The Orange football team got off to an optimistic start last season. Starting off the season 5-2, including a huge win against No. 15 West Virginia, gave Syracuse fans something to cheer about. The cheers quieted down when the Orange lost its last five contests and failed to make it to a bowl game.
Syracuse scored just nine touchdowns in the final five games of the season and ranked last in the Big East in scoring offense. A big reason for the lack of offensive production was the absence of an impact player who could make big plays.
After a year off the field, Marcus Sales is ready to be the go-to receiver for Syracuse next season. Sales said the coaching staff is going to give him the opportunity to be that guy.
“The coaches made the playbook real simple,” Sales said. “They cut out a lot of stuff and they just gave all the playmakers a chance to make plays. They just put the ball in our hands…”
Ryan Nassib and Sales connected on two deep passes during the spring football game and showed signs of the 2010 Pinstripe Bowl performance when the duo scored three touchdowns and covered 172 yards.
Sales’ presence takes a lot of pressure off a young but talented backfield. The coaches have added a few different running schemes to the playbook. The adjustments allow for Nassib to have more opportunities to run the ball. With a deep threat like Sales lined up as a receiver, Nassib and the rest of the running backs will see more open field.
“Having him [Sales] back brings a whole other dimension to our offense,” Nassib said.
The other options at the receiver position are surrounded by question marks. Alec Lemon, who is nursing an off-season injury and didn’t play in the spring game, led the team in receiving yards last year. But Lemon disappeared down the stretch when the Orange was trying to clinch a bowl berth. In the last two games of the season, he had just four receptions for 26 yards and no touchdowns.
The Syracuse offense relies on its tight ends for production, also. But with Nick Provo out of the picture, guys like Beckett Wales and Jarrod West need to carry the load. Wales looked good in the spring game and looks like a guy who could fill the gap left by Provo. West sat out with an injury but if he improves from last season, he could be a weapon.
Jeremiah Kobena only had two receptions for 10 yards last season, but after seeing him in the spring game, he could be a guy to help take some of the pressure off Sales. Kobena is incredibly quick but undersized at just 5-foot-11.
The key to this offense’s success this season is Marcus Sales. He admits that he’s rusty after not playing for a year, but he’s ready to take on the challenge of becoming an elite receiver.
“Me, Ryan [Nassib] and all the other wide receivers, we gotta get together and throw passes and get repetition.” Sales said. “If we get reps, the chemistry can only get better.”
Once that chemistry is back and the rust has worn off, look for Nassib and Sales to be connecting all season long.