SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — As Syracuse enters its final season in the Big East and its fourth season under coach Doug Marrone, the Orange's ability to break off big plays could be difference between playing in a bowl or missing the postseason.
Coming off a bowl victory in 2010, Syracuse lost its final five games last season to finish a disappointing 5-7.
It was a worrisome step back for a program that has struggled to drum up support in recent years.
"From a schematic standpoint, the big plays have to be available as far as the process of how we do things, both offensively and defensively," Marrone said. "And then our players need to execute it and get it done."
Marrone opened up a Facebook profile last week to give fans an inside look at the team's training camp on a daily basis. He also started a Twitter account where he'll give daily updates on the team.
Keeping Syracuse's fans engaged is a constant point of emphasis, especially after a season where the product on the field failed to meet expectations.
Though that could start to change this season.
Ryan Nassib is starting his third season as the starting quarterback, and has two formidable receivers to throw to in Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales. The 6-foot, 183-pound Sales missed last season after a drug arrest, but all charges were dropped and he returned the team.
Sales made 26 receptions for 414 yards in 2010 en route to becoming the star of the Pinstripe Bowl victory against Kansas State.
"As far as Marcus Sales, he has given us some big plays in the past. And I think you could always reference the Pinstripe Bowl," Marrone said. "For us, it's what are we going to do to be able to win and Marcus Sales has ability to help us do that."
The Orange also brought in Ashton Broyld, who will line up at running back as well as in wildcat formations to give the offense a new look as it looks to upgrade its running game.
"They'll tell me what the plan is, and day by day, we'll take a little step to get to the point where they want me at and what they want me to know," Broyld said. "We take it day by day."
Syracuse must replace defensive end Chandler Jones, who was a first-round pick by the New England Patriots.
Even with Jones, Syracuse finished seventh in the Big East in points allowed per game with 28.5 in 2011, but defensive end Deon Goggins said this year's more experienced defense should be an improved one.
"Honestly, we just had a lot of young guys," Goggins said. "We were just young as a team. After last year, going through what we went through, I see the changes in a lot of the young guys that have to step up."
Marrone's holding every member of the team accountable, including himself. For a program that's coming off a down year, the coach said everything about the team needs to improve for it to become a consistent winner.
"We have a lot of work to do. It starts with me," Marrone said. "I have to do a better job. The coaches have to do a better job. And our players have to do a better job."