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March 19, 2008
Tough times continue for Syracuse. The Orange is 7-28 in three seasons under Greg Robinson, including 2-19 in the Big East. Syracuse needs to find a way to improve the rushing attack this spring. The Orange also needs two new safeties and two new linebackers. Here's a look at Syracuse as spring drills begin.
Greg Robinson is still searching for success at Syracuse.
Offense—7: RB Curtis Brinkley, T Corey Chavers, G Ryan Durand, FB Tony Fiammetta, C Jim McKenzie, QB Andrew Robinson, WR Mike Williams.
Defense—5: CB Nick Chestnut, LB Jake Flaherty, E Brandon Gilbeaux, CB Mike Holmes, T Arthur Jones.
Special teams—2: P Rob Long, K Patrick Shadle.
POSITIONS OF STRENGTH
Even without Taj Smith, who left a year early for the NFL, wide receiver should be a strength. Williams returns to lead the group after having 60 catches for 837 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. He caught a touchdown pass in all but two games last year. The position could be even better in the fall when four-star freshman Marcus Sales arrives. A potential strength could be tailback, provided Brinkley and Delone Carter are healthy. They combined for 1,284 yards in 2006, but Carter missed last season with a disclocated hip. Both will be limited during the spring. Special teams should be good with Long (41.9 yards per kick) and kick returner Max Suter (25.5 yards per return).
HELP IS NEEDED
Most of the offensive troubles could be blamed on the offensive line, which allowed 4.5 sacks per game. Only Notre Dame was worse at protecting the quarterback. Three starters return, but the Orange is counting on improvement on the line from sophomores Tucker Baumbach and Ryan Bartholomew.
KEEP AN EYE ON
OT Tucker Baumbach: Syracuse would be thrilled if this sophomore had the same impact on the Orange's offense as former high school teammate LeSean McCoy did at Pitt. Baumbach blocked for McCoy at Harrisburg (Pa.) Bishop McDevitt.
LB Mike Mele: Mele, who will be a sophomore this fall, emerged at the end of the season to record 19 tackles in the final three games. If he builds on that, he could improve Syracuse's shaky linebacker corps.
SS Max Suter: After setting a Big East record for kick-return yards, Suter will get an opportunity to play as a starter in the secondary.
HIS TIME IS NOW
With Taj Smith gone, it's time for Lavar Lobdell to show why he was a four-star recruit in high school. Lobdell, who will be a junior in the fall, has just 13 career catches.
Greg Robinson heads into the season on the hot seat. Syracuse has one of the richest football traditions in the Big East, but has little to show for it this decade. The Orange will look to new assistants to try to turn things around. The new offensive coordinator is Mitch Browning, who coached NFL running backs Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney at Minnesota. To replace Steve Russ, who left for Wake Forest, Robinson took over the co-defensive coordinator role along with line coach Derrick Jackson. He also added former Syracuse linebacker Dan Conley to the defensive staff.
David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.