I had hoped to run this feature last week before the Syracuse game, but some scheduling difficulties got in the way.
Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician is the most popular fan-run Syracuse football blog on the net, and it has recently moved into some new digs at nunesmagician.com, hosted by the ever expanding reach of the SBNation network. TNIAAM's author Sean recently agreed to answer a few questions that I submitted, and my thoughts on Rutgers and such may be appearing on there at some point in the near future.
edit: here they are.
1. It's hard to talk about this year's Syracuse squad without focusing on the status of Greg Robinson. What kind of qualities does Daryl Gross need to look for in Robinson's replacement? I thought Rob Konrad made some good points in his endorsement of Steve Addazio, that apply even if someone like Doug Marrone or Chip Kelly ends up being the hire, Do you go with an up-and-comer, or a candidate with a longer resume? Should the next coach focus on Xs and Os, or on recruiting?
The big sticking issues that seem to be floating out there for SU fans are that we want someone who is "one of us," that we need someone who has in-roads with the Northeast and can recruit and someone who is going to work with what he's got instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.
As for the "one of us" issue, I think that's more a reaction to the disdain people have with Robinson, who had absolutely nothing to do with Syracuse and the Northeast when he came here. While it would be a nice bonus to have a qualified Syracuse grad (see Randy Edsall), I don't think a Syracuse affiliation of some kind is a realistic requirement. Would you turn down Urban Meyer just because he's not a Cuse grad?
As for the Northeast connections and the recruiting experience, I think this is arguably the most important issue. Not only has Syracuse lost the recruiting edge in the Northeast that it once had over Rutgers, UConn and others but it doesn't seem like we have ANY kind of recruiting ability at the moment. A lot of that has to do with the flux of the program but there's no reason why we shouldn't be pulling in New York's top talent year in and year out. Aside from the last recruiting class, we haven't done that. And we're certainly not doing it now. Robinson rightfully gets the blame for letting those carefully-maintained relationships wither away.
And please please please, no NFL coordinators desperate for a shot at being a head coach. No Marty Morninwhegs. No Kevin Gilbrides. I don't care how well they run a pro offense. This is college football and it takes more than knowing what plays to tell Eli Manning to use to compete here. Greg Robinson was exactly this before he came here, we can't possibly go through this again.
Instead, give me a seasoned offensive/defensive coordinator from a East Coast Division 1-A football program with a reputation as a recruiting whiz. If you were asking for a prototype as the next coach of Syracuse, that's him.
2. In the absence of Taj Smith and Mike Williams, new offensive coordinator Mitch Browning has had some success this year in re-establishing Syracuse's rushing attack. Curtis "Boonah" Brinkley is a senior, but has Browning laid enough of a foundation that the trio of Delone Carter, Doug Hogue, and Averin Collier can give Syracuse a solid nucleus to build around in 2009? Which other players can we look for in an expanded role next season?
That's assuming Carter, Hogue and Collier don't transfer because they're pissed off at not getting any playing time this season. Carter is not-so-patiently waiting on the sidelines for a carry. Hogue ripped off a great run last week and never saw the ball again. And Collier...well, we're not even sure he's still alive. Don't forget about Antwon Bailey as well, the one halfback not named Brinkley that Greg Robinson seems to want to play.
I'm sure all three of them can take solace in knowing that next year the pathway is clear for one of them to be the starter and for a few of them to get reps. They will also get a clean slate with a new head coach.
Wide receiver, a position that showed some promise early but has basically become a non-issue, should become more prominent again next season. Apparently Williams is working to return to the Orange next season and we can expect him to be impactful, even if it won't be as much as last year. We have high hopes for freshman Marcus Sales and his cohort Donte Davis as well. Just get these guys a QB to throw to them.
Speaking of the QBs, Cam Dantley and Andrew Robinson will be returning but as of right now neither of them have done anything to prove they should be automatically handed the keys next season. Redshirt freshman David Legree is chomping at the bit to get a chance and I suspect he'll be given equal footing next summer. He's more mobile than both of the other two and could provide the offense with a new dimension, which it sorely needs.
3. In many ways, last Saturday's contest between Syracuse and Rutgers was a microcosm of everything that has gone wrong with Greg Robinson's tenure. A few tantalizing glimpses of hope, quickly followed by crushing disappointment. A few days ago, I argued that Doug Hogue's long touchdown run in the first quarter may have actually hurt Syracuse's chances to win the game. Brinkley has been the team's bread and butter all year; ideally, they would have tried to get him consistently moving the chains, and tired out RU's undersized defense with a long drive down the field. Is there anything to this theory?
"A few tantalizing glimpses of hope, quickly followed by crushing disappointment." You couldn't sum up the Greg Robinson Era any better.
As for your theory, I think you're overthinking things. That game was like playing NCAA Football on PlayStation when the computer decides you're going to lose today. The game always gives you a drive or two to pad your stats before suddenly making some sort of internal switch whereby the cornerbacks all become INT machines and their quarterback turns into 4th Quarter John Elway. Before you know it you're down 21-3 and you can't move the ball to save your life The Hogue run merely delayed the inevitable.
4. Syracuse is in a unique position in the Big East: their fans still crave a winning football team, but Syracuse has been on top of the basketball food chain for a long time. Does the status quo of the Big East, with a crowded 16-team basketball conference, and the football programs on shaky ground, work for Syracuse athletics? Did the Big East make a mistake in promoting John Marinatto to replace the retiring Mike Tranghese, instead of bringing in an outsider with more of a football background?
I'll let you in on the dark, dirty secret that Syracuse fans don't want you to know...
We'd trade the basketball program's success for football success in a heartbeat.
Don't get me wrong, we don't take Jim Boeheim and his fantastic teams for granted. We love us some SU basketball and we live and die by their success (or lack thereof). But Syracuse, NY is in Upstate New York...Football Country. And in the 50's and early 60's, Syracuse Football was the shit long before Syracuse Basketball really became the consistent winner it is these days.
Don McPherson, arguably the best QB in the history of SU, recently said that Syracuse fans should wise up to the truth that we're a 7-8 win/year program and nothing more. I think that's short-sighted and, quite simple, retarded. Give me a good coach and a couple good recruiting classes and ANY college football program can go from the bottom to the top. Look at Minnesota, Northwestern or Kansas, amongst others.
I guess the point is, I don't think basketball success alone makes a Syracuse fan happy. We're not asking for a national championship every year, that's insane. But we do think Syracuse should content for the Big East title every year. And we should be nationally-ranked most of the time. I think that's fair.
As for Marinatto, I don't think it's a mistake per se. It sounds like a very safe choice, one that's not going to rock any boats in and outside of the conference. I think sooner or later we're going to have to do something about this football/basketball imbalance and it's going to require some very tough choices. I'd just to be in a position next time where we're the ones making the decision, not being forced to by others (see The ACC Raid).
(ed: Usually I don't like interjecting in the middle of these, but I strongly concur with the point about Syracuse being a football school. They are the home of Jim Brown, Floyd Little, Ernie Davis, etc... I've actually tried to explain this point at times to red staters, and they usually respond with the same quizzical look that they give me when I try to expound on the appeal of lox or sushi.)
5. Besides all of the Syracuse alumni in the NFL and NBA, it's hard not to notice that a large portion of the sports media have ties to Syracuse University and its Newhouse School - both on a national level, but especially in the NYC area. How strongly are the most influential alumni pushing to get Syracuse's football program back on track? Do you have any interesting anecdotes to share about their influence and reach?
You mentioned that some of the football alums are pushing their choices for the next coach and really, that's been the extent of it. The scathing ESPN piece that ran earlier this year had the most brutal and high-profile sentiment, courtesy of Jim Brown and Floyd Little. Other than that, no SU media-types have really made a big stink about it, probably because they don't want to lose any access if and when they need it.
I keep hearing that donors and boosters are moving financial mountains to ensure that Robinson's buyout isn't an issue and I'm sure that's all been taken care of. And there's been word that folks like Donovan McNabb are a part of the process for choosing the next coach (which I think is a bad idea, but whatever).
All I do know is, all eyes are on Athletic Director DOCTOR Daryl Gross. Gross is a full-fledged egomaniac and he's none too happy about having the stink of Greg Robinson on him (when, according to some, he didn't even want to fire Paul Pasqualoni in the first place). My fear is that Gross is going to try and go high-profile instead of going for the right person for the job. I'd like to think there's enough checks and balances in place but Gross seems to be the kind of guy who will go over anyone else's head if he decides it's what he wants to do. Right or wrong, this will be defining decision of his tenure at SU. Let's hope he chooses wisely.
Thanks again to Sean and Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician, and may...well, I don't wish Syracuse football good will at all, but their fans are a nice bunch that do deserve better.