First, if you have never visited the Syracuse blog NunesMagician.com before, do it...now. This guy has a great blog and once you check out his Mike Williams timeline, you'll see that plenty led up to Williams' abrupt departure.
Sean at the Nunes Magician blog was gracious enough to participate in a brief Q&A for the upcoming game. See my questions with his answers below. Check out his site soon for my answers to his questions.
EYEOFAPANTHER: Obviously, I've got to ask about the Mike Williams saga. I was aware of some of his past issues, but has leaving the team in the middle of his senior season been something that fans thought was a possibility at any point during his career? What kind of personality does Williams have and how do you see this affecting his NFL draft stock assuming he still wants to play professionally?
NUNESMAGICIAN: The Mike Williams saga has been eye-opening to say the least. It's completely redefined the way we see Mike and his legacy at Syracuse. Remember, this is a guy who already had two strikes against him for the cheating issue last season and whatever it was he did to get suspended two weeks ago before the Akron game. So when he goes on his Facebook page and cries about not feeling wanted...it rings a little hollow and makes you wonder if Mike really gets it. I mean, the fact that his teammates allegedly almost didn't vote him back onto the squad after his latest transgression speaks volumes considering how good of a player he is.
As for his draft stock, we've seen players with worse transgressions get drafted high so I'm not sure just how much he hurt himself. He might have gone from a 1st-rounder to a 2nd-rounder. Possibly even worse. And he's probably cost himself a million or two. But, assuming he keeps in shape, he'll still get drafted. He's too talented not to take a risk on, though his attitude will be questioned every single day until the draft.
In other words, expect the Oakland Raiders to take Williams with their 2nd-round pick in 2010.
EYEOFAPANTHER: From what I've seen a couple of times on message boards and websites, it looks like Doug Marrone is already feeling some pressure from fans. Personally, from an outsider's point of view, it looks like Syracuse has really looked respectable this year. At 3-5 with still some arguably winnable games still on their schedule (although with the loss of Williams, additional wins may be a little tougher to come by), are the fans really that upset with how the season has played out so far considering the team has only averaged 2.5 wins over the past four years? If Syracuse can manage to get to five wins, would the season be considered a success in your eyes?
NUNESMAGICIAN: Considering the talent level and the schedule we played, if Syracuse gets to five wins this is a HA-YUGELY successful season. The problem is that Syracuse came out of the gates guns blazing this season. We almost beat Minnesota. We beat Northestern. We looked like we could hold our own with most teams on the schedule ahead. Then we got blown out by West Virginia and South Florida and all of sudden SU fans were disappointed. But not just normal-disappointed...they were disappointed as if Syracuse had previously been en route to the Orange Bowl. Our expectations had been raised and all of a sudden we were expecting 6 wins and a bowl berth. So...fans are frustrated again.
I admit, I get frustrated too. The thing about sports is that very few of us have patience. We want to win right now and if that's not happening then we're pissed off. Syracuse is on the right track and Doug Marrone has proven enough to show that he's got the staff and the plan to lead us back. This year is a write-off and it always has been. Doesn't mean we don't think we can win some games.
EYEOFAPANTHER: A lot of Pitt fans may be surprised to know that Syracuse ranks 7th in the nation (1st in the Big East) in rushing defense and haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher all season. Conversely, they are 117th in pass defense. Is Syracuse really that good against the run or are their low rushing totals due to teams passing the ball a lot more against them?
NUNESMAGICIAN: Can't it be a little of both? The strongest unit on the entire team is the defensive line, anchored by future pro Arthur Jones. Plus, linebacker Derrell Smith has emerged as a devestating hitter. So unto itself, that unit has been fantastic at shutting down opposing rushers all year. That said, our defensive backfield is argualy the weakest unit on the team. They've been carved up like Thanksgiving turkeys all year. It also doesn't help that we've gone up against some extremely talented receivers (Eric Decker, Marty Gilyard). That's still no excuse for the numbers though. Opposing teams would be crazy not to attack our secondary and so that's inflated the numbers on both sides. But that doesn' mean our run D isn't very good.
EYEOFAPANTHER: With Williams seemingly out of the picture for this Saturday, who are some offensive players that you expect to be featured this weekend?
NUNESMAGICIAN: First and foremost the Orange will be relying on RB Delone Carter. Carter is coming off his best game of the year, 170 yards and 3 TDs against Akron. All year Delone has been running hard but the offensive line hasn't helped him out too much. With back-up RB Antwon Bailey suspended this weekend as part of the car accident that Williams was involved in, the pressure is on Carter even more to keep those numbers up and keep the SU offense on the field.
Obviously you'll see Greg Paulus but also expect to see Ryan Nassib. Paulus is the start and Doug Marrone would never say that we have a two-QB system. Rather, Nassib comes in for certain packages, like our version of the Wildcat. Whereas Paulus bring leadership, Nassib brings a shoulder cannon that Greg can't match.
The wide recievers are going to be expected to step up in a major way and SU fans will be looking to Marcus Sales, Donte Davis and Alec Lemon namely to fill Mike Williams' shoes. Without Williams it's a young unit but they all have enough experience to be able to handle themselves.
EYEOFAPANTHER: How have fans reacted to Greg Paulus this year overall? For someone playing quarterback for a D-I football team in a BCS conference for the first time, I think he's played reasonably well. He's had some success, but games like this past weekend at Cincinnati and his five interception performance vs. South Florida have been costly. Are fans axiously anticipating the Ryan Nassib era next year where I would presume he'd be the full-time starter?
NUNESMAGICIAN: It's been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for fans with Greg Paulus. The opening game against Minnesota is a perfect metaphor for the entire season. For the most part, Paulus played well. He looked shaky at times, forced some throws at others but seemed to be able to find a way to keep the ball moving and control the offense. So much so that the Orange took the Gophers into overtime...where Paulus throw an inexcusable interception in the endzone that led to Minnesota's victory. That's been the thing with Paulus all year. He's a leader and a great binding force for the team the way a senior should be, but he's making a lot of freshman mistakes. That his back-up, redshirt freshman Ryan Nassib, seems to look more comfortable in the pocket makes us concerned. While Doug Marrone is sticking by Paulus, I'm pretty sure that if you took a vote right now, the fans would rather see Nassib in as the starter.
Make no mistake, the Paulus Experiment has still been a success. SU is better than we were last year and Paulus has done a lot for the university and the program. But that alone doesn't win football games.
EYEOFAPANTHER: I planned to end this after five questions, but I heard about the recent promotion this weekend where students were admitted for free and couldn't resist. The announced crowd was about 33,000, but we all know those numbers are usually deceptive and I figure that less were in attendance. At Pitt, we've had our fair share of games with lower than expected turnouts, so I can relate a bit to this. Playing a top five team in the country, with weather not a factor as Syracuse plays in a dome, how surprised were you that the stadium was realistically probably only a little more than half full?
NUNESMAGICIAN: I was shocked. Absolutely shocked. In all seriousness, I was convinced the student section would be packed or at the very least 2/3 full. When I saw that maybe 30 students showed up in spite of the free offer...I was just floored. I ended up penning an article where I basically said we have the worst student fanbase in the nation. A week later, I won't back down from that statement. Like a wrote on my site, why did you bother coming to Syracuse is you're not going to go to the football games? You might as well have gome to LeMoyne College (better basketball program, anyway).
They are an apathetic bunch thanks to the Greg Robinson Era. Luckily, some of them will be gone soon and we hope the incoming freshman start up a new trend of, you know, caring.