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March 21, 2009

Syracuse gets fresh start under Marrone

Syracuse won just three games last season, giving the Orange only 10 wins in four seasons under Greg Robinson. As a result, Robinson was fired after the season.

Enter Doug Marrone off the New Orleans Saints staff. The first order of business for Marrone a Syracuse alum and his staff is to jazz up what has become an awful offense.

In fact, finding a capable quarterback has to be the first priority.

Here's a look at the Orange as they begin spring practice.

Quarterback Cameron Dantley returns, but the Orange passing game needs an upgrade.
Coach: Doug Marrone
Last season: 3-9, 1-6 Big East
Spring dates: March 23-April 18
Offense (7): G Ryan Bartholomew, T Tucker Baumbach, QB Cameron Dantley, WR Donte Davis, WR Lavar Lobdell, C Jim McKenzie, TE Mike Owen.
Defense (7): CB Mike Holmes, T Arthur Jones, E Jared Kimmel, LB Mike Mele, CB/SS Kevyn Scott, CB Nico Scott, LB Derrell Smith.
Special teams (1): P Rob Long.
Positions of strength

The Orange have some depth in the running game, with as many as five capable backs. Players such as Doug Hogue, Delone Carter and Averin Collier offer reasons for hope. The offensive line could be solid, especially the left side. Arthur Jones should be one of the best players at his position in the league.

Help is needed

When a program has gone a combined 10-37 in the past four seasons, help is needed in just about every area. The biggest problem spot is quarterback. Both starting safeties will be new. The passing attack needs an upgrade. And a kicker is needed with the loss of steady Patrick Shadle.

Keep an eye on

RB Averin Collier: Collier - a four-star recruit - enrolled early last year, but injuries caused him to redshirt in the fall. Now, the wraps are being taken off this season.

DT Jarel Lowery: At 6 feet 4 and 285 pounds, Lowery has the frame and girth to be a run-stuffer in the middle of the defense. Lowery, a redshirt freshman, must be a big contributor at a position that lacks depth.

DE Romale Tucker: He needs to provide a push and a rush off the edge at a position of great need for Syracuse. Tucker showed a quick first step in practices last season when he was redshirting as a freshman.

His time is now

A former four-star recruit, Lavar Lobdell has failed to live up to his billing. Lobdell, a senior, has been plagued by inconsistency throughout his career, posting just 26 catches for 319 yards and zero touchdowns in three seasons. Perhaps a fresh start with a new coaching staff will be his ticket to a big finish.

The buzz

After four largely disastrous seasons under Robinson, there is an air of hope as the Marrone era gets under way. A few thousand fans showed up for Marrone's signing-day event as opposed to a meager gathering in Robinson's final season. Marrone a Syracuse alum who had been offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints has a strong staff, including standout coordinators in Scott Shafer (defense) and Rob Spence (offense). The goal is to end a bowl drought that dates to the 2004 season. It seems unlikely the drought ends this season, though.

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com.

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