Syracuse Football: The Pre-Pinstripe, All-Orange "Fantasy" Team

-- Check out SB Nation New York's New Era Pinstripe Bowl story stream for the latest news on the first-year bowl.

Many Syracuse Orange fans want to forget the last six years. I don't blame you.

The Greg Robinson Era produced arguably the worst period of SU football ever. From 2005-2009 (Robinson was dismissed after the '08 season), Syracuse went 14-45 with no winning seasons, no bowl appearances and no All-Americans.

However, it feels as if second-year head coach Doug Marrone has the program headed in the right direction. The new recruits seem committed and hungrier than ever to get Syracuse back on the college football map.

On Thursday, Dec. 30, Syracuse (7-5) will hopefully showcase its transition from college football doormats to contenders in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankees Stadium (3:30 p.m. on ESPN) against Big-12 opponent the Kansas State Wildcats (7-5).

But before the Orange faithful move onto bigger and better years, I think it's crucial to look back at the last six seasons that allowed fans to appreciate this year.

To do this without it being to painful, I decided to create an All-Orange "fantasy" team, which is built from a pool of players who were a part of the recent non-bowl squads (2005-2009). 

The criteria isn't based on a player's overall career at SU but just a specific season that he performed "well" in.

Let's start with the worst fantasy position, kicker.

KICKER, Patrick Shadle ('06): For three seasons, Shadle kicked for Syracuse (4-8 in '06) and his sophomore year was the best when it comes to fantasy value.

Shadle went a perfect 21-for-21 on PATs and 16-for-18 on field goals tries. In Week 4 and 5 of that season, Shadle made four PATs and two field goals in victories against Miami (OH) Redhawks and Wyoming Cowboys, respectively.

If I am in a league that rewards for distance, Shadle went 6-for-8 between the 40- and 49-yard line. Not too shabby.

Shadle's only competition was last seasons kicker Ryan Lichtenstein who went 27 of 28 on PATs but made only 13 of 17 field goals.

Lichtenstein helped SU (4-8 in '09) collect it's first victory last season by nailing a game-winning kick with less than a minute to go against the Northwestern Wildcats.

In 2005, sophomore Ricky Krautman kicked the extra points and freshman John Barker attempted the field goals. I don't think it's ever a good idea to have a duel-kicker situation.

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS, 2006: This is the weakest link on my fantasy team -- yeah, I know that there isn't many strong links on my squad.

According to sport-references.com, SU gave up 24.6 points-per game in '06 (ranked 72 out of 119 FBS squads). The Orange also scored two touchdowns and collected 17 interceptions (quarterback turned defensive back Joe Fields led the team with four picks).

Sadly, those stats are nothing to be proud of. Especially, when you add the awful kick- and punt-return game, led by sophomore running back Curtis Brinkley who produced just 448 yards on 21 chances (21.3 average).

I was going to select the 2007 D/ST, which featured a much stronger return game led by freshman Max Suter who led the nation in kick return yards, but that squad gave up 34.2 points-per game and picked off just nine passes.

TIGHT END, Tom Ferron ('06): In an era of football where the tight end is hardly used, I am still stunned that leagues still draft the position. However, unlike modern-day offense, fantasy leagues seem to take longer time to evolve.

With this understanding, I selected another player from the '06 team, Ferron.

That season, the sophomore totaled 351-receiving yards, caught 30 passes and two touchdowns. In a 31-21 victory against Illinois (2-10 in '06), Ferron snagged a third-quarter, game-winning pass from senior quarterback Perry Patterson. Two weeks later, Ferron collected a TD reception in a 40-34 win against Wyoming (6-6 in '06).

A close second was senior tight end Jawad Nesheiwat, who was productive in '07 (17 catches, 270 yards and two TDs). In a 38-35 victory against the No. 18 Louisville Cardinals (6-6 in '07), Nesheiwat caught three passes for 85 yards.

SU's only other victory that season came against Buffalo Bulls, 20-12, at the Carrier Dome.

UTILITY, Damien Rhodes ('05): The senior running back totaled 900 rushing yards and scored seven touchdowns. But that's not what earned him a spot on my roster.

His unreal, 236-yard, four-TD performance against Buffalo in Week 2 vaulted him to at least a spot start in my utility category. A performance like that earns an owner praise from league mates or serves as solid sell-high trade bait.

WR No. 2, Mike Williams ('09): Yes, Williams did not leave SU on the best of terms, but the truth is he was the best thing to happen to the Orange in the past six seasons -- he did admit to wrong doing after leaving.

Fact is before "leaving" Syracuse (4-8 in '09), Williams nabbed 49 passes for 746-receiving yards and six TDs in just seven games.

Williams' big games came in 37-34 victory versus visiting Northwestern (11 receptions, 209 yards and two TDs) and a 34-20 loss to South Florida (13-186-2).

Not surprisingly, the only player that could push Williams for the No. 2 wide-receiver slot is freshman Williams of 2006 (24-461-4 in nine games).

That's right, SU fans. In the past six years, there has been no other Orange wide receiver that could match Williams' third-best season. Meaning...

WR No. 1, Mike Williams ('07): Despite playing on an offense that scored 16.4 points a game (ranked 119th out of 120 FBS schools), Williams put himself in the same conversation as some of the greatest wide receivers in SU history.

In his sophomore season, Williams caught 60 passes and scored a TD in nine consecutive games, each school records. 

Williams' best statistical game was during the season finale against No. 24 Cincinnati when he posted season-highs in receptions (9), yards (160) and scored a TD.

However, his most important catches came during SU's only two victories.

Against No. 18 Louisville, Week 4, Williams caught a 17-yard, fourth-quarter TD from sophomore quarterback Andrew Robinson that helped the Orange take a 38-21 advantage. Syracuse hung on for the team's first win.

Four weeks later, right before the end of the first half, Williams snagged a 11-yard TD reception from Robinson that put SU up 17-3 at halftime. Syracuse won 20-12.

Without Williams, Syracuse (2-10) may not have collected a single victory. Neither would my fantasy team if I don't take Williams in both of my WR spots.

RUNNING BACK No. 2, Curtis Brinkley ('08): When your senior quarterback, Cameron Dantley, only throws for a total of 1,298 yards during the course of a season, a owner can expect that his/her running back probably put up solid numbers.

That's what Brinkley did in '08, rushing for 1,164 yards and scoring seven TDs. Brinkley added 81-receiving yards and had a team-high 1,245 yard from scrimmage.

Brinkley's best game came in a 28-21 victory against visiting Louisville (5-7 in '08) when he dashed for 166 yards and a first-quarter TD, which helped the Orange (3-9 in '08) snap a three-game losing streak.

RB No. 1, Delone Carter ('09): Last season, the junior helped kick-start the Marrone era at SU with a solid 1,021-yard campaign.

Carter, who was out rushed by Brinkley in '08, scored 11 TDs in '09 and that was enough to push him to the top of the list.

His season was highlighted by a 170-yard, three-TD performance in a 28-14 victory versus Akron. That type of performance can carry a team to a fantasy victory.

A year later, Carter would move to fifth all-time on the Syracuse rushing list, which makes him a prime candidate for a keeper league.

QUARTERBACK, Perry Patterson ('06): The senior was the first of four QBs to be the signal caller during the five-season bowl drought.

Unfortunately for SU supporters, Patterson's second season was the most consistent statistical year of the QBs.

In 2006, Patterson posted 1,865-passing yards, 12 TDs with only four interceptions.

Robinson tossed for more yards (2,192) in '07, however, his 400-plus, 4-TD performance against No. 18 Louisville is what hurt his rating. Without that game, Robinson's numbers wouldn't be better than Patterson, who compiled a respectable 115.42 QB rating.

I almost went with my heart and chose Greg Paulus -- 2,025 yards, 13 TDs -- but his 14 INTs was just too many.

Patterson was just the best choice out of the not-so-great choices behind center.

END RESULTS: I doubt my Syracuse fantasy team would win many games in a real fantasy league -- I'd like to see someone create a retro league where picking former players from programs is possible. I would create it but I'd like to think I have a better way to spend my time (writing this article proves that I don't).

But there you go. Somehow, I created a way to look back at the troubled past and it wasn't that difficult. Now, it's time to move on, forget the past and root for a futuristic victory in the Bronx.

If that doesn't happen, well, I'll try again next season because that's all a fantasy owner can really do.

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