Tough break for Jones, depleted Orange

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

How much more can go wrong for Syracuse?

The Orange lost its best offensive weapon when receiver Mike Williams abruptly quit the team last week. And now they will be without their best defensive player, nose tackle Arthur Jones, for the rest of the season. Jones, along with starting offensive lineman Jonathan Meldrum, suffered a torn mensicus in his left knee against Pitt last week.

Though constant double teams limited his production this year, Jones was arguably the best interior defensive lineman in the Big East. He memorably wreaked havoc on Notre Dame last year in an upset victory at South Bend.

Jones could have turned pro at the end of last season, and no one would have blamed him after three years of losing. Some analysts had even projected him as a first- or second-round pick. Instead, he came back to help the rebuilding project with Doug Marrone and to play alongside his brother, freshman defensive end Chandler Jones. His senior year got off to a bad start when he tore a pectoral muscle lifting weights in the winter, which forced him to miss all of the spring. But he hurried back and made it for the start of the year.

Jones -- who's a bright, engaging guy -- was the subject of my Friday Q&A last week and spoke about how he had no regrets on his decision to return to school. You just have to hope now that his injury doesn't knock down his NFL draft stock.

Losing two more starters -- Meldrum had started at right tackle all year -- was the last thing Syracuse needed. The Orange took only 55 scholarship players to Pitt because of injuries, dismissals and player defections. Roster turnover usually happens during a coaching change, but Doug Marrone has been hit hard by upheaval.

"Here we are we're trying to create a foundation for this program that's going to last a long time," Marrone said. "I feel very comfortable with the direction we're going in. People need to step up. Granted, there may not be the same production right now because of our numbers. That's a problem this year, but it won't be a problem in the future."