How explosive can the Lemon-Sales receiving duo be?
The 1-2 receiving duo of seniors Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales might be the best combo in an Orange uniform since Kevin Johnson and Quinton Spotwood in the late 1990s. Lemon set a school single-season record for receptions in 2011, topping a mark previously shared by Johnson and Mike Williams.
As Lemon inched near the record last season, Syracuse coach Doug Marrone lauded him for his steady hands and ability to spot the openings in zone defenses. Lemon credits his improved route-running for his development. Sales, meanwhile, has big-play capability as his performance in the 2010 Pinstripe Bowl illustrates. The senior hasn't played since torching the Kansas State secondary with five catches for 172 yards and three touchdowns in the bowl.
Can Ryan Nassib avoid inconsistency in his senior season?
If a close observer of Syracuse football needed an indicator of the Orange performance in 2011, one just needed to take a look at Nassib's statistics. In Syracuse's five wins, Nassib threw for 13 TDs and 1 INT. In seven Orange losses, Nassib the ration was 9 TDs to 8 INTs.
The Nassib (6-2, 229) sprinkled in sterling efforts against Rhode Island and West Virginia (24 of 32, 4 TDs, 0 INTs) with games to forget (15 of 32, 0 TD, 3 INTs against Rutgers). Nassib must avoid glaring miscues.
When will LT Justin Pugh return from offseason shoulder surgery?
Nassib's success in his final season may hinge on Pugh's return. The Orange ranked fourth in the Big East in sacks allowed in 2011. Pugh, a 2011 All-Big East first-team selection, has been ruled out for preseason camp by Marrone. But the Orange received positive news earlier in the week when Pugh worked with a team strength and conditioning coach on the opening day of camp. With a brutal early season schedule, a speedy return by Pugh is crucial.
What is needed for improvement on defense?
Marrone is hoping to instill toughness into a unit that ranked last in the Big East in total defense (386.4 yards per game), last in scoring defense (28.5 points per game) and sixth against both the run and pass. To that end, Syracuse is spending a portion of camp at nearby Fort Drum.
The Orange return playmakers in LB Marquis Spruill and SS Shamarko Thomas. Spruill must overcome a lower-body injury. Syracuse also needs to find a way to effectively rush the passer after the departure of Chandler Jones, a first-round pick of the New England Patriots.
How will the Orange respond to one of the most challenging schedules in FBS?
With matchups against Northwestern, USC and Minnesota in the first month, Syracuse will be challenged from the outset. The Orange also face Missouri late in the season. A win against the Trojans may be asking too much, but a sweep of the Big Ten schools could provide Marrone's team with much needed confidence heading into the conference schedule.
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