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Q&A with Virginia beat writer Andrew Ramspacher of The Daily Progress

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Syracuse (3-2, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) visits Virginia (1-4, 0-1) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in its second ACC matchup of the season. The Orange is coming off a 45-24 loss at South Florida and is on a two-game losing streak. Follow along with SU-UVA coverage here or on Twitter @DOSports.To learn more about the Cavaliers, The Daily Orange spoke with The Daily Progress beat writer Andrew Ramspacher.The Daily Orange: What is quarterback Matt Johns biggest strength?Andrew Ramspacher: I think early on, his biggest strength was a swagger, a moxie he brought to the position. He’s not the most talented guy, he’s not the biggest guy — he’s tall, he’s 6’5” but he’s pretty skinny — and he’s not the fastest guy either but somehow he finds his way to make things happen outside the pocket. He’s kind of a gamer. I think you saw that in parts of last season when he was splitting time for a little bit with Greyson Lambert. You saw it early on this season, especially against Notre Dame, where he played the game of his career to this point.The D.O.: How much should Syracuse fans worry about playmaker and tailback Taquan Mizzell?AdvertisementThis is placeholder textA.R.: I wouldn’t worry too much about him out of the backfield in terms of being a running back … There’s been a little bit of improvement since his freshman and sophomore years, but now as a junior, I think he’s found his niche and it’s not necessarily as a pure running back — it’s as a receiver. I think he’s one of the better slot guys they have. He’s leading the country’s running backs in receiving yards. He’s really dynamic as a pass-catcher. As far as a runner, he’s not going to give you much.The D.O.: The Cavaliers are allowing an average of 35.8 points. How vulnerable is their defense?A.R.: The biggest problem with this team this year is they aren’t as experienced (as last year’s), talented and they haven’t been giving themselves any easy opportunities in terms of creating turnovers. Up until last week, they hadn’t had a takeaway yet. They got two against Pitt, maybe that’ll get them going a little bit, but two takeaways in five games is not good … They have a lack of play-making, they still haven’t developed an edge rusher that they desperate need and the secondary, which had a lot of experience coming back, has really struggled. … They’re very vulnerable. The one positive is last week against Pitt, in the last three quarters, they really improved. They got beat early; they gave up 217 yards in the first quarter and only gave up 146 the final three quarters.The D.O.: If UVA was to win, what’s the most important thing it would have to do well?A.R.: There’s a lot of things. You’re talking about a 1-4 team, I don’t think you can narrow much down. This team has not beat an FBS team all year. Obviously the one win against William and Mary and even that was a struggle 35-29. So, I think it starts with the basics of football: taking care of the football. Matt Johns has thrown too many interceptions. He’s tops in the ACC with (seven) picks … And they need to create takeaways. They’re down near the bottom of the country in turnover margin so they have to do better there. This is a chance for them to win. There’s not many games like this remaining on the schedule. Comments Published on October 15, 2015 at 6:30 pm Contact Paul: pmschwed@syr.edu | @pschwedslast_img read more

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Baseball enters 2016 season seeking redemption

first_imgAs the baseball team prepares to open its season this Friday, the loss to eventual national champion Virginia in the NCAA Regional Final still lingers. Yet, that extra-inning loss in Lake Elsinore has only provided more motivation for a talented Trojan roster.“The preparation [for 2016] began in the summer when we lost to Virginia,” junior catcher Jeremy Martinez said. “Everyone is going to remember that feeling.”The Trojans’ 24 returning players got to work over the summer and through the fall, and now, Martinez said the team was chomping at the bit to finally start the season.“A lot of guys came back in shape, a lot stronger, and a lot of pitchers came up with better velocity,” Martinez said. “So I think the preparation is there. Now it’s just time to showcase all that hard work.”Martinez is one member of a strong nucleus of players returning for the Trojans in 2016. Although USC will undoubtedly miss stalwarts such as Bobby Stahel, Garrett Stubbs and Dante Flores, who combined to account for over a third of USC’s hits in 2015, there is a wealth of returning talent both in the batting order and on the mound. Senior infielder AJ Ramirez and senior outfielder Timmy Robinson paced the team in home runs last year, swatting nine and seven, respectively. Pitching-wise, senior Marc Huberman earned six wins in 2015, while senior Kyle Davis tallied six saves (both figures led the team). In fact, two picks from the summer’s MLB First Year Player Draft return to USC this season, including Davis (29th round, Blue Jays). Senior pitcher Brent Wheatley was selected by the Oakland A’s in the 17th round.But regardless of how much talent the Trojans lost, or how much talent is returning, head coach Dan Hubbs simply wants his players to push themselves to improve.“They don’t have to replace those numbers,” Hubbs said. “They just have to continue to get better. All these guys are going to get more and more opportunities. We need them to be able to just do their thing.”Hubbs was also very happy with the less experienced players he called on to step up in place of the graduated and professional Trojans.“We think there’s a lot of talent there,” he said. “Whether they’re guys who were in the program who are now getting a bigger opportunity or the guys that are just coming in the program as freshmen.”USC looks forward to a tough schedule in 2016. The Trojans face long road trips for series at TCU, Oregon, Washington State and Arizona State, while Cal and Oregon State highlight this season’s home series. They will also compete in the annual Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic, taking on Oklahoma and Mississippi State at Dedeaux Field before battling archrival and defending Pac-12 champion UCLA at Chavez Ravine.The Trojans play nine of their first 11 games at home, including their first two games in the Classic, in series against North Dakota, Korean Baseball Organization franchise NC Dinos, and Wake Forest.USC was ranked No. 12 in the nation in this year’s D1 Baseball preseason rankings — the first time in a decade that the school has cracked the top 25 to start the year. Ask around the team, however, and there is very little fanfare or self-congratulation regarding the achievement.“We were unranked for the first three years, and then we’re ranked now,” Davis said. “I guess that’s kind of cool, but it really doesn’t mean much till the end of the year.”Hubbs agreed with his veteran pitcher. After all, his program has the most national championships in NCAA history.“The expectation at a place like USC is that you’re competing for a national title each and every year,” Hubbs said.Hubbs, who signed a multi-year deal over the offseason after an impressive first three years at the helm, was excited to see his team take the field in 2016.“As long as we play our game and do what we’re capable of doing, then I don’t think it matters who we play,” Hubbs said.For now, however, the team’s focus is squarely on its season opening series against North Dakota, which starts on Friday at Dedeaux Field. Kyle Davis will toe the rubber for the Trojans on Opening Day, and first pitch will be at 6 p.m.last_img read more

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Five things we’ve learned from the first five Liverpool Premier League games

first_img1 Raheem Sterling – one of the bright spots of a poor start to the season for Liverpool With their talisman leaving for Barca, a host of new players to bed in and a keenly awaited return to the Champions League adding to their fixture list, it looked like a big task for Liverpool to repeat last season’s Premier League heroics.So it is proving, with West Ham giving Liverpool their third league defeat of the season on Saturday. There are some positive signs, however, with key rivals also struggling and the form of certain players giving Liverpool fans reasons for optimism.Here we examine five things we have learned from Liverpool’s first five Premier League games.1. Daniel Sturridge can thrive without SuarezWhen Luis Suarez left for Barcelona over the summer, there were fears that Liverpool would struggle to repeat last season’s goal scoring exploits.  After all, the Uruguayan hit man bagged 31 goals and 12 assists on his way to being named PFA Player of the Year.It would be doing Daniel Sturridge a disservice to down play his role last season, though, and the former Chelsea striker has demonstrated a growing maturity since moving to Anfield in January 2012, netting 32 times in 44 Premier League games.With Suarez suspended for the beginning of the 2013/2014 season, Sturridge hit the winner in Liverpool’s first three Premier League games, before ending the season as the league’s second top scorer on 22 goals.Sturridge started this season in a similar vein of form, scoring a late winner against Southampton and playing a key part in the 3-0 victory away to Spurs.Brendan Rodgers is hopeful that the England man can recover from his thigh injury in time for Liverpool’s derby against Everton next weekend and continue to successfully lead the line.2. Raheem Sterling is showing maturity beyond his yearsDaniel Sturridge isn’t the only young English player capable of stepping up for Liverpool this season.With Raheem Sterling going from strength to strength, it is easy to forget he is only 19 years old.Sterling hit nine league goals last season – including an important strike against City in the 3-2 win at Anfield – before his energetic performances at the World Cup provided a rare positive for England fans.His performances so far this season have been equally encouraging, and he has already bagged three Premier League goals in the first five games.Liverpool certainly missed his pace and flair in the first hour of their defeat against Aston Villa, and despite his age it is apparent that Sterling is key to Liverpool’s success this season.3. Balotelli consistency is keyMario Balotelli arrived at Anfield last month to a mixed response from Liverpool fans.There is no doubt he has the ability to make decisive contributions, scoring the winner for Italy against England in the World Cup this summer, the first in the famous 6-1 rout of United at Old Trafford and contributing an assist to THAT Aguero goal against QPR. However, question marks remain as to his consistency, and Balotelli managed only a single goal in 14 matches for Manchester City in his last season in the Premier League.As an opposition player, Balotelli often struggled at Anfield and he has never demonstrated the work ethic of Luis Suarez, the man he replaces.Getting off the mark against Ludogrets in the Champions League last week was important, and if he can repay the faith of Brendan Rodgers by playing the football he is capable of on a regular basis, forming a lethal partnership with Daniel Sturridge, his £16 million fee should prove money well spent.4. Liverpool aren’t the only top four contenders strugglingBrendan Rodgers would certainly have wanted a better return than six points from five games, but with many of Liverpool’s rivals also struggling it isn’t time to panic yet.Table-toppers Chelsea have made an excellent start to the season and lie seven points ahead of Liverpool, so the Reds are already playing catch up in the title race.Despite huge summer investment, Manchester United have only managed a single win so far and their 5-3 loss away to Leicester leaves them a point behind Liverpool.Having won only two of their first five fixtures Arsenal are currently only three points ahead of Liverpool, while Spurs are within grasp on seven points following their unexpected 1-0 home loss to West Brom.Even champions City haven’t had a straightforward start to their campaign, with a shock defeat at home to Stoke City and draws against Arsenal and Chelsea putting them on eight points – a mere two ahead of Liverpool.While it will be a challenge to drag back this Chelsea side, a Champions League spot certainly looks achievable with so many rivals stuttering.  5. Liverpool’s defence needs to improve – and quicklyOn their way to claiming a second place league finish last season, Liverpool often relied on outscoring the opposition rather than shutting up shop, and despite scoring 101 goals in the Premier League, they conceded 50 – more than any other team in the top five.With ex-vice captain Daniel Agger heading to Brondby over the summer, Mamadou Sakho the subject of fans’ ire after his performance against West Ham United and an ageing and increasingly error prone Kolo Toure in reserve, Liverpool need Martin Skrtel and new signing Dejan Lovren to gel as quickly as possible.Premier League title-winning sides have invariably been built upon solid defences and having lost their top goal scorer of the past three seasons Liverpool can’t rely on their strike force to carry them as much as last season.While Rodgers has always advocated attacking football, at the moment it is his defence that needs attention if his ‘Pool side are to put together some consistent form.What have you learned after watching Liverpool’s first five Premier League games of the season? Share your thoughts and join the discussion by leaving a comment below…last_img read more

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