The Orange return eight starters from a unit that was prolific at times, and down right anemic at others.
SU’s offense averaged 37.5 points in its opening four games, but during its final three games of the regular season, the Orange could muster only a woeful 8.6 points.
The area for improvement is obvious.
“We are looking for consistency,” Syracuse coach Doug Marrone said. “We need to be more consistent considering we have a lot of guys back on that side of the ball.”
One of Syracuse’s key returning starters is Ryan Nassib, who enjoyed a productive campaign in his first season as a starter. Nassib set an SU single-season record with 202 completions in 2010, and amassed 2334 yards on 56.4 percent completions and 19 touchdowns to eight interceptions.
But much like the rest of the offense, Nassib will need to find some consistency. The redshirt junior was over 200 yards in each of his first three games of the season, but then had just one game (Nov. 13, 2010 vs. Rutgers) out of his final six games where he went over the 200 mark.
But Nassib was brilliant in the Pinstripe Bowl, completing 13 of 21 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns. And, like any quarterback heading into his second full season at the helm, Nassib knows what’s to come.
“I feel like a whole different player than last spring,” Nassib said. “I know the offense inside-out. I have a whole different confidence out there.”
Nassib will be backed up by junior Charley Loeb. After that, the Orange have a large group of young quarterbacks, including John Kinder, Jonny Miller, Nick Raven and James Jarrett.
Antwon Bailey takes over as Syracuse’s featured back from Delone Carter, who left Syracuse as the school’s third all-time leading rusher with 3104 yards and 24 touchdowns. Bailey had a solid season last year as the Orange’s second back, amassing 554 yards and two touchdowns.
“He’s spectacular,” offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. “You saw flashes of it last year and you want to keep giving him the ball, but when you’ve got a guy like Delone, you’ve got to give him the ball. Antwon’s role is going to increase, which is exciting, because he can score at any point.”
The Orange also have depth behind Bailey, including Prince-Tyson Gulley, Steven Rene, Jerome Smith, Greg Tobias and Mario Tull – who switched from linebacker to runningback.
Syracuse has a pool of talent and depth at the receiving position, as the Orange return Van Chew, Marcus Sales, Alec Lemon and Dorian Graham at wide receiver. Nick Provo will be starting at tight end.
Chew led the Orange with 611 receiving yards and five touchdowns, but Sales is the most intriguing member of the bunch. In SU’s first nine games of the season, Sales had just five catches, but the Christian Brothers Academy product finished the year in dynamic fashion, averaging 93.7 yards receiving in his final four games.
Sales busted out in the Pinstripe Bowl, with five receptions for 172 yards and three touchdowns.
“Marcus Sales has never not had the ability to play,” Marrone said. “What I’ve seen in Marcus Sales is that he’s matured to a point of knowing that you have to practice at a consistent level on a daily basis. When you do that, the opportunity for good things to happen will probably happen. I think that’s what showed in the bowl game.”
Behind the returning veteran group is Jarrod West, Adrian Flemming, Kyle Ishman, Jeremiah Kobena, Michael Acchione and Cayden Feifer.
The Orange will return one of its most experienced units, with second-team All-Big East selection Justin Pugh, junior Zack Chibane and seniors Andrew Tiller and Michael Hay protecting Nassib.
The only change will be at center, with the graduation of Ryan Bartholomew. Sophomore Macky MacPherson is slated to be the starter.
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