Syracuse left the the Big East as a co-champion and routed former conference foe West Virginia, 38-14, in the Pinstripe Bowl for a 2012 exclamation mark.
But that was enough to earn former coach Doug Marrone a ticket to the NFL as head coach of the Buffalo Bills. And he took most of his staff with him.
Defensive coordinator Scott Shafer assumes the Orange job, losing a school-record shattering quarterback, his top-two receivers and tacklers and 3-of-4 on the d-line for his first head coaching stint.
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2012 Record: 8-5 (4-2, co-Big East champs)
Plays Clemson: Oct. 5, at Syracuse.
Returning Starters by Position (13)
Outgoing Starters: 12
Offensive Leader: RB Jerome Smith – The rising senior had a breakout junior campaign, almost reaching 1,200 rushing yards (1,171) at 5.2 yards per carry as a part of 1-2 punch with senior Prince-Tyson Gulley (830 yards).
Defensive Leader: OLB Dyshawn Davis – Davis returns as the Orange’s leading returner in tackles for loss (14), but is sitting out the spring with an “upper body injury.”
Key Issues This Spring: 1) Replacing Ryan Nassib – Nassib passed for over 3,700 yards and 26 touchdowns in Marrone’s system last year, projected as high as the top-two round pick in the NFL draft. Rising senior Charley Loeb is the early favorite to take over, but he only attempted one pass in 2012 (complete for 8 yards though) – leading to a four-way competition this spring. Shafer has hinted to wanting a mobile QB, which isn’t Loeb’s strength. “We want to have a group of young men at the quarterback position that can do a few things,” Shafer told Syracuse.com. “We want them to be able to throw the football, first and foremost. We want that guy to be able to run the ball and move the chains. Does he have to be the guy who leads the country in rushing? No. Does he have to be RGIII? No. But on a third down and five, can be equally the threat as a runner and a passer.” Fellow upperclassmen Terrel Hunt (junior) and John Kinder (senior) more fit the bill, and converted running back Ashton Broyld (sophomore) might get a look (a three-star athlete/QB in high school).
2) New staff – Much like now division-rival FSU, there’s a mix of continuity and fresh faces in Upstate NY, with Marrone taking several assistants to the NFL with him. "We have a new group of coaches that are meshing together," Shafer said on the school’s official site. "A lot of us have worked together so that will be good. Now it will just be the dynamic of how the flow of the practice works. How the flow of going to practice to a meeting situation and the dynamics of the new personalities meshing, just like any group would take time to get those personalities to mesh. That's what makes it so much fun – all those firsts. You want to try and do the best you can with each first and each opportunity that's a new one."
3) Finding the next defensive stars – Syracuse has had a top-50 defense three of the last four seasons after finishing 101st nationally the year before Shafer took over. But the Orange replace two graduating on the d-line and a returning starting DE who was dismissed in the offseason for felony burglary charges (Markus Pierce-Brewster). Also gone are the top two tacklers, from the linebacker corps (Siriki Diabate) and secondary (SS Shamarko Thomas).
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