Syracuse receiver Marcus Sales is back on the football team, coach Doug Marrone said Friday.
Sales was suspended for all of 2011 after he was arrested last summer on multiple drug charges. But those charges were dropped last October, paving the way for his return.
"He's on the football team. He's enrolled in school with no issues in school so there's no issues with being a part of the program," Marrone said.
This is a big boost for the Orange going into spring practice, which begins March 20. Syracuse will be without leading returning receiver Alec Lemon, along with several other key players in the pass game -- Van Chew, Nick Provo and Dorian Graham. It also is important for Sales to start working himself back into game shape, since he has been out for an entire year. The last time we saw him, he had a monster game against Kansas State in the Pinstripe Bowl, where he had five catches for 172 yards and three touchdowns.
Marrone made his comments during a news conference to discuss the addition of Missouri to the 2012 schedule. The biggest reason why the Orange are playing the Tigers is because Marrone refused to play two FCS schools in one season. The first option was to play the best team possible at home. Marrone said discussions with several undisclosed teams broke down because they didn't want to play in the Carrier Dome.
So the next option was to play the best opponent possible, even if it meant traveling.
"What's frustrating about that situation is when you have a team that says we don't want to play you in the Dome," Marrone said. "I can't say for a fact, but I know some of the thought process for two of the schools was it goes back to (last year's Friday night game against) West Virginia. ... Everyone wondering what's the magic dust we sprinkle out for that one night. When I tell you the phone calls and the conversations and the meetings that took place to get the best team we could in here, it took a lot of time. ...
"The philosophy was we're going to go out and get the best team to come in here and if not, then we're going to play the best team we can play. That was our thought process going into it."
Marrone stressed he was involved in the negotiations and endorsed the schedule, even though it makes the challenge of 2012 more difficult. He was asked whether it would have made things easier on him and his team to have a second game against an FCS opponent.
"When you look back and you look at the program, I can only talk about it from a personal standpoint from when I first arrived here and the teams we had to play," Marrone said. "I said, 'Let's get the best team we can to come in here and play.' Strategically, when you look at schedules, could you last longer maybe, can you try to schedule it up and try to match things up where your talent level is better, is that going to make your career last a little longer? I understand, winning is the most important thing and right now that's what our focus is on. We have to win enough games so they don't get tired of the cliches. I don't think I've ever stood up here and made excuses. We have to win. I like the schedule. It forces this program to get better, and to see what the weaknesses are throughout the season."