Spring superlatives: Syracuse

No lunchtime links today because, well, there really aren't any. Just about everybody who writes about the Big East is focused on the conference men's basketball tournament, which is now underway.

Instead, we'll use this slot to continue the spring superlatives series. It's time to look at the Syracuse Orange:

Strongest position: Linebacker

  • Key returnees: Senior Derrell Smith (81 tackles, 6.5 sacks, four forced fumbles in 10 games), senior Doug Hogue (16.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks), sophomore E.J. Carter (24 tackles, two sacks.

  • Key departure: Mike Stenclik graduated.

  • The skinny: The Orange also are in great shape at running back, with Delone Carter coming off a 1,000-yard season and Antwon Bailey returning as a change-of-pace/Wildcat guy. But I'm going with linebacker, where Smith and Hogue had tremendous seasons that were worthy of All-Big East recognition. Smith was a candidate for Big East defensive player of the year before his late-season injury. Carter got some valuable experience as a freshman as well. The group still needs more depth behind the starters, and Carter must continue to improve. But linebacker should be a source of strength for Syracuse this spring.

Weakest position: Receiver

  • Key returnees: Sophomore Alec Lemon (29 catches, 295 yards, one touchdown), junior Marcus Sales (28 catches, 324 yards, three touchdowns), junior Van Chew (six catches).

  • Key departures: Lavar Lobdell (10 catches for 67 yards) and Donte Davis (24 catches for 257 yards) graduated.

  • The skinny: After Mike Williams left the team midseason, Syracuse's passing game suffered mightily. Lemon and Sales played better at the end of the season, but the Orange don't have anyone who made as many as 30 catches last year. The receiving group as a whole is going to have to make strides this spring in order for the offense to be productive in the fall.