The ‘Canes give Derrick Crudup his first career start. Crudup, a junior who is mobile and knows the offense, played two years behind Ken Dorsey and most of this season behind Brock Berlin. Crudup has seen limited on field action, so there are questions about what he can do.
R.J. Anderson has thrown for 1,373 yards and eight touchdowns, while being intercepted only three times. He has also rushed for 278 yards and five touchdowns and has completed 61.9 percent of his passes.
The Hurricanes’ running attack will feature all three backs this week. Head Coach Larry Coker said he wanted to get Tyrone Moss more involved in the offense, but Jarrett Payton will still start.
Walter Reyes should definitely surpass the 1,000-yard mark this week, needing just 34 yards. Reyes has rushed for a team-high 14 touchdowns. When he is not running, the Orangemen use Damien Rhodes and Tim Washington, who are nice changes of pace.
Kellen Winslow Jr. won’t start, but he will play. He is the best receiver on either team, leading the ‘Canes with 51 catches. Freshman Ryan Moore has been impressive all season, and his 457 receiving yards give the Hurricanes a legitimate second option.
Johnnie Morant is a big, physical receiver for the Orangemen at 6’4″. His 32 catches, 545 yards, and four touchdowns lead the team. However, no other receiver has over 210 receiving yards on the season, and Reyes, the tailback, is second on the team in receptions.
Vernon Carey’s injury leaves a question mark as to whether or not he will be good to go. The line has struggled protecting the quarterback as of late, causing Coach Art Kehoe to make some changes for the game. Chris Myers should see some time at center, and Joe McGrath, who is finally healthy, will have an increased role along with Rashad Butler.
Syracuse’s offensive line has only allowed 13 sacks this season and has allowed the Orangemen to gain over 1,700 yards on the ground this season. This unit is experienced with two seniors and two juniors, led by seniors Kevin Sampson and Nick Romeo. The unit has allowed only seven sacks all season.
The ‘Canes have been bitten by the injury bug on the defensive line this season, with Orien Harris and Santonio Thomas suffering injuries. The ‘Canes do have one of the best defensive tackles in the country in Vince Wilfork, who outweighs the largest Syracuse lineman by over twenty pounds. The line will have something to prove after having problems getting to QB Casey Clausen last week.
The Orangemen line is a little undersized, with the biggest player being senior Christian Ferrera, who weighs 292 pounds. End Josh Thomas and tackle Louis Gachelin lead the team with three sacks apiece.
Jonathan Vilma and DJ Williams are two of the nation’s best linebackers. Vilma leads the team with 82 total tackles, and Williams is third with 55. Williams has also scored two touchdowns this season. Outside linebacker Darrell McClover is expected to play after being injured in the loss against Tennessee.
The Orangemen’s leading tackler, senior Rich Scanlon, has 90 total tackles on the season, and is one of the Big East’s best linebackers. He leads a very young group that features two other pretty good players in Kelvin Smith, a red shirt freshman, and sophomore Kellen Pruitt, who has shown flashes of brilliance at times.
Sean Taylor might be the best defensive back in the nation. The ‘Canes will be without cornerback Glenn Sharpe, who is scheduled to have surgery on his knee in a couple of weeks. Antrelle Rolle returns from his suspension stemming from his ejection against Virginia Tech. The ‘Canes’ secondary has been the brightest spot on defense this season, allowing a stingy 1,232 yards passing on the year and registering 11 interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns.
A young Syracuse secondary has had problems defending the pass this season, allowing 1,991 yards passing on the year, a 759-yard difference from Miami. The safeties have been the most consistent, with junior Diamond Ferri second on the team with 75 tackles, and sophomore free safety Anthony Smith right behind him with 73. The weakness at cornerback should be exposed by the Hurricanes.
Jon Peattie has been consistent all season, but punter Brian Monroe has struggled mightily in recent weeks and averages only 36.6 yards per punt on the season. The ‘Canes took away his kickoff duties last week to help him focus on punting. Devin Hester, Roscoe Parrish, and Sean Taylor are always a threat to take a kickoff or punt all the way, which makes the ‘Canes’ return unit extremely dangerous.
The Orangemen’s punts are handled by red shirt freshman Brendan Carney, while field goals are the job of junior Collin Barber. Barber has converted on nine out of 11 field goal attempts, and Carney has an average of 42.2 yards per punt. However, he has had three punts blocked this season. The return unit for Syracuse is weak and has not returned a kick or punt for a touchdown all season.