Syracuse coach Doug Marrone made the last-minute decision to close all his practices to the fans and media, shutting down interview access as well.
But Marrone will briefly lift the veil of secrecy with two open practices -- one this Saturday in Rochester, and the spring game in Syracuse on April 21.
In a video posted on the school's Web site, Marrone explained that he decided to close practices because of changes the team is making on offense, defense and special teams. These changes may or may not be implemented, so Marrone did not want a rush to judgment on his players or the potential new look until he knew for certain he had in front of him.
“The goal going into the spring was to make sure we come out with a two-deep so you feel comfortable with where the players are, the next thing is becoming more physical and having a better understanding of what we are doing schematically and the third is team chemistry,” Marrone said in the video. “Going into spring practice, having made the changes that we have made in all three phases -- offense, defense and special teams -- I wanted to make sure we have a true understanding of it without any distractions from the outside, knowing there may be things we like and want to keep in the system and there may be some that our players aren’t performing at the level we need to win and we take those out. I did not want someone to come in and give a false impression of who we are going to be to everyone on the outside. It has been a very good spring for us. I am extremely happy with the direction we are going.”
Syracuse is coming off a 5-7 season, and Marrone spoke several months ago about wanting to make changes to his team. Perhaps one of them is using more of versatile quarterback Ashton Broyld, who is enrolled this spring. Another has been working on creating more big plays, an issue for this team for the last several years. Defensively, there may be more of an emphasis on pressure, and Marrone wants a much more physical team.
To tie all that together, he felt it important to really make sure team chemistry was there this spring. That may have been an area that was lacking last season.
"That's the one thing you tend to overlook at times, but it's very important for this football team," Marrone said. "I know people say that's a cliche, but it means quite a bit from where we are."
As for those who might take offense to Marrone shutting practice: "We're trying to get this team ready, and I have to make those decisions on a daily basis. Sometimes it may offend people. They might feel they want to know every single thing that's going on ... It's just the way it's going, it's the way I feel. ... I'm extremely happy. This has been for me, the best spring that we've had. I feel comfortable in the direction we're going."