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Tag:Marcus Sales
Posted on: October 27, 2011 10:53 am
 

Drug charges dropped against Syracuse WR Sales

Posted by Chip Patterson

After breaking out in Syracuse's dramatic Pinstripe Bowl victory with 172 yards receiving and three touchdowns, Marcus Sales was an early favorite to be one of the primary offensive producers for the Orange in 2011. But Sales has been suspended indefinitely from the football program since a traffic stop led to multiple drug charges against the wide receiver. Those charges were dropped on Wednesday.

"It's good for marcus to have this legal process behind him," head coach Doug Marrone said in response to the news. "As you know, the university has a student judicial process. Until that is complete, I cannot discuss any details."

Sales was driving with his brother Michael, 25, when the pair were pulled over after Marcus ran a red light the night of July 29. Police reported finding an open container of alcohol, several baggies of marijuana, prescription medication, other baggies and digital scales.

The grand jury found enough evidence to accuse Michael Sales Jr. of fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, second-degree criminally using drug paraphernalia and unlawful possession of marijuana. But there was not enough evidence that Marcus "knowingly possessed the illegal substances."

A university official confirmed to the Syracuse Post-Standard that Sales was enrolled in school for the fall semester. But the steps left for the wide receiver to return to the football field remain unclear. It is possible that with a year of NCAA eligibility left, Sales would search out options to finish a full season in 2012 or later. But until Sales or Marrone speak on the issue, there is little to report past speculation.

The good news here is that a promising wide receiver was able to clear his name and could possibly return to the football field on day.

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Posted on: August 17, 2011 2:30 pm
Edited on: August 17, 2011 2:42 pm
 

CBSSports.com Preseason All-Big East Team

Posted by Chip Patterson

As part of CBSSports.com's season preview, we offer this blogger's selections for the Preseason All-Big East Team.

Offense


QUARTERBACK

Zach Collaros, Sr., Cincinnati - Even with a questionable knee and even more questionable offensive line, Colarros led the Big East in in passing yards (2,902 yards) last season. The talented quarterback who first broke out as a backup to Tony Pike enters the season looking to bounce back from last year's dismal 4-8 record. The senior signal-caller is armed with a stable of skill position players (you will find many of them below on this team) and looking to return the Bearcats to the postseason after missing a bowl for the first time since 2005. He was a unanimous All-Big East first team selection a year ago and still remains atop this list until someone shows him up.

Also watch for: One person with plenty of potential to show him up is West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. Smith has been a popular choice by some outlets for all-conference teams because of his unique skill set and how well it matches Dana Holgorsen's offensive system. Smith, who threw for 24 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions in 2010, will be the point guard of the Mountaineer attack - making quick decisions to get the ball in the hands of the playmakers. Pittsburgh's Tino Sunseri should also benefit from moving back into the shotgun with Todd Graham, and BJ Daniels is one to watch down at South Florida.

RUNNING BACK

Ray Graham, Jr., Pittsburgh - Under Todd Graham's watch, Tulsa had one of the most prolific offenses in football. The Golden Hurricanes ran 1006 offensive plays in 2010, ranking them seventh nationally. More than half of those (537) were rushing plays, which means you can expect Graham will get his fair share of touches. The high-octane system Pittsburgh plans to run is based on speed rather than a pass-first spread. Graham is just the type of strong and shifty back that fits this offense perfectly.

Isaiah Pead, Sr., Cincinnati - Pead rushed for 1,029 yards and six touchdowns in 2010, and is the conference's top returning rusher. Even though the Bearcats have some questions to answer on the offensive line, there are enough weapons on the field for Pead to get some space to operate. After being a part of back-to-back conference title teams, Pead will want to finish his career by bouncing back from 2010's 4-win season.

Also watch for: Louisville running back Victor Anderson broke out as a freshman in 2008 before being slowed by injuries the past two seasons. If he can repeat the types of performances that won him Big East Rookie of the Year, it would be a huge boost to a Cardinals team with questions on offense. Connecticut running back D.J. Shoemate is another one to watch, as he will try to step out from Jordan Todman's long shadow in Storrs.

WIDE RECEIVER

Tavon Austin, Jr., West Virginia - Austin's move to wide receiver is one that will benefit the talented playmaker in Dana Holgorsen's offensive scheme. He is a weapon that West Virginia plans to use in multiple ways, and will not be lacking in touches or targets in 2011. Spreading the field will give Austin several chances to take advantage of one-on-one coverage, and I imagine he will take advantage.

DJ Woods, Sr., Cincinnati - Woods won't be able to take advantage of lining up opposite 1,000 yard receiver Armon Binns anymore, but if JUCO transfer Kenbrell Thompkins pans out he will certainly get plenty of opportunities to at least match 2010's numbers (57 catches for 898 yards and 8 touchdowns).

Also watch for:Syracuse returns Van Chew, Marcus Sales, and Alec Lemon, but they all need to show more consistency before laying claim to all-conference honors. Rutgers wideout Mohamed Sanu has also gotten a lot of attention, and could be a threat if Chas Dodd is given enough time to throw.

OFFENSIVE LINE

C Moe Petrus, Sr., Connecticut - Petrus helped pave the way for All-Big East running back Jordan Todman a year ago, and now his role is more important than ever. With a new running back and new quarterback, the senior lineman much anchor the unit to give the Huskies a chance at recapturing the momentum that led to a Fiesta Bowl bid in 2010.

OG Justin Pugh, Jr., Syracuse - Pugh started all 13 games for the Orange last season, and is one of four returning starters along the offensive line. A second team All-Big East selection, Pugh is expected to repeat his strong performance protecting Ryan Nassib.

OG Chaz Hine, Sr., South Florida - With only two returning starters on the offensive line, Hine's experience (25 starts) makes him an the most valuable piece of the Bulls offensive line.

OT Don Barclay, Sr., West Virginia - With 27 career starts, the 305-pound left tackle has been a leader along the offensive line in the transition under Dana Holgorsen. Holgorsen has been concerned with the depth along the offensive line, but repeatedly compliments Barclay's bounce back from spring injuries.

OT Lucas Nix, Sr., Pittsburgh - While new head coach Todd Graham continues to hold competition along the Panthers' offensive line, it seems that one of the only positions set in stone is Nix at right tackle.

Also watch for: Connecticut's All-Big East first team tackle Mike Ryan could easily have a spot on this list, as could West Virginia center Joe Madsen.

TIGHT END

Ryan Griffin, Jr., Connecticut - The Huskies did not throw the ball much in 2010, but Griffin was the third leading receiver with 31 receptions for 245 yards and a touchdown. Tight end is not a particularly strong position in this conference with all the odd schemes, but whichever unproven quarterback is under center for Connecticut will likely rely on Griffin to get out of tight spots.

Also watch for:Syracuse tight end Nick Provo has been getting some praise heading into the season, and I'm interested to see how Pittsburgh H-back Hubie Graham gets used in the new Panthers offense..

Defense


DEFENSIVE LINE

DE Bruce Irvin, Sr., West Virginia - Irvin was a monster pass rusher in 2010, finishing second in the nation with 14.0 sacks on the season - in a reserve role. Now the talented end is in the starting lineup and should create havoc for offensive lines, particularly playing opposite Julian Miller.

DE Brandon Lindsey, Sr., Pittsburgh - Lindsey has also proven himself as a dangerous threat getting into offensive backfields. After picking up 10 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss a season ago, defensive coordinator Keith Patterson says they will use Lindsey in some 3-4 looks as a "Panther linebacker." The flexibility of the down linebacker will allow the senior to get loose and try to use his instincts to make big stops.

DT Chas Alecxhi, Sr., Pittsburgh - Replacing Big East Defensive Player of the Year Jabaal Sheard is no easy task, but his 2010 teammate Alecxhi is ready to try and become the fourth straight Panther to be named to the same honor.

DT Kendall Reyes, Sr., Connecticut - Reyes is the anchor in the middle for one of the better defensive lines in the conference. He was an All-Big East first team selection a year ago, totaling 7.5 tackles for loss charging up the middle.

Also watch for:Reyes' Connecticut teammate Jesse Joseph and West Virginia's Julian Miller could easily pull in these same honors. Cincinnati's Derek Wolfe is one below the radar name to keep an eye on.

LINEBACKERS

Sio Moore, Jr., Connecticut - Moore got his first chance in the starting lineup in 2010 and made the most of it, finishing fifth in the Big East with 110 tackles. He is the only returning starter of the group, but should get plenty of playmaking opportunities behind a solid defensive line.

JK Schaeffer, Sr., Cincinnati - After finishing his second straight season with at least 100 tackles, Schaeffer was named to the All-Big East second team in 2010. Unfortunately the personal success was overlooked by a Bearcats defense that ranked near the bottom of the conference in many categories. Schaeffer has been outspoken in regards to the unit's improvement, and will likely be making a statement for the team on the field.

DeDe Lattimore, Soph., South Florida - Lattimore finished second on the team in tackles as a freshman, earning him some attention on the national level. The Bulls have some holes to fill on the defensive line, but Lattimore and fellow linebacker Sam Barrington have Skip Holtz feeling good about the back seven.

Also watch for: Syracuse linebacker Marquis Spruill has a tall order moving to middle linebacker and replacing Derrell Smith and Doug Hogue. If he is able to lead the new unit to a successful season, he will certainly be deserving of some postseason honors.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

CB Keith Tandy, Sr., West Virginia - In addition to being an All-Big East first team selection in 2010, Tandy led the conference in interceptions and recorded 11 pass break ups. With many starters missing from last year's dominating defense, Tandy will be one of the few "sure things" at the start of the season.

CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Jr., Connecticut - In addition to being a great playmaker and the team's third third leading returning tackler, Wreh-Wilson will benefit from playing alongside three other returning starters in the secondary. With few blatant weaknesses, it will be hard to avoid the cornerback and he'll get plenty of chances to have an impact on the field.

S Hakeem Smith, Soph., Louisville - Louisville is faced with the challenge of replacing two talented cornerbacks in the secondary. Luckily, there is a proven underclassman ready to step up in Smith. He was the 2010 Big East Defensive Rookie of the Year and finished 10th in the conference in tackles. He ball-hawking safety will be a key component in maintaining a defense that ranked among the best in the nation a year ago.

S Jarred Holley, Jr., Pittsburgh - Holley finished one pick behind Tandy in the Big East last year, and was named to the All-Big East second team. With the Panthers' front seven applying pressure on the quarterback, it will be Holley's job to make them pay after mental mistakes.

Also watch for: Syracuse safety Phillip Thomas will be a crucial part of the Orange's back seven once he recovers from a broken jaw and South Florida cornerback Quinton Washington is the third leading tackler on the Bulls' defense.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K Ross Krautman, Soph., Syracuse

P Cole Wagner, Soph., Connecticut

KR/PR Lindsey Lamar, Jr., South Florida

Also watch for: Connecticut's Dave Teggart and South Florida's Maikon Bonani both had impressive seasons in 2010 and should be just as consistent this year. But no one in the conference compared to Krautman's 18 for 19 (94.7%, a Big East single-season record) performance, including a 48 yard field goal in a 13-10 win at Rutgers.

As always, let us know what you the think about the selections in the comment section below. Also be sure to click on over to the Conference Preview for more coverage on the Big East
Posted on: August 5, 2011 5:55 pm
Edited on: August 5, 2011 6:02 pm
 

Syracuse RB Gulley out 7-10 days, Sales suspended

Posted by Chip Patterson

At Big East Media Day, Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone had no official comment on the status of Prince-Tyson Gulley or Marcus Sales. The former suffered multiple stab wounds after an on-campus brawl broke out at a party, the latter faces several felony drug charges after a traffic stop last Friday night.

When meeting with the media an hour before the Orange kicked off their first practice of the 2011 season, Marrone announced that Sales has been suspended indefinitely and Gulley will miss 7-10 days of practice.

Gulley reported to camp on time and will not face any disciplinary actions, and a suspect has been arraigned in Syracuse City Court. Gulley will take a more active role in the Syracuse offense this season, after primarily serving as a return man in 2010. With Antwon Bailey looking to fill in for the departed Delone Carter, Gulley will be counted on as the second-string back to share the load.

Sales' potential absence could be a big blow to the Orange passing game. Quarterback Ryan Nassib threw 19 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions last season, and was counting on having his two senior receivers (Sales and Van Chew) in the lineup.

Marrone also announced that backup quarterback Jonny Miller has been suspended, after being arrested on Wednesday in connection to an assault and robbery incident in Boulder, Colo. along with Colorado offensive lineman Bryce Givens.

Posted on: August 2, 2011 12:28 pm
 

Syracuse's Gulley out of hospital

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The last week hasn't been very kind to the Syracuse football program. Wide receiver Marcus Sales was arrested on a number of different drug charges, and in scarier news, running back Prince-Tyson Gulley suffered multiple stab wounds during a fight on campus. Thankfully for Gulley, he's now been released from the hospital.

Gulley left the hospital over the weekend and is at home recovering with his father. It's expected that he'll return to Syracuse some time this week before camp begins on Friday, though nobody knows when he'll be able to return to the field, or what kind of punishment -- if any -- he faces for the incident.

Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone said he's talked to Gulley since the incident, but he hasn't gone into any detail into what kind of consequences there will be for Gulley or Sales, saying it'll be handled internally.

Gulley suffered stab wounds to the back and arms after a fight broke out at a party following a group of non-students showing up at the party on campus.

Gulley only had 13 carries for 74 yards and a touchdown last season, but did return 30 kicks for 633 yards and is expected to play a much larger role in the Syracuse offense this season. 
Posted on: July 31, 2011 8:10 pm
 

Syracuse WR charged with drug-related felonies

Posted by Chip Patterson

Syracuse starting wide receiver Marcus Sales will be looking to build on his three touchdown bowl game performance when he hits the field this fall. Unfortunately, his return to the field is now in jeopardy after Sales was charged with multiple drug-related felonies on Friday night.

The Post-Standard is reporting that Sales was pulled over after running a red light near Midland and Ballantyne avenues in Syracuse. Sales was in the car with his brother, Michael.
According to police reports, Sales was driving a vehicle officers saw pass through a red light without stopping at Midland and Ballantyne avenues.

There was an odor of marijuana in the car and Sales did not have a driver’s license with him but showed police an SU identification card. Police found three knotted pieces of plastic containing a green plant-like substance that tested positive for marijuana, a plastic baggie containing 180 Lortab (hydrocodone and acetaminophen) tablets, three digital scales, a plastic cup with gin and other baggies with devil, superman and pit bull insignias on them.

Police said Sales admitted he had been drinking the alcohol. Marcus Sales had $250 in cash in his possession and Michael Sales Jr. had $747 in cash, police reported.

Both were charged with fifth- and seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, second-degree criminally using drug paraphernalia and unlawful possession of marijuana. The fifth-degree possession charge accuses them of possessing the pills with intent to sell them based on the number of pills and packaging material found, police reported.

Marcus Sales also was charged with passing a red light, consuming alcohol in a motor vehicle and violating the city’s open container law, police reported.

This is the second incident in the last several days threatening the status of a Syracuse skill position player. Backup running back and kick returner Prince-Tyson Gulley was stabbed early Friday during a campus brawl. Head coach Doug Marrone issued a statement on Sales' arrest Sunday afternoon.

"We are aware of the charges against Marcus Sales," Marrone said in the statement. "We will continue to work with the proper authorities and the university, and will handle the matter internally, according to the university and Athletics Department policies."

Sales was not even initially on the depth chart at the beginning of the 2010 season, but worked his way into the rotation by season's end. In Syracuse's 36-34 win over Kansas State in the Pinstripe Bowl, Sales pulled in five catches for 172 yards and three touchdowns. He is expected to be the starting receiver in 2011 opposite senior Van Chew.
Posted on: May 5, 2011 4:46 pm
Edited on: May 5, 2011 5:01 pm
 

What I learned this spring: Big East

Posted by Chip Patterson

With all eight teams completed with their spring games, we wrap up spring practice in the
Big East.

CINCINNATI:
For Cincinnati, the goal this spring was to improve defensively. To be more accurate, improving defensively is not just the "goal" but really an "only option for improvement." Second-year head coach Butch Jones needs to prove that 2010's 4-8 campaign was a fluke, or else the Bearcats' fans will begin to wonder whether or not hiring the coach from Central Michigan was the best move. Cincinnati returns all 11 starters from last year's defense that ranked dead last in the Big East in scoring defense and next to last in total defense. But there have been reasons to believe that the same unit can turn around their performance in 2011.

For the first time since most of the active roster arrived on campus, there is no turnover on the defensive staff. For the last three years, the defense has had to spend their spring learning a new system. Instead the defense has been able to spend the spring focusing on fundamentals, while simply reviewing last year's scheme. In theory, this should lead to more development for a unit that struggled to prevent big plays and close out games in the fourth quarter. Offensively, quarterback Zach Collaros has continued to grow more comfortable and looks ready to try and sign his name in the Cincinnati record books. Collaros led the Big East in passing yards and touchdowns last season, and has spent spring focusing on his accuracy (also threw a league-high 14 interceptions). Highly-touted transfer wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins did not get to showcase his full arsenal due to a nagging hamstring this spring, but should make an impact lining up opposite returning starter D.J. Woods. Many of the Bearcats' spring workouts and spring game were based much more on situational drills, which tend to reveal very little about the team as a whole, but the pieces seem to be aligning for a bounce back season for Cincinnati.

CONNECTICUT: New head coach Paul Pasqualoni has quite a challenge ahead trying follow up the most successful season in program history. Unfortunately Pasqualoni, a veteran of the Big East and Connecticut native, has to try and repeat the success with two new coordinators and without the 2010 Big East Offensive MVP Jordan Todman. Wrapping up the spring, it is evident that expectations for repeating as Big East champs should be tempered. However, the Huskies do have the pieces in place to return to the postseason for the fifth straight year.

The Huskies' biggest question marks still exist in the offensive backfield, where a true starting quarterback has yet to be named and USC-transfer D.J. Shoemate is still settling in to a Todman-less rotation. Connecticut finished dead last in passing offense last season, and it will be difficult to improve that aspect of their game without a starter. Michael Box, Scott McCummings, Michael Nebrich, and Johnny McEntee(of YouTube trick-shot fame), are all competing for a premiere spot in the quarterback rotation. The hope is that behind a talented offensive line Shoemate will be able to get the running game going against a weak early season schedule, allowing whoever wins the job some time to get comfortable.

Defensively, Connecticut should be fine heading into the fall. They are under the direction of new defensive coordinator Don Brown, who's defensive unit at Maryland forced 29 turnovers last season -- good for third in the ACC. The Huskies return their entire defensive line and secondary, and that experience could anchor a unit that could end up being one of the better defenses in the conference.

LOUISVILLE: It was very difficult to learn anything about Louisville this spring due to a roster that was decimated by injury. By the end of spring practice, head coach Charlie Strong was left with only 38 healthy scholarship players on the roster. Fourteen of the injured players took no part in spring drills, the rest were injured during workouts. For a team that is looking to replace 13 departed starters on the offensive and defensive units, it was a frustrating spring of indecision.

Most of the starting jobs are wide open in the Louisville depth chart, but junior Will Stein was able to use the spring to create some separation in the quarterback competition. Stein has already gotten a vote of confidence from Strong, and the high school state champion has waited patiently behind Justin Burke and Adam Froman for his opportunity to start under center. Cardinals fans entered spring salivating over early enrollee Teddy Bridgewater, but practice showed that the top-rated dual threat quarterback in the nation still has some learning to do before getting the keys to the offense. Stein completed 10 of 17 passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns in the spring "game," but Strong was most pleased that there were zero interceptions. The starting quarterback's primary responsibility is to manage the game, as the Cardinals offense will once again rely on their running game in 2011.

But with Bilal Powell gone, the responsibility will fall on Jeremy Wright and Victor Anderson to replicate the best rushing offense in the Big East last year. Wright demonstrated his explosive potential in his freshman season, and Anderson was a 1,000 yard rusher in 2008 before shoulder injuries kept him limited in 2009 and 2010. Wright missed spring workouts with a knee injury, but Anderson enjoyed one of his best springs of his career. If the duo can be healthy at the same time, they could form one of the most dangerous rushing tandems in the conference.

PITTSBURGH: Another team entering the 2011 season with a new coach, the Panthers are not afraid to promote their new brand of "high-octane" football under head coach Todd Graham. Just a quick click over to the newly redesigned GoPittFootball.com should give just a taste of the kind of what Pittsburgh fans are hoping for out of the program's newest era. Graham comes to the Panthers fresh off a productive year at Tulsa, where his offense ranked 5th nationally in total offense with 505.6 yards per game. Dave Wannstedt had an awkward exit with his firing/forced resignation, particularly when he obviously still had the support of the team. But the squad seems to have embraced the new staff, and Graham believes that Pitt can be back in Big East title contention in 2011.

Learning the new offense has been the most important task for returning quarterback Tino Suneri. The junior signal-caller was inconsistent throughout 2010, finishing the season with 16 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. The son of Sal Sunseri, currently a linebackers coach at Alabama, Sunseri quickly acclimated himself with the new scheme and has finished the spring as the undisputed starting quarterback. In Pittsburgh's Blue-Gold game, Sunseri lit the rainy skies on fire tossing the ball 55 times (37 completions) for 416 yards and a pair of touchdowns. While the Sunseri will likely put up big numbers this fall in the new spread scheme, the offense has no plans of abandoning the run. Ray Graham returns from a strong sophomore campaign, picking up 922 yards and 8 touchdowns while sharing snaps with Dion Lewis. This year he'll be joined by Desmond Brown in the backfield, who was the leading rusher in the spring game with 64 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. Defensively, Pittsburgh has also been adapting to changes with defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. Patterson has been a longtime Graham assistant, and knows that the offense will dominate the headlines. But with spring practice in the bag, Patterson seems pleased with what he has seen out of the unit - particularly the defensive line.

"That front group has a chance to do some special things," Patterson said. "I feel really good about all those guys and what they are capable of. I think in our shceme they are going to be able to make a lot of plays against both the run and the pass."

Pittsburgh's defense will feature three down lineman, with a fourth "Panther linebacker" on the line of scrimmage upright on most downs. The Panthers have several athletic defenders who could fill this position, one early guess is Brandon Lindsey - who led the team with 17.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in 2010. If the defense can force some turnovers to give the offense good field position, one of the Panthers' strengths could be putting teams away early. In the Big East, which is short on big-name, gun-slinging quarterbacks, that could be a huge advantage.

RUTGERS: Of all the teams looking to bounce back in 2011, Rutgers probably has the farthest climb to return to the prominence that led to five straight postseason appearances from 2005-2009. The Scarlet Knights return 17 starters from last year's 4-8 squad, and they are still one of the youngest teams in the league. Head coach Greg Schiano has some of the exact same concerns heading into the new season, though he has stressed that he feels like this squad has grown this spring.

"Fundamentally we made significant improvement, and I think we grew a little with our confidence," Schiano explained following the Scarlet-White spring game. "This summer is going to be critical as it is every summer, but probably more so than any summer we've had here.

"The youngsters have to get tougher, they have to get more disciplined, they have to get more consistent. And again, this summer will be huge."

One of the biggest concerns is on the offensive line. Last season the Scarlet Knights were dead last in Division I in sacks allowed, letting the quarterback drop a whopping 61 times. Sophomore quarterback Chas Dodd has grown more comfortable in the pro-style scheme of new coordinator Frank Cignetti. But Dodd's supposed comfort and improvement in spring could all change when the non-contact jersey comes off in September. If the offensive line shows an about-face in 2011, the Scarlet Knights have talented (but young) skill position players who could help take Rutgers back to the postseason.

All spring the reports from Piscataway have been praising the work of redshirt freshman Brandon Coleman. The 6-6 wide receiver entered Rutgers with high expectations, but any doubters have been silenced since he took the field this spring. Coleman put on a show for the 21,120 in attendance for the spring game with a 78 yard, two touchdown performance. Maybe he was setting the standard for another touted underclassmen who was watching from the sidelines, incoming freshman running back Savon Huggins. The No. 1 recruit in the state of New Jersey, Huggins was a signing day steal that invigorated the Rutgers fan base. He has not even received his high school diploma, but he already carries expectations from a fan base that pines for the next Ray Rice. But again, Huggins will have virtually no chance to showcase his talents without some help from the offensive line. If the Scarlet Knights are going to get back to the postseason, they still have some growing to do before September.

SOUTH FLORIDA: South Florida was the first team in the Big East to wrap up spring practice, holding their final scrimmage almost a month ago. It was an awkward spring schedule, getting started early and having to dance around conflicts for Raymond-James Stadium, but at the conclusion the Bulls appear to be about in the same position as they were a year ago. The Bulls averaged a 7-point margin of defeat and 4-point margin of victory in league play last season, making their season this close to magical and that close to disastrous. Still, head coach Skip Holtz was able to get USF back to the postseason and pull down a bowl victory - the Bulls' third in a row.

South Florida's time in the Big East could be categorized as "good-but-not-great." They have made a bowl every year (4-2 record), but never finished higher than tied for third in the league standings. At the end of spring practice the Bulls look good, but still have some work to do to reach greatness. Starting quarterback B.J. Daniels returns for junior season behind an inexperienced offensive line with a set of receivers that have been less than impressive. But similar to 2010, the playmaking ability of the offensive backfield will make South Florida a threat against most defenses in the league. Demetris Murray returns at running back after picking up 533 yards and four touchdowns as a backup to Moise Plancher a year ago. He will be joined by a pair of transfers, Darrell Scott (Colorado) and Dontae Aycock (Auburn). Both backs are larger than the 5-10, 206 pound Murray, and should compliment his style well. Scott finished the spring listed as the No. 2 running back, despite being setback by a nagging hamstring injury. Defensively the Bulls return six starters from a unit that, in typical Bulls fashion, stacks up right in the middle of the conference. They lose some run-stoppers on the defensive line, but the coaching staff has been pleased with the unit as a whole - particularly the linebackers. If the Bulls are going to go from good to great in 2011, they will need to focus on developing their wide receivers more this summer. Otherwise it might be another vanilla bowl game season for South Florida.

SYRACUSE: Coming into the spring, my one question for Syracuse was how head coach Doug Marrone planned to repeat the success of 2010 with so many playmakers missing from that Pinstripe Bowl-winning squad. But with spring practice in the books, it seems like the Orange are prepared to prove that last season was not a fluke - but the beginning of a new chapter in Syracuse football. The Orange jumped out to strong start last season with solid defense and running the ball. With all-Big East linebackers Doug Hogue and Derrell Smith gone, the responsibility has fallen on sophomore Marquis Spruill to anchor that corps as he makes the move to middle linebacker. Marrone believes that the strengths in the defense this season will be with the defensive ends and safeties. Seniors Chandler Jones and Mikhail Marinovich will begin as starters, but expect to see a good amount of junior Brandon Sharpe as well after a strong spring. In the defensive backfield Phillip Thomas and Shamarko Thomas return as starting safeties while corners Keon Lyn and Ri'Shard Anderson both earned high praise for their efforts during the spring.

Offensively the number one question is how to replace Delone Carter. The 1,233 yard rusher from 2010 carried the Orange on his back when Ryan Nassib and the passing game sputtered, carrying the ball at least 18 times in eight different games. Antwon Bailey was exceptional as Carter's backup, but some people wonder whether the 5-7 running back can be an "every-down back." Bailey will be backed up by another speedster, the 5-9 Prince-Tyson Gulley. Orange fans are hoping that an improved passing game will help alleviate that pressure, and that responsibility falls on Nassib. Luckily, the offensive line returns 4 of 5 starters from last year and redshirt senior tight end Nick Provo showed his ability as a big, reliable target for when Nassib gets in trouble. The players claim that last year's success has changed the attitude this spring, and now they have a new belief in themselves. Talk is great in March and April, but we'll check back in on these guys in August.

WEST VIRGINIA:
The Mountaineers fell one game short of returning to a BCS bowl game in 2010, after an inability to score led to two early season conference losses. The Mountaineers offense eventually got going, finishing the regular season with at least 35 points in 3 of 4 straight victories. So in the interest of preparing for the future, and ensuring offensive stability, athletic director Oliver Luck arranged for the arrival of Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen. His impact has been obvious and immediate on the West Virginia offense, with quarterback Geno Smith falling comfortably into Holgorsen's spread system from day one. Smith finished the spring by throwing for 388 yards and four touchdowns in the spring game. Even against a talented Mountaineer defense, Smith was able to connect with his wide receivers for 44, 67, and a 38 yard touchdown pass. Holgorsen plans on supplying Smith with a deep rotation of running backs and receivers, pushing the ball horizontally and vertically. If Smith continues to improve on his already hot start in the new system, the Mountaineers should have no problem scoring the ball against the Big East defenses.

Defensively it is hard to make judgements based on performance against their own offense, but West Virginia does still have some work to do in the secondary. Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel has admitted he is already anxious to get back to camp, particularly after seeing how the unit performed in the spring game. The unit only returns four starters from last year, with defensive line likely being the Mountaineers strength. In Casteel's 3-3-5 scheme, the pressure is on the secondary to be everywhere on the field at once. Despite a wealth of athleticism at that position, there is still plenty of gelling left for the unit. But if the offense is putting up 30+ points per game (which they may), it should give the defense some time to come together before conference play begins.

Posted on: March 10, 2011 5:49 pm
Edited on: March 10, 2011 5:52 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Syracuse

Posted by Chip Patterson

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football  will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Syracuse , who started spring practice Tuesday.


Can Syracuse prove that 2010 was the start of a new era, and not a fluke?

There is no mistaking that Syracuse found their man when they hired Doug Marrone as their new head coach before the 2009 season. The first Orange alumnus to do so since 1948, Marrone knows what it takes to turn Syracuse back into a winner.

Marrone played offensive line for Syracuse under head coach Dick MacPherson. Well known for a six season streak of bowl berths (with a 5-0-1 record) and an 11-0 regular season in 1987, MacPherson nearly lost his job before the streak started. Marrone played on the team that took Mac to his first bowl game as head coach of the Orange, a small success that many believe saved his job. Marrone has witnessed firsthand the foundations needed to establish a winning program at Syracuse. After a successful 2010 Syracuse entered spring practice with a buzz; a new feeling of optimism heading into Marrone's third season as coach.

"We've got a glow about us," said running back Antwon Bailey. "It's good to be back, just to have a helmet on again."

The 2010 Syracuse Orange finished 8-5 with a dramatic 36-34 victory over Kansas State in the Pinstripe Bowl. It was the best record, and first bowl win since the 2001 season. More than that, it was the first time the Orange had made the postseason since 2004. Syracuse was never quite a player in the wide-open Big East title race, but they made enough noise to earn the respect of the conference.

Syracuse did very few things glamorously last season, but they found ways to win. Fitting that a team coached by an offensive lineman would reach the postseason by playing tough, hard-nosed football. Syracuse started the season hot, using momentum from a cushy non-conference schedule to jump out to a 6-2 start. The defense was playing well, and Syracuse was doing damage on the ground with Delone Carter and Antwon Bailey. That defensive unit finished the season second in the Big East in total defense, and Carter was the conference's third leading rusher.

But Carter has graduated, and so have All-Big East linebackers Doug Hogue and Derrell Smith. If the Orange are going to repeat their success from 2010, they will need to reload that top-ranked defense. At linebacker rising sophomore Marquis Spruill, a starter in 2010 as a true freshman, will move over to middle linebacker to anchor the new unit. They get junior-college transfer Siriki Diabate eligible in the fall, but the first team for now will include Dan Vaughan and Mario Tull. In front of them, Syracuse will also be looking to fill holes at the defensive tackle position. Andrew Lewis and Anthony Perkins are gone, and it will likely be some combination of Cory Boatman, Deon Goggins, Jay Bromley, and Robert Welsh competing for the starting positions this spring.

Replacing Carter will be tough, seeing as he made up 68% of Syracuse's ground game in 2010. Luckily, his replacement has seen his fair share of snaps. Bailey picked up 554 yards rushing and 306 yards receiving in Carter's stead last season. Marrone has already identified him as the featured back for next season, but his size has many critics wondering if he can go every down. Rising sophomore Prince-Tyson Gulley saw action in the special-teams as a freshman, and could push Bailey for snaps this spring.

But one area of the Syracuse depth chart seems to be sorted out as spring practice begins. Quarterback Ryan Nassib started 13 games in 2010, and the coaching staff has anointed him the starter in spring practice. But just because Nassib has the starting position virtually locked up in March, that doesn't mean that he is taking spring practice any differently.

"This is spring ball. Really, the definition of spring ball is competition. Nothing is ever guaranteed in this game," Nassib said Tuesday night after the Orange opened spring practice. "You've really got to go out there every day and never think that you're owed anything and just keep competing. There's four, five other guys behind me that want the same job. You've really got to start anew, stay humble, just keep working."

Nassib was spotty, at best, in his first full season as the starting quarterback. His 19 touchdowns on the season were padded heavily during the beginning of the season, with the West Chester, PA native throwing just 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions in the final four games of the regular season.

But in Nassib's defense, he wasn't dealing with the most polished crop of wide receivers. Van Chew, Marcus Sales, and Alec Lemon all return, hopefully improved with a season of experience under their belt. A lot of the early focus during spring will be on Sales, who exploded on the scene in the Pinstripe Bowl with 172 yards receiving and 3 touchdowns. An improved passing game in 2011 will go along way to take the pressure off Bailey, and give the Orange a much better chance of returning to the postseason.

So was 2010 a fluke? Doug Marrone will have a lot of work to do to replace critical pieces to last season's success, and that starts now in spring practice. As far as expectations go for 2011? A second-straight bowl berth could validate a new era in Syracuse football. But it will take a lot of work from Syracuse's returning starters to pick up where last year's seniors left off, setting the tone on and off the field.

Syracuse started spring practice on Tuesday, they will play their annual spring game on April 16

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Posted on: December 30, 2010 7:34 pm
 

Bowl Grades: Pinstripe Bowl

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Syracuse rides Delone Carter, Marcus Sales and some help from the refs to beat Kansas State 38-36 in first ever Pinstripe Bowl

Syracuse


Offense: Syracuse did not come into this game with the reputation as a strong offense, as the Orange averaged only 21.0 points a game this season.  Still, a funny thing happens when you have a running back like Delone Carter and are facing one of the worst run defenses in the country: you rack up yards like there's no tomorrow.  The Syracuse offense put up 498 yards of total offense on the day, led by Carter's 202 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns.  Ryan Nassib also found his groove after playing poorly down the stretch of the season, to throw for 240 yards and three touchdowns of his own.

All three of Nassib's touchdown passes went to Marcus Sales, who only had one touchdown during the season, and wasn't even listed on the depth chart before the year started.  Sales finished the day with 5 catches for 172 yards.  Grade: A

Defense: Much like its offense, Syracuse's defense took on an alternate personality in Yankee Stadium.  Syracuse only gave up 13.1 points a game during the season, but life is a bit different when you step out of the Big East apparently.  Still, even though Kansas State put up a lot of points, the Syracuse defense played a bit better than it looks.

First of all, holding a Kansas State offense that averaged over 200 yards on the ground per game to 120 yards and 3.3 yards a carry is nothing to be ashamed of.  No doubt the Syracuse game plan was to stuff the Wildcats ground attack and force them to air it out, which they did, but had probably been hoping they could do a better job of containing the passing game.  Grade: C

Coaching: Doug Marrone took the leash off his offense and let the kids play a bit in this one, and it worked out very well for the Orange.  From flea-flickers to reverses, to being smart enough to pound KSU into submission with Delone Carter, I can't find much in Syracuse's gameplan to complain about.  Grade: A

Kansas State 


Offense: Much like Syracuse, Kansas State didn't have a lot of trouble finding the end zone in this game.  What was surprising, however, was to see Chase Coffman have so much success throwing the ball.  I had thought that Kansas State would be better served with Collin Klein at quarterback in this game, and it turns out I was wrong.

Coffman completed 17-of-23 passes for 229 yards and a couple touchdowns.

The problem for the Wildcats was that aside from his 51-yard touchdown run in the first minute of the game, Daniel Thomas was virtually non-existent.  Yes, he finished with 3 touchdowns, but following that first run, Thomas had only 38 yards on 20 carries.  When he struggles like that, Kansas State isn't going to win a lot of games.  Grade: B

Defense: Did Kansas State play defense during this game?  I'm having some trouble remembering plays in which it did.

Seriously, Kansas State's defense wasn't anything to be proud of all season, and it wasn't on Thursday as well.  When you allow an offense that had been as lackluster as Syracuse's to pick up nearly 500 yards of offense, well, there's only one grade you deserve.  Grade: F

Coaching: Bill Snyder.  I love what you've done for Kansas State in your career, but you made some questionable decisions in this one.  While I loved the call to run the option on fourth and goal early in the fourth quarter, the fake field goal you ran later in the quarter when down five just didn't do it for me.  You know that touchdown you scored in the final minutes that the refs jobbed you on -- more on that in a bit -- and cost you a chance to send the game to overtime?  Yeah, well had you just kicked that field goal, the refs wouldn't have factored into the game and you'd have won. Grade: C

The Referees


Seriously, refs?  A personal foul in the final minutes after Adrian Hilburn scored a touchdown to bring Kansas State within two points?  Really?  Was a salute to the crowd actually enough to warrant a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct call, and force Kansas State to go for two from the 18-yard line?  I hope it was for you, because I fear that what was a very good game will only be remembered for your boneheaded call at the end of it.

But, hey, at least you kept the kids from having any fun in their bowl game, right?  That's why we have these bowl games, isn't it?  As a reward for the players?

Final Grade: This game was not the crispest football game we've seen this year, but as far as the bowl games have gone, this was one of the more entertaining affairs for both the fans and viewers.  It's just unfortunate that a terrible call by the referees had such a dramatic impact on the outcome.  Still, even with that happening, I'm going to base this grade on the first 58 minutes and 46 seconds.  Grade: A-
 
 
 
 
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