you can’t say he didn’t leave the program in infinitely better shape than how he inherited it. Most important in that is the Orange’s move to the ACC, and now without Marrone, they’ve got quite the challenge ahead of them. There’s faith that new coach Scott Shafer should keep the team on an upward trajectory, but it won’t be easy to keep the small private school from Upstate New York climbing.

All the concern — for this season, anyway — starts off with the changes on offense. QB Ryan Nassib is gone after a superb senior campaign, and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett (the architect of last year’s attack) followed Marrone to Buffalo. Last year’s top two receivers are gone too, as are standout linemen Justin Pugh and Zach Chibane. So needless to say, there’s plenty of rebuilding to be done. To replace Nassib, the team is still deciding between Terrel Hunt and Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen, both of whom look ready for the job (though my money’s on Allen) and a nice change of pace from the former SU record-breaker. Hunt, a junior, is a dual-threat, while Allen is a more polished pro-style passer, and it’s likely both will see plenty of playing time this year. As far as who’s catching passes, it’s Jarrod West and tight end Beckett Wales, most importantly, with a lot of unproven alternatives along with them. The line has more experience than most realize — Sean Hickey and Macky MacPherson have both seen plenty of playing time — and despite the losses, I think this group actually holds up compared to last season. Finally, George McDonald takes over the offense, and admittedly, we don’t really know what we’re getting there.

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ACC Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #42, Dyshawn Davis

Syracuse’s Dyshawn Davis is #42 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Syracuse’s Dyshawn Davis is #42 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

We’re less than two months away from the start of the 2013 college football season, and that means preview countdowns! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.

Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus completely bulletproof — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.

No. 42, Dyshawn Davis, LB/Syracuse (Last Season: NR)

A couple weeks ago, SU linebacker Dyshawn Davis made some waves when he claimed the Orange would “shock the world” once they joined the ACC. Considering Syracuse is 12 years removed from their most recent double-digit win total, it’s tough for even the most devoted fans of the team to completely buy in. But maybe that’s what it’ll take for SU to succeed in their new home. We’ll see soon enough if it has the intended effect.

Media commentary aside, Davis is also a standout player on the field, as indicated by his ranking on this list. For a surprisingly strong Syracuse linebacker corps, Davis was a standout in 2012, making impacts in both the running and passing games — a versatility the team will sorely need against the ACC’s faster offensive playmakers. In total, he racked up 71 tackles last year, along with 14.5 tackles for loss (a strong sign of success for the linebacker), plus two forced fumbles, one touchdown and one interception. He’s a jack-of-all-trades with dynamic upside, and so long as he’s back 100-percent from offseason shoulder surgery (he should be, though he did miss spring practice because of it), there’s little reason to expect any less production out of him come this fall.

Based on his history, Davis may be one of the ACC’s most athletic linebackers when he takes the field in late August. A former wide receiver, he runs a 4.56 40-yard dash and sacrifices every bit of his 6’2″ and 212-pound frame to make the necessary stops. It’s also one of the main reasons he hurt his shoulder last season. Despite all the speed and athletic ability, he’s a bit lighter than your average linebacker, which is the main knock you could even consider when looking at his overall effort. Again: 14.5 tackles-for-loss. That’s among the nation’s 25 best figures put up by linebackers last year, and among the top 15 for returning linebackers in the country.

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Phil Steele’s 2013 Preseason All-ACC Team

Clemson QB Tajh Boyd Headlines Phil Steele's Preseason All-ACC Team

Clemson QB Tajh Boyd Headlines Phil Steele’s Preseason All-ACC Team

As part of Phil Steele’s extensive 2013 season preview activities, today he released his picks for the All-ACC team. Not an overwhelming number of surprises to be found, but that said, there’s certainly some switches partisan fans might make here and there between first- and second-teams or third- and fourth-teams. Most notably, I’d probably move up UNC‘s Bryn Renner to the second team, while moving Virginia Tech‘s Logan Thomas down to the third — but the difference is negligible, really.

We won’t lay out the entire list for you here, but below we’ve included the first-team offense and defense, plus a school-by-school count of all players included on all four teams compiled by Steele. Regarding the latter, Florida State led the way with 19 players out of the 112 named, while Maryland had the least, with just three.

First Team All-ACC: Offense

QB: Tajh Boyd, Clemson

RB: Duke Johnson, Miami

RB: Devonta Freeman, Florida State

WR: Sammy Watkins, Clemson

WR: Rashad Greene, Florida State

WR: Stefon Diggs, Maryland

TE: Eric Ebron, North Carolina

C: Bryan Stork, Florida State

OG: Tre’ Jackson, Florida State

OG: Brandon Linder, Miami

OT: Morgan Moses, Virginia

OT: James Hurst, North Carolina

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ACC 2012 Spring Practice Expectations: Syracuse Orange

Syracuse Receiver Marcus Sales Returns as a Featured Part of the Offense Once More

As spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing what needs to happen for the teams and players of the ACC, culminating with notes on all 14 spring games.

Today’s featured team: Syracuse Orange

After losing their final five games of 2011, the Syracuse Orange are surrounded by questions. What happened to the team that lit up West Virginia back in October? The offense, the defense — all of it? Though that questions will likely remain unanswered, a lot of work needs to be done to replace the team’s key departures. Major contributors on both offense (Antwon Bailey, Nick Provo) and defense (Chandler Jones, Phillip Thomas) are headed to the NFL and head coach Doug Marrone would love nothing more than to have those spots settled this spring. At running back, the Orange are set by most accounts. Rising-juniors Prince-Tyson Gulley and Jerome Smith both showed promise in limited action last year, and at worst, they could split time until a clear starter is chosen.Tight end, on the other hand, features enough unproven targets to make it a complete crapshoot. Lucky for ‘Cuse they’re already settled at quarterback and wide receiver though, giving these other skill positions time to develop. While the seasoned Ryan Nassib won’t have his normally TE safety valve, the hope is that reinstated big-play receiver Marcus Sales can team with SU record-setter Alec Lemon to give the passing game much-needed firepower. Sales’ homerun capabilities were sorely missed in 2011, and we’ll see how quickly he can shake the rust off this spring. Continue reading