2003 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR
the 2003 season, the Syracuse Orangemen
posted only a 6-6 record. They recorded
this sub par record while employing a total
of ten starting seniors. The Orangemen will
now be trying to improve upon that mark
with less veterans.
the Orangemen will rebuild. Like so many
average big conference I-As, they could
repeat on this level and still nuzzle themselves
into one of a litany of bowl games. However,
that will only occur if all sectors perform
as optimally as mentioned. Even with all
the alterations and player shifts, expect
a similar level of outcome in '04.
Orangemen need to shift the way they finish
offensively - a ratio of 10 passing TDs
to 27 rushing reflects success, but also
explains a bit about why they went 6-6.
They have to finish through the air more
often if opposing defenses are to be kept
in the dark about what will happen, and
when. Syracuse already uses a single-dimensional
approach to whom runs the ball for them,
so telegraphing any more easily-discerned
vital info, like what play they call and
when, needs to stop. Predictable offenses
never do as well as the oft-disguised ones.
is a transition year, with a new QB and
revamped front-seven on D. We wish we had
more good things to predict. But the plight
of their football from 2003 into 2004 look
eerily like the same transition the basketball
team just dealt with - their proven leader
has left and rendered therefore otherwise
qualified players inert. All of the individual
stats attained, no matter how big, cannot
make these Orangemen into Big East contenders.
But, within a few campaigns, this newly
revamped (and less competitive) conference
could be just what the doctor ordered for
what is now ailing Syracuse.
2004 record: 6-6
Diamond Ferri (PHOTO - Mike Okoniewski, Syracuse
University Athletic Communications)
Rushing: Walter Reyes, 253 att.,
1347 yds., 20 TD
Receiving: Walter Reyes, 38 rec.,
375 yds., 1 TD
Scoring: Walter Reyes, 21 TD, 1-two
pt. conv., 128 pts.
Punting: Brendan Carney, 60 punts,
Kicking: Collin Barber, 12-16 FG,
33-34 PAT, 69 pts.
Tackles: Diamond Ferri, 120 tot.,
Sacks: Kellen Pruitt, 2.5 sacks
Interceptions: Anthony Smith, 5 for
Kickoff returns: Steve Gregory, 17
ret., 18.7 avg.
Punt returns: Marcus Clayton, 27
ret., 10.1 avg.
Nick Romeo-C, Kevin Sampson-OT, Lenny Cusumano-TE,
Joe Donnelly-TE, R.J. Anderson-QB, Thump Belton-FB,
Thomas-DE, Christian Ferrara-NT, Louis Gachelin-DT,
SU's biggest area of concern heading into the
spring is the QB position. Junior Xzavier Gaines
will alternate in working with the first team
along with sophomore Perry Patterson. The two
are the team's most experienced quarterbacks,
and they, along with true freshman Joe Fields,
have distanced themselves a bit from redshirt
freshman Matt Hale. Unfortunately, the completion
of spring football created even more of a muddied
situation with each QB struggling. With immense
trepidation, the Orangemen could give the ball
to original option No. 1 - Perry Patterson. Despite
favorable comparisons to both R.J. Anderson and
Donovan McNabb, Perry will undertake his promotion
without the benefit of any previous repetitions.
While Patterson will not supersede the departing
Anderson's statistics, he will showcase a modest
assortment of skills. This QB ranked in the Top
20 of most professional publications coming out
of prep. Throwing more than 10 TDs would beat
last year's team total, and he has the arm/prowess
to do such. Gaines is sort of the forgotten quarterback
where he's not as big as Patterson or as quick
as Fields. Gaines has been something of a vagabond,
moving back and forth between receiver and quarterback.
He missed all winter workouts last year after
walking onto the men's basketball team during
the 2003 national championship season. But he's
catching up and improving, according to coaches,
particularly with his passing game although he
has the weakest arm in the group...so consistency
is a major concern.
Despite their litany of losses, Syracuse's largest
returning jewel will be tailback Walter Reyes
(senior). In lieu of his 2003 status as the Orangemen's
leading rusher and second leading receiver, Reyes
will have to increase his production by a minimum
of 25% for Syracuse to accelerate beyond their
last performance. Said increase(s) will allow
Syracuse to dominate time of possession, which
will thereby take pressure off Patterson and/or
Gaines at QB. Quickster Tim Washington and the
svelte Damien Rhodes are eager for their chance(s)
to fill in - each has a physical package to match
Reyes. But Reyes' 5.3 yards per carry will make
this campaign a successful one for the Orangemen
on the ground. Vitally essential for Reyes' increased
role will be the play of first year fullback Greg
Hanoian (senior). While he will be used primarily
as a blocker, Hanoian has to get some decoy touches
to keep defenses honest. Therefore, one should
expect a gluttony of option plays during Syracuse's
initial pair of contests.
Assuming joint command of departed Johnnie Morant's
role will be seniors Jared Jones and Andre Fontenette.
Despite Jones status as the Orangemen's lead returning
receiver, he does not possess the explosiveness
to extend the field as a deep threat. Coupled
with the QB inexperience, what Jones lacks will
force Syracuse to rescale their passing game.
Meanwhile, Fontenette will have to assume the
role which was held by Jones, that of an underneath
outlet option. While said role would ordinarily
be complimenting, Fontenette will also have to
excel his production in order to aid the passing
game. Junior Steve Gregory, who is moving to receiver
after two years as a starting cornerback, is listed
as another possible SUs starter opposite
Jones. In 2003, Gregory had 54 tackles, two interceptions
and 12 pass breakups. Also expected to contribute
will be sophomore Timothy Lane. Lane is the key
in this department - if he can become the deep
threat that he was in his prep days (Tim was also
an intuitive ex-DB back then), everything clicks
offensively. If not, eight opposing defenders
in the box becomes a regularity for Reyes, and
running gains, as well as those underneath routes,
become less and less as '04 wear on.
Within the framework of the Syracuse offense,
all tight ends serve as merely glorified blockers.
Thus, the swap of Joseph Kowalkewski (junior)
for departed Lenny Cusumano will not unbalance
the offensive equation. With that stated, a splendid
season for Kowalkewski would be topping his previous
two catch total. Smart money says that if this
position got more touches, the offensive balance
desired takes less time to establish - but do
not take this bet.
Due to both their grumbling style and their inexperienced
quarterback, the value of Syracuse's offensive
line becomes infinite. The Orange lost four-year
starting center Nick Romeo to graduation. Matt
Tarullo has been SU's starting guard the past
two seasons and will shift to the center position.
Adam Terry, a 2003 second-team All-BIG EAST honoree,
is also a two-year starter and has been a mainstay
at tackle for each of his three years at SU. After
joining the SU squad prior to 2003 Spring practice,
Steve Franklin earned the starting nod at right
guard for SUs second game last year. All
three are listed as returning starters and will
assume a leadership role, and this will be aided
by Syracuse's straight-ahead approach. All of
these bigmen responded well as a unit in '03 -
4.5 yards per rush and only allowing 15 sacks
speaks volumes. The priorities for the line will
be to identify a right tackle to take over for
Kevin Sampson, who graduated after two years a
starter, and to find a replacement for Tarullo
at guard. The leading candidates at tackle include
juniors Quinn Ojinnaka and 2004 junior college
transfer Kurt Falke. This
crew should serve as a solid attribute for all
of Syracuse's offensive dimensions.
The role of Reyes will define Syracuse during
2004. If Reyes and his offensive line can dominate
both the ground and the clock, then they will
allow the QBs to develop and eventually emerge
as another threat. However, if Reyes cannot consistently
deliver, then both the passing game and this defense
will become immersed amidst undue pressure, and
balance will never be achieved. Utilizing all
offensive dimensions early should keep opponents
busy and off balance enough to create the room
Patterson or Gaines will need for development.
If the Orangemen are going to top the .500 mark
for 2004, one of these QBs must improve rather
quickly. RB Walter Reyes is not going to accomplish
this goal on his own.
Adam Terry (PHOTO - Mike Okoniewski,
Syracuse University Athletic Communications)
2004 DEPTH CHART
Washington-So / Damien Rhodes-Jr
The Syracuse defensive line has been gutted by
graduation. Prior to partaking in a single snap,
the Orangemen will have to replace a trio that
accounted for over 150 tackles. Amongst the Orangemen's
front wall, their lone returning starter will
be defensive end James Wyche (junior). Wyche's
leadership will be an essential component, and
he will also have to assume a chief pass-rushing
role. Mirroring Wyche at defensive end will be
senior Julian Pollard. While Pollard should perform
solidly against the run, he does not possess explosive
pass rushing ability. This will impede Syracuse's
ability to disrupt all opposing offenses. It will
also be an area which their opponents can exploit.
Other than QB, the middle of Syracuse's defensive
line has to be the coaches biggest concern. Despite
the fact that new starters will increase their
statistics, they will not be the impending forces
recent departees Ferrera and Gachelin were. DT
Tony Jenkins was one of the surprises of spring
football on the defensive side. For a guy who
only weighs 275, he's got remarkable leverage
and strength. The move of Jenkins from an outside
position to an inside spot is key. He is getting
exclusive work with the first-team defense along
with junior tackle Kader Drame in Syracuse's 4-3
scheme. Jenkins was initially working behind sophomore
Eugene Brown, but an arm injury has kept Brown
sidelined for two weeks. All three are expected
to play this fall. In short, both the lack of
size on the inside and their overall lack of pass
rushing ability will institute the defensive line
as the Orangemen's weakest total area.
The Orangemen will have to repair from the defection
of starting MLB Rich Scanlon (147 tackles). It's
his "between the lines" leadership that
will ultimately prove most difficult to replace.
In Scanlon's void, the Orangemen have promoted
sophomore Jerry Mackey. While Mackey's tackles
will increase, they will do so due to Syracuse's
ineffective front mass. Thus, the aforementioned
will render Mackey as merely another insignificant
cog. Junior Kellen Pruitt will serve as the experienced
one of Syracuse's LB core. While Pruitt is valued
as a stone cold tackler, the Orangemen should
also utilize his pass-rushing skills. Pruitt allowed
to serve as a disrupter spearheads his defense
onto another level. Finalizing the Orangemen's
second tier will be sophomore Kelvin Smith. Smith
is key - if he can increase his influence, he
will greatly aid both Pruitt's performance and
Mackey's maturation. Also expected to contribute
will be two highly anticipated newbies - junior
Tommy Harris and sophomore Luke Cain.
The Syracuse secondary was set to return its entire
starting quartet. However, two players who started
games at cornerback for Syracuse University last
season have been moved out of the starting secondary
this spring. Two-year starter Steve Gregory was
moved to wide receiver. Troy Swittenburg was converted
to outside linebacker. Pasqualoni has said the
Orangemen made the moves because of a surplus
of cornerbacks. Terrell Lemon and Thomas Whitfield
have been shuffled up and down the depth chart.
Tanard Jackson and JUCO transfer DeAdre LaCaille
continue to work with the first-team defense all
spring, giving the secondary two bigger, heavier
Syracuse's final wall will be the combination
of Diamond Ferri (senior) and Anthony Smith (junior).
While it is never acceptable to possess safeties
as leading tacklers, Ferri and Smith are an exceptional
tandem. With that stated, both will have to increase
their already gallant performances in order for
Syracuse to improve overall. Without accelerated
performances from both Ferri and Smith, the Orangemen
should have a close finish as the Big East's worse
defense. The best-case scenario is that their
numbers decrease due to solid play at other defensive
positions. But bet they will have to make up for
other weak areas, and therefore they will be near
the ball on most any play.
While their secondary should remain solid, Syracuse's
defensive line may be amongst the worst in the
Big East. The emergence of DT Tony Jenkins was
a much needed sight for coaches soar eyes this
spring, but will it be enough to compensate for
huge loses in the middle? The heart and soul of
this defense has to revolve around a solid nucleus
of experienced LBs and their ability to make tackles.
Thus, without superior performances from their
LBs and DBs, the results of their offense could
be null and void if consistently matched by opponents.
High scoring affairs are likely to be on tap unless
a quick show ability to stop opponents up the
gut is proven.
2004 DEPTH CHART
Collin Barber converted 12 of 16 field goal, but two
of those four misses were from 40+. Barber will be vital
due to Syracuse's refurbished offense. Thus, he will
have to improve his ability to connect from longer distances
(field position battles will not go Syracuse' way).
Meanwhile, Brendan Carney (sophomore) 43.0 yards per
punt average is strong, but he will have to improve
upon his percentage of punts placed inside the twenty.
Also realize that the Orangemen ranked 109th out of
117 I-A teams in net punting. Likewise, the special
team's play has to keep opponents from again blocking
six punts, seven if FGAs are included.
Marcus Clayton assumed the punt return duties as a true
freshman last year and became a threat right away. He
averaged 10.1 yards per return and took one punt 56
yards for a touchdown against West Virginia. Reyes,
Gregory and Rhodes all have experience as kickoff returners.
Bembo and Ferri will also compete for return specialist
slots. Gregory has the most experience as a kickoff
returner, including an average of 18.7 yards per return
(17 returns for 318 yards) in 2003.