Team Strength: When it comes to Syracuse, you have to respect the analysis over at Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician. Following Spring ball, the quarterbacks and running backs both drew a B+ grade. I’m giving the tie to the running backs (the reason will become clear below). Last year’s team leading rusher Delone Carter was lost to the NFL. However, his backup Antwon Bailey rushed for nearly five yards a carry in 2010. Bailey also adds the receiving dimension that Carter did not (Bailey caught more passes last year than Carter did in his entire career). Bailey, who went over 100 yards on the ground in the Spring game and scored the only offensive touchdown, will get the bulk of the carries with a rotation of other guys (Prince-Tyson Gulley, Steve Rene and Jerome Smith) splitting up the remaining carries. With an experienced offensive line, I don’t expect to see much of a drop off at the running back position for Syracuse.
More after the jump...
Team Weakness: Besides the great inexperience at linebacker, Junior quarterback Ryan Nassib will be in his second year as a starter for the Orange. By the time he’s done at Syracuse, could he be one of the all-time greats for the school? Well, he didn’t impress my quarterback rating system, the Positive Impact Factor (what’s this?). Nassib finished the 2010 season 116th of 130 qualified quarterbacks with a 32.7. In the Pinstripe Bowl, Nassib turned in a 70.4, which was 13th best during the bowl season. That’s a good way to end the season, but Nassib still threw an incompletion, fumbled or took a sack on 46.6% of his touches last season. Nassib threw a pick six on his first pass of the Spring game. If you want to characterize what he did the rest of the game as "settling in", fine, but he still threw incompletions on 41.7% of his passes in the Spring game compared to 43.6% during the 2010 season. More importantly, Nassib produced zero touchdowns in the game. Nassib was able to produce touchdowns on 4.7% of his touches last year which isn't mind-blowing but still really solid. Charley Loeb is not a viable option at quarterback for Syracuse so it’s up to Nassib to improve on last season. It won't be impossible, but the growing amount of data for the Positive Impact Factor suggests that more often than not quarterbacks don't improve much.
Emerging: The receiver core contains the greatest amount of potential on the team. Syracuse has plenty of depth at this position but the guy who could do the most damage by living up to his potential is Marcus Sales. He was a non-factor until the Rutgers game last year. And, we all remember his three touchdown explosion in the Pinstripe Bowl. Sales did not had three grabs for 47 yards in the Spring game.
Opportunities for Impact Freshmen: Adonis Ameen-Moore is a power running back with a similar style to Delone Carter who will compete with Jerome Smith for carries in power situations. Early enrollee Dyshawn Davis came out of the Spring listed on the depth chart as a starter at outside linebacker. There is not much experience at the linebacker position so there will also be opportunities for Cameron Lynch and Oliver Vigile to compete for playing time when they arrive in the Fall.
Post-Spring Expectations: Just by showing up in 2011 Doug Marrone’s boys will seemingly assure themselves of back-to-back bowl appearances. We’ll revisit Syracuse’s 2011 season prospects again later this year but as of yet I don’t see anything that makes me pencil the Orange in as an overachieving eight-win team again.