Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Orange- It's Not Just a Color Anymore

Your Golden Gopher football team is traveling to Syracuse this weekend to take on the Orange- not the Orangemen- nope, just the Orange. Beware the color Orange! More powerful and deadly than black, white, green, blue, pewter or platinum, fear The Orange! You thought red and yellow were tough? Well just wait until you see their combined power! I'd make up a chant but of course nothing rhymes with Orange, so, well, you'll just have to trust me. Although I suppose the only thing more intimidating than the color orange is a little furry rodent, so maybe I should just shut up about a school's mascot being a color.

Well besides pulling their mascot out of a crayola box, what else can we expect from Syracuse? Honestly? We don't have much of an idea at all. After enduring the Greg Robinson Era from 2005-08 which saw a once-proud program go 10-37 (including just three conference wins in those four seasons. And you thought the Jim Wacker era for the Gophers was bad?), they've got an entirely new coaching staff led by head coach Doug Marrone, a former Orange player, whose last job was offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints high-powered offense. To add to the mystery (as you've probably read a couple-two-three THOUSAND times already), their starting QB is former Duke point guard Greg Paulus, who hasn't played organized football since he was a high school senior at Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse back in 2004. Seriously. Paulus was the Gatorade high school player of the year that season and was recruited to play football by pretty much everybody, but it's still tough to know what to expect from him or the offense.

In Stewart Mandell's new Monday College Football Overtime column for SI.com, he has a short piece on how Goph's new D-coordinator is Kevin Cosgrove is trying to prepare for the Orange despite having no game tape from last season to go on:

While Georgia readies itself for a top 10 opponent, Minnesota would appear to have a far less rigorous test at Syracuse, winner of just 10 games over the past four seasons. For co-defensive coordinator Cosgrove, however, the Orange present a preparation nightmare.
Syracuse is under the direction of an entirely new coaching staff, led by former New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator Doug Marrone, whose last college job was as tight ends coach at Tennessee in 2001. After four years running the West Coast offense, Syracuse is expected to switch to a no-huddle spread attack under former Clemson and Toledo offensive coordinator Rob Spence. Adding to the mystery: Paulus hasn't played football since his senior year of high school in 2004.
For Cosgrove, that's meant researching not only the Orange but: "Tennessee [where offensive line coach Greg Adkins and running backs coach Stan Drayton came from], the New Orleans Saints, Clemson, Toledo" and other schools where Syracuse's new staff previously worked.
"We're been preparing for a lot of different things," said Cosgrove, who remembers Paulus well from recruiting him while at Nebraska. "You can't get too fancy with what you want to do."

For 2009 Syracuse isn't expected to be very good. Like, at all. They're coming off a 3-9 season and have lost a ton of scholarship guys during the coaching switch. ESPN.com Big East blogger Brian Bennett has ranked the school's at every position but defensive line, and so far, The Cuse haven't fared well against the other seven schools in their conference. And keep in mind, this is a conference who have zero teams ranked in the preseason Top 25:

Where Syracuse finished in Brian Bennett's Big East positional rankings (out of eight teams): Defensive Backs: 7
Linebackers: 8
Offensive Line: 8
Wide Receivers: 7
Running Backs: 6
Quarterbacks: 8

Bennett's rankings obviously aren't the be-all, end-all of opinions, but his job is to know the Big East and he's not high on the Orange. But then again, with all of the uncertainty surrounding the team, it's almost impossible to know what to expect. They could be awful but they could also be pretty dangerous, and it's still going to make it very interesting to see what the Orange offense comes out with and how good Paulus is running it. I think it's safe to say we can expect to see Cosgrove blitzing A LOT until Paulus proves he can handle it. After four years of not seeing a real live defense (and even then that was only a high school defense) I'd be coming after Paulus from any and all angles on every single play.

Other than the former Dookie PG, we do know the offense returns three solid running backs, led by senior Delone Carter, who was a highly ranked recruit but hasn't been very successful thus far due to injuries. Their top receiving threat is 6'3 Mike Williams, who has the potential to be one of the Big East's best players, but of course, we don't know what to expect from either because he didn't play at all last year after an academic suspension. After Williams, and TE Mike Owens, there's not much else there for receiverts, and the line at the moment looks shaky at best. Defensively it's more of the same, as standout DT Arthur Jones and S Mike Holmes lead an inexperienced D that's also very thin on the depth chart.

This SHOULD be a fairly easy win for Minnesota, but with the shroud of mystery surrounding Marrone's program, I have a feeling Syracuse will give the Gophs everything they can handle. Maybe the scariest thing about the color Orange is fear itself- fear of the unknown, that is.

For more on Syracuse football, check out the following:
Bennett's Big East Blog
Orange Football Blog from the Syracuse Post-Standard
Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician

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