Syracuse 2013 season preview

Syracuse has had a first-round pick in each of the past two drafts (defensive end Chandler Jones in 2012 and offensive tackle Justin Pugh in 2013), but that streak likely will come to an end in 2014. The Orange also has had at least two players selected in each of the past five drafts -- that streak could live on.

Doug Marrone, who was hired as coach of the Buffalo Bills after four seasons with the Orange, left the program in far better shape than he found it, and new coach Scott Shafer -- who had been the Orange's defensive coordinator -- will benefit. The best prospects this season appear to be underclassmen, but the top seniors should help the Orange at least be competitive in its first season in the ACC. There are questions at quarterback and along the defensive line, but it's not a stretch to think the Orange could go to bowls in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1998-99.

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Top senior prospects

DT Jay Bromley: He has played in every game the past three seasons and is heading into his third season as a starter. Bromley (6-foot-4, 285 pounds) generally holds up against the run. He could add some weight and bulk. Bromley had 39 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss last season as he continued to refine his game.

CB Keon Lyn: He will be a three-year starter for the Orange. Lyn (6-1, 201) has good size, but is plagued by inconsistency and has three picks and 10 pass breakups in his career. He lacks elite speed and might be best-suited for safety. He was a teammate of New York Jets rookie QB Geno Smith at Miramar (Fla.) High.

ILB Marquis Spruill: He has been a starter since he arrived on campus in 2010. Spruill (6-1, 224) is undersized for the position, but he is athletic, runs well and can play in space. He has 26.5 career tackles for loss and is known for his big hits. He was benched for part of the Pinstripe Bowl last season after a misdemeanor arrest for disorderly conduct.

Top underclassmen

FB Ashton Broyld: He is a wild card in these listings, mainly because he doesn't seem to have a true position. Broyld (6-4, 221) played quarterback in high school and at prep school, both in New York. But most schools recruited him as just an athlete because his passing ability was lacking. Is Broyld a fullback, tight end, linebacker, safety? Where, exactly, does he fit? He played in eight games last season as a true freshman and ran for 171 yards and a score and also caught seven passes. Broyld is an excellent athlete who should line up at a few spots on offense for the new coaching staff. He has a lot of potential, if he can find a position.

OLB Dyshawn Davis: Davis (6-2, 220), a junior who never redshirted, is heading into his third season as a starter. He lacks ideal size, but he is quick off the edge and has a knack for the big play -- he had 14 tackles for loss last season and has 24.5 in his career. Davis can be overpowered at the point of attack, but he does a nice job of playing in space.

OT Sean Hickey: He didn't play at all as a redshirt freshman in 2011, then emerged to start 13 times last fall. He will switch to left tackle from the right side as the Orange attempt to replace first-round pick Justin Pugh. Hickey (6-5, 291) is athletic and looks to have the needed physical tools to play the left side.

RB Jerome Smith: He suffered a shoulder injury early in the 2010 season and redshirted as a true freshman, then played sparingly in 2011 before bursting on the scene last season. Smith (6-0, 226) ran for 1,171 yards (but only three TDs) and had five 100-yard games. Smith is not speedy, but he has good patience and can bull his way through small holes. He had seven games with at least 18 carries and four with at least 20. Smith needs to show he can be an effective receiver.

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Three must-see games of 2013

Aug. 31 vs. Penn State (East Rutherford, N.J.): The season opener gives Hickey a chance to show off against Penn State rising star DE Deion Barnes. Can Smith find room to run against Penn State's deep group of linebackers? And Lyn could have a tough day with Nittany Lions WR Allen Robinson.

Oct. 19 at Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets' triple-option attack will give Bromley, Davis and Spruill an opportunity to show their wares against a strong rushing attack. Smith will be running against an aggressive defense that has good linebackers.

Nov. 16 at Florida State: FSU is the most talented team in the ACC. Can Smith have success against the Seminoles' tough front seven? Hickey will see a good group of defensive ends lined up opposite him.

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