Here are three highlights from Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone’s Big East teleconference call on Monday:
Syracuse will be hosting No. 15 West Virginia on Friday. The Mountaineers are one of the nation’s most potent offenses, ranking No. 4 in the NCAA in passing yards at 380.5 a game. That, of course, is mostly due to the play of quarterback Geno Smith, who has amassed 2159 passing yards and 16 touchdowns.
“Geno Smith has been playing really well. I think that’s been the biggest difference from last year to this year. Credit to him. He looks very comfortable and he’s done an outstanding job. It’s still the same situation. They still have a lot of threats, a lot of dangerous players that are explosive and once they get the ball in their hands they can take it to the endzone. They spread you out so it’s very difficult to take someone out of the game.”
The Orange had its first bye week of the season. Was it helpful to Syracuse?
“I think we as a team really needed to take a step back for a minute because we’ve been so inconsistent in our play. There are times when you watch on film and you say, ‘Oh, this is a pretty good football team’ and then there are other times you’re like, ‘Oof. What are they doing?’ For us, it was time to get back, reevaluate everything we’re doing offense, defense and special teams.”
When Syracuse hits the field on Friday, it will be featuring a defense that is the most healthy it’s been since SU’s opener against Wake Forest. The Orange welcomes back defensive end Chandler Jones and strong safety Olando Fisher, each who missed five games. Jones and Fisher will join safety Shamarko Thomas, who finally made it back last week after missing two games because of a hamstring injury. SU will need all the help it can get, because to this point, the Orange is giving up 27.3 points and 397.3 yards per game.
“It helps the players that are out on the field. Both Chandler and Olando Fisher have been very good football players for us and they’ve been very supportive of their teammates as they’ve been on the side, not being able to participate. Now, they have an opportunity to get back on the field and they bring a certain type of leadership on the field that will benefit our defense. Now, do I all the sudden think that gives us an edge? Absolutely not. Are we going to be better because of those two players on the field? Absolutely.”