FB : Playing hurt: Syracuse must overcome slew of injuries as it opens Big East play against Rutgers

first_img Comments In his 19 years of coaching with seven different teams, Doug Marrone can think of just one season in which he had to deal with a worse injury situation than the one facing his Syracuse football team right now.As the offensive line coach for the New York Jets in 2005, Marrone watched the team’s top two quarterbacks suffer shoulder injuries just seven plays apart. That left the Jets with third-string quarterback Brooks Bollinger and 41-year-old Vinny Testaverde, signed once the injuries hit.‘That’s very difficult,’ Marrone said of that season. ‘We didn’t have a very good year. That was probably the only time that’s occurred.’This week, Marrone’s Orange (3-1) is dealing with multiple injuries to key players as it prepares to start Big East conference play with a game against Rutgers (2-1) on Saturday at noon in the Carrier Dome. The bumps and bruises have been piling up for SU since preseason camp, and the Orange faces a rough start to conference play if it doesn’t overcome the injury bug quickly.This week, Marrone chose to close the team’s practices and not allow players or assistant coaches to talk to the media. The injuries have prevented the Orange from adding to their playbook this week and have affected how the team prepares for its conference opener.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text‘It’s very difficult right now what we’re doing with the game plan,’ Marrone said. ‘We’ll probably take some stuff out, and, unfortunately, it’s very difficult to add stuff. It kind of gets you in a little bit of a bind because if you don’t do enough, it can get ugly quick.’The defensive side of the ball has suffered most of the Orange’s injuries. Defensive end Chandler Jones has not played since the season opener against Wake Forest due to a lower body injury. Middle linebacker Marquis Spruill played sparingly against Toledo last weekend.And in the secondary, seemingly every player who’s seen action has suffered some kind of injury. Strong safety Shamarko Thomas did not play against the Rockets due to a lower body injury. The other three starters — Phillip Thomas, Kevyn Scott and Keon Lyn — all were hurt during preseason camp and have left games hurt this year for portions of time.Offensively, the biggest injury the media was made aware of was to running back Prince-Tyson Gulley, who had a breakout performance against Toledo with 10 carries for 66 yards.‘What’s more difficult in college than maybe at the next level is that when these young players become injured, you have to kind of coach them through the injury,’ Marrone said. ‘Not that they ever jeopardize themselves, but a lot of these players have never truly been injured before playing at this high level.’The injuries have affected the Orange’s ability to prep for Rutgers. SU hasn’t added new packages or plays this week because of the lack of personnel. The coaches also haven’t game-planned as much as normal for red-zone, goal-line and short-yardage situations.But the health issues haven’t forced SU to slow down practice. Marrone said it was too early in the season to do that despite all the injuries.‘You need to practice to get better,’ he said. ‘Then you put other people in there and they have to practice at full speed to get the continuity going. And you just have to go.’But with all these injuries, opportunities have opened up for some of SU’s younger players. And the head coach said that is the biggest positive to take out of this situation.Freshman linebacker Cameron Lynch had a career-high eight tackles and his first sack against Toledo. His playing time has increased each game. Defensive ends Torrey Ball and Brandon Sharpe have combined for 22 tackles and 1.5 sacks in taking over for Jones.‘You have some younger kids or maybe older players that finally get a shot that are able to get up there and go and play,’ Marrone said.In the secondary, the backups have been taking reps since the injuries started piling up in preseason camp. Brandon Reddish and Jeremi Wilkes have seen significant playing time already this season. Marrone said freshman corner Ritchy Desir also has a good chance of getting in the game against the Scarlet Knights this week.‘We did a good job in camp rotating a lot of guys,’ the redshirt senior Scott said earlier this year. ‘We became used to playing with Jeremi Wilkes at safety or Phillip Thomas or Olando Fisher. We had a lot of rotation going throughout camp.’Marrone added that even with all the adversity coming through these injuries, the Orange’s goal this week doesn’t change. Especially since it’s the conference opener.0‘It could be any team in the Big East that we’re playing and it would be a big week,’ he said. ‘Each week’s a big week because it gives us an opportunity to win.’[email protected] Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Published on September 28, 2011 at 12:00 pmlast_img

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