Cuse Connection

By Zack Cimini

When you think of Syracuse football the first thing that comes to mind is, do they play football there anymore. The program has been in disarray since 2000. Long gone are the days of Marvin Harrison, Rob Konrad, Donovan McNabb, and Dwight Freeney. Talented players that use to commit to Syracuse are finding their ways to Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and other opposing conference teams. Attracting prospects and turning them from a blue chip to a stud is what Syracuse footballs main challenge has been. That’s harder said than done, and the program has stunk it up the past decade.

Last year the team regained some notoriety even though losing was still apart of the fold. They hired Doug Marrone former Saints offensive coordinator to take over head coaching duties. Then a laughable story at first in bringing in Greg Paulus to quarterback the team actually fared decent. Paulus had a rough go at stretches but brought fans back to the Carrier Dome to watch football, and had them in many games they could of won. Paulus has now worked himself an opportunity to make the Saints team after getting an invite to training camp.

A prime reason for Paulus’s ascent and climb throughout last year at Syracuse was because of wide receiver Mike Williams. Williams stretched defenses and gave Paulus a safety net of trust on any type of throw. Paulus could air out a median type of pass or the quick throw and Williams would not disappoint. How else could you explain a quarterback that was held for hardly any yards throwing including only 36 passing yards in the second half against Minnesota, to a week later throwing for 346 yards? That just doesn’t happen. Take a glance at the guy who ate up over 200 yards receiving with two touchdowns in that game, Mike Williams.

Williams had a tumultuous ride at Syracuse. While the team was being dismantled on the field, Williams showed a glimmer of hope for Syracuse fans. As a sophomore he caught a touchdown in nine straight games in 2007. That’s when the off the field issues begun. He was suspended for the 2008 season for academic reasons,  and had to rededicate himself by enrolling at a nearby community college. This type of story has happened to many of athletes and some just give up. Even with how embarrassing the matter was Williams got his grades up and showed enough for Syracuse to reinstate him for 2009.

Last year was going fine for Williams and it seemed as if he did not miss a beat. Talks around college football began to label him as a potential first or second round pick, and a top talent receiver. Towards the end of the season things began to unravel again for Williams. As Syracuse’s chances for a bowl exited the team also began to deviate from rules laid down by head coach Marrone. Players on the team including Williams had went to a casino in New York and been involved in a minor accident. That led to a suspension imposed on all the players. Instead of facing the suspension Williams decided to quit the team. With only a few left he figured there was no value in finishing out the year as he had plans to put his name in the NFL Draft anyways.

You could see why his stock slipped and why teams were weary in adding him to their team. Williams fell all the way to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fourth round, but has every opportunity to show NFL franchises what they missed out on. Tampa Bay is going to give him a chance to win a starting job. The team has a lot of question marks especially offensively, and Williams will have his work cut out against opposing secondary’s. That’s nothing different from the way it was at Syracuse where teams tried to slow him down but couldn’t.

If Williams can stay out of trouble he is going to be a solid fantasy receiver in his first season. Tampa Bay is going to be down in a lot of ball games. That will open the door for Williams to get additional junk yardage and possible touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Out of the receivers selected this year Williams could end up being of the highest value right behind Dez Bryant. Call it crazy for a fourth round pick, but Williams has been bucking trends ever since he stepped foot at a Syracuse school that hasn’t seen his type of talent in years.


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