Orange prepare to conquer the unknown

As he prepares for the first game of his second year as Syracuse head coach, Doug Marrone says the only thing that makes him anxious is the unknown.

Marrone isn't sure what to expect out of the opening game at Akron. While the Orange have played the Zips the past two years, the program has an entirely new coaching staff, led by former Notre Dame assistant Rob Ianello. Marrone said he has kept folders on coordinators around the country since 1996 for situations just like this.

"We're playing the percentages," said Marrone, who may have his own surprises after naming himself offensive coordinator after last season. "But they're playing the percentages on us offensively, too. They don't know what we do."

The coach has a lot of young players who've never played or had big roles who will be dealing with their own unknowns this week. To counter that, he borrowed a trick from his old coach, Dick MacPherson: Last Saturday night, he had the players write down what their roles would be, how they would help the team win and what emotions they would experience.

One player who won't be playing a role, at least on game days, is running back Averin Collier. Marrone confirmed that Collier will be academically ineligible this season and will only practice with the team.

"It's a blow to the football team not having him," Marrone said. "He showed he was a playmaker last year, and we were really counting on him."

Some other players have taken on new roles. Senior Jose Cruz, who transferred from Hofstra, is the starting tight end. Marrone called him the most improved player on the team since fall camp started.

True freshman Marquis Spruill has won the starting linebacker job alongside Derrell Smith and Doug Hogue, while another true frosh, Prince-Tyson Gulley, will serve as the kick returner.

So there are a lot of unknowns awaiting in Akron on Saturday.