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Spring Practice Primer: Syracuse Orange

By Chip Patterson | College Football/Basketball Writer

College football never ends. And during the next few weeks, teams will be getting ready for the 2013 season in their spring practice sessions. Here's a look at the Syracuse Orange and what they'll be working on this spring.

Former defensive coordinator Scott Shafer enters his first spring practice as head coach. (USATSI)
Former defensive coordinator Scott Shafer (right) enters his first spring practice as Syracuse head coach. (USATSI)

Spring practice began: March 19

Spring game: April 20

2012 record: 8-5 overall, 5-2 Big East

Returning starters: 12 (six offense, six defense)

The Least You Should Know about Syracuse This Spring

-- New coaches, new conference. Losing a coach to the NFL puts the administration behind schedule in the college coaching carousel. Luckily for Syracuse, it had capable candidates on staff. The Orange were able to preserve some continuity from Doug Marrone's tenure by promoting defensive coordinator Scott Shafer when Marrone took a job with the Buffalo Bills. Other than Shafer's presence in the Carrier Dome, there is not a ton of carryover from 2012. For better or worse, 2013 will be a fresh start for Syracuse football.

The most significant change is the move from the Big East to the ACC. The Orange join the highly-competitive Atlantic Division, guaranteeing annual meetings with Florida State and Clemson. There are also seven new assistant coaches on Shafer's staff who will be charged with the task of replacing a starting quarterback (Ryan Nassib), two leading receivers (Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales) as well as arguably the best defensive back in the Big East (Shamarko Thomas). Shafer hopes that the Orange's 2012 finish -- which included a share of the Big East title and Pinstripe Bowl win against West Virginia -- can be a launching point for 2013. The momentum might carry over for the team, but in many ways this spring is a reboot for the program.

-- The three-man race to replace Ryan Nassib might not end this spring. The competition for the starting quarterback job will be center stage for most of spring practice, but don't expect there to be any clear-cut answers before the spring game. The candidates to replace three-year starter Nassib are Charley Loeb, Terrel Hunt and John Kinder. Because Marrone took offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Nathanial Hackett to the Bills, all three quarterbacks have a clean slate with new offensive coordinator George McDonald and new quarterbacks coach Tim Lester, who are both in their first year with Syracuse. Shafer has already hinted that the Orange might use more than one quarterback, though he admitted a full-time starter would be ideal. Loeb, a redshirt senior, is the only player with significant game experience in the race, but it is not enough to consider him the front-runner at this point. With no specifics on scheme or style -- when asked if he has a preferred style of quarterback, Shaffer answered "a guy who knows how to win" -- it is difficult to give an edge to any player.

-- There are depth concerns up front. Syracuse native Macky MacPherson will anchor the offensive line at center, but the rest of the unit could see some shuffling as the staff looks to replace veteran linemen Justin Pugh and Zach Chibane. Junior Sean Hickey, starting right tackle in 2012, could move over to Pugh's position on the left while Nick Robinson steps into the starter role at left guard. That opens up a new tackle position beside Rob Trudo, which could be filled by Ivan Foy. After Foy, there is a drop-off in experience, making the offensive line a key position to watch this spring. The same goes for the defensive line, which looks to replace three starters and a key reserve due to graduation and disciplinary reasons. Nose tackle Jay Bromley is back, but some combination of Michah Robinson, Eric Crume, Zian Jones and Robert Welsh will need to fill out the starting lineup.

-- What kind of role will Ashton Broyld play? Syracuse fans have been waiting for Broyld to explode as a dominant offensive threat since his arrival on campus. The 6-foot-4, 229-pound rising sophomore could play running back, wide receiver, quarterback -- even return kicks. Despite his well publicized potential, Broyld recorded 171 rushing yards and caught seven passes in just seven games of action. With new coordinators and another year to get adjusted, it is possible 2013 is Broyld's year to break out. Some fans have suggested that Broyld would play a role in the quarterback competition, but it appears Shafer wants to keep him as a multipurpose threat.

For more college football news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnCFB on Twitter, subscribe to our RSS Feed, college football newsletter, and get the Eye On College Football Podcast from iTunes. You can follow Chip Patterson on Twitter here: @Chip_Patterson.

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