Friday, September 4, 2009

A healthy Paulus could mean 6 wins for Syracuse this fall

I’m not ready to go out and buy one of those “The Devil Wears Orange’’ T-shirts in honor of Duke Blue Devil-point-guard-turned-Syracuse-Orange-quarterback Greg Paulus, but I am looking forward to an SU football season for the first time in ages.

And I’m not alone.

A crowd of about 45,000 – nearly 13,000 above last year’s paltry average – is anticipated for Saturday’s season-opener against the Minnesota Gophers in the Carrier Dome.

And the national media will be there, too – as they have been all summer - to chronicle this fascinating story of the prodigal son returning home after a four-year hiatus to Tobacco Road.
Perhaps, I’m a little caught up in the “Pauluspalooza,’’ but based on what I’ve seen from the young man recently and what I saw from him five years ago on the football fields at Syracuse’s Christian Brothers Academy, I think this experiment is going to be successful.

While throwing for 11,763 yards and 152 touchdowns as a four-year starter at CBA, Paulus was recruited by every major football program in America. College recruiting guru Tom Lemming went so far as to compare him to Joe Montana.

Yes, that was long ago, and the college game is a quantum leap from high school. But I can’t believe Paulus has somehow forgotten the football instincts and lost the physical skills that made him Gatorade’s National High School Football Player of the Year five years ago.

Sure, there’s going to be rust. But Paulus is a very bright athlete with great field vision. He already has developed a firm grasp of the spread offense SU will employ and has demonstrated during preseason practices that he has the arm to make all the throws.

My biggest concerns: how he will handle the physical pounding and whether his questionable supporting cast be able to do their fair share.

I know Paulus is used to handling pressure from his experiences as Mike Krzyzewski’s coach-on-the-floor during his four seasons playing basketball at Duke. But even those bloody basketbrawl games against North Carolina in Chapel Hill can’t compare to having your body pancaked against the turf by a 300-pound defensive lineman.

Quarterbacks at most levels of football aren’t allowed to be hit during practice, and that was the case during this Syracuse preseason, so it will be interesting to see how Paulus responds after that first hit.

Maybe I’m snowed. Maybe I’m so starved to see something resembling a Division I football program return to the Dome that I’m not viewing the situation clearly.
But I saw this kid play football several times in high school and I was wowed.
I’m not delirious enough to think he’s going to ride into his hometown and make the Orange big winners over night. But I believe he will make the ‘Cuse much more competitive and entertaining than they’ve been in a long, long time. If he stays healthy, I can see the Orange winning six games against a schedule that isn’t all that daunting.


It still baffles me why Dick Jauron didn’t play Trent Edwards and his first-team offense for at least a quarter against the Detroit Lions. How does one field goal in 15 series earn you a day off in the exhibition finale? Trent doesn’t play, yet established quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning and Kurt Warner do. No wonder citizens of Bills Nation are so down on Jauron.


I was saddened to hear that Hall-of-Fame baseball broadcaster and Hall-of-Fame person Ernie Harwell has incurable cancer. I had the pleasure of interviewing him for my “Memories of Yankee Stadium’’ book two years ago, and he was just like he was on the air – a gracious, kind-hearted gentleman.


I don't think this was what the American Football Coaches Association had in mind when they launched their new sportsmanship initiative.

It start out OK with the players from Boise State and Oregon exchanging handshakes before kickoff Thursday night. But then a player from Oregon sucker-punched a player from Boise just before the game ended, and had to be dragged off the field by his teammates, coaches and security.


donniesyracuse said...

6 wins would feel like a national championship. Go Orange!

Scott Pitoniak said...

I hear ya, Donnie.