Syracuse spring wrap

2009 overall record: 4-8

2009 conference record: 1-6, T-7th in Big East

Returning starters

Offense: 4. Defense: 6. Punter/kicker: 2

Top returners

RB Delone Carter, LB Derrell Smith, LB Doug Hogue, C Ryan Bartholomew, RB Antwon Bailey, DE Chandler Jones, S Mike Holmes, QB Ryan Nassib

Key losses

QB Greg Paulus, DT Arthur Jones, OL Jim McKenzie, TE Mike Owen

2009 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Delone Carter* (1,021 yards)

Passing: Greg Paulus (2,024 yards)

Receiving: Mike Williams (746 yards)

Tackles: Derrell Smith* (82)

Sacks: Doug Hogue* (9.5)

Interceptions: Mike Holmes* (3)

Spring answers

1. New-look offense: Head coach Doug Marrone took over as his own offensive coordinator in the offseason, and this spring offered a glimpse of what a Marrone-controlled attack might look like. In the spring game, the Orange looked to throw the ball downfield a lot more than they did last year under coordinator Rob Spence, who favored short passes and screens. Also gone is the no-huddle and spread, replaced by multiple formations and two-back, two-tight end sets, even some option. The goal is to create more big plays, something Syracuse lacked in '09.

2. Improved depth: Syracuse still didn't have enough players to stage a full spring game. But the Orange are in much better shape than they were last year, when attrition through injuries and other issues meant they could have taken a short bus to away games. There's depth at running back, linebacker and in the secondary, while the numbers are improving along the lines.

3. Defensive aggression: Getting Derrell Smith back healthy and having him alongside returning sacks leader Doug Hogue gives the Orange a stellar 1-2 punch at linebacker. Shamarko Thomas and Philip Thomas played well at corner, and Marrone likes the pass rush off the edge with Chandler Jones and Mikhail Marinovich. Scott Shafer's Syracuse defense surprised some people in 2009 and could be better in '10.

Fall questions

1. Quarterback competition: Ryan Nassib entered the spring as the presumed starter after serving as Greg Paulus' apprentice last season. But Charley Loeb pushed him in practice and had a strong spring game. While Nassib probably holds the edge, Loeb or incoming freshman Jonny Miller could make things interesting in fall camp.

2. Go-to who? Since Mike Williams left the team in the middle of last year, Syracuse hasn't really had a go-to wide receiver. Marcus Sales had a big spring game, while Alec Lemon and Van Chew had their moments as well. Perhaps this will be a spread-the-wealth offense, because Syracuse does have three versatile tailbacks. But the emergence of a true No. 1 receiver would sure help.

3. Whither Delone: Star tailback Delone Carter's arrest and subsequent suspension from school at the end of spring practice creates some questions for the fall. While Carter's lawyer said the senior can return to school in time for the season, he'll miss all of the team workouts this summer and possibly fall practice. It remains to be seen if Marrone will issue further punishment as well.