10 Key Players For Syracuse Orange in 2013

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10 Key Players For Syracuse Orange in 2013

10 Key Players For Syracuse Orange in 2013
Rich Barnes - USATODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange are about to embark on a challenging season in 2013. Despite winning six of their final seven games of 2012, there are a host of questions facing the Orange after head coach Doug Marrone left to become the head coach of the Buffalo Bills and both starting quarterback Ryan Nassib and starting left tackle Justin Pugh were drafted by the New York Giants. On top of that, Syracuse and new head coach Scott Shafer are moving to the ACC, where the competition they face week after week will be more challenging than they’re accustomed to facing in the conference formerly known as the Big East.

The loss of their head coach, starting quarterback and starting left tackle aren’t the only holes the Orange will have to fill in 2013. Syracuse is also losing its top two wide receivers and several key defensive players, including safety Shamarko Thomas, a fourth-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Replacing all of those players while playing in a tougher conference and trying to further elevate the program will be a stiff challenge for Syracuse in 2013.

Thus, we have compiled 10 key players they will need to perform at a high level in order to make that happen. These aren’t necessarily the 10 best players on Syracuse’s roster, but they are arguably the most important. They all play key positions for the Orange, and their play will be critical to Syracuse experiencing success during its first season in the ACC. Outside expectations are rather low for the Orange, but Shafer and his players believe that they’ll be a competitive team in the ACC and make their third bowl game in four years. But for that to happen, Syracuse needs these 10 key players to have good seasons:

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Sean Hickey, Left Tackle

Sean Hickey, Left Tackle
Mark Konezny - USATODAY Sports

Hickey has big shoes to fill as he takes over for Justin Pugh, who was a first-round NFL draft pick. Hickey started last season at left tackle while Pugh recovered from an injury, and then moved to right tackle when Pugh returned to the lineup. Hickey played well at both positions, although he faded a bit towards the end of the season. This year, Syracuse needs 12 quality games out of Hickey at left tackle. Not only is he protecting the quarterback’s blind side, but Hickey also needs to be a catalyst for the Syracuse running game just as Pugh was last season. Without strong play from Hickey, Syracuse could have big problems along the offensive line, which is something they can’t afford to have happen this season.

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Terrel Hunt, Quarterback

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Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Hunt is at the top of the depth chart heading into training camp, although he’ll have to fight off three other contenders, including Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen, who many expect to ultimately win the job. If Hunt wins the starting job, he’ll have huge shoes to fill. One of the biggest reasons why Syracuse won six of its final seven games last year was the play of quarterback Ryan Nassib, and Hunt will have to play at a high level in order to keep the Syracuse offense rolling. Even if Hunt becomes Allen’s backup, he’ll probably get some snaps and have an important role to play on the team, and the Orange need him to be ready.

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Marquis Spruill, Middle Linebacker

Marquis Spruill, Middle Linebacker
Richard Mackson - USATODAY Sports

Spruill is entering his fourth year as a starter, and is returning to middle linebacker after playing outside linebacker last year. He has the talent and experience to be one of the top linebackers in the ACC, but he also needs to become a leader during his senior season. If the Syracuse defense is going to hold its own against ACC offenses, Spruill will have to give them strong play in the middle of the field.

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Beckett Wales, Tight End

Beckett Wales, Tight End
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Syracuse is thin and inexperienced at tight end, especially with Ron Thompson moving over to defensive end, so Wales may be the only tight end on the roster that receives significant playing time. On top of that, there are questions at wide receiver heading into training camp, which means the passing game will need a reliable pass-catching tight end. Wales had 35 catches and two touchdowns last season, but he’ll have to be even more productive this season, especially if Syracuse struggles to find dependable wide receivers.

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Jay Bromley, Defensive Tackle

Jay Bromley, Defensive Tackle
Sam Sharpe - USATODAY Sports

Syracuse has some questions about their defensive ends, which means the strength of the defensive line is in the interior with players like Bromley. Syracuse was arguably the most physical team in the Big East last year, and it’s up to Bromley to ensure that physicality transfers over to the ACC. The Orange need Bromley to get into the opposing teams' backfield as often and possible, force opposing teams to double-team him and become a disruptive force that can help the defense play at a high level.

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Macky MacPherson, Center

Macky MacPherson, Center
Rich Barnes - USATODAY Sports

MacPherson may be the most important player on Syracuse’s roster this season as he is the senior leader on an offensive line that lost two key players from last season. He’s the quarterback of the offensive line, and he’ll have to make sure the new starters on the right side of the line are on the same page as the returning players on the left side of the line. Physically, he’s quick but undersized, and he’ll now be going up against bigger and stronger defensive tackles in the ACC. Against better competition, MacPherson will have to continue to help create holes up the middle for running back Jerome Smith to run through if Syracuse is going to be as efficient and balanced offensively in 2013 as they were last season.

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Adrian Flemming, Wide Receiver

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Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Despite having no career receptions, Flemming is penciled in as a starter heading into training camp, which means the Orange are counting on him to play a big role in their offense this season. He had a strong training camp last season, but was held back by an injury. By the time he got healthy, Marcus Sales and Alec Lemon were too valuable to leave off the field, which made it difficult for Flemming to get snaps. Flemming has good size and skills, and he needs to put it all together on the field and become a playmaker for the Orange. Outside of Jarrod West, Syracuse doesn’t know who it can rely on at wide receiver; and being a senior, Flemming needs to be one of the guys to step up for them.

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Keon Lyn, Cornerback

Keon Lyn, Cornerback
Howard Smith - USATODAY Sports

Lyn is just one of many talented players in what appears to be a deep secondary for the Orange, but he’s arguably their best corner. This means he’ll be matched up with the opposing teams' top receiver, something that will be far more challenging in the ACC. The Atlantic Division boasts some of the conference’s most talented wide receivers, including Sammy Watkins and Stefon Diggs, and Lyn better be ready to match up one-on-one against players of that caliber.

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Ross Krautman, Kicker

Ross Krautman, Kicker
Richard Mackson - USATODAY Sports

Special teams isn’t something Syracuse can overlook as it moves to the ACC; the Orange can’t afford to leave points on the field, and they’ll need Krautman to help them do that. Krautman has been Syracuse’s kicker over the last three seasons, but his field goal percentage has gone down in each of the past two seasons after a great freshman campaign. Syracuse needs Krautman to regain the form he had as a freshman and become automatic on field goals from a reasonable distance, which is something he’s more than capable of doing. Syracuse is bound to be involved in close games this seasons, and they’ll need to come away with points every chance they get, which means Krautman needs to have a good year.

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Ashton Broyld, H-Back

Ashton Broyld, H-Back
Mark Konezny - USATODAY Sports

Listing him at H-back on the depth chart is Scott Shafer’s way of saying that Broyld will be playing all over the field. There were high expectations for Broyld last season, but he didn’t see the field all that much and by ended up having a disappointing freshman year. He gets a pass for struggling as a freshman, but Broyld needs to emerge as one of the Orange’s top offensive playmakers this season. He played running back last year, but he has the physique of a wide receiver-tight end hybrid, so there’s no telling how exactly he’ll be used this season. Wherever he lines up on the field, Broyld needs to be a big part of the Syracuse offense.

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  • BL Lippert

    Good stuff Bryan…I take it you’re a Syracuse fan

    • Bryan Zarpentine

      Yup, grew up there, SU alum, still a season ticket holder.