Orange prepare for Zips

Doug Marrone embarks on his second year at Syracuse with the

optimism that comes with the start of a new season, even if it’s

tinged with an aura of mystery.

”We’re looking forward to it. We’ve been preparing for a long

time and we’re excited, I’m excited. ” Marrone said of Saturday

night’s season-opener at Akron. ”We don’t get a lot of reports

from Akron as far as what they’re doing from an offensive and

defensive standpoint. They’re not covered as much as some other

teams in the country.

”Knowing what to expect is different in the first game. I don’t

know what to expect from them,” Marrone said of the Zips. ”That

is really the only anxiety we have right now.”

Well, maybe not entirely.

Marrone announced his two-deep roster earlier in the week with

some surprises. The biggest might have been Jose Cruz, a transfer

from Hofstra. He beat out returning starter Nick Provo for

first-string tight end. Two freshmen are listed in key roles –

Prince-Tyson Gulley as the starting kick returner and linebacker

Marquis Spruill.

”We have four or five tight ends who can play,” Marrone said.

”He (Cruz) has been by far the most improved player (from spring).

Depending on what we do, it will determine who will go in

there.”

What the Orange plan to do is run the ball a lot as Ryan Nassib

adjusts to his new role as the starting quarterback. Last season,

he was the backup to Greg Paulus, and at times Nassib seemed to

resent playing second fiddle.

Not anymore.

”I did a lot of good things and made a lot of mistakes, but I

did learn a lot from those mistakes,” Nassib said Wednesday.

”I’ve been here a year. I feel like a veteran now. I feel pretty

good. The game plan is coming along great. There’s still a little

nervousness, but I’m excited.”

Nassib has a strong backfield tandem in tailbacks Delone Carter

and Antwon Bailey, and Carter especially is glad to have another

chance in his checkered career. After watching it nearly end with a

dislocated hip three years ago, he rebounded last fall and paced

the Orange with 1,021 yards rushing and 11 TDs. Then he was

suspended from school in the spring after being charged with

misdemeanor assault.

Carter rejoined the team for his final year when camp opened,

and he couldn’t have picked a better place to start the season. He

grew up in Copley, Ohio, just outside Akron, and will have a host

of family and friends at the game.

”I just want to go out there and do better than I did (last

year),” Carter said. ”The mindset that I had was I wanted to work

hard and earn back my spot. We have a lot of young players. Coach

is waiting to see how they react. (The veterans) want to give them

confidence.”

Marrone said he would keep close tabs on Carter during the game

considering the circumstances.

”You don’t want a player to try and do too much and do the

extra stuff that gets him out of his play,” Marrone said. ”He

just needs to play like he has been playing. He has been a good

player here in the past and we feel his skill level is up from last

year.”

Marrone said he was pleased with the development of the players

as he continues to try to make Greg Robinson’s awful four-year

tenure as head coach a distant memory.

”I see a closer football team,” said Marrone, 4-8 as a rookie

but only 1-6 in the Big East. ”I see a team that is more

accountable for each other. I see a level of trust between the

coaches and players. Those are the things I’m looking for.

”You make decisions on players who you can count on, and then

you put them out there in a situation where they can be

successful.”