WR/DB Steve Gregory (PHOTO - Mike Okoniewski, Syracuse University Athletic Communications)

2004 Statistics

Coach: Greg Robinson
1st year
2004 Record: 6-6
at Purdue LOST 0-51
at Buffalo WON 37-17
at Virginia LOST 10-31
at West Virginia LOST 6-27
at Temple LOST 24-34
at Boston College WON 43-17
vs. Georgia Tech LOST 14-51

2004 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2005 Outlook

New coach Greg Robinson has promised changes at the Carrier Dome, and, for many Orange-faced fans, that will be a good thing. Syracuse has played woefully inconsistent football in recent years, and their record has been consistently mediocre. They won a share of the most recent Big East title (no great feat), but they also lost to Temple while (seemingly) not even showing up versus Purdue (51-0), West Virginia (27-6) and Georgia Tech (51-14).

That sequence was the last straw and lost longtime coach Paul Pasqualoni his job. To be fair, there were many other reasons the program was sent into a tailspin, but it all ultimately equals the current fresh approach. In comes Robinson, who's got much talent on which to build, plus 22 seniors who are hungry to win now. Most importantly, though, is how Robinson cleaned house and brought in eight new coaches. Robinson's defensive prowess assures developments are on the horizon, but how quickly SU can show stopping power will go long way toward defining the/his '05 campaign.

Fortunately, nine starters return on D, and it will be among the Big East's top units. But the offense is shaky, and Robinson's plans to implement a West Coast system depend on his ability to find the right QB to run it. This, too, is a 'major' (Applewhite, the new QBs coach) defining element for where the Orange finish.

This team again could easily rise near the top of this diluted (but reinvigorated) conference. But new Big East foes Louisville and Connecticut are immediate threats, so jettisoning BC, VT, and Miami have their consequences. The schedule is about as tough as can be, with non-conference visits to Florida State and Notre Dame to accompany a home tilt against Virginia. With Pittsburgh and Louisville on the road, their work is cut out. The good news is that every other game on their schedule is quite winnable. So the 'Cuse will likely make it two bowl games in a row, but this time they will have a much better chance to end the year (or begin the next one) right. Orangetown will be all a'buzz once again as winning returns to Irving Street.

Projected 2005 record: 5-6
RB Damien Rhodes (PHOTO - Mike Okoniewski, Syracuse University Athletic Communications)
QB - 2 DL - 3
RB - 3.5 LB - 3.5
WR - 2 DB - 3
OL - 3.5 ..

Passing: Perry Patterson, 289-168-10, 1851 yds., 7 TD

Rushing: Damien Rhodes, 153 att., 870 yds., 10 TD

Receiving: Steve Gregory, 38 rec., 420 yds., 1 TD

Scoring: Damien Rhodes, 11 TD, 66 pts.

Punting: Brendan Carney, 57 punts, 42.8 avg.

Kicking: Brendan Carney, 0-2 FG, 7-7 PAT, 7 pts.

Tackles: Jerry Mackey, 106 tot., 63 solo

Sacks: James Wyche, 5.5 sacks

Interceptions: Anthony Smith, 3 for 62 yds., 1 TD

Kickoff returns: Damien Rhodes, 11 ret., 20.1 avg., 0 TD

Punt returns: Landel Bembo, 14 ret., 3.5 avg.


OFFENSE: Greg Hanoian-FB, Walter Reyes-TB, Andre Fontenette-WR, Jared Jones-WR, Adam Terry-OT, Matt Tarullo-C, Collin Barber-K
DEFENSE: Julian Pollard-DE, Diamond Ferri-SS, O'Neil Scott-FS

Well, there's no Donovan McNabb in this group. For now, the starter is junior Perry Patterson, who has feet of gold but an arm that needs polishing (2004 TD: INT ratio of 7:10). Robinson has said the helm of his offense is wide open, and that he'll decide in/after spring ball who's best to handle the West Coast offense. Patterson will be competing for his job with athletic sophomore Joe Fields, who started three times before being benched for more seasoning, and with sophomore Matt Hale. They've got depth, but no one who'll dominate.

Running Back
Damien Rhodes will be the man here, filling the big shoes of Walter Reyes. Rhodes (10.5-sec 100 meter time) got reps when Reyes was hurt, and, behind another strong line, this bull will get many reps again. Expect his off-season training regiment to show via a stronger, yet lighter frame. He will, too, catch more balls as Robinson installs his West Coast approach. Rhodes takes a few more chances than Reyes did (for a better per carry average, but also more lost yards), so our advice has to do with instilling a north-south attitude. Jeremy Sellers, who has donned safety and WR status to help out where/when needed, returns to this unit for solid depth. Coaches are hoping small-but-tough junior Tim Washington can contribute (concussion held him out in 2004). Don't be surprised if true freshman Curtis Brinkley gets some meaningful minutes, too. He was a 2003 Parade All-American who did extra "post-graduate" work last year, while being the only three-star RB of his (recruiting) class. This is a strong unit, one that will compete within itself well for reps through one-upmanship.

Like most of the offense, the receiving corps is adequate, but it won't frighten many secondaries. When the freshmen arrive, Robinson will have 12 scholarship receivers. With Steve Gregory switching to defense and two major exits via graduation, little-man Landel Bembo is the top returner. Bembo is tough and experienced in short routes, though a deep threat has to emerge. The best of the bunch looks to be the lanky junior Rice Moss, who missed half of last season with a thumb injury, but is an open-field menace. Highly-recruited freshman Lavarr Lobdell chose his hometown school over USC and Miami, and is the same kind of tall, breakaway type. Tim Lane is slated to start, and his ability to block and be physical downfield means he sees reps early and often. This is an underdog, no-name unit that will surprise until revealed.

Tight End
The team's best current receiver is here. Big Joe Kowalewski will see action with continued inside running in Orangetown. More importantly, he will see a few more come his way deep over the middle each week, and his emergence as a leader will settle the young WRs. Behind him, depth exists, especially with soft-handed hulkster Alex Shor, a tireless engine who guarantees short-yardage, two-TE formations will work. The Orange would be wise in using Shor to also make foes (who focus too keenly on Kowalewski) pay "deep".

Offensive Line
This group needs some work, yet with three starters returning, you may not realize why. Tackle Quinn Ojinnaka and guards Jason Green and Steve Franklin provide a core of seniors who've been around "the block" on what was the 31st-rated rushing offense. They'll have to blend with two new starters, likely junior center Justin Outten and senior tackle Kurt Falke. Falke has enough mobility to become tackle-eligible on key plays, and Outten moves well enough to be a feared special teams' maven, too. Franklin, though, had a strong showing at center this spring, so it is still unsettled as to who will go where by fall. We'll see how they all adjust to the West Coast's mobility demands, so any ability to roll-out will only help. There is only one upperclassman listed on the three-deep for the rest of the beef, so injuries would become soft spots on the Orange.

This could be a tough year for new offensive coordinator Brian Pariani. But his presence was demanded - Syracuse was one of the worst passing offenses as of late (average rank of SU's aerial efforts over last four campaigns is 92nd). He's going to install a West Coast attack, which will get the ball out quicker while opening up the run through spreading the field more. And he's going to try all of this with just one proven receiver - the tight end - and no great shakes at quarterback. But Texas legend Major Applewhite follows Robinson here as a first-time QB coach, while coordinator Brian Pariani is the architect of the West Coast here after his successful tenures with the NFL teams in S.F. and Denver. We'll see how that goes against Florida State and Louisville, for the given subtleties of this scheme will take time to emerge. Rhodes is a versatile, dangerous back, and Kowalewski's a big, reliable target, so foes know who to not let beat them. Luckily, with a full dozen receivers, there's always going to be another guy to throw to. This side of things could be very dangerous, but will be more so in a year or two - it's going to take some revving up to get there, for the juice just won't flow right away with such a sophisticated approach via 2004's offensive genesis.


DE James Wyche (PHOTO - Mike Okoniewski, Syracuse University Athletic Communications)


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Perry Patterson-Jr Joe Fields-So
FB Breyone Evans-So Stephen McDonald-Jr
TB Damien Rhodes-Sr Jeremy Sellers-So
WR Tim Lane-Jr Quinton Brown-So / J.J. Bedle-Fr
WR Rice Moss-So Landel Bembo-So
TE Joe Kowalewski-Sr Alex Shor-Sr
OT Kurt Falke-Sr Ryan Ehrie-Fr
OG Jason Greene-Sr Carroll Madison-Fr
C Steve Franklin-Sr Justin Outten-So
OG Ryan Durand-Fr Mike Sklarosky-Jr
OT Quinn Ojinnaka-Sr Corey Chavers-Fr
K Ricky Krautman-Jr Brendan Carney-Jr / Patrick Shadle-Fr



Defensive Line
This is a strong suit, but statistical realities say that they have their work cut out both at pressuring opposing QBs and stuffing the run. Senior James Wyche has blossomed into one of the conference's top defensive ends and led the team in TFLs (15) and sacks (5.5). And sophomore DT Tony Jenkins impressed as a freshman all-American, outpacing senior linemate Kader Drame in tackling. Junior Chris Thorner is the biggest Orange swath on this line, making this one of the Big East's best interiors. Ryan LaCasse will man the other end admirably, and also brings the heat on the rush. The problems come with the unproven depth - besides Tommy Harris, there is little on which to bank. This unit allowed 4.4 per rush and earned only 17 sacks - with 10.5 coming from the two ends we've listed - so the potential talent here will cost them wins if not soon reached.

All three starters return and there's depth aplenty, so much depth that Robinson has opened all three positions to competition. But MLB Jerry Mackey, team leader in tackles, will jump to that next level. His size-speed combination makes stopping him difficult with so much strength in the front-seven - you can't double-team everyone. It is hard to see Kellen Pruitt and Kelvin Smith, each two year starters, being unseated, either. Smith is a demon in coverage, and his mobility has him listed as a possible middle guy until Mackey is again strong. Sophomore Jameel McClain will use his size to roam the middle also until Mackey can find his groove again. Four three-star LB recruits dot the underclass, so expect a well-rested corps to earn this side of the ball a much better placement than its recent 101st final total defensive ranking.

Defensive Back
If the defense has a weakness, this is it. Free safety Anthony Smith has impressed the new coaches and will become this unit's new field general. Smith is everywhere. Junior CB Tanard Jackson, who has shown flashes of his potential, is likely to start. He looks like the top-flight corner Syracuse has been searching for. Senior DeAndre LeCaille has manned the other corner serviceably but may be displaced by Steve Gregory, a two-year starter at CB who played wideout last year. Gregory, also a senior, is fifth on the school's all-time passes-defended list (with 35), and fourth on the pass-breakups chart (21). Gregory is the smallest of the DBs listed on the two-deep, with most 6' or taller. SU ranked in the bottom quartile in most pass defense categories, so all of these returning starters need to step up, or step off, and Robinson cannot let new DB's coach Jim Salgado linger on proven defective parts if a faltering scenario plays out (again).

The front seven is nasty. Running on these guys is going to be tough and they should be able to bring more heat on pass plays. This will help out the marginal DBs, and it will all take time to adjust properly to the new personnel. But even the secondary is appearing (marginally) solid, with Smith and Jackson returning, and Steve Gregory back on his preferred side of the ball. As Jackson and Gregory perform well, coach Robinson can/will get even more aggressive with the blitz. He's a defensive specialist; it's where he made his name for 14 years in the pros and he coached the nation's 23rd-ranked unit last year at Texas, so expect much. Robinson was the architect for the Denver Ds that won two consecutive Super Bowls, and he will build this unit the same way (like he did in Austin): through aggressive, smart and well-timed heat, all adding up to perhaps (one of) the best defense in the conference by the campaign's end.


FS Anthony Smith (PHOTO - Mike Okoniewski, Syracuse University Athletic Communications)


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE James Wyche-Sr Cornelius Campbell-So
NT Tony Jenkins-So Chris Thorner-Jr
DT Kader Drame-Sr Eugene Brown-Sr
DE Ryan LaCasse-Sr Lee Williams-So
LB Kelvin Smith-Jr Tommy Harris-Sr
LB Jerry Mackey-Jr Jameel McClain-So
LB Kellen Pruitt-Sr Luke Cain-Jr
CB Tanard Jackson-Jr Thomas Whitfield-Sr
CB DeAndre LaCaille-Sr Steve Gregory-Sr
SS Reggie McCoy-So Dowayne Davis-So
FS Anthony Smith-Sr Ben Maljovec-Fr
P Brendan Carney-Jr ..




This may be trouble. They'll have to replace Collin Barber, who graduated last year. The only kicker on the '05 roster with any game experience is punter Brendan Carney, who went 0-for-2. Junior Ricky Krautman and incoming freshman Patrick Shadle will each be considered. Coverage will improve with the depth of their back-seven.

Carney, a junior, averaged a solid 42.8 yards per try. But he takes his time getting the ball away. In two years as Syracuse's primary punter, he's had 10 punts blocked. If Robinson doesn't change the blocking scheme, defenses will continue coming at Carney (even harder). To balance things out, Anthony Smith blocked three kicks, so follow his number to locate the origin of any bouncing balls. Net coverage was not equal to Carney's efforts, so getting more here will be what Robinson demands for field-position wins.

Return Game
This could be a trouble spot, too. The guy who got most of the other runbacks (Rhodes) is now the starting tailback, so Robinson needs to be careful about putting him deep on kickoffs. And last year's main punt returner, Bembo, averaged an anemic 3.5 yards per return. These jobs are therefore wide open until proven filled. Speedy CB Marcus Clayton may be the best option.