ACC 2013 Spring Football Preview: Syracuse Orange

Can Charley Loeb Succeed Ryan Nassib As the Orange QB This Spring, Or is it Someone Else's Job to Lose?

Can Charley Loeb Succeed Ryan Nassib As the Orange QB This Spring, Or is it Someone Else’s Job to Lose?

As the ACC‘s spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing the big storylines for each of the league’s 14 (15, in this case) teams. Check back on weekdays for what to look out for during your school’s spring practices and spring game.

Team: Syracuse Orange

Spring Practice Start Date: March 19

Spring Game Date: April 20

Syracuse wrapped up a wild 2012 season by winning six of seven games… and then watching their head coach, Doug Marrone, and seven other staff members walk out the door for the Buffalo Bills. Since then, panic has subsidized for the Orange faithful, but there are still plenty of questions for this group. New head coach Scott Shafer’s committed to keeping the transition as simple as possible (he was the team’s defensive coordinator last year after all), but the success of that strategy relies largely on the personnel. SU must replace several key contributors on both sides of the ball, and it’s unclear whether they’ll be able to alleviate those issues by the end of spring ball.

First and foremost, the team is faced with as tough a challenge as any in the nation, replacing departed senior quarterback (and program poster boy) Ryan Nassib. After a record-setting career that brought the program back from the depths, Nassib’s off to the NFL (and likely the Bills), and in his place is a massive hole to fill. As of right now, there are four candidates for the job — Charley Loeb, John Kinder, Terrell Hunt and Ashton Broyld — and without much experience (Nassib was a three-year starter), it’s virtually anyone’s game. Plus, whoever this new passer may be will also have to figure out who he’s throwing to. Top targets Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales are both gone as well, leaving the team to wonder if Jarrod West, Jeremiah Kobena and Arkansas transfer Quinta Funderburk can step up as the main receiving options. There’s also the issue of the offensive line, which must try to replace star lineman Justin Pugh as well. In the early goings this spring, the squad’s biggest saving grace may be the backfield, which returns all three top rushers from last year and looks to build upon a strong finish.

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ACC Football Top 25 Players of 2012: #15, Alec Lemon

Alec Lemon Ended His Career at Syracuse as the Orange's All-Time Leading Receiver

Alec Lemon Ended His Career at Syracuse as the Orange’s All-Time Leading Receiver

As part of our 2012 season review, we’re counting down the top 25 players in the ACC this season, from no. 25 to no. 1. Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus completely bulletproof, obviously — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.

No. 15, Alec Lemon, WR/Syracuse (Preseason Rank: NR)

From the standpoint of a Syracuse fan, it’s been great to see Alec Lemon’s progress over the past four years. The Orange senior started off as a quiet possession receiver, and then, by the time he played his last down, was the school’s career leader in most major receiving categories. Prior to the 2012 season, his accomplishments were always made with little fanfare and attention. He’d quietly catch five-plus passes per game while big-play targets like Marcus Sales grabbed all the attention. But this year, Lemon officially came into his own. Despite missing the first game, and failing to score until the seventh, Lemon still tallied 72 catches and over 1,000 yards. Along with seven receiving touchdowns, he rushed for another. But two of his catches this year were truly indicative of how much he’d improved as a player and a leader for SU. With just a few seconds left on the clock against USF, he caught the game-winning touchdown pass on fourth down. And with 20 seconds to go against Missouri, he sped by defenders for a 17-yard game-winner. That last catch would be his 12th of the game; a contest in which he scored twice and had 244 receiving yards, along with handing SU bowl eligibility for the second time in three seasons. The Orange will miss him next year, but wherever he goes in the NFL Draft (the Buffalo Bills, if I’m wagering on that one), chances are he’ll continue applying his work ethic and leadership to his play, and imparting it to future ‘Cuse receivers as well.

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ACC Football 2012 Heisman Watch: Week Four

Clemson Quarterback EJ Manuel Put in Yet Another Big Performance, Vaulting Him Back Into the Heisman Watch’s Top Spot

What appears below is a quasi-realistic (read: crapshoot) view of which ACC players could potentially win the sport’s highest honor, the Heisman trophy. We’re looking at these players with the typical lens — winning team, team’s best player, signature moment (TBD) and statistical excellence. And if every player in the ACC completely drops out of the running, then this turns into the Weinke award (after the conference’s most recent Heisman winner, Chris Weinke)…

1. Tajh Boyd, QB/Clemson (822 total yards, 6 passing TD, 1 INT, 73.3 percent completion) (LW: 3)

Boyd once again leads one of the country’s best offensive attacks, and this year, he’s doing it with improved accuracy and decision-making. The junior quarterback’s numbers may not reach the gaudy heights they did early in 2011, but he’s not taking unnecessary risks either. That may change a bit as his top target gets back into to full speed, though. He’ll also be tested thoroughly once ACC play is in full swing, and it’s likely he’ll be involved in much closer contests as well, meaning he won’t be pulled early (as he has been).

2. EJ Manuel, QB/Florida State (611 total yards, 7 total TD, 1 INT, 71.2 percent completion) (LW: NR)

Competition and lack of extended playing time have hurt Manuel up to now (he’s only thrown 59 passes over three games), but that all changes starting this week against Clemson. Previously, the ‘Noles have opened with a strong dose of Manuel, and with the advantage of a very effective rushing attack, have benched the starters by halftime. Win or lose, the high-powered Tigers offense is unlikely to extend them the same luxury this Saturday, meaning Manuel should see more snaps. If he comes up big, we may just see another shift at the top of this list as well.

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ACC 2012 Season Preview: Syracuse Orange

After a Disappointing Finish Last Year, the Heat is On Syracuse Head Coach Doug Marrone to Deliver a Winning Season in 2012

Team: Syracuse Orange

2011 W-L: 5-7 (1-6)

Head Coach: Doug Marrone (17-20; fourth season)

Returning Starters: 12 (5 Offense, 7 Defense)

The 2011 season couldn’t have been more frustrating for the Syracuse Orange. Coming off the high of their first bowl win since 2001, big things were expected from SU under coach Doug Marrone. And yes, there were plenty of big accomplishments — a huge Friday night win over West Virginia at the Carrier Dome, the invite to the ACC and Chandler Jones‘s rise into the mid-first round of the NFL Draft, in particular. But what will stick out most is almost certainly the bad. The media smear campaign against them just because they were charter members of the Big East (oh well). The botched referee call versus Toledo. And of course, the horrendous five-game losing streak to end the season. Needless to say, ‘Cuse fans would love to move on to 2012 and leave last year dead and buried in the backyard.

After scoring 30 or more points in four of their first seven games (all wins), SU would never score more than 21 in any of their final five contests. The running game went stale, and quarterback Ryan Nassib — the picture of accuracy throughout the season’s first seven games — tried too hard to pick up the slack and as a result, began making poor decisions that ultimately removed SU from games completely. From a fan’s point of view, play-calling appeared unimaginative and downright suspect, repeatedly going after the same holes and same receivers with the same maddeningly awful results. But still, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett maintained his position and is back on for another go-around with his Tecmo Bowl playbook. Continue reading

ACC Football Standout Senior 2012: Syracuse

Syracuse is Relying on QB Ryan Nassib to Return to Bowl Eligibility in 2012

While we won’t be naive (and/or like Rick Reilly/Peter King/insert-your-own-cliched-columnist) and claim there’s some sort of pristine or pure honor in playing out your four years that other players just don’t get to experience, we’d still like to point out the senior players that are likely to stand out in 2012. These players have put in the time during their college careers, and now serve as the cornerstones of their respective teams’ potential success this season.

We’ll be going team-by-team in the ACC to identify the “standout senior” that’s key to his team, and why. Have a different thought on the matter? Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.

For the first half of 2011, Ryan Nassib‘s ascent as the focal point of the Syracuse offense was an enormous factor in the team’s hot start. The then-junior was one of the country’s most accurate passers, and showed huge strides in adjusting the SU passing game to life without projected top target Marcus Sales. And even though his numbers for the season still stood impressive against the backdrop of the rest of his career, the season’s second half left plenty to be desired. Continue reading

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