Football

Scouting Pittsburgh with Syracuse linebacker Marquis Spruill

The Syracuse defense will face a tough task on Friday against Pittsburgh. The Panthers rank second in the Big East in scoring, averaging 29.2 points per game. They have displayed a balanced offensive attack in the last two weeks, defeating Virginia Tech 35-17 and Gardner Webb 55-10. Star running back Ray Graham is getting closer to full health after undergoing surgery to repair a torn ACL in the offseason, and freshman Rushel Shell has already emerged as an impressive weapon in the backfield, rushing for 157 yards against the Hokies. Meanwhile, senior quarterback Tino Sunseri, who has endured an up-and-down career, has been sharp in the pocket. He has thrown for eight touchdowns and just two interceptions while completing 67.2 percent of his passes.

The Daily Orange caught up with Syracuse linebacker Marquis Spruill to break down the Orange’s matchup with the Panthers on Friday night and gauge the mentality of the team after a disappointing 1-3 start.

The Daily Orange: Coming off the bye, with the 1-3 start, what has the atmosphere been like around the team? How have you focused to ready for this game?

Marquis Spruill: We watched film. We made the corrections that we needed to make. We’re working on getting better every day. The losses, we can do nothing but learn from them, so we learn from them, flush them, we focus on the next opponent that we have.

The D.O.: Coach Marrone has talked about penalties and other areas to improve during the bye. What did the team specifically work and focus on?

MS: I would say all the areas on film that we’ve been struggling that we’ve tried to make those a big emphasis in practice this week — whether it be trying to force turnovers, trying to prevent turnovers, prevent penalties, the whole nine.

The D.O.: Improving tackling has been one thing Marrone has mentioned. How important will that be going against a team with a running game like Pittsburgh’s?

MS: Tackling’s going to be very important, very crucial in the game. They have a great tailback in Ray Graham. We work on hitting drills every day but this past bye week, we got to practice (tackling) a little bit more than usual and I think it’s helped out.

The D.O.: Ray Graham’s been a great player in the conference for a while. How is the team preparing and what is it like getting ready for a player like him?

MS: He’s a great player. He has good feet, nice moves. He has good vision for a tailback. But we just have to play our defense like we’ve been doing thus far.

The D.O.: Pittsburgh quarterback Tino Sunseri has also played well in the last two games to lead his team to wins. What does the defense expect from him after watching film this week?

MS: It’s the same thing as Ray Graham. We just got to play our game, read our keys, break on balls. Hopefully we get some turnovers. If not, three-and-outs, things like that.

The D.O.: What is the key for the team to come out with a win Friday night?

MS: The key for us is everybody has to do their job. You can’t be scared. You can’t hesitate to make moves. You got to just do it and if you’re wrong, at least you’re doing it at 100 miles an hour, just do it and hopefully your teammates out there, they’ll fix you. Everybody, we just got to play, play like we know we can.

The D.O.: Has there been any hesitation in the losses that you guys have noticed, and how do you get that aggressive mentality even if you might not be doing the right thing at all times?

MS: Yeah, I’ve seen minor hesitation from certain players, but you know it’s things that the coaches point out and tell us as a group and things we fix in practice.

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