When Doug Marrone joined the Syracuse University football staff as head coach in the 2009 season, he was putting on a hard hat and strapping on his boots for a rebuilding project. A program rich in history with the likes of Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Floyd Little, John Mackey, and Art Monk gracing the gridiron donning blue and orange - was reeling from a time of great adversity.
In four seasons from 2005-09, Syracuse had records of 1-10, 4-8, 2-10, and 3-9.
The Orange was in need of positive change. In an effort to achieve that, Marrone instituted an entirely new coaching staff outside of Dan Conley, who remained from the Greg Robinson coaching era and was responsible for the linebackers. Scott Shafer entered into the football program as the defensive coordinator, Greg Adkins as the offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator, and John Anselmo as the secondary coach. Before the 2010-11 season, Nathaniel Hackett joined the team as the quarterbacks coach and has since become offensive coordinator, while Tyrone Wheatley and Rob Moore were each given a specific position to oversee, Wheatley the running backs and Moore the wide receivers. With a coaching staff sharing two or less years of experience together, they led the Orange to its first winning season since 2001. More importantly, Syracuse advanced to and won their first postseason game since their 26-3 victory over Kansas State in the Insight.com Bowl in the same year.
Syracuse's victory in the 2010 New Era Pinstripe Bowl opened doors within the house that Marrone was working tirelessly to rebuild. When the trophy was raised on December 30, 2010, Marrone and his staff took their first step toward retaining the history that the Littles of the world sought to secure by showing the Orange could be successful again; that they had talent that could and did outlast competition outside of the Big East from another well-respected conference, this time Kansas State from the Big 12. Proving that there is talent on a roster is enticing to recruits, but the Orange went a step further even before they stepped onto the field.
With the Bowl game being played at Yankee Stadium, the Orange football program was being exposed to every potential high school football recruit in New York City. The victory served as a bonus, making the Orange stand out even more to young players deciding where they want to take their talents. Well, maybe those are not the best words to use, but you understand the point.
Syracuse was getting out there, attempting to form bonds with players that would become part of Marrone's tenure. Marrone had inherited a team that did not have much experience winning. In two seasons, he had already led the Orange to more wins than Robinson had in four seasons (12 to 10).
But Marrone did not stop with the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Despite a 5-7 output last season, Marrone and his staff secured players from more-so untapped territory by receiving commitments from players in both California, with defensive tackle Zian Jones and defensive end Markus Pierce-Brewster, and Georgia, with defensive tackle Josh Manley, tight end Joshua Parris and running back George Morris. Syracuse also received a commit from the state of Ohio with defensive end Myles Hilliard and brought in homegrown talent, with several in-star players including safety Wayne Morgan and kicker Ryan Norton.
The point is, Marrone is progressive. Win or lose, bowl game or failure to advance, Marrone and his staff are not afraid of going after talent anywhere in the country, be it Texas' backyard, with current 2013 quarterback verbal commit Zach Allen, or down the east coast to Florida which is densely populated with those blessed with gridiron ability, such as current tight end verbal commit Tyler Provo.
In order for Syracuse to become a contender in the Big East this season, with the ACC just over the horizon, and against the nation's best is to get in front of the nation's best high school talent and establish value to the current Orange football program. One man who has seen and continues to see the value of Syracuse's football program under Marrone is Syracuse University Director of Athletics, Dr. Daryl Gross.
"I think it has an opportunity to be very, very good and be, you know, one day top 15, top 10 program," Gross said. "I've seen it happen before. We were left for dead at USC in 1991…We were 3-8 and looking like we could never get the luster back of USC…it took 11 years to get to where we were relevant again and finish fifth in the country and went to the Orange Bowl and won it with Carson Palmer and then came back and won national championship, national championship."
As far as Dr. Gross' thoughts on Marrone, he stressed the importance of selecting a coach that can survey and progress as Marrone has.
"You gotta have the right guy," said Dr. Gross. "We have the right guy now and it just takes time, it just takes time, because there's a lot of things that have to happen historically and traditionally. You know kids are used to going to Ohio State and Alabama…Florida…and USC."
"Football's the longest fix. It takes the longest amount of time. There's a lot of growth to it," he continued. "You go through some turbulence to get to your goal and it's all part of the process."
Said process continues with team practices set to start in less than two weeks on Monday, August 6th, and the season-opener against Northwestern a little more than a month away on Saturday, September 1st.