Syracuse picks up pace as training camp rolls on
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Coach Doug Marrone said it when his players were wearing helmets and shorts, and repeated the message when they were in full pads. He's focusing on the overall progress of the Syracuse Orange - and little else this - early in camp.
Syracuse held its first practice in full equipment on Friday, the same day the annual fanfest took place. Indeed, there is a new feeling around Syracuse Football, one of desperation and a much-needed fresh start.
That said, inclement weather forced the activities to be moved to inside the Carrier Dome, so all didn't go completely as planned.
But the Orange are hitting now. That's a good start.
"I think it's a little bit tougher transition the first time you put pads on," Marrone said. "I think people think you put pads on, and you go out right away and play. It takes a little bit of time to get used to the pads and go out there and hit."
The Orange went 5-7 last season, 1-6 in the Big East. And perhaps that record was still floating around in the fans' minds Friday. Because only about a thousand fans showed up.
Those brave souls witnessed as many highlights as mistakes. But Marrone said that's expected at this point.
Friday's practice was the Orange's fifth in the preseason, and since the first day, Marrone has said repeatedly his team isn't close to where it needs to be. He hasn't spoken much about individual performances, only the team's effort overall.
Syracuse lost its final five games of the season to miss a bowl last year, but a more unpredictable offense could shake things up a bit. During a scrimmage toward the end of the two-hour practice, Syracuse ran a play that would make highlight reels during the season.
Wide receiver Jarrod West jumped up to haul in a long pass from backup quarterback Charley Loeb in the left-front corner of the end zone, fighting off coverage from safety Durell Eskridge and cornerback Jaston George. Clearly, despite it being only a practice, the level of competition among the players was noticeably heightened.
"Part pads, part fans," Marrone said. "It's a good combination."
Freshman Ashton Broyld continued to work with the running backs, and took some snaps in the wildcat formation. The freshman ran for 10 yards during one play, but then the Orange botched a handoff in another variation of the wildcat and the ball hit the turf.
Broyld is a quick, athletic threat that Syracuse needs. The Orange will look to use him in a variety of ways, both out of the backfield and as a wideout. Of course, he still has some learning to do, but so does the entire team.
"We've got a long way to go," Marrone said. "I understand that already, so we're just concentrating on the progress."
The Orange have two practices Saturday and one Sunday before heading up to Fort Drum all next week to train and practice with members of the military. It'll be a challenging week filled with different drills and regimented workouts. The time away will also force the players to focus solely on the game and their chemistry together.
"I think it'll be very important for our kids to get up there and just totally focus on football in a different environment, with a little bit of adversity with what we're going to do with the military," Marrone said. "I think that part of it is probably unique."
Syracuse will play host to Northwestern in the opener on Sept. 1.
Updated August 10, 2012