Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Tribute and Farewell to Phillip Thomas

The disappointing football season is over and the Syracuse football players have returned home for winter break without any obligations. This time last year, the student athletes were preparing for the Pinstripe Bowl against Kansas State. So what's next for some Syracuse football players? The NFL Draft. Who will try their luck at the next level? There have been a lot of rumors about players leaving and staying but there is one player we know wont be returning to Syracuse next year.

Phillip Thomas.

Thomas was suspended with just two games left in the regular season for a violation of athletic department policy. The University was very vague, not offering a specific reason for the year-long suspension. But it's now likely that Phillip Thomas will try his hardest to become an NFL player.

His status yesterday said he got invited to the NFL combine, which is the first step in becoming a pro.
So I caught up with Phil before his pursuit of fame began to ask him a few questions. I thought it was fitting to write a tribute to Thomas after the three good seasons he gave the Orange.

Throughout his three-season career, he made 135 tackles and brought in nine interceptions. This past season, at the time of his suspension, Thomas had a Big East-leading six interceptions and was on pace to be in the top 20 in the country. Thomas was also a big part in the Pinstripe Bowl victory in 2010, recording seven tackles to end his sophomore season.

"My favorite part of Syracuse University was the school pride, not only in the city but in the state of New York." Thomas said. "Very cool being able to go somewhere and people can point out you play football for Syracuse University."

Thomas told me his most memorable moment in an Orange jersey was beating West Virginia this past season. In that game, he intercepted a pass and made seven tackles.

"Syracuse University offered me a top notch education, five meals a day, and a place to sleep at night and place the sport I love." Thomas said, clearly appreciative of everything he's received in Central New York.

So what's next for Phil?

"I plan on getting drafted into the NFL this upcoming April..." Thomas said. He also wants to start a foundation as a way to give back to the community.

According to Thomas, he will announce his entry into the draft officially at the beginning of next year. He said he has hired an agent and has already been in talks with a few teams. He made a visit to Washington D.C. yesterday and posted a picture of himself in what appears to be a practice jersey. Thomas presumably visited the Washington Redskins facility and he said they are a front runner to draft him in April. Phillip's guess? Fourth round. He wants to stay on the East Coast, hopefully either the Redskins, Giants or Eagles.

Regardless of where Thomas ends up, he will always love Syracuse University. I found this post fitting because even though he was suspended from the school and left early, he did a lot for the football team and personally, I appreciate that.

Thomas won two National championships and a Heisman trophy with the Orange ... in the NCAA Footall '12 video game. Hopefully one day he'll be playing as himself in Madden, winning the Superbowl.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Season Update: Men’s Soccer

by Lauren Duda

The Syracuse University men’s soccer team has had a bit of a slow start to its 2011 season. The Orange currently hold a record of 2-5, and are 0-1 in Big East play.

Still, the Orange are looking much better than they did last year. They have scored nine goals so far in the first eight games, just shy of their total of 10 goals for all of last season. The team has already tied its previous record of two wins, and has only suffered each of its losses by a single goal.

One of the Orange’s most exciting games this season occurred on Sept. 11 when the team took on American University. Within the first few minutes of the game, junior Louis Clark scored a goal for Syracuse. In the final minutes of regulation time, American senior Jack Scott launched the ball into the goal, tying the game at 1-1.  Just three minutes into overtime, Syracuse was awarded a free kick, which senior Nick Roydhouse rocketed into the goal with ease. The win marked the first time since 2007 that Syracuse has won its first two home games.

Syracuse also tested the resolve of 16th ranked New Mexico during the University of Akron Tournament on Sept. 18. Both teams remained scoreless until junior Devon Sandoval put New Mexico ahead by tapping in a goal at the 45-minute mark. The Orange immediately answered back when freshman Jordan Murrell sent the ball whizzing past New Mexico junior goalkeeper Victor Rodriguez. The game went into overtime and Sandoval yet again delivered a goal for the Lobos, dashing any hopes of a Syracuse victory. The Orange may have lost 2-1, but the game certainly showed that Syracuse has the ability to be a real threat to stronger teams like New Mexico or Louisville.

If the Orange keep up their high intensity game and continue to work hard this season, teams further down the line will have to keep an eye out for this veritable foe.

Syracuse will take on its second Big East rival of the season when the team plays away at Pittsburgh at 7 p.m. on Oct. 1.  Be sure to show your love for the Orange at their next home game vs. St. John’s at 7 p.m. on Oct. 12th!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Update: Williamson Makes the Team

This summer, we posted a story about Chris Williamson. He is a sophomore at Syracuse University with some big dreams and one of those dreams has finally been realized.

If you remember from the earlier story, Williamson tried out for the Syracuse football team last year and didn't make it. After that, he worked day and night for a spot on the Orange roster. I was personally very excited to hear that Williamson tried out and made the team.

"After the tryout, I had no regrets," Williamson said. "I knew I had put it all on the line and gave it my all. I knew I could keep my head high whether I made it or not."

Chris found out he made the team when he got a call from from Director of Football Operations, Kevin Van Derzee.

"I couldn't believe I had achieved my dream," he said. It was a surreal and exciting moment for him, but Williamson realized he couldn't dwell on his happiness for too long. He realized that he now has a job to do, and that's to start "hitting some bodies and playing like there's no tomorrow."

Williamson said he was extremely grateful for the outpouring of support he got from his friends and family. "My mom's reaction was priceless," he said. And her reaction should have been priceless because walking on to a division one football team is a big deal. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication, two words that Chris is very familiar with.

Congratulations Chris Williamson, can't wait to see you out there on the field.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Syracuse Reacts to Conference Change

The recent change of conference came as a surprise for many Syracuse students and fans. To get an understanding of how fans were feeling after leaving the Big East, I interviewed some students and athletes and put it all together for an article over on Rush the Court.

Monday morning was like any other morning here at Syracuse. The sun rose, the birds chirped, and the professors lectured. But something was different. The Syracuse student body woke up to an e-mail that the university will be joining the ACC.

Only 72 hours earlier the idea of Syracuse and Pittsburgh leaving the Big East had not even been leaked. Conference expansion had been a newsworthy topic of discussion, but this news seemingly came out of nowhere with the New York Times’ Pete Thamel breaking the story Friday night. The Big Ten had rumored interest in the Orange, but Texas A&M and West Virginia were the headliners in potential switcharoos, not us. We were happy in the Big East, for now at least. I guess we thought wrong.

Rivalries are at the heart of college sports. As much fun as it is for us to cheer on the Orange, it is just as fun to hate the Hoyas and Huskies. So naturally, Syracuse fans and students are questioning what will happen to these longstanding rivalries that have become an integral part of the student experience at Syracuse. “It’s a big move that’s been coming and I’m excited for the future,” Matt Shadle, a Syracuse sophomore said. “Hopefully we can retain the rivalries through out-of-conferences games. If not, new rivalries will have to be formed.”

Although Syracuse will no longer have conference games against familiar foes like UConn, Georgetown, and Villanova, Orange fans are excited about hosting Duke and North Carolina in the Carrier Dome. Ben Glidden, a junior at Syracuse, said, “I think it’s a smart move for Syracuse … it adds a lot of excitement to basketball playing with the likes of Duke and UNC.” Students that I spoke to all mirrored that opinion and look forward to clashing with the two storied programs from Tobacco Road.

Phillip Thomas, the starting safety on the Syracuse football team also seemed optimistic about the move, citing an increase in competition by stating, “It’s great for our program to be able to face UNC, Virginia Tech, Miami, FSU, and others.” Thomas added that he “couldn’t be happier.”

However, not all are pleased about the upcoming changes. Tyler Greenawalt, a Syracuse sophomore, said, “My natural inclination was to not like the move. It really destroys the big rivalries of Georgetown, Villanova, and UConn, which we all really enjoyed watching whether it be in basketball or football.”

Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim also publicly criticized the change in conference while speaking at the Monday Morning Quarterback Club. He said “We’re going to end up with mega conferences and 10 years from now either I’m going to be dead wrong — and I’ll be the first to admit it — or everybody is going to be like, why did we do this again? Why is Alabama playing Texas A&M this week and going to Texas Tech next weekend? And why is Syracuse going to Miami in basketball this week and next week they’re going to play Florida State?” Boeheim also acknowledged the motives for the move by saying, “This audience knows why we are doing this. There’s two reasons: Money and football.”

However, when it came down to it, something needed to happen. Syracuse needed to look out for itself. The Big East is teetering and the ACC will provide us with top competition and television coverage, despite the added travel. Syracuse junior Iain McWhirter said it best, “I love the Big East, but this was a eat-or-be-eaten type of situation. I am happy we jumped ship first as opposed to waiting until WVU, UConn, and other schools have already peaced.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Season Update: Field Hockey

The Syracuse University Field Hockey team started off its season with three wins and two losses. The girls are ranked fifth in the country and the only two losses came to North Carolina and Old Dominion, the number one and two teams in the country. The marquee win for the Orange came in early september against Wake Forest, who was ranked 11th at the time.

Both losses for the Orange have been very tough, each just by one goal. Against UNC, with just seven minutes left, the Tar Heels scored a goal to go up 3-2 and they would hold on for the victory. However, Syracuse was outshot 22-3 in the game. The team relied on its goalkeeper Leann Stiver to carry them through the contest.

Against ODU, the Orange found themselves behind early. The Lady Monarchs went up 2-0 in the first seven minutes of the game. Those two goals were the only they would score as the Orange turned on the defense and shut down ODU for the remainder of the game. Unfortunately, the Orange could only grab one goal themselves.

While the record may not look incredible, the field hockey team has had an outstanding first few games. They've definitely earned the number five ranking.

The Orange will open up Big East Conference play on Friday, September 16th at 5 P.M. Go check out the national powerhouse against Rutgers at J.S. Coyne Stadium.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Orange Struggles Continue

by Ben Glidden

AP Photo/Steve Jacobs
The Syracuse Orange (2-0) pulled out the victory tonight against the Rhode Island Rams (0-1), but it isn't one of those victories to be proud of. I accepted the fact that the Orange allowed Wake Forest to stay in the game for so long last week because it was the first game of the year. We needed to dust the cobwebs off and get back to playing football. So, what happened tonight?

The Defense: Last game our defense certainly struggled. Our young linebackers were clearly having a problem and our secondary kept getting beat. Tonight, the D definitely improved, however, we were playing an FCS team. Phillip Thomas stayed true to his promise to Orange Slice Sports and improved dramatically from the Wake Forest game. He registered two interceptions, one of them coming at the end of the game, crushing Rhode Island's last hopes of tying the game.

Rhode Island quarterback Steve Probst did seem to have the defense's number tonight. He threw for 154 yards but more importantly, rushed for 46 yards on 15 carries. When the Orange locked down his receivers, he'd simply run take the ball himself past the first down marker. It was a frustrating night for the Orange defense.

The Offense: Ryan Nassib put together another respectable performance. He completed 29 of his 37 passes for a career-high 318 yards and three touchdowns. He completed passes to eight different receivers, which says a lot about the Orange wide receiving core. Van Chew earned the bulk of the yards with 134 and Alec Lemon got the bulk of the receptions with 10 for 94 yards. Both Chew and Lemon had touchdown receptions but the most important TD reception came from senior walk-on Michael Acchione.

The problem with the offense today was the running game and offensive line. The O-Line just doesn't look comfortable yet and it's affecting the entire offense. The part affected most is the running game. Antwon Bailey went for just 43 yards and then Marrone tried to mix it up by running Prince-Tyson Gulley. That didn't really work either.

The Lesson: The Orange aren't as good as we thought they were. The team still has a lot to work on, especially with USC being next week. I'm not saying they can't improve, it's definitely a possibility. The team has looked great in the final ten minutes of each game so far, but once conference play starts, were going to have to start playing before the fourth quarter in order to have a chance to win.

The good news is that the Orange have started out 2-0 for the first time since 1999 and that is certainly something to be happy about. Now lets buckle down, have a good week of practice, and beat the Trojans next week in sunny Southern California.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Syracuse-Rhode Island Game Preview

By Matt Appel

Courtesy of Alexander_O
Syracuse (1-0, 0-0) vs. Rhode Island (0-0, 0-0) (FCS)
For the faithful Orange fans who stayed all 4 quarters and overtime last week against Wake Forest (I’ll embarrassingly admit, I was not one of them), it will be a game that you will probably never forget. Neither will any of the players that played in that memorable game. And rightfully so; outside of last year’s Pinstripe Bowl, it is probably the most exciting Syracuse football game in quite some time. With that being said, it is pivotal that Marrone & Co. do not look past Rhode Island in anticipation of their west coast trip to USC next week. Easier said than done?

When Syracuse has the ball: It was very apparent that during the first 45 minutes of last weeks game that the Orange didn’t have the best offensive flow. That’s because, according to the coaches post-game, nothing they saw in tape of Wake Forest from last year was anywhere close to what they showed on the field. The Demon Deacons are going with a 3-4 defense this year, as opposed to the 4-3 they played in whatever tape the Orange had of them. Luckily, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett picked up on it in time to salvage the game. Do not expect 3 quarters of stagnant offensive this week. Rhode Island lost at home to Maine last year; the same Maine team that lost to the Orange 38-14 at the Dome. Last week, we saw the weapons that the Syracuse offense will so heavily rely upon this year: over 100 yards from Antwon Bailey, an efficient 20-28 performance from Ryan Nassib with 3 touchdowns, and huge catches from #1 receiver Van Chew down the stretch during that comeback.  Last time the Orange played an FCS opponent, Nassib set the SU record with 5 touchdowns in a game. Expect more of the same this time. Willie McGinnis, a senior defensive end who is the best player on the URI defensive unit, will do his best to make noise in the back field, but shouldn’t be able to do too much.

When Rhode Island has the ball: Basically, don’t expect a whole ton. The Rams’ lone playmaker on offense is senior QB Steve Probst, who led the team in passing and rushing yards last year. The Rams featured an average offense in the CAA last year, ranking 6th out of ten teams in terms of points scored. One thing URI has going for it is the Syracuse defense is somewhat banged up. It does not sound like Chandler Jones, the anchor of the defensive line, will play on Saturday, as he injured his knee (we think, the Orange have been very hush-hush about the injuries) during the game last week. With that said, the Orange should be able to run out a whole string of backups, and still be ok (which will most likely happen by the second half, depending on the score).

Prediction: Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. This has all the makings of a trap game. Syracuse has a big game next week; they’re coming off of a very dramatic win, and are playing a far inferior team this week. Yup, this qualifies as a trap game.  Rhode Island did something ‘Cuse couldn’t do last year: Beat Nova (sure, it might have been in football, but you get the point).