Syracuse's search for identity starts now

Syracuse lost its record-setting quarterback from 2012. It lost its leading tackler. It lost its two leading receivers. It lost its home in the Big East. And it lost its head coach.

To say Syracuse will be searching for an identity in its first season in the ACC is an understatement. Maybe, though, that lack of star power will be the very strength that comes to define this year’s Orange team -- or at least first-year coach Scott Shafer is hoping so.

“We’ll be a group of a bunch of no-names,” the former Orange defensive coordinator said. “We’ve lost all of the big-name people in the program this year. I think we’ll see some of those kids get opportunities at the next level. They’re no longer with us. We have a bunch of no-name players on both sides of the ball that are fighting to put the name of Syracuse on the map as opposed to any individuals.

“That’s what our creed will be; strength in numbers, strength in unselfishness and a team that’s just finding ways to win.”

Without former quarterback Ryan Nassib, without leading receiver Alec Lemon and without former safety Shamarko Thomas, the top defender on the team in 2012. There will be competitions at just about every position when the Orange begin spring practices today in preparation for the program’s first season in the ACC’s Atlantic Division. From the outside looking in, the depth chart has far more questions than answers -- a scenario that doesn’t bode well against the likes of ranked opponents Florida State and Clemson -- but the good news is that Syracuse has a deep and talented stable of running backs, led by Jerome Smith, and it does have three starters returning to the secondary. Depth up front, though, remains a concern on both sides of the ball.

Odds are Syracuse doesn’t find every answer this spring. Shafer, like most coaches, will use his 15 practices to focus on fundamentals, techniques and individual instruction. The new staff will tweak some things schematically, but Shafer said ACC fans can expect to see a team that plays “extremely hard and physical,” and “with great integrity.”

“Schematically we’ll start off in very similar areas, but lean towards who our players are, and who our players aren’t, and try to work towards our strengths and whisper our weaknesses, and cover up things that we’re not good enough at,” Shafer said. “At the end of the day, we’ll still have some very similar approaches.”

With a very different roster.