Syracuse has had closed practices all week as it begins preparations for the opener against Wake Forest. What are some lingering questions heading into the season?
1. How will injuries impact the team? Syracuse has had the worst luck of all the Big East teams on the injury front. Shamarko Thomas, Phillip Thomas and Keon Lyn have all missed time, though none have been ruled out for the season opener. There also were significant injuries to backups on the offensive line. The good news is that only one player, backup tackle Sean Hickey, is out for the season. The starting offensive line is intact. On defense, having some of the projected starters sit on the sideline also has gotten some young players reps. But with the opener less than a week away, all the contributors need to get back to full contact work as quickly as possible.
2. Will the faster, undersized defense be just as good? Much has been made of the size issues Syracuse has up front. But defensive coordinator Scott Shafer believes his unit will be fast and athletic, and that will help make up for any shortcomings with their size. "We're a little undersized, but as a whole we've been undersized in the two years previously, and other places I’ve been we've done OK," he said. "You try to play with speed and an attack mentality. I don’t get concerned there. The biggest thing is we don’t have guys who have a lot of snaps."
3. Receivers. With questions about whether Marcus Sales is going to play this season, Syracuse goes into the season with solid players Van Chew and Alec Lemon. Both had good camps after injuries slowed them in 2010. But who steps up with them in the event Sales is out for a long period of time? You have Dorian Graham, Jarrod West, Adrian Flemming and a trio of freshmen as well. The reports out of camp were good for the receivers, but we will see who emerges once the games begin.